Posts Tagged ‘bear hole’

Worst snowstorm of winter around here happened in the spring.

It had been a great start to the biking season…until now. I was hoping for a Tuesday road ride tomorrow night but now I am resigned to a good spin class. I may want the exercise but I still refuse to snow-blow the driveway or shovel the walk.

I’ve neglected this blog for a while but it hasn’t been due to lack of biking. The winter barely stopped us. We did a lot of mountain biking.

Bear Hole

Usually our first spring forays are on our mountain bikes but even our road rides got off to an early start. Typically we prefer 50 degree weather for a road ride but have learned to enjoy the road at lower temperatures this spring.

That’s all over, at least for this week.

We had gotten our new puppy Scout just before Christmas. With the holidays, and the kids home, I found it to be a good time to be home with them, focus on the dog, and take some time for myself…

Christmas Vacation

December 24, 2013 Ride

Getting out of work early, I rode right from the house to the Bear Hole trails off Morgan Road. My time was limited but I found riding from home gave me more time.

I love riding with a group. I do it almost all the time. I hated riding alone. Now on a day like today I can enjoy it. I take time to explore, maybe play my music, and just see where the trail takes me. There is nobody around to complain and nobody to see my mistakes. Many of the trails we ride now are ones I found on my own.

This time I stayed on this side of the Mass Pike exploring some of the less used trails. I found a white dot marked trail that led to the quarry. I explored around West Springfield’s water works. I found some trails that led to Paucatuck Park off Dewey Street. I can’t say they were spectacular trails (although there was some great stuff going to the quarry), but it was fun to explore and perhaps add parts to a future ride.

December 26, 2013 Ride

The day after Christmas is a big shopping day…I’ll never make that mistake again.

Getting up early, I jumped on my bike again for a short but sweet ride before the house got busy. With 5 kids between us, the house can get real busy. With 4 of them at or close to being teenagers, most wouldn’t be up for a while. I could go out and be back before they rolled over in bed.

Again leaving from the house, it was back down Morgan Road, follow the meandering trails around the beaver dam, under the Mass Pike this time and onto many of the short, steep trails I love. The ground had a dusting of snow to test my tires. I found the traction to be much better than I anticipated. Getting to Ashley Reservoir, the gray morning along with the dusting of snow on coating the ground and branches was my after Christmas treat.

December 27, 2013 Walk

It was a bright, blue sky outside. The day was crisp and cool, but the sun made up for the chill in the air. I dragged any available kids for a walk along with our dog Scout. Joe was eager to go. And Frankie was fine with a walk as long as we brought his girlfriend Anna. Going back to the reservoir, we walked partway along the gravel rode circling the lake. With the brisk wind, my young puppy was getting cold. I could see I couldn’t do as much as I hoped. Going across the ice would be our best, quickest option back. Hearing kids play hockey across the ice, I knew it would be safe enough to walk on. Still, I made sure to lead the way and took the shortest route across. It was a unique walk to be sure. On the other bank, the yellow sun was making the trees glow bright.

We had plenty of family time during the week between the holidays. That can mean sitting around the house, visiting and eating. Taking time for a ride, or walk, helps me take the edge off hanging out…and a good excuse to have more dessert.

Despite all our fun, the fog made for a nice calmness and peace to the morning.

Despite all our fun, the fog made for a nice calmness and peace to the morning.

The weatherman said Sunday would be warm and sunny. I called the guys on early Saturday. We decided to do the same ride in Bear Hole Ron and I did the previous Tuesday, maybe with a little extra. I called Ron and left a message joking that we should do a road ride, I laughed on the message telling him not to swear at me. I knew he wouldn’t go for that. I was also planning on going for a walk with my kids later in the day. It never got nice as promised. Instead it stayed cold and damp. It did change eventually…to cold and wet.

Sunday’s bike plans were also affected, except we still did it. I wouldn’t have suggested Bear Hole with its rocky upper trails and ridges if I knew what the weather truly held. It’s challenging enough without being wet.

See Ride.

Ron, Mike 10 and Carl joined me for the ride. We met near the end of Morgan Road again. I had Carl meet me at my house so I could show them where we were meeting. It’s not a parking lot this time but a spot along the side of the road. Mike would know where it is even though it’s just down the road from where we used to meet.

It was foggy, kind of drizzly, damp for sure. It seemed the small amounts of snow from earlier in the week was melting off the branches creating a wetter atmosphere. It was beautiful though, and tranquil. I didn’t fail to appreciate it.

We didn’t get far at all before Ron went and bent another derailleur hangar. We stopped before generating much body heat. Ron fixed it with an old slightly bent spare. His hands took a while to recover though.

Carl was already enamored with the ride and did well on the many short, steep and technical challenges. Mike 10 was happy to be back talking about his “Let’s do that again” trail. We named that for ourselves. Every time we travel down it (up it today), he says that. Before that though we went along a small ridge with a rocky floor. I always like that little ridge with its small, steep uphill on one side and short, steep downhill on the other.

We made our way through the irregular route that winds between two dirt “roads” to the railroad tracks. Carl enjoyed our trails with their steep, challenging sections, and did very well. I didn’t appreciate the slickness of the damp rocks today though. Maybe it’s time for some new tires. I was slipping and sliding more than I wanted to.

Crossing the railroad tracks, we made our way around Ashley Pond. We stopped by the side of the water. The fog was obliterating almost everything over the water and made an eery quietness to the day. It was beautiful and despite the dampness, I was enjoying the day.

More fog up above at McLean Reservoir.

More fog up above at McLean Reservoir.

From the road, we went up the trail just after the trees and up towards the ridge.

From the road, we went up the trail just after the trees and up towards the ridge.

Carl shows off his trophy a week later.

Carl shows off his trophy a week later.

We circled around the reservoir to the trail leading up to the rockier and steeper sections. Although slick with rocks rolling under our knobby tires, I made it up that first steep section. It’s always a good challenge. We continued upward as usual. Again, this was pretty new for Carl. He hadn’t been on these trails and seemed eager to get the full experience.

Ron showed his stuff getting over the rocks blocking our way to the McLean Reservoir. Another reservoir, another fog bank, damp and beautiful. As much as I appreciated it, it won’t dry out the trails.

It was time to climb for real. The ridge was ahead of us but not before the steep hill up to it. The loose rocks just make it harder and more fun. We climbed to the first level then eyed our next climb up to the ridge. Usually I do pretty good here but not with these wet rocks. It was walking for all of us at first. Climbing got better for a bit before the final walk up. From there it was very little walking and great riding. The slickness didn’t cause too much of a problem, but seemed to add to the fun.

Again Carl did well and really enjoyed it. We enjoyed showing it off to him. He was planning on doing another ride with a friend later at Robinson. Hopefully he would have something left. Ron led us along the ridge. It seems to be his playground of choice. Mike 10 was happy to be back as well. He hadn’t been here with us lately.

Our destination was the Widow Maker trail and it was a fun ride getting there. Except maybe for Carl. On the way down off one ridge towards another he decides to take a tumble. It was beautiful and he couldn’t have done it better. He had a nice black and blue to show for it but was able to walk (bike) away from it. Recovering, he rode up towards Widow Maker with the rest of us. Ron showed off his stuff getting to the top this time. It was quite a feat.

So was going down Widow Maker. Ron and Mike did it without a hitch. I sailed off my bike half way down doing another reverse push up so I wouldn’t break my wrists. Not my best effort. Saved my wrists though.

Carl succeeded in surviving as well. It was all a good experience for him. After showing him Widow Maker and getting him to ride down it (after just tumbling down one valley away),  I’m not sure why he seems to like us so much.

After cleaning the hill, Ron props his bike up to show off the next challenge, the aptly named Widow Maker.

After cleaning the hill, Ron props his bike up to show off the next challenge, the aptly named Widow Maker.


Here is a map I found of some of the named trails here including the famous Widow Maker.

I was in a real mood to ride. I met Ron on Morgan Road, about a mile away from my house, to begin a Bear Hole ride. We hadn’t started from there in a very long time. Someone built a house on the spot we usually enter the woods. We instead met just down the road from there.

See Ride.

The trail we used to take has an offshoot from it just down the road. We started there. We entered the trails we like to warm up on that take us to the Mass Pike underpass. It seemed like someone had been busy cleaning off the branch strewn trails. That was a good sign. Although we managed to get a little off trail near its end, it served its purpose.

We were starting off on a series of trails we hadn’t done in a long time. These trails are more dirt than rocks (which come later), with little steep sections that test the heart as well as the rider’s resolve to get up them.

After going under the Pike on the gravel section of Morgan Road, we at first missed the entrance to the next set of trails. Like many of the trails in here, it is marked and named with a green sign posted on the tree. The name escapes me at the moment but I’m betting the same person that marked it, has been maintaining it. We were rewarded with clean trails traveling amongst a storm damaged forest. This area still seemed trashed by the previous year’s October snowstorm, but the trails were perfect. As I started climbing the first really steep challenge, my bike slipped on leaves coming out from under me. I was okay until my knee ran right into a rock. Hurting bad at first, I knew a few minutes writhing on the ground would suffice to ease the pain. Soon enough we were on our way. Only later on would the knot in my knee require a few aspirin.

This steep section was followed by a few other challenges. We were already having a blast and happy to be revisiting these trails again. I knew we would want to come back here soon. Eventually we made it to the road and found the entrance to our next section of trail.

This section is also mostly dirt with many short, steep spots. I was looking forward to them. These “challenges” were hard but not impossible. I was feeling good, as was Ron despite lifting the night before. We relished these tests, and they came at us one after the other. Cleaning another rise up to a small ridge, we were riding along a smooth, rock surface. The trail rested along this thin ridge then suddenly dove over a rock winding its way to another set of trails. Along the way a deer decided circle around us. It was trying to run away but the twisted route kept us following its getaway.

We turned up a trail I call “Lets do it again” because every time we ride the other way down it, that’s what Mike 10 says. He wasn’t here tonight and I know he would have enjoyed this ride so far. We followed our way to a left turn to a very well-placed trail. I say that because Bear Hole has two ugly dirt roads on either side of this trail. These are wide, worn down roads with green puddles blocking the way. You have to circle the puddles on either side to find your way towards the Holyoke reservoir. These two roads form a triangle with the point being the railroad tracks next to that reservoir.

This trails follows an fun winding route on and off a small ridge. It’s fun, not too winding, and gives the rider a much better route to the reservoir. We hadn’t been there a while and it was good to be back on this excellent trail.
Crossing the railroad track, we entered Ashley Pond reservoir, found the trail up the side to the route we usually take up to the higher up McLean Reservoir. This was regular territory but we weren’t heading across route 202 like we’ve been doing lately.

Ron asked if we should turn around. I was having too much fun. “Let’s head up the ridge towards Widow Maker,” I said. I wasn’t sure if we would be overdoing it for tonight. Heading up on the ridge, there was no easy way back if we wanted to shorten the ride. Ron said “okay” knowing what was in store. We were both having too much fun.

We first had some fun trying to create a way over large rocks intentionally placed to block ATV’s from this trail. We were getting close to making a ramp but still no success. After having some fun, we continued up. Up consists of a loose, rocky, wide “road” up towards the ridge. We do this often. Last time I sucked. This time I was feeling stronger and much more confident. Near its top, leaves and the loose rocks—especially the leaves—got me off my bike. Ron did better than me with those damn big tires of his. Yeah, right—those tires!

It’s the Leaves

The leaves would be the running joke tonight. We honestly did real well despite the terrain. Every time we had to stop or couldn’t quite make a “challenge” we said “it’s the leaves”. It became the running (biking?) joke. To us it became more like a curse word. Instead of the “F” word, we would say the “L” word—”Leaves”.

Riding the Ridge

Going up the opposite way as we usually did lately, we found this mostly easier. There was some walking but not as much as one would think. We made many challenges, got over many rocks, skied down many hills and made ground quickly. Halfway along the ridge was the uphill towards the tower. We knew this was coming. This part of the ridge we have ridden for years. Staying away from the wider part of the trail, we stayed to the single track. It was tiring but worth the effort. We could see the lights from Barnes Airport to our right and the tower was just to our left. These trails temporarily end onto a gravel road. The road leads to our next set of trails to Widow Maker. Flying down the gravel road, we skidded onto the trail just above another tower.

We were having a blast as we headed towards the Widow Maker trail. We got off this main trail onto a single track along the ridge. I “wheel-eed” up some parts lifting my front tire and pushing the bike over. Then two in a row. The trail was challenging but a lot of fun. We skirted around and over rocks following a less traveled trail before circling down back onto the main trail again. We don’t know why some don’t enjoy this like we do. We were having a great night.

The downhill leads to the loosest, and rockiest section. If you don’t pick your line early and get your groove quick, you are walking the rest of the way up. I only got so far as did Ron. I’ve made it before, but not tonight—those damn leaves…

Near the top, Ron stopped to take in the lights along both sides of the trail. With no leaves, you can see along both sides of this ridge. I just kept going soon finding myself sliding down Widow Maker. Lately we’ve been walking and sometimes riding, up this trail—not much riding actually. Going down it, you roll and ski down, locking the brakes up when necessary. There is no stopping. Find a line, watch the rocks you just pushed aside roll past. It’s messy but more fun than you think and quite the challenge—that’s why we like it here.

Widow Maker is probably the most unique trail here. It’s all downhill (or uphill the other way), very loose rock, sloppy but fun. It’s not everybody’s favorite but we really enjoy it. For us tonight, it was our finale. We got down to the road deciding that we had enough for tonight. Riding back along the closed, partially paved road, we chased a truck out. They probably thought with our lights, we were the police. With illegal dumping along this road, I was happy to give chase.

It was an excellent ride. It was epic. With Thanksgiving near, I appreciated the hard ride. I was already planning for the next day’s ride.


Mountain biking in the rain is not a good idea when you add slick rocks to the mix.

See Ride

Ron and I got together earlier this month on a Wednesday night. We met at the Elks in Holyoke and did much of the same ride we did again the next Sunday. It just started raining and soon realized “what was I thinking coming here?”

We had crossed the street early and were soon in “the slick of it.” Anytime I put my tire on a rock on the trail, the bike would slide out from under me. It was frustrating at first. I was too stubborn at first to think every rock could be too slick. I learned my lesson eventually and starting weaving away from them. Took long enough.

Funny thing was, both Ron and I were starting to get more comfortable on the bike. We were still getting our mountain biking legs going for the season. Our balance was off and we couldn’t seem to hold a good line. That changed during this ride though. Everything seemed to be falling (or sliding) into place. Even with the rain.

Getting to a main trail, I decided to have us ride in the opposite direction than we usually do—towards the gun club. We would mimic this route the next Sunday.

Getting onto the trails after the gun club, the riding just kept getting better. Aside from Ron falling down a hill later on (I was wondering what all the swearing was about), it became a great ride, even a very memorable one.

It’s funny how lousy conditions can sometimes make a ride even better.

Just after a short hike-a-bike. Ron leads the other guys up the trail.

The weather last Sunday was perfect for a mountain bike ride. We met at the Elks in Holyoke, a favorite spot to start. Mike 10 & 11, Ron and I  headed out around the reservoir, past the poison ivy fields. Ron, very familiar with that weed, warned me against falling into it on this easy but rooty beginning but I almost did anyway. We followed the warm up near the water’s edge and circled around back to the road.

This is a favorite spot for hikers and runners, including families. They circle the Ashley Reservoir enjoying the day. Others enjoy the area on four wheeled dirt bikes. I know of some bikers besides us that enjoy these mostly rocky trails, especially the Two Tired Guys (a local group), but most stay away. I don’t see many (any?) other bikers here and made a joke the other night to Ron as we rode here wondering if we’d come across any other bikers on the trail that night.

We love the challenge of this place. I’ve never had so many hard trails, combined with repeatedly steep sections that test my endurance, skill, and patience. Many riders hate the loose rocks, we just add them to the list—just another obstacle to overcome.

Crossing the thin narrow path between the reservoir ponds, we took another path on the other side of Ashley Reservoir. This is essentially another warmup for us before climbing to the particularly steep and challenging trails. We ride between pine trees, taking sometimes narrow trails along the pond’s edge. Along the way detours abound as the brittle trees are prone to cracking and falling from the wind and weather. That eventually brings us to a stream which we used to cross but have found the side closest to us now better used as a trail back to the gravel road the circles the reservoir.

Riding along the road, we look for our trail on the right which will bring us up to the upper trail just above us. This will bring us to the upper McLean Reservoir which we traveled around next.

Climbing that first, short trail is our first test. Rolling over loose rock, I used to never make it. Now I make it much more than not but every time I try, I expect to fail. The loose rocks seem to be impossible to avoid and experience seems to make the difference. Making it, it used to be you take a sharp right up the wet portion of the trail. Instead, Ron showed me that now you just cross over and climb just a little more before circling back to the trail. I used to rest, now I just keep going. We climb a little over more loose rocks and take the right fork off this trail. I’ve ridden here many years and it was always too wet, and too steep in parts. Our detour takes us to McLean and is a much better though somewhat messy way to go.

Our playground.

Crossing over a wet, muddy stream we find our next obstacle just before the reservoir. Large rocks block the way but there is one way up. ride onto the narrow, correct rock, stay to its left and ride the way over it. Ron showed me that one too. Made this one, this time.

Circling to the left, there is a trail up towards the first ridge. It’s blocked by rather large rocks and Ron and I have worked on it some. Still, it needs a little work before we can pop over it. From here its a rocky climb up. We are led back to the main trail that we had reached off the gravel road. This has probably the most loose rock of the whole ride. We know it well and have gotten to enjoy it. I know others would probably hate it but for us it’s heart-pounding fun. Making that (or not) it’s an easier but still loose-rocky climb up to our first goal. Some do better than others but I think we all performed well here. It is not easy to make this. The long climb and the loose rocks just wear you down.

Getting to its first top, there is a fork. We hadn’t quite made up our mind which way we would go. To the left is the ridge we travel often towards Westfield. Many climbs, many loose rocks. Plenty of fun. It is a long climb to a peak and there are multiple peaks along the way. The right was our choice though. No less hard, it climbs again but descends fast and loose to route 202. From there is much more climbing. I repeated my “joke” I made to Ron the week before. “Let’s take the easier way,” I said. As they all know, there is no easier way. There is no easy way.

The first part is not so difficult—for us. It’s has a loose surface only in the beginning and end. Mostly it is just rocky and challenging…and more fun.

Crossing route 202 is a challenge in itself. Many have died driving on this busy road. Crossing over, we have another short but hard climb leading to a rock drop off. I used to never try it but now do it regularly. It seemed worse than usual and I told Ron “I can’t believe we do that. There was a time I would never try that.” Mike 11 avoided the attempt. I don’t blame him. I was happy to just get him here. After a difficult injury a few years ago he should be more careful.

This trail descends back near the road and takes a now (thanks to us) banked left. I fell here the week before. Then it leads somewhat difficultly along a small pond to Apremont Highway.

Here you cross over to another and not the last ridge. Up the rock, up the steep trail of pine needles. Catching our breath by leaning against a tree, we all take the last gasp rolling over again steep rocky terrain to our stop. Now we really have to catch our breath.

Here we see a steep trail we have never made. It seems doable but the effort to get here takes a lot out of you. Multiple attempts only wear you down more. Maybe Trevor from Family Bike could do it.

Now we follow the ridge. In many parts the trail opens up to a view and you are riding on exposed rock surface. The trail pops back into the woods and back out. Many parts are hard but loose rock is rare here. It all fell down hill I think. Crossing through one spot though, we travel over to another open, rock floor outlook. The view makes it all worth the effort. We pause to take a look to where we were before continuing on. Mike 11 seemed to not recognize the trial here and he may not have ridden this before. He was in for a treat—I hope he thinks so.

I used to take another way back down but Ron showed me this trail continues on. Years earlier I had tried it and found it went down a very steep, barely walkable trail. Somebody changed all that and now it travels a rideable (we do but most couldn’t), very rocky way down. As hard as it is, I love it. It was a great find from Ron. It’s one of my most favorite parts of this ride.

My bike was getting pounded from this ride and I always think how hard I am being on it. It is serving me well.

One spot on the trail is quite tough as it circles to the right. You have to be ready for it. I was this time. Ron and Mike 10 made it too. As I went through it, I thought I was done for but ended up making it. My skills are finally coming back after a long season of road riding.

The trail brings you down to a stream and to the beginning of Hellgate. Not today though. We traveled down the Trolley Trail to the end of the Pipeline Trail. We would come back here later but for now it was another ridge. The trail head sits behind Holyoke Community College. The trail starts up immediately but at first it is too hard and frustrating to climb. A little walk up and you are good to go. I was doing well when I saw some creature on the trail that was coming my way. It stopped looked at me and turned around staying on the trail though. It was dark and fat. I was the only one to see it and soon discerned that it was a porcupine. I was catching up to it and stopped periodically to let it put some space between us. One by one the other guys saw it too. We kept traveling up the trail following him. It took a while for him to finally get off the trail so we could pass by.

This trail like the others is difficult. More than once it opens up to a view. The rocks are sharp and bouncy. Many spots are very hard to ride over but we can and do. I’m not sure if many others appreciate this like we do. More challenges than most ever do in a ride.

Eventually finding one of the main trails we decided to take it to the Holyoke Gun Club and travel the opposite way around from what we usually do. This trail to the gun club is nothing special but it gets us to where we want to be.

After walking our bikes, I check out the view looking back

Going by the gun club, we quickly get back to the fun. Ron and I rode here in the rain recently and now it seems easy compared to that. Still it’s hard and gets harder. Crossing over another small stream, we climb. We know eventually we will have to walk, but Ron leads us up steep section after steep section. We all make it and I feel it was quite the accomplishment. Finally getting off our bikes, we have to walk the rest of the way to the peak. This time I show the guys that carrying the bike is easier than pushing it up. I make it up first and get a quick view and snack. We’re burning some serious calories.

This part of the trail is awesome just as it was in the rain recently. It’s a newer trail that Ron had dented his old Trek bike on years before. It meanders for a while and it proved that the walk up the last part of the climb had been worth it. I hated when the trail ended although most of these trails are great as well, just a bit wider.

We follow the wider trail past a turnoff to route 141 that leads to Mt. Tom. Ignoring that we descend to a right turn along a trail that is usually very wet but is now bone dry. The hot summer helped clean that up, or maybe the water found another path as it does around here.

This all leads to a famous (to us) hill. This time we go down it though. Only one person has ever made it up—Steve. Until then I thought it impossible. We go down and take a right turn near its bottom. This is an alternate route than I used to do. Ron fell here the week before so it’s pretty tough. That hill behind us though leads to a lot of water so this is the way to go.

We follow the trail near the large water tanks and make our way along more rocks, more challenges and again, more rocks. The trails are somewhat easier (I guess) but still very challenging. It’s easier in this direction and we eventually come to a hill to descend. It’s fairly treacherous. I had only made it up once and that way is now blocked by fallen trees. Climbing up it would be too difficult but just sit back on the seat and descending is possible.

Getting back to the main trail where we decided to go towards the gun club, we decided this time to take the ridge back that we saw the porcupine on. The other ways back are full of loose rock and water so this is more fun. It’s different anyhow in the opposite direction. That leads back to the Pipeline Trail and we take it back to route 202. Ron and I travel successfully over the two pipes that cross another stream. Before that we all made it over a double-plank bridge. That is Mike 11’s achilles heal but he made it as well.

From route 202 our hardest challenge is making it across this road alive. It’s a blind corner in both directions and you have to move fast. We cross the road, enter the reservoir, ride on a trail near other poison ivy fields. Some of the trees here possess long, fat, hairy vines of poison ivy. We avoid one trail where you can easily brush up against it. Our ride almost ended we check out a small terrain park before going back to the main, gravel road.

It was an awesome ride, as you can tell by the length of this story. My thoughts frequently thought of Carl wondering how he would fare here. Hopefully he will soon find out. Suffering is part of the fun.

And there's Widowmaker. Good name for a trail, very descriptive.

Getting close to the end of Dewey Street, the car practically brushed by my leg coming about 6 inches away from hitting me. I was riding close to the side of the road already and with no oncoming traffic saw no need for the close encounter. Besides instant rage and a rush of adrenaline, all I could think was “where is Ron when you need him?”

See Tuesday Ride

Coming off a tough (eating) Easter weekend, I didn’t waste (away?) any time getting back on the bike. Monday brought wind, annoying drivers, and much more wind.

After not catching the driver that brushed by me, I contemplated their age believing it was probably pretty old. Getting onto Route 20 I was starting to settle down when I found myself behind a car that was going so slow that I was able to keep up and draft it. Then I passed it as the woman just stopped right there in the right lane. Eventually passing me I was unsure what that was all about. Texting maybe? Either way it was two odd happenings very close together.

Turning off onto route 20 to East Mountain Road I was hoping things were going to get better. Then I get a phone call from my daughter. Love my girl but I needed to get this ride back in focus. The wind wasn’t going to make it easy though.

I had plenty of time before dark but I made my mind up to stretch the ride out a little. It would be a race against the dark.

I crossed route 202 again near the Mass Pike and went deeper into Westfield. Soon enough I was on a great road on the edge of the mountains. Eventually I made my way back to route 202 again and headed up Mountain Road. As “Mountain Roads” go it’s not too bad but it still makes me work for it. Luckily the wind was in my favor and helped a little.

As you can probably tell, the ride’s drama died down with the change of wind direction. The end was faster than the beginning with the wind at my back. In the end, I beat the dark easy enough due to the wind at my back.

See Wednesday Ride

It wasn’t as cold as Ron claimed but he used it as an excuse to go into the woods. I needed some sleep but somehow knew I felt okay. I’ve been laying off soda, eating better at supper and spinning on the road. All this has seemed to help my riding. I started out strong, spinning fast for mountain biking. Even Ron noticed.

When we started climbing and I was able to easily keep going. Maybe I should stay up later at night more often. Lack of sleep was seeming to agree with me.

Starting out the ride Ron put forth the idea that we head up the trail the way we usually do but instead of heading towards the college heading north, we could head west back towards Widowmaker. We were thinking alike. I had the same idea.

After passing by the second reservoir, I led the way up the first hills, making it up to the first plateau. It was still up from there but this was in the opposite direction than we usually go. Ron told me the best line but my bike had other ideas. Too my surprise, I made it anyway and kept climbing. Soon though, enough was enough. I could go a few more feet but the last quarter of the hill was close to impossible. Save it.

Instead of sharing all the details, instead I want to impart how much fun it was. We road it much better than we usually do in the other direction. Most hills were passable, walking was minimal. I told Ron I haven’t gone this direction from where we started more than a few times, the first being more than a few years ago. At the time it was really tough and I’ve been less likely to follow this route since.

Ron shows off his bruise.

We made it to the top at the gravel road and tower. We headed down back onto the trail. This was also excellent and led us to our real goal, Widowmaker. Ron made through the loose rocks, climbing to its peak. I had some problems but soon recovered. Going down Widowmaker is rocky and dangerous. So much so its more like skiing down over the rocks than it is riding. I took a right down a less used route. After correcting, I made parts of the hill harder than it needed to be but soon I found myself over more manageable territory finally getting to the road. It was a long way down and there were many places I could have lost it.

Ron soon followed. Laughing, he had to stop and show off his trophy. Rubbing his forearm against a tree on the way down a tree made a nice scrape shedding some skin. It could easily have been a lot worse.

We followed the gravel road back to Morgan Road. It was a good road for fat tires only. I’ve brought my road bike on this road once in the last few years only to get a flat.

We took a left onto a dirt road that typically has putrid puddles of pea green water that you navigate around. With the dry weather all those puddles were gone. We found a new trail that led to a fun series of trails that I know well. I showed Ron how to better navigate through them while enjoining its hills, twists and turns. If you know the route, its a great treat that keeps you off two crappy dirt road trails that surround it. Its end comes to the point those two trails meet.

And there’s Ashley Reservoir again. From the railroad tracks we got back on the road following its perimeter and enjoyed the easy, ride and the nice view. It was getting close to dark. I am constantly amazed how we can time it just right, getting back before it gets too dark.

I’m glad Ron pushed for a mountain bike ride. Good choice.

Ron points towards Mount Tom.

With rain predicted this Sunday, the Mikes went riding on Saturday together while Ron and me waited it out.

I got up Sunday morning not knowing what to expect. I was planning on riding no matter what although if it was raining hard I could have been convinced to go to the gym.

Surprisingly, it had barely rained and didn’t look like it was going to start, so plans were changed from Robinson to Bear Hole. We were planning on Robinson figuring the rockier trails at Bear Hole would be much slicker than the smoother Robinson.

We started from the Elks parking lot and headed onto the trails around Ashley reservoir. We took our usual warmup along the water then to the short but steep hill to the outer trails. That was just the beginning of the hilly trails today. Negotiating the connecting trail to the McLean Reservoir was easy and not too muddy. From there it was up, up, up following the very loose rocky trail towards route 202.

My mind wandered knowing how reaching the first peak overlooking Barnes Airport, we were still only starting. Our plans today included Hellgate. Yes, it’s as hard as it sounds.

We crossed route 202, made the small hill, around the pond and crossed Apremont Highway for yet another climb. This one keeps your heart level near the redline before bringing you to a near impossible hill. We got off the bikes and kept moving hoping to at least improve our recovery if not our biking skills. As we walked up the hill we pondered how well Trevor would do. We suspect much better than us.

I stopped to take a photo of Hellgate's ridge.

This peak leads past many lookouts featuring great views facing west as well as the Hellgate ridge on the other side of the Trolley trail. As I stopped to take a picture it looked higher up than I was. The trail below looked pretty far down as well.

We enjoyed the very technical ride down. I was just here the day before walking with my kids. We needed the rest knowing we would get none soon.

Here we were, at the gates of Hell. We hadn’t tried riding this trail for about a year and a half. The first climb is another short but steep shot with many loose rocks and a large log at the top. With just a dab from Ron, we both made it well. We were lucky to get that far though. Now out of breath, again, we turned right with the trail and hoofed it up. This next part would too hard already without the warmup we just had. Neither of us would complain though. There are some awesome parts of this trail and for us the challenge was to see how much we could do, not how much we couldn’t.

Heading up peak number three we eventually made our way to the hard left the trail veers onto. I’ve been up here years ago and know this left is fairly new. Ron found it on his own exploration ride. I guess it pays to have both of us exploring these trails. Later Ron asked me how I knew all these trails. I said that it was something I did on my own years ago before I met either him or Mike.

Now on Hellgate, I stopped again to photograph where I was previously.

I’ve only done this part once before and it was practically a new experience for me to be back. There was some walking but mostly riding. The highlight of the trail is where it peaks. The trail climbs to a thin top with each side falling off very abruptly. As Ron pointed back towards a rather unique view of Mt. Tom, I thought of my kids and how they would love this (walking not biking). It seemed like we were on the head of a pin. If I didn’t know better, I would have said there was no place for the trail to go, but go it did.

When we eventually found our way back down to the Trolley trail, we knew it was NOT time to turn back. We headed down the trail and towards the gun club then up to peak four.

Past the gun club we stayed to the right then up to another lookout we typically avoid. It’s a great trail but the very top is only walkable. Before and after that is fabulous though. We were doing these trails in reverse direction of how we usually ride them. That makes a whole different experience.

We followed the trail past the water tanks then followed the trail up again. Despite the climbing, this is sort of the same peak that we were just on. The climbing here was much easier than the other direction we take this trail and almost more fun.

When we reached a main trail again I was hoping to just follow it back down towards the end. Instead Ron kept going up another ridge. It’s another peak we usually reach in the other direction. What the hell though, we’re into the ride this much and we still have the time.

Getting back to towards 202, we got onto the Pipeline trail. Seeing Ron clean the bike over the large pipes then through the stream, I finally knew I had to do it too. Seeing how dry the pipes seemed, I could see I wouldn’t slip. Making it I knew the only problem is I will probably have to do it again next time.

It was a great ride with the vertical elevation reading only 1,450 feet that felt like much more. I say double it and it’s closer to reality.

It was good to have Mike riding with us again.

After a really tough day at work, I really needed a good, challenging bike ride. Unfortunately, I brought the wrong helmut—the one without the bracket for my light. That’s what happens when my mind is distracted with other things.

After returning from home, I get ready just in time to see Ron and Mike 10 return to pick me up. We soon head out back around the reservoir and start with the warm up trail running along the wooded shoreline. Slowly I start warming up—not from the cold since it’s plenty warm enough tonight for February—but from the distractions of work.

As stated, it is plenty warm out for February. Also, the stars are shining bright tonight. One would think a clear, February night would be very chilly, but that isn’t the case.

The route was one of our typical bear hole rides. After circling part of Ashley Pond, we head onto the gravel road for a short time then head up a short but challengingly steep trail. It brings us away from the water but puts us on a course for McLean Reservoir. Then up a series of loose, rocky terrain until we hit the white-marked M&M trail. This one is in much better shape. We were still moving along but our hearts were moving much quicker than the rest of us. The climb combined with the loose rocks and technical lines to follow took a lot out of us. I was remembering the past Sunday ride, noting the similarities of effort.

Following the white dot trail from there was easier but not that much easier. Slowly, we recovered. Once or twice we stopped momentarily. Mike’s back was sore and I thought giving it a short break would be a good idea. Not sure if it helped but he seemed to hold together pretty well through the ride.

As we reached the pinnacle of the trail it was time for the last, very tough downhill to route 202. Soon, I was laying on my side as I wiped out yet again. The recent rides have been a tough series of falls for me. Luckily as I told Ron, “I know how to fall.”

We crossed 202 to the a small but again challenging group of trails only to cross again at Apremont Highway (our road riding hill we hate the most). From here it gets steeper, more challenging and puts your heartbeat into orbit. I saw Sunday’s ride passing before my eyes. Now I remembered how hard the ride was.

This trail is just awesome to use leading to a series of look-outs that are even spectacular at night. After you get through the worst of it you hit another look-out before another tough series heading towards the main trails circling near Holyoke Community College. This trail is mostly downhill but somehow is still very difficult.

When hitting the main trail we ended up just across from the Hellgate trail. We weren’t stupid enough to go there. As we stood there catching our breaths, I noticed that the other guy’s lights seemed much brighter than mine. Then I noticed that it was because mine was fading fast. Guess I forgot to recharge it from the last ride.

My luck was holding out though. We were on the main trail and were heading back. I kept between Ron and Mike and used their lights to get me back.

In the end we rode together almost 1-3/4 hours and came back plenty tired. I really needed that beating.

Still no snow! After a brief interlude a few weeks ago, with a rare cross country ski day, it’s been back to the trails ever since for us.

Ron refused to ride Robinson as I knew he would. He wanted nothing but pain. Mike 10 despite a recent sore back, was back as well. It was going to be a good, hard ride.

See Ride.

We headed right for route 202 and crossed over to the Pipeline Trail. We headed for the ridge near Holyoke Community College and followed a series of tough, technical climbs. On the way over we crossed over a bridge that Ron made a trail to.

It may seem funny but for years there has been a bridge over a wide stream. We never used it. It was built over a part of the stream where no trail existed. To the right of it was two boards put together that acted like a funky bridge.

After a heavy rain it was not passable. Ron was clearing trails anyway and found a good reason to finally make use of the “bridge to nowhere.” Now it actually goes somewhere.

After the bridge, Mike was having a hard time trying to figure out where we were. The dark combined with the fact that we haven’t been here enough lately kept his internal GPS confused. (I think that means we need to return there soon.)

It seems we’ve focused a lot on Robinson lately. I think we were just happy to still be riding this far into winter.

For a while I was annoyed with the bouncy trails, but eventually I found my groove. We love the technical stuff, even at night. It’s a hard place to ride, plus, throw in a little snow to make it even more fun.

We found the only remaining snow (aside from my front yard) in the local area. Not too much to get in the way too much but just as a reminder of how lucky we were to be riding. Usually we have to at least deal with ice. Even that has been rare lately.

It was a great night for a ride and it was hard to believe it’s February. While some may claim global warming, I remind them that Europe and Alaska have had it particularly cold this winter. It seems that mother nature has a way of evening things out.

It’s been dry though. I’m worried about mother nature “evening things out” with a wet Spring.