A random collection of thoughts associated with the sport of cycling, as relayed by one hopelessly devoid of too many competing interests. It's a one track blog I'm afraid. But hey, if you like bikes you might enjoy it. So keep reading and the worst that'll happen is it might rot your brain..

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Walkabout Trail

Sometimes trail names can be so benign as to make no connection to the place, or the experience ahead of you. I'm thinking here of a trail like the JB Hudson Trail, or the Arcadia Trail, in Arcadia. What does either name tell you about the trail or what you might expect to ride? Not too much. Unless maybe you know a good story or two about JB Hudson.

On the other hand a trail name like the Purple Panty trail at Lincoln Woods is so fitting on so many levels it's scary. Ditto with the MT Tom trail. Not so much the Tom part, but the MT designation lets you know you're gonna do some climbing and there might be some views. It evokes a challenge, and it delivers in style. Sandhill trail in Arcadia is also aptly named as well because, well, there's a crappy sand hill in the middle of it. You can't bitch and complain because you were warned, after all it was right there in the name.

Unfortunately no one ever names trails with really descriptive names like "worst ride ever", "pinch flat haven", "pickle central", or "the place some guy broke his face". Nope, it's never close to being that accurate, and that means you have to go find out for yourself. And, really, that's half the fun.

This past Saturday I decided to go ride the Walkabout Trail in George Washington State Park in the 100 degree heat and humidity. In this case the trail name gives it all away up front, and it provides some big clues on what to expect. Anytime you see the word WALK expect trouble, or masochistic fun, depending on your point of view. Also, when embarking on any trail named after a rite of passage one should expect some sort of challenge. In this case it's a 9 mile rock garden that can make you a better rider, or reduce you to a whimpering clown.

As it turns out the trail delivered on it's promises, and it handily kicked my ass during some of the slowest riding I've done in a long time. It took me almost 2 hours to travel those nine miles, and I can honestly say I only walked a small percentage of the trail. It's definitely rideable, but it's really tough in a mentally wearing kind of way. I repeated a few tricky sections just to learn the line and clean the worst parts. Mercifully there's almost no climbing on the trail itself. What you will find is a carpet of rocks, roots, downed trees, overgrown singletrack and a few swampy sections thrown in for good measure. And don't forget about the deer flies! Friendly bastards, they'll accompany you for most of your journey. And rest assured, they'll be certain to bite when your immediate attention is required to keep you from headwalking on the trail.

I rode out from the parking lot at Pulaski Park, a small parcel located within the ~ 4,000 acre George Washington State Park. I followed the Walkabout in a counter clockwise direction, but somehow I managed to lose the trail after I was back in the vicinity of Pulaski. It may have been the heat, but I completely missed the markers on the fire road and just kept riding. And riding, and riding. During the slow brain bake on the sun drenched fire roads I drained my water reserves while simultaneously heading in all the wrong directions. I knew I needed to go west, but every dirt road I picked would inevitably veer north, east or northwest at best.

After a little over an hour of brain boiling fun, and a loooong descent I didn't want to climb back up, I found a fire road heading due west and rode out as fast as possible. I hit a paved road and figured "it can't be more than a mile or two back to the lot". Right about then I saw the signs letting me know I was in Thompson, CT. Shit.. OK, well at least I was headed in the right direction. I stopped at Quaddick State Park in CT and asked the kid at the kiosk where I was, and how I could get to Pulaski. The directions seemed easy enough, then I asked him how far it was. His answer of 10 minutes in a car sounded easy, and I was psyched. That feeling lasted for about 2 seconds while my electrolyte starved brain did the math. That's when I realized that at ~ 50 mph a car covers almost ten miles in 10 minutes.

10 miles is 10 miles. It's no big deal usually, its' barely a warm up ride right? At this point, however, it was pretty bad news. I felt like someone stabbed me in the eye, and the anger sharks were definitely swimming in my head big time. I soft pedaled to the intersection the kid described, and then I saw a nice big hill waiting for me. OK one hill, whatever. Wait, there's another one. And, oh great, there's another! While nudging my way up the last hill I contemplated just getting off and walking, then I realized I was already doing this. Cool, no need to continue thinking it over! As I was getting back on the bike I realized that the power lines on my left were indeed the same power lines I crossed about 90 minutes earlier. They dump out about a mile from the parking lot.. There's nothing like learning the boundaries of a park or forest the hard way. Now I really know the lay of the land, yaaay for me..

No pics from the ride, but here's some quality entertainment for you. Thank you, drive through.



Blogger Tom said...

"Unfortunately no one ever names trails with really descriptive names like "worst ride ever", "pinch flat haven", "pickle central""

At least not officially ! We rode through GW earlier this year on the North South trail - apparently that doesn't follow the walkabout trail since besides a bunch of trees down the across the trail it was pretty much rideable. Any interest in a repeat of that ride as soon as the horse flies are gone ? Probably the best ride of the year for me so far. Pics are here: http://cruz.media.mit.edu/tomblog.nsf/north-south

9:32 AM

Blogger Brendan said...

I believe they are one and the same for a while, at least according the the NS markers I saw here and there. It is rideable, I hope my post doesn't make seem otherwise. It's certainly NOT a beginner trail, and I think even intermediate riders would probably have a bad time in the hardest sections.

What did me in overall was the heat, humidity and the miles of extra fire road and road riding...

10:09 AM

Blogger Mark said...

Maybe you thought of this but I never ride a new area without a decent topo map with or with out the trail on it. That way, if I do get lost, I should be able to recognize some sort of terrain feature to get me back to where I came from. Also, I would recommend a GPS, if you have one, too. That way you could also track back if you had to. Something to consider for the next adventure.

12:58 PM

Blogger Brendan said...

Most times I just wing it - but yeah a map would've been smart, huh?

1:04 PM

Blogger Mark said...

Not a whole lot out there in the trail map dept online. Bikerag didn't have but I did find this place as having something, plus if you are signed in, GPS data, you could download - of course if you an Edge, that wouldn't help, unless you converted it to a Course and followed that - it's doable but a PITA. Hopefully this will work here:
Trailpeak seems like an interesting source for trails.

2:44 PM


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