Sunday, October 21, 2007

Par for the Course

I had read about some good biking trails around Barre Falls Dam from one of my hiking/biking books. Saturday we got on the Turnpike, and headed east to the Palmer exit.

Then through Ware.

On into Hardwick. There, we stopped to check out an interesting river overlook and canoe access.

These two cats nearby stopped playing for a minute to examine the visitors.

Then on into Barre.

The entrance to the dam is located on Rte. 122. There is a parking area near the beginning of a dirt road that leads to the dam. The dirt roads run all over the area, and people regularly drive to the dam, but we parked at the entrance and decided to bike the rest of the way.

Of course, I forgot to bring the book which marked the bike trail. But luckily there were some good maps at the entrance. I also had my GPS at the ready.

We were going to try to do a loop around the light blue area on the map. About 10 miles or so. The light blue area signifies the area that is under water when things are flooded over. Not a problem lately.

We weren't sure if the leaves would be popping out here like they were in the Pioneer Valley. We took a chance on that...

The foliage was ok, but not quite as brilliant as it is in the valley, in my opinion. Kelly thought it was just as good. Maybe I'm just being biased. We had a nice ride ahead of us though, and we optimistically pedalled on. The roads, though unpaved, were great for biking.

Great, that is, except for the climbing. We chose a road away from the floodplain. It slowly climbed about 300 feet , from our start of 700 feet, to the top of a hill, at 1000 feet. Not too bad, but we were winded.

We had to stop a few times. One of those times, as Kelly put her hand back on the handle bar, there was a yellow jacket that had landed there. Unhappy bee. The string of hiking casualties this year continues...

As we were examining the sting, Kelly said "Did you hear that?"

It sounded like people in a field right nearby.

Then she said "When does hunting season start?"

Unbelievably, right on cue, were were startled with a BOOM! just a few yards away.

It was indeed hunting season. They were right on the other side of a small rise and stone wall. And we didn't have a speck of orange clothes on either of us. I peeked over, and saw it was a couple of adults hunting with their kids. Passing on the heritage.

There was the occasional car going by on the dirt road, and we decided to trust that the hunters knew to not aim towards the road. For a while though, we kept our eyes and ears peeled. We saw some more hunters later, and made sure they heard and/or saw us going by.

We finally crested the hill, and happily coasted down the other side.

Right before the dam, there was this old cemetery.

From what I had read in the hiking book, the Parker family was the prominent family in this area. The area used to be a village called Cold Brook Springs. The town was abandoned by state decree in the 1920's to clear the watershed area for the Ware river, which feeds water to the Boston area. Some of the stones were so old they were either broken or sunk into the ground or both. Only one was readable.

Just past this was the Barre Falls Dam. There's a picnic area, benches, and even an 18-hole golf course that's built into the dry floodplain below.

It's not your average golf course though. You had better really want to play...

You probably don't want to shank a ball here.

Across the dam these people were keeping their eyes and scopes peeled for migrating raptors.

We rounded the far end of our trail, and headed down a rocky/sandy hill below the dam. I picked up enough speed for my hat to start to blow off my head.

I instinctively reached up to grab it. That's when I too, added my name to the growing list of outdoor wounded this year.

I think I hit the front brakes too hard, but I remember seeing the front wheel suddenly twist violently and unnaturally to the the left, kicking up dirt and rocks. I remember that helpless sinking of the gut as my bike disappeared underneath me. I remember a brief tug at my left foot, as my hiking boot was ripped from it by a pedal strap that refused to give. I remember face planting righteously in a dusty tumble of grunts, pebbles and dirt, and skidding to a groaning halt.

My first instinct- Check myself, and figure out what just happened...

My second instinct- Look around to see if anyone saw it. (luckily Kelly didn't, or she'd still be laughing right now.)

My third instinct? Get out the camera. (I am become blogger)

Strangely I had scrapes and bruises on every corner of myself. I felt like I tumbled down an elevator shaft.

The Hiking gods have been smiting my companions all summer, I guess I was due.

I got myself together and we moved on...

The woods here are a goldmine of old stone walls and old foundations.

The walls are everywhere, and the trees relatively young. Evidence of the pastoral/ treeless landscape of the mid 1800's.
Imagine what that looked like. Just rolling farm and pasture land as far as you can see, criss-crossed by lines of stone walls and dotted with dusty roads, barns, villages and the occasional clusters of trees.

Beavers had a construction project going on, flooding an area below the dam.

The second half of the ride went through a lot of nice wetlands and marshes. Must be brimming with wildlife in the Summer.

Finally, over a couple bridges, then over one of three dikes at the southern end of the watershed near the end of the ride.

We were whooped. We ended up doing about 12.5 miles of rolling country road. It was a good outing. We were eager to get back home.


Mary E.Carey said...

Good blogger down photos. Did you consider asking Kelly to take some photos of the blogger in distress?

Tony said...

She was too far up around the bend when it happened... We have the same bad sense of humor where someone falling off of anything is hilarious. She took that pic of my hands afterwards though.