Saturday, June 12, 2021

Joe versus the Volcano Roubaix

After last year's Lake Winnespaukee Gravel Grinder ride I took an interest in this part of New Hampshire to add more dirt roads to my Roubaix to Brew dirt road and breweries map. Being somewhat of a topography/cartography nerd I found that were quite a few circular shaped mountains in this area. After some research I found that this part of the state was home to quite a few ancient volcanoes and Pawtuckaway State Park caught my interest. Also known as the Dragon's Eye, the concentric rings around a center mound mark the center of an ancient volcano where the magma chamber solidified and then collapsed upon itself, called a ring dike.

I found that there is a dirt road that runs around Middle Mountain and the entire loop was dirt. I had to ride this. Near the Air B&B, I found the Freemont Branch of former Boston and Maine Railroad that was recently turned into a railtrail that connected to the Portsmouth Branch (of the Boston and Maine) that is now called the Rockingham Recreational Trail. This would get me to the main line and the main line would get me to out to the Pawtuckaway State Reservation and other dirt nearby dirt roads.

Entering the rail trail from Rt 111A was a little quirky. The main entrance was obscured and I rode a dirt road paralleling it still I found a little connector trail. Once on the trail itself I loved how straight it was and how you see down the trail for miles but what I didn't like was how uneven it was. It was like the railroad ties had recently been removed and it was so slow going that I decided to bail and find another way to the Portsmouth Branch.

F#ck this!

When I got back to 111A, I looked at my RWGPS map and found a way around. The Garmin kept trying to re-route me back to the trail and I had to stop following the course. Need to find that setting and stop it because after you hit cancel once and you are still off course it keeps coming up, over and over again.

The Portsmouth branch had a much better surface, more compact, although the rain from the previous night left many puddles and the trail was pretty soggy. Good thing I brought my Ass Saver. The rest of the bike was a complete wreck by the time I left the trail, though.

When I got to Raymond I was greeted with a treat - there was a railroad museum in an old depot and there were some cars and a small locomotive, too.

I love discovering these little Railroad History nuggets along rail trails

Further down the line I came to a bridge that the course guidance was telling me that I should leave the road bed and turn east on a dirt road called Cider Ferry Hill but there was no connector trail so I back tracked and found the road but it turned out it was a private road.

I worked my way around that and finally popped out onto Route 27 and rode north. I was trying to stay away from numbered roads knowing that people tended to drive way too fast on them. Fortunately, Route 27 had a nice shoulder on most of what I rode.

Riding into the Reservation started out with a formidable climb and the first one with the new bike and it I was able to make the climb without wishing for more gears.

Riding into the basin was magical, a northeastern version of the Land Before Time. It was totally pristince with ponds dammed up by beavers and ringed by the dike mountains. Through the trees was a quick view of the South Mountain Summit.

The road wraps around and Middle Mountain rises up from the valley floor. 

I didn't see a sign for the Devil's Staircase so I pressed on

and I didn't want to try to find the boulder field because it would take me away from where I wanted to go on this trip

On the way out I caught a glimpse of the North Mountain Summit

Then there was this great sign

I guess some GPS's think the road goes through and it might for a bike but I am going to save that for the next adventure

After riding through the Ring Dike I restarted the dirt version of the course and picked up a nice dirt road heading north east towards Deerfield, NH.

Included in the route to Deerfield was a 2 mile dirt road climb that averaged 3.2% but had some punchy 9 and 10% sections

Didn't see much wildlife besides a lone turkey

I should have heeded the sign and headed back to the first dirt road I saw before Perry Road

It was rideable for the most part

until I saw the water

Maybe I could have gotten through but I didn't want to attempt this with the new bike and the possibility of getty soaked

I didn't feel like climbing back up to the previous dirt road I saw so I continued down Nottingham Hill until I came this opening that I thought would be a perfect spot for a little a bike porn photo shoot.

Venturing further into the clearing the view was even more spectacular because you can see the Pawtuckaway Ring Dike complex perfectly.

All three of the mountains are in clear view

This is the Money Shot for the Pawtuckaway Ring Dike Complex 

It was mostly downhill from to the Nottingham Square

and there was some dirt along the way. Climbing in the reverse direction was the first time I saw other cyclists, too.

Coming into Epping I stopped for water and then picked up the Portsmouth Branch again heading towards the ocean.

The trail ends at the Western Route Freight Main Line used to be owned by Pan Am Railways but now I think is owned by CSX.

Here is a picture of the branch line that goes into Portsmouth. Rather ride out to Route 108 I just picked up my bike and walked across the tracks. I worked my way back towards the original route which headed down Cuba Road.

I took this sign to mean the bridge is closed to cars so I kept on

The trail was easy to ride but in the back of my mind I was wondering if there was still going to be bridge or not.

This sign was more comforting because my Garmin was telling me the next turn was less than a mile away but the trail continued for two more miles.

In fact the bridge was so small that I didn't realize I crossed over it. I was expecting something a lot bigger for all this fan fare. It must have been closed because it was old and just a wood deck that couldn't support cars.

Cool statue

I was perhaps a mile from the Air B&B when I saw this guy riding the other direction on Rt 111A wearing a NEMBA Racing jersey so I said hello and he stopped. It turns out is was Peter Finch, who I served with on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association when there was just one state chapter. Now there's six! He lived just up the road in Exeter. We chatted for a bit and then we rode together back to my car.

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