I took Wednesday the 27th off from work. I work in central accounting for the State of NH and our fiscal year end is June 30th, with a 3 week closeout of the previous fiscal year. For the past 10 years July has always been a very hectic month for me. Two of the things in general that have always kept me sane during this time frame are 1. The Tour De France (Yeah CADEL) 2. It’s prime summer cycling here in New England.
So with our fiscal year 2011 officially ending for me on Friday July 22nd, I planned a day off from work for the 27th. It was a much needed day away from phone calls, email, budgets, and debits/credits in general.
I had been planning for a month or so an exploratory ride from Concord to Pillsbury State Park. It is supposedly one of the “hidden gems” of the state park system. After finally getting out there to visit, I can confirm that statement.
I took the Fargo from commute mode to exploration mode. Lots of water and I decided to try out a “trunk bag” at the stem/top tube to keep my camera and food close at hand. My only complaint was that when I stood up my knees would brush the sides of the bag, which was kind of annoying.
I headed out on a mix of pavement, old railroad bed, and dirt roads into “downtown Tooky” to head out towards Henniker and the trails I needed to hit to go towards Bradford and then Pillsbury State Park.
Growing up in NH, I tend to take for granted that we are surrounded by 150+ year old homes. In towns like Hopkinton, Contoocook, Bradford, etc there are dozens (if not hundreds) of old farmhouses, churches, town halls, etc. It’s homes like this one above the remind me that New England is where it all started for the U.S.A and we have some amazing things to see every day.
I took the direct, but not most direct route to Henniker. This route allowed me to mix in some dirt roads and stay away from the higher traffic areas.
Not the best picture in the world, but this house used to be one of the school houses in Hopkinton.
At the top of Liberty Hill (see mailbox above) the road takes a left and turns into a rougher dirt path and eventually into a class VI road.
I eventually ended up on some snowmobile trails and then dropped into old Bradford Center after A LOT of climbing and then a big descent into Bradford Center.
From the center of Bradford I followed a paved climb on West Road that eventually turns into a dirt road and then quickly into a brutal rocky climb and eventually into what felt like the middle of nowhere. I knew I was getting close Pillsbury S.P. West Road connects directly with the park and some old roads leading around the park.
It took a lot of riding and hiking to get to this point. It was a pretty steep climb on some trails that must only see use in the winter. The grass was high, though I could follow what looked like some fresher ATV tracks.
I came to the intersection of the M-S-G trail and a trail called Bear Pond. The MSG trail looked more used, unfortunately it was not bike friendly. Even though Bear Pond Trail was slightly less used, I wonder now if it was more bike friendly? I’ll have to go back and find out I guess.
After too much hike-a-bike I ended up at the park. It was very quiet, and only about 5 of the campsites had campers at them. Many of them back right up to one of the ponds and it really looks peaceful. Not much other attractions around, so this would be a camping and relaxing destination, not a base of operations for other attractions in the area.
At this point I had already done 40 miles and it was about 4:15 ride time. I was already behind my rough guess estimate of time. I decided to take the paved route back instead of more dirt roads that may have been shorter, but probably not any faster. I was supposed to be in Concord for 6:45 to have dinner with my brother and teammates from the 24 hours of Pats Peak race. I did not take anymore pictures and was already feeling a tad bit blown from the effort.
I made it back to Henniker around 5:30 and called Paul to not expect me for dinner. I still had about 1.5 hours left to get home and I was cracked at this point.
A few minutes rest in downtown Henniker helped a lot. I felt okay on the flats, but any little rise in the road slowed me down quite a bit.
I finally pulled into my driveway at 6:49, after just under 7.5 hours of riding. So much for a “day off” from work. This was a long day in the saddle, but it was totally worth it. I love exploring like this and finding new trails. Plus riding for that long sure has a way of making 2-3 hour rides feel like a breeze.
I ended up with just over 80 miles, which is about what I expected. Though I was thinking originally it would take me about 6 hours. The sections that were not good for riding definitely slowed me down more than I anticipated.
This may make a perfect edition for the 2012 End of Days Ride……I’ll have to put some thought into that one.
Here is the GPS data.
Thanks for reading.