Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lowell Preserve

Back in the Spring, Kevin and I were intrigued by an article in the May issue of Single Tracks, the New England Mountain Bike Association's (NEMBA) magazine. It was titled "Places to Ride Near Portland." One of the areas it described was the Lowell Nature Preserve, Atherton Hill, and Blackstrap. But with so many great places to mountain bike, we never made it over there this summer. Today I decided to do a little recognisance of the area on foot during my long run. Last night I printed out a map from the Internet and wrote in details from the Single Tracks article and map. I was ready to go!

The Lowell Preserve is owned by the town of Windham and encompasses about 300 acres. Many of the trails are ATV trails, but there is some quality single track, too. Additional ATV trails wander off the preserve property in all directions. This morning, I parked at the Fire Station on the Falmouth Road and was on my way with no particular plan of attack.

Within the first five minutes I met an angry hunter. He scolded me that "no one should be out in the woods running during hunting season." This occurred directly in front of a sign that identified the trail as being for the recreational use of pedestrians and cyclists. I pointed out that "this is a multi use recreational trail. You should expect to see pedestrians." Then I ran off, and amused myself for the next ten or fifteen minutes by thinking of all the things I could have said, like "You'll never sneak up on a deer with that cloud of cigarette smoke around you," or "If you lost a few pounds and got in shape, you'd cover more territory" or "Real hunters walk through the woods, not on blazed and maintained trails."

Most of the ATV trails are in rough shape. The pooling of water in low spots and the water streaming down the trail on all the hills showed a total disregard to water management and erosion prevention when these trails were built. I didn't have to worry about mud, because there is no top soil left on most of these trails, just water over solid rock and gravel. I don't imagine things are much better in dry weather. The single track, however, is delightful! Winding, hilly, and narrow with interesting rocks, ledges, and streams. It looks like great bike riding on those trails. Unfortunately, the single track trails are few and far between. And they all begin and end on those crappy ATV trails.

After covering all the trails on the map once and some twice, I returned to my car. My Garmen read just under 10 miles. Next, I ran up the busy and unpleasant Falmouth Road for a mile and a quarter to Blackstrap Road. There, directly across the street from me I saw a hiking trail sign. I started off on the "Loop Trail," took a turn onto the "White Trail," and got onto some...you guessed it, ATV trails. This area definitely has a big ATV problem. I think I found Blackstrap Hill, if it is a rocky height of land right under the power lines with good views.

I found the Blackstrap single track. There was one place on a steep downhill where you'd have to drop on the bike from one rock slab to another, drop again to the next one, and then ride down a skinny little ramp that was so steep as to be nearly impossible. I didn't see any bike tire tracks or dead bodies, so I doubt anyone really rides that section. I also saw some excellent rock-reinforced berms and a few nicely built jumps. This stuff is meant for downhill riding. It appears that people ride up the power lines and down the single track. It's not really our kind of mountain biking. We like a few challenging stunts, but prefer it to be in the midst of some good cross country riding.

Back at the car I saw that I had covered a total of 15.89 miles. Not bad for running with no plan and wanting a 16 mile run! The pace was around 11 minute miles, but some of my time was spent standing at intersections, looking at the map, and scratching my head. I enjoyed the running, but wouldn't bother to return with the mountain bike.

I washed and changed in the car, drove to Saco, and just barely made my scheduled meeting with my boss. Everything seemed to go well with the meeting, except when she got really quiet and then reached over and pulled a few pine needles out of my hair saying they were distracting her. Luckily, the tick didn't crawl out onto my face until I was leaving the room and had my back to her.

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