Sunday, May 9, 2010

Merrimack River Trail Ride

This week I'm in Tewksbury, MA for work, and brought my bike for a race next weekend. Since I had Sunday free I decided to explore some of the local trails. Unfortunately, it poured all day yesterday. In Tucson this wouldn't be an issue because the trails are rocky and sandy and drain fairly quickly after a rain. Out east the trails have fluffy dirt which turns to sticky mud, and the trails don't dry out for a few days. I had originally planned to hit the Henry Parker State Park trails, but didn't want to drive out there if the trails were still muddy. I took a walk around the hotel and saw the woods behind the hotel area were wet and muddy. So I decided to try to find the trails closer to the hotel, and if they were in bad shape I could always bail out and ride the road.

Just 3 miles from the hotel was an access point for the Merrimack River Trail. There's a map of the trail system here. I left directly from the hotel and hit the pavement. An odd thing that I noticed was the lack of cyclists out on the roads. In Tucson you get used to a ton of riders being out on the roads. But I never saw another cyclist on the road, despite seeing several "share the road" cycling signs. I took the road to a residential street where I found a sign for the trail system. I entered in at the Raven's Bluff access point and headed east. The trail is all singletrack that skirts along the Merrimack River, with bridges over creeks. It was chilly and very windy out, but thankfully the bank of the river is below a large hillside for much of the ride, which offers some protection from the wind. The trail was covered with fallen leaves and tree roots, but the trail was surprisingly in good shape. Most of it was dry with just a few wet spots that had boards over the top to prevent trail erosion (very similar to the Pit of Despair stunt at our house).

The trail was rolling singletrack, with just a few short, steep climbs here and there. At certain points it got very close to the river. It was a ton of fun! I saw a few hikers, a couple of trail runners, and only 2 other mountain bikers. I was surprised at the low amount of traffic on a weekend. I took the trail all the way to I-93, and continued on after crossing under the freeway. I could only go about a quarter of a mile further until I hit a bridge that had fallen in the creek, and a downed tree on the other side. The trail continued after this, but I decided this was a good point to turn around. I took the trail back to the access point and continued west for a bit. The trail is marked with white blazes on trees, and I think I figured out two blazes meant easier trail, and one blaze was a more advanced trail. I took the trail to another access point, and decided to turn around and head back to Raven's Bluff. I rode about 10 miles on the trail before the wind got too cold to continue.

After I checked the map when I got back to the hotel I found that I turned around just before the power lines, and there's more trail to the west of the power lines. I found the access point on my ride back to the hotel. If I get a chance to get back out on the trail during the week I'd like to take the access point by the powerlines and see what the trail looks like to the west. But it's awesome to have such a great trail network just 3 miles from the hotel!

Official trail sign:

It was wonderful to be in the sun when it was out!

One of the many bridge crossings on the trail. This one is just after you get on the trail at Raven's Bluff.

Singletrack, greenery, and the Merrimack River.

This was the only bridge I came across with railings.

Open view of the Merrimack River.

One of the rare times the sun came out from behind the clouds while I was on the trail.

The trail crossing under I-93.

Riding in the forest.

Through the trees.

And through green fields.

1 comment:

Bill G said...

Elaine,

East riding is so different than western.

Have a great week and awesome race this weekend!