Then There was Color

My previous black and white post was from within the depths of a winter day earlier this year. Yesterday I went back to the scene of the crime (the Carrabassett Valley) for what will probably be my last extended snow ride of the season. It turned out to be one of the best of the season.

Winter is dead. Long live winter!

Of course, winter isn’t quite done yet in these parts. Overnight it had returned under cover of darkness with a fresh glaze of snow over the roads making my trek from Portland out to Western Maine a hellaciously slippery affair. This time of year Maine DOT prefers to let sunshine clear its roads so the predawn drive was a skating rink. Luckily the sun chose to make an entrance and melt the roads a bit before I got checked into the boards (snowbanks) at high speed or wrapped myself around a tree.
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Then there was light

In spring you’re always just around the corner to the light of day.

If you’re up early in the morning and outside this time of year you know that there is change right around the corner. The earth exudes it. The birds are singing with a purpose other than just to stay warm.  The trees no longer shiver rigidly in the wind, they sway to the pulse of sap rising through their limbs. Heck, even the squirrels are all smiles as they hop around uncovering long forgotten treats hidden beneath the receding snowpack. Although I think the moose remain rather nonplussed by the whole deal, there is no denying that spring is not just a season, it’s a feeling.

Meanwhile in the Carrabasset Valley, the perfect crust conditions had the fat bikers rejoicing as well as they pedaled up the Narrow Gauge trail – well at least one of them was. He had his camera with him. He leaned his bike against things. He had the trail to himself. I’m pretty sure he was smiling as he spun through the greeting card diorama.
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Riding up the Carrabassett River on the Narrow Gauge Trail

With temperatures in the 20’s combined with a little fresh snow over the hardpacked groomed trails it was fat biking at its finest. I can say this with all honesty as when I first started fat biking (if you’re following along at home this is the “back in my day” part of the story) pushing your bike was an accepted part of the game. We trained for it. Unless you were riding snowmobile trails you either packed your own trails or forged ahead by pushing your steed at times. It was fun, or so we told ourselves.

Side note: my first snow bike race (the Togwotee Classic in Wyoming) I pushed my “fat” tired (I was running 2.4’s that day!) Karate Monkey almost 25 miles through unconsolidated snow. Most “fun” I’ve ever had. While the course was a loop, I’m pretty sure it was uphill all the time too. So much fun.

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Riverside machine-packed wholesome goodness

Luckily, there are now wonderfully groomed trail systems like in the Carrabassett Valley of Maine where a coalition of organizations have seen the light and maintain a system of groomed trails for human powered recreation. The Carrabassett Region NEMBA and the Maine Huts and Trails provide ample opportunity to get people out and enjoying the trails in winter. I’ve dreamed about it for years but still haven’t strung together a multiday ride on the entire system but nest year for sure!

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On the climb up to Stratton Brook hut

So not only can one climb up to Stratton Brook Hut on the aptly named “Newton’s Revenge”, but after gaining your gravity points you can point the fat bike downhill for a fun blast before hooking up with the machine-packed singletrack that winds its way along the Carrabassett River. If you want you can continue further afield and stay at a hut overnight. Seriously, this stuff is top notch especially on a perfect late-winter (yes, I know the calendar says “spring”) day like this past Sunday.

While I explored I took a few pics then gave in to the allure of just ripping this luge run of a trail, clipping trees with abandon as I sought gold and Bode Millered my way along the rolling terrain of the riverbed. The tighter turns were bermed with the occasional jump to add to the pure enjoyment. I’ve ridden these trails in the summer and enjoyed them immensely, but there is something so paper-boy fun as weaving through the trees on a balloon tired bike. Everyone I encountered, whether skier, fat biker or hiker (and their happy dogs) was just stoked to be out enjoying this incredible day.

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Fat bike nirvana

So I guess there is something to this newfangled fat bike phenomenon. Almost makes you want to put your skis away and just ride your bike all the time in winter doesn’t it? Who needs ski areas anyway?

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Snowy Loops Trail with Sugarloaf in the distance

Of course I’m kidding. There’s still plenty of opportunity to pack both into one season and the Carrabassett Valley is the perfect place to do so. Maybe all I need to do is move to the area so I can do it all the time. Anyone hiring in the Valley?

Long live the fat bike!