Cold Season Adventure – Evergreening Vermont

There is no off-season when you love to ride bikes. We were in Vermont over the weekend, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to put our tires on dirt, even though it was 19° F when we rolled away from the house, a fresh inch of snow on the ground.

This seemed a good test for our Evergreen SLs, set up with disc brakes and file-treaded 32mm tires. The dirt roads were packed hard in the cold, and traction was challenging in the steep up and down of our route. The funny thing about riding a bike in Vermont is that distances don’t mean that much. There are few stretches of long, level ground to travel, so you are almost always either going up or coming down.

Even in the bitter cold, we worked up plenty of heat by the end of the first climb. The challenge then is to stay warm on each descent, where any sweat you’ve managed to generate amplifies the freezing wind of your hard-earned plummet.

You’d be far better off gauging the difficulty of your ride based on total climbing feet.

We had been eying these roads for a while, driving by, wondering where they went, whether or not they connected. This is evergreening in its purest form, exploring what’s in front of you, looking for trails, cobbling together long, dirt routes that take in the scenery and shut out the traffic.

We were sure we could find some trails that connected us all the way north to Lake Whitingham without having to touch the highly-trafficked Route 100. Google Earth yielded some clues about where we might find those trails, and our Garmins banked the info to make the search more efficient.

We found this Corgi Crossing just before heading into the woods for the first real off-road section of the ride. We came around a corner, nearly at the end of a dirt road, and there it was, a small wooden bridge over a creek, proudly maintained and serving almost no purpose. Beautiful.

This sign was reassuring, although we wondered for a minute whether or not we qualified.

This part of Southern Vermont is crisscrossed by trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and we picked up on some markers shortly after entering the woods. Then it was a case of keeping our bearings as the snowy path dipped and swerved along, crossing small streams half-a-dozen times before spilling us out by the lake. You have to tip-toe across these crude bridges. Covered in snow and packed with leaves, they’re dangerous, and we thought ending up with one or both feet soaking wet at this temperature was maybe not a great idea.

Finally at the lake, we stopped to toast our first victory and realized we needed to drink quickly, before our bottles froze.

After the lake, we climbed up and over a dirt road lined by farms, before plunging back down into the town of Wilmington. From there it was up, up and up over another steep rise on the way to Mt. Snow.

The last turn on this route was a merciful right-hander onto this trail. The alternative was to continue up still another pitched climb. Instead we smiled like idiots, our tires crunching softly over the snow until we were rolling into Dover, the town clustered at the mountain’s base. We’d covered only 15 miles, but packed in 2000 ft of vertical, discovered some useful new trails, and spent 90 minutes in the woods, evergreening.