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  1. #1
    SSasquatch
    Reputation: galleywench's Avatar
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    Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway (warning, extremely long winded)

    For years now I have been really intrigued by the thought of multi-day, self supported mtb rides in the Northeast. I've done the "ride all the trails at Fomba then ride up to Bear Brook and ride all the trails there" thing several times but it always seems a bit contrived. So when my brother in law suggested that we do the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway by bike I jumped at the chance and booked up last weekend to give it a try.

    For those who have never heard of it, the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway is a trail network that runs roughly 50 from the summit of Mt Monadnock to the Summit of Mt Sunapee. It uses a combination of hiking trails, fireroads, doubletrack, a few sections of dirt road (class 5ish) and about 80 public and private landowners to string together a fantastic point to point route that covers a wide range of New England topography. There is also a series of public campsites and lean-to shelters (all free) to accomodate hikers who are thru-hiking the route. By most accounts a thru-hiker should take 3 - 4 days to complete it so we estimated it would take us 2 days to complete the route plus 1 day to ride back home on the road.

    Anyway, we decided early on that going up Monadnock was out because we had both climbed it many times and there are large sections that are not ridedable. We started out where the MSGT crosses Rt. 101 in Marlboro on Saturday morning at about 10 AM. The first section is a combination of double track and old discontinued roads that were probably main thoroughfares way back when. Very bucolic maple and mixed hardwood forests and long forgotten stone walls made the otherwise VERY hot day seem quite cool. There are a bunch of places to stop and swim on this section but we wanted to get some miles in (and we didn't realize how hot it was going to get).

    In this section you pass through the center of Nelson and then head up Log Cabin Road. This eventually turns to class 6 and then doubletrack at the top of a knoll. The last mile of this section is almost all downhill and is a good ride (nothing very technical, just very fast). At about 10 miles you cross over Rt. 9 in Stoddard and by then it was pretty hot so we stopped and had lunch there (I had cached a gallon of water there earlier when I drove out).

    After lunch we crossed over Rt. 9 and to be honest, I don't remember much about this section other than it was VERY hot and the last section prior to crossing Rt. 123 is about 2-3 miles of uphill riding/walking. I think the combination of heat, single speed, and an extra 18-20 pounds of gear made that section very difficult for me. I was pretty much bonked by the time we cross over Rt. 123 and started the climb up Pitcher Mountain to the fire tower. I don't think I rode more than 50 feet between the road and the fire tower and was sooo happy to get to the top. The wind was blowing hard and I was able to find shade behind the fire tower that made the temperature seem altogether bearable. We took our time there and relaxed in the shade and ate and drank more.

    It was 3pm and we had traveled about 17 miles in 5 hours. Our plan was to make it to the lean-to shelter just outside of Washington and stay there that night. After the rest we both felt 100% better and started off again. If you have ever been to Pitcher Mountain, you already know what a beautifull place it is. I believe the elevation tops out at just under 2200' and the top and corresponding ridgeline is covered in a combination of open field, heath, and highbush blueberry. This makes for good views in all directions and the riding here is a relief from the incessant climbing during the previous section. After about 2ish miles of up and down ridgeline riding you reach Hubbard Hill (1896') and then head down for a while and pass one of the trail campsites. I believe there are 3 or 4 tent platform campsites and 2 or 3 lean-to shelters that are maintained by the Greenway volunteers and are generally hosted by private landowners. All are free. Once past the campsite we began to ascend again to the top of Jackson Hill (2061'). Here we stopped and brewed up some espresso and ate again and prepared for the last 5 or so miles of the day. We descended Jackson Hill on single and double track and took the old section of trail and eventually bottomed out in some swampy area. The trail is rerouted around this old section but it still exists and is well marked. Once through the wet area, the trail turns to a class 6/logging road and eventually improves as we approached Washington and pass an old church out in the middle of nowhere. Once past this, we got onto a paved road for about 1/2 mile and then turned right onto the Oak Hill section. Back into the woods we went, and it was decidedly up... straight up. Later that night I saw how tight the countours on the map were in this section. We spent a good half hour grunting and pushing and pulling our bikes up Oak Hill. There were several sections that were about as close to scaling a cliff as I want to do with a bike. Oh, and the bugs were terrible... a combination of mosquitos, black flys, and some sort of general fly that didn't bite but their sheer numbers made you crazy. Heavy duty bugspray is a must. So we finally got to the top of Oak Hill and we were both completely fried but knew we were close to the shelter so we didn't spend much time at the top. I'm glad we didn't because the bugs were absolutely horrendous at this point and the northside of Oak Hill is all down and all great swoopy singletrack riding. It was a blast and before we knew it we were at the lean-to. It was about 7:15 and we had covered a little over 27 miles that day. The lean-to was in great shape and there was no one else there so we didn't have to share, but the best thing about it was that it was only about a quarter mile from the center of Washington and the store was still open. We went up to the store and got roast beast subs, quarts of pepsi and feasted on the picnic table outside the store.

    Once back at the campsite we made some red curry noodles and then settled in for the night. My homemade bivy sack and fleece liner turned out to be the perfect combination for this trip. I slept mostly good considering I was lying on wood boards and got up feeling fairly fresh at 6 am. A note on gear; I made an effort to go as light and sparse as possible and wanted this trip to be a shakedown for longer trips in the future. I was able to keep everything including food and water to about 20 pounds, but what I didn't consider was the amount of space required. I used a 700 cubic inch trunk bag mounted on a seatpost rack in combination with my Deuter hydration pack and those together provided barely enough room to carry everthing for 3 days with nothing to spare. I bungied my bivy sack to the top of the trunk bag and carried a homemade pepsican stove in a pot with denatured alcohol and all cookable food in the trunk bag. The hydration pack carried water, extra clothes, and bike tools. I think for extended trips I would need to add a handlebar bag to accomodate the extra food required.

    Back on the road by 7 after oatmeal and coffee, we followed the trail through the center of Washington and around Halfmoon Pond before branching off on a fireroad that traversed the lower reaches of Lovewell Mountain before turning into a hiking trail. The trail up Lovewell is mostly hike a bike with some tough push/pull sections that require a fair amount of grunting but once at the top (2473') you are rewarded with some fantastic views and some good ridgeline riding on the way down (along with plenty of unrideable sections). Unfortunately the batteries on my GPS died at this point (33 miles), so I don't have any data past this point (other than mileage because I still have my old bike computer to log miles). At this point in the trip we had climbed 6553' of elevation (corrected). Compare this to a typical 18 miler at bear brook (park at toll booth and wind up to I-trail and back) and you have climbed about 1800'. This explained why I was really beginning to feel it (along with the heat) and seemed to be struggling abit. We had originally thought that
    the second day would be easier because we only had 18ish miles compared to the 27 we did the day before. What I failed to consider was that from Lovewell Mountain (2473') to the end at Sunapee (27something') there were 4 peaks 2500' or better with corresponding valleys in between.

    The next section crosses Washington-Bradford road (unimproved class 6) and then climbs up Kittredge Hill and maybe one more before joining up with the Bear Pond trail that comes from Pillsbury State Park. This is fantastic trail that I have done several times before from the State Park campground. All singletrack gently sloping up along the flanks of the Sunapee range, and ultimately becoming unrideable at the base of Lucia's Lookout after about 4 or 5 miles. This makes for a good loop because at the base of Lucia's Lookout you can opt to take 5 Summer's Trail back to the State Park Campground. It is a
    fast 4 or 5 miler that rips down a doubletrack road. If you ever decide to do the greenway, park your bikes here, hike up to Lucia's Lookout and check out the views and then take 5 summer's back to the campground where you can rent a site, go for a swim and get a blazing fire going while guzzling beers that you cached there before you started the trip.

    Instead of that scenario, we decided that we wanted to finish the whole thing and camp either at the summit of Sunapee or somewhere else down the trail. I had never been on this section of the trail but from the looks of the topo it appeared to be a nice ridgeline ride over to Lake Solitude followed by a 400' vertical climb to the summit of Sunapee; not too bad. In reality, the topo I had (from the Greenway trail guide) has 20 meter contour intervals and the actual trail is an alternating combination of granite ledges and volkswagon sized boulders. I don't think we rode 20 feet of the last 3 miles from Lucia's Lookout to Lake Solitude and it took us close to 2 hours. To top it off, we had both run out of water and there are no streams in that area. The 90+ degree heat began to make this a dangerous situation and Mike began to show signs of heat exhaustion/stroke given that he started to complain that he was dizzy and felt like puking. Luckily we found a nasty little mud puddle with a spring upwelling and were able to filter enough water to refill our bottles
    and hydration packs, but by that time I think we were both past the point of just dehydrated and little could be done to help other than get out of the woods. We finally reached Lake Solitude and after a quick rest (or vomit in Mike's case), we decided that we would skip the climb up to the summit of Sunapee and go down Andrew Brook Trail to Newbury and civilization. At some point on this trail I managed to insert the braze-on brake boss on my chainstay into my knee. It looked alot like a mellon baller had just taken a scoop out of a honey dew (I had it looked at the next day and they were unable to stitch because of infection risk after 24 hours, but the doctor said I would have certainly received 4-6 stiches had I come in earlier). Anyway, At 9:00 pm, 14 hours after we started we finally reached the center of Newbury where we bought sodas and called for a ride home to lick our wounds. It was the toughest 18 mile 'Ride' I had ever done.

    Overall I had a great time and faired pretty well considering how tough the last section was. Mike's heat exhaustion kept him pretty laid up the next day but is back on the bike and planning our next adventure and promised me that he would try to drink more water next time.

    I posted a few pix from camera phone, quality is not too good.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    beer thief
    Reputation: radair's Avatar
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    Nice adventure in a beautiful part of NH. Would you recommend doing the first day as described? Part of the second?

    No offense, but SSing this sort of thing seems silly to me. A granny gear is awful nice to have on a lot of eastern hiking trails, especially near the end of a long (hot) day.

    Thanks for posting.

  3. #3
    SSasquatch
    Reputation: galleywench's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by radair
    Nice adventure in a beautiful part of NH. Would you recommend doing the first day as described? Part of the second?

    No offense, but SSing this sort of thing seems silly to me. A granny gear is awful nice to have on a lot of eastern hiking trails, especially near the end of a long (hot) day.

    Thanks for posting.
    I would definitely recommend the first day and staying at the Washington shelter as we did. As for the second, I would do everything but the last part from Lucia's Lookout to Sunapee. Take 5 Summers trail back to Pillsbury State Park. You can also bypass Lovewell mountain if you don't want the hike-a-bike to the top, but there is some awfully nice singletrack back down the backside. The Monadnock Sunapee Greenway has a website with more information and they produce a nice trail guide and corresponding waterproof map that can be purchased at their website (http://www.msgtc.org) or at EMS.

    As for the Single Speed being silly. Your right, I would have killed for a granny gear on some of the climbs, but ride whatcha got, and I don't have a geared bike.

  4. #4
    lurking since 1999
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    That sir, is a pretty cool adventure ride.
    Singlespeed no less, you guys are nuts.
    Post up your next adventure.

    money

  5. #5
    the train keeps rollin
    Reputation: snowdrifter's Avatar
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    Cool trip Matt, that's a lot a gear to be humping around.

    Not all who wander are lost.
    beaver hunt

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Merrimack Dave's Avatar
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    Excellent review of your trip Matt. That second day must have been brutal!

  7. #7
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    Full on!
    That looks like an amazing trip

  8. #8
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    Wink

    Nice trail indeed. I've ridden most all of it with the exception of the the stretch from Lovewell over to Sunapee. There are some hike a bike sections and some of the southern
    sections are kind of bland but definitely an area worth visiting. The blueberries on Pitcher
    Mtn are unfreakin believable when the season hits!

  9. #9
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    GPS of Monadnock Sunapee Trail

    Hi Matt,
    I grew up a mile from the MS trail but have yet to do the whole thing. I want to start doing it in sections with my son now that my son is old enough (8) to haul his own pack. Any chance I could score you GPS file of what you were able to log before the battery died?
    Thanks, Mike p.s. I'm buying the guide regardless to support the trail but am a GIS geek by trade and want it digital too.

  10. #10
    SSasquatch
    Reputation: galleywench's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miguel00 View Post
    Hi Matt,
    I grew up a mile from the MS trail but have yet to do the whole thing. I want to start doing it in sections with my son now that my son is old enough (8) to haul his own pack. Any chance I could score you GPS file of what you were able to log before the battery died?
    Thanks, Mike p.s. I'm buying the guide regardless to support the trail but am a GIS geek by trade and want it digital too.
    It's a great trail, I love it. It feels more remote than anything I've done in NH (maybe because you rarely see anybody).

    I've done it 3 times now; first 2 times the gps died before completion, and the 3rd we did a complete loop going to Lucia's Lookout (farthest north a bicycle should go) and then back to Lempster before it died (we eventually rode back to Keene for ~90 miles total)

    Here are the links to the rides in Strava:
    2008:
    Bike Ride Profile | Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway near Dublin | Times and Records | Strava
    2009:
    Mountain Bike Ride Profile | Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway near Dublin | Times and Records | Strava
    2011:
    Mountain Bike Ride Profile | Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway near Dublin | Times and Records | Strava

    Enjoy.
    Central NH NEMBA
    www.cnhnemba.org

  11. #11
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    Ms

    Matt you da man - thanks for the quick reply. I've been hiking/mtn biking/skiing/running on those trails within 10+ miles around Chesham pond since the late 70's - good stash ain't it? Glad you found it - it's good when people find it through being adventurous and taking the trail unknown. Mike

  12. #12
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    Sunapee-Ragged Greenway

    Just to add a little info to this thread-I used to ride part of the next section to the north-The Sunapee Ragged Greenway-Back in the late ' 80s and early 90's. Before I ever roade a mountain bike, I trail ran from the Country Club of NH in N. Sutton up Gage Hill, which is a foothill of Mt Kearsarge, on the Lincoln Trail, which is part of the Greenway. One day in '87 or '88 I ran into a mt. biker who said he was a racer and had ridden from Newport. He was very excited about the trail and wanted to know if it went to the summit, and what it was like, but I had never gone past the ledges above the course, about a 900' climb, as I remember. I still haven't ever done that next section, although I've ridden to the ledges. Since then I have ridden (quite a while ago) the sections from King Hill through N. Sutton, but I never ventured south of King Hill, as the climb from the north side is a straight up the fall line dirt road, and it was a ***** even when I was 40 with 4 chainrings and an 18 tooth granny. So, based on a report from over 20 years ago, I'd venture to say that the trail is fairly rideable from Newport to part way up Mt Kearsarge, and some of it is pretty nice riding. I think it is rarely ridden, though, and I know some sections get virtually no maintenance. I'm curious to know if anyone is familiar with the rest of the trail, as I've always wondered if it was rideable.

  13. #13
    SSasquatch
    Reputation: galleywench's Avatar
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    I was wondering about that myself. I'd like to find a workaround from Lucia's lookout to Sunapee and then continue on the Sunapee Ragged Greenway (Welcome to the SRKGC). I'm not sure of the best workaround that would avoid roads as much as possible (I don't think there is any way to totally avoid them). One possibility would be to go from Lucia's lookout back down 5 summers trail to Pillsbury State Park and then ride up rt 31 around the west side of Sunapee and then hook into Sunapee-Ragged there. The other possibility is to take Halfmoon Pond road up as far as it goes (M&S greenway follows this road outside of Washington. Unfortunately you miss the trail is Pillsbury State Park that goes to Lucia's Lookout (one of the highlights of the trip).

    Glad to see there are others out there looking to get off the beaten path and do some adventuring.
    Central NH NEMBA
    www.cnhnemba.org

  14. #14
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    Have you thought of riding south of Monadnock on the Metacomet-Monadnock (M&M) Trail Besides a few hike a bike sections on Gap Mt and Little Monadnock you have good riding to the MA border and beyond. I have only hiked from Mt. Grace north and a few spots near Amherst, MA.

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