Two Rails 2 Trails Rides

Yesterday we set out from the campsite straight along a connector path through the Dickenson Forest to get to the Ashuelot River Rail Trail that goes to Keene, NH, a small college city. Our path through the forest was mostly ride-able (we had to walk the bikes a couple of times to travel over roots etc.) but it was totally lovely. Once we got onto the trail proper, it was a great surface and a nice ride. Reminscent of the New River Trail back home, with trestle crossings across water.

  We stopped along the way to visit a covered bridge, at least two of which are still in regular use by vehicle traffic around these parts.  I didn’t get any iPhone pix of the bridge itself because there was so much traffic!

By the time we got to Keene, only about 6 miles, it was time for a mid-morning snack, but we saw a local brew pub, so we decided on an early lunch.

Boy what a lunch. Beer-battered onion rings to die for, an excellent ESB, and a delicious sandwich. We were quite happy with our discovery.   

We tried to find the connection in Keene to the Cheshire Rail Trail, but were stymied. Could not for the life of us find any signage or anyone to ask.

Gave up on Cheshire for the day and rode straight back to Swanzey and our campsite and had a shower, and a bit of a lie-about for the rest of the beautiful evening. Ate the rest of the grilled turkey over a very fine salad with feta cheese, played a game of Skip-Bo, listened to a bit of an audiobook we’d begun on the way here, and turned in early.

This AM, we decided that, instead of trying to find the Cheshire trail out of Keene, which we knew to be problematic, we would drive to Troy where our “guidebook” said there was parking, and we’d ride to Keene from there. Reason being that very near Keene on the Cheshire trail was a historic stone-built, arched bridge that was worth seeing.

So we drove to Troy and found a nice person who was tending a small graveyard adjacent to the restored Rail Depot, who strongly recommended we head south instead of north along the Cheshire trail.

We told him we’d try that another time, and headed north only to find broken glass, deep sand, and really rough going not far along the poorly maintained trail bed.

So we about-faced, lubed our chains and checked our tires for imbedded glass and decided to take our friend’s recommendation and head south, first to Fitzwilliam, and then to the NH state line (about 14 miles), about-face, and return, then go see the stone arch bridge via Subaru.

While the Cheshire Trail began okay, it quickly deteriorated. For the next 6 miles we were alternating between huge rocks/bolders in the trail, deep mud, deep sand, and really tough, eroded footing. Many signs of ATV and dirt bike (motorized, i.e., prohibited) use were clearly evident. Some places we even had to walk (we call that “cross-training” when the going gets rough enough to walk one’s bike). Our assumption is that there are some landowner disputes ongoing and someone is pissing on someone else’s shoes along that stretch. Whatever the origins, the trail is not something I would recommend to anyone other than those interested in technical mountain biking.

The highlight was this lovely, large lake we passed quite early in the ride. I managed to get a pano shot of the whole thing, and you can see the Cheshire Trail at the far right. 

We managed to plod forward, but finally gave up the effort at Rt. 119, just outside of Fitzwilliam, and elected to find a lunch stop and see what the safest road route back to our car might be.

Found an excellent diner called The Flip Side, very popular judging by the number of cars outside. We had an excellent meal and topped it off with some of the best ice cream we’ve had: Anabelle’s Ice Cream. Not quite as good as Homestead Creamery ice cream back home, but very good and welcome on this hot difficult day.

None of the wait staff in the diner knew of the local roads, and so could not make a recommendation on how best we might stay off the major Rt. 12 and all its traffic.

Asked a handy policeman, parked near where we thought we could get to a back road headed the right direction, but he was not helpful as he said that Rt. 12 was the best road for us.

We went along our chosen back roads anyway, and had a splendid ride through quiet neighborhoods with lovely homes along a nearly traffic-less path. Glorious. The best four miles of our 11 mile day, no contest.

Once back at the car, we loaded the bikes and tried to find the elusive stone arch bridge. Following our “guidebook” (which we borrowed from the friendly camp manager/owner but noticed it’s about 8 years out of date) proved useless. By happenstance, we discovered a big sign noting the bridge, and a turn-out, and so we parked and walked up to the top. 

The renovation of the bridge above and below is ongoing, and soon it will be open to the public and a part of a civic park — but not part of the Cheshire Trail (we never did find where that was supposed to head out of Keene). There were no banisters/guard rails installed yet, but they were working on the footing and doing a lot of erosion control. This was the view upstream from the top:

I hiked down off the opposite end, into the woods and tried to get to a spot on the right bank of what you can see in the photo above, to get a shot of the bridge itself. And then I found a nice patch of fiddle head ferns, and as you can see below, might have gotten slightly carried away with the pix.

After the bridge stop, we did some grocery shopping and headed back to camp to start dinner: pork chops and vegetables in foil cooked on the grill. Yum.


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