Earl’s Trails: My New Favorite MTB Ride


I wrote last month on my new discovery of Earl’s Trails.  And I kicked myself for not knowing about this network of trails 10 minutes from my house.

So now I find myself making up for lost time.

Problem is, I still can’t find people to ride with!  Especially on weekdays.  I’m rekindling the network of women MTBers I started a couple of years ago–before multiple pregnancies sidelined most of the crew.  But I had a couple of hours this morning to exercise and I headed out to Earl’s solo.

I started out flying.  Earl’s starts at the Holyoke Notch–not the top of the mountain but close enough.  I hit a trail I thought I had been down with my friend LeeAnn the day before Irene came to town.  It wasn’t.  It was even more fun than that trail.  Fantastic decent, sweet lifts and turns and bumpy roots I hovered over at speeds I don’t think I’ve done all year.  The thought crossed my mind that I was descending, descending, and really no legwork was being done.  Which means one thing: what goes down, must come up.

I paid for it.  I got lost at the bottom in a yarn ball of trails.  I started down one, felt bad about it, started down another.  I finally found one that lead uphill and took it.  The steepness I was loving hard on the way down came back to bite me on the way up.  I hiked-a-bike for a bit.

And speaking of biting, I had company,  Lots of it–a hundred mosquitoes and the shrill pitch of their wings swarming me.  When the trail became manageable, I rode again, but these bloodsuckers flew as fast as I could climb, so I never really lost them.  The other complication was one of my pedals kept sticking–so hard that I couldn’t remove my shoe from it.

Finally, I got rolling again.  Only the fastest mosquitoes kept up with me, but they continued to sting me in a non painful yet incredibly annoying way.  I found myself on a familiar trail–one with gentle climbing, rolling, gentle climbing.  One of the things I like about the trails at Earl’s is that they are inviting yet with a surprise or two.  They wind, roll, switchback.  Trees tightly frame the singletrack.  Parts are a bit rocky, but roots are the dominate feature to the trails.  These roots are stripped bare in most parts, are slippery when wet, and run in any conceivable direction.  Most of the time, if the rider has enough speed, she can roll over these roots without much problem.  You still have the pick the right line, but the line is there.  Sometime these roots seem to jump out and nudge you tire to the side or out from under you.

They give you a little push.

It’s unsettling, but usually manageable.  You correct and stay afloat and keep pedaling on.  The trail nudged me here and there, which kept me sharp.  I was working my way down some switchbacking singletrack when I got a nudge from a root, and it was just enough to send me over the edge.  Literally.  I tipped over to the right where there was no trail, and fell 9 feet down into a ravine.  I lay on my back, upside down, with my bike lying above me.  A creek gurgled by my head.  I took a moment to just lie there and take inventory.  I was fine, but it was a nice little crash.

I dragged my bike, and myself, back up onto the trail and finished the ride.

What’s not to love about these trails?

–Karen

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About Karen

Mid-life female amateur athlete focused on cyclocross, mountain biking, and road cycling. Always looking to see what is around the next bend in the road.

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