Bikepacking in The Berkshires: the Bear Burritos Weekend
Last weekend 6 months of planning came together on a hot sunny weekend in the Berkshire hills. Cross bikepacking off the adventure bucket list, and add it back for next year, because bikepacking is a blast.
Laura and I met up at Arcadia Shops in Lenox, MA for a couple of last minute gear needs and then parked at the free municipal lot in downtown Lenox. We rode 15 miles to Beartown State Forest. The climb into Beartown is a long climb, even longer on a mountain bike loaded with several pounds of gear. We made good time and had camp set up long before dark. We even had a enough time to take a dip in Benedict Pond, which felt absolutely amazing after a very hot day.
Originally we had wanted to camp at multiple locations throughout the weekend, but we learned about the 2 day minimum at all the campsites we researched for the Memorial Day weekend, so we decided to amend the plan.
Saturday morning my friend Gail drove out to the campsite. She was our Sherpa for the weekend, bringing a cooler packed with goodies to sustain us in the woods. She brought an extra mountain bike for Laura so we could all ride together (Laura’s Salsa is awesome but really best for gravel and not hopping logs).
The three of us went to Kennedy Park in Lenox for some mountain biking and socializing. We spent as much time chatting as we did riding–a very chill but fun afternoon in the woods.
Back at the campsite we ate like queens, hiked around Benedict Pond, swam in the pond at dusk, and drank wine by the campfire. What a great time. The next morning we enjoyed breakfast burritos made from farm fresh eggs, avocado, rice and black beans. Amazing. Laura and I packed up the bikes and rode 22 miles on a different route back to Lenox.
This trip wasn’t just bikepacking, but also my first experience hammock camping. This is what inspired the trip’s nickname “Bear Burritos.” from Laura’s husband insisting she would be a tasty snack for a bear if sleeping in a hammock. Hammock camping is something I first read about 20 years again in a book called Backwoods Ethics by Laura and Guy Waterman. I have been intrigued by the idea but now it seems a more available option. The reality of hammock camping, for me, was not quite the relaxing ideal that I read about. At first, I liked the gentle sway of the hammock. But in time, my hips began to ache and my neck crimped. At night, the forest does not sleep. And neither did I. There were creatures running all around me all night long. Leaves crinkled inches underneath me. I became obsessed with the random scurrying and pouncing. Armed with a flashlight, I tried to “catch” whatever was making the noises (although I’m certain there were more than one species afoot). After several attempts, I finally caught one of the creatures redhanded. It was a ferocious toad. Throughout the night I heard a chorus of other noises. Barred owls hooting “whocooksforyou?” and another call that I have come to believe was a female moose. Both animals got faraway responses from their calls. I laid in the hammock physically uncomfortable, but fascinated.
At about 4AM, I had a nightmare that I was sleeping in a hammock (funny, not a dream but clearly preoccupied even when unconscious), and I woke yelling and fighting, jumping out of the hammock. I tried to get comfortable again but decided to take a walk by the pond instead. I was tired, but the pond was peaceful and I lingered by the water, just enjoying the stillness.
Any guilt I had about my friend Gail bringing a cooler of food evaporated when we ate dinner. Here’s the thing: you quickly learn that there is NO ROOM to pack much food while bikepacking. Also consider the temperatures: 85-90 degrees in the heat of the day. The only option is dried foods that can be made with water. This limits the culinary choices significantly. Most of the articles I read on bikepacking talked about just surviving on protein bars or eating at gas stations. Um, no. I like my Lara Bars but there are limits. We ate fantastically, and it was a highlight of the trip. Maple apple chicken sausages, rice and beans, quinoa, kale and coconut salad, Cabot cheddar, homemade oat, chocolate chip and cherry bars, Gail’s date & cocoa truffles, some microbrew and cheap wine, breakfast burritos of scrambled eggs and avocado–we did just fine.
Admittedly, we stayed mostly on paved roads. We found a few ancient roads that were dirt or gravel or a mere footpath to add a bit of adventure. I think when we do this again, we’ll look for more off-road than on.
We did a fair amount of climbing for the distance. Even though this wasn’t super far away, we were out of cell range and felt like a million miles away–which had an enormous amount of value for all of us.
All and all, bikepacking was a huge success. It was a bit of a hybrid experience–combining on road, off road, mountain biking, hiking, and hammock camping. We had a sherpa, which seems against the point, but I have no regrets. Interest from other women has cropped up–we’ll need a bigger campsite, the more the merrier. Girls Bikepacking Weekend 2017 is happening! -Karen