I started writing up a big ride report and it was about 2 pages long and I was not even up the esker yet and I realized that this would be a really boring read.
I will just pare it down to the basics and highlights.
Trail: what I call the Esker Loop: Start at Caribou Creek/Upper Fishing Lake, take 208J south, Right onto TC208A (Trans Canada Snowmobile trail), Left onto an unnamed trail (not on snowmobile map), Left on 208I (Stewart Creek trail), left onto 208H (Esker trail), Then the road back.
I was going to add in a bit by Perrson lake doing K -> A -> L or maybe even K-> A -> C -> J but decided I did not have time (and my knee hurt)
Distance 41km (25.5mi), with 100m (310ft) elevation change.
Terrain: Crusty snow 4-7cm deep over rocks, roots, loam soil, sandy soil, loose sand, course gravely trails. Icy creek and swamp crossings, and some slippery roads. Predominantly black spruce in the low lands, jack pine in the sandy areas, and white spruce and trembling aspen in the higher/raised areas.
November 17th 2009. ~3pm to ~9pm
Temperature: -5˚ to -10˚C
There was a fun rockgarden with a decent downhill slope about 1km in This is where I started to think about what I could do to increase sidewall stability while keeping the low pressure that is nice in winter.
At km 5 there was a peat bog and under the snow was this weird foam of frozen mud, you would step through about 20cm and I could not ride through it.
Around km 15 I had my first fall. I was cruising along at a good clip on the nice clear sand trail admiring the vivid colors in the sky when I found myself doing a superman which turned into a roll. It was a really beautiful sky: Orange with yellow in the west, red with purple in the east and purple with pink strait up. I love our 360˚ sunsets.
By km 20 it is pretty much dark and I can only really see the trail because the snow makes it look like a glowing line going through the dark bush. I meet a couple hunters on a quad, offer me a ride since it is pertnear full dark. They ask why I don’t use a headlamp, I say that I prefer to use night vision for as long as possible. We talk for a while then go our separate ways.
I get to the Esker trail and have to pull out the flashlight since there is no snow on the trail and therefore I cannot see it. Around km 25 I am Just about at the warm-up shelter on top of the esker and all of a sudden my legs both cramp up. I take two ibuprophen and try stretching out the muscles in my legs. My right knee is sort of hurting as well. This is when I decide not to do the extra loop around Perrson and just take the regular road back. I experiment the the flashlights a bit and eventually end up with one mounted just under my saddle with a bit to plastic on the lens to diffuse the light and one that makes a distinct beam strapped to my head. My lighting system worked quite well and cost under $20 (one on my head about $6 and the one under my seat about $12, both cheep LED fights)
Around km 31 the trail turns into a wide sandy road which is really loose and a pain to ride in the summer. It was covered in icy snow and packed really well this time though and it was nice and fast although I had one more fairly spectacular wipeout on a downhill when the wheel slipped sideways out from under me. After that it was sort of sketchy trying to ride fast without really being able to tell where it is icy.
Around km 38 I saw a set of headlights coming at me that looked familiar, It was my friend Robert and Lucy (my boss) going out for a drive and seeing how I was doing. Robert was supposed to go look for me if I did not show up by 10:00 it was only 8:30.
I was glad they came out though since I was not sure if I would make it back before the kitchen closed so I gave them a message for the cook to cook me a Bronto burger (like a big mac but with 1/3 lb homemade patties) and ribs for supper. It was waiting for me when I got back at 5 to 9. I added some onion rings and two beer and it was an awesome meal after a 6 hour ride which was mostly in the dark.
I guess that ended up being pretty long anyway. I hope you enjoyed reading it.