Published Date Written by Marty BaschSometimes the confluences of karma and coincidence land squarely on your forehead. Such is the case with a bicycle ride north of the valley. I did it in early spring with a buddy and new crony. Didn't think much about it until last week I when bumped into a fellow cyclist who told me he did. Then I was surfing the Mount Washington Valley Bicycling Clubs web site and see it was a Thursday group ride. It's the grind to the top of Evans Notch, a plateau riders "Evans-tually" reach. And frankly, I got snookered into doing the approximately 35-mile ride.
Evans Notch is the valley's notch less traveled, often losing out to the more popular Pinkham and Crawford Notches, and the Kanc. But it's a place to escape the masses.
The same holds true for starting the ride north of Pinkham in Shelburne. Many visitors to this part of the world venture no further than the base of the Auto Road. It's like there's an imaginary line there crowds tend not to cross.
But they should.
At the moose in Gorham (the town has some bike-friendly places in Libby's, Saalt's, White Mountain Cafe and Porky Gulch Bike Shop, etc.), turn right on U.S. Route for about 3.5 miles and turn left on splendid North Road.
Travel over the train tracks, cross the Androscoggin River on the bridge by the dam and then at the bend in the road—maybe a half mile—find a place to park at the intersection of North and Hogan Roads, a jumping off spot for backpackers looking to explore the rugged Mahoosucs' borderland.
The idea was to pedal North Road. That will usually get me north of the notch. The road really is one of the region's best, even with the cracks, bumps and sand. There are wonderfully nearly hidden homes in the woods, exquisite farms with fences and fields, and exceptional vitas to the northern Presidentials on occasion. There is rarely much traffic and it's possible to pedal into Bethel, Maine, a fine destination unto itself.
But North Road also has its challenges. It stealthily, and sometimes aggressively, has some stingingly steep sections.
The plan was to ride it, maybe doing about 25 miles out-and-back with my cycling companions, an avid trail runner and an active Vietnam vet recovering from a hamstring injury. The idea was a short ride.
So at North Road, where a right leads over the Andro to Route 2, those words were spoken: Evans Notch?
Peer pressure does wonders and soon we were spinning on Route 2 in Gilead, Maine and venturing into the narrow and winding notch from the reconstructed intersection. The Andro was replaced by the rocky Wild River.
The notches in these parts aren't easy, and neither is Route 113 under the deciduous canopy. But the climb up Evans is steady compared to steep. It's long too, but sometimes a stretch of road is made longer because of improper mental preparation. If you wake up in the morning planning to ride Evans Notch, you're psyched. If it's just sprung on you, it's certainly possible to be psyched. But some people gripe.
Griping aside, the notch allows non-hill loving riders a chance to step it up. The road is often forgiving, rising gently as it passes the rushing Wild River with its swimming holes and cascades.
The climb increases in steepness near the height of land but there are also craggy walls towering above you as you reach the top. And that's where the fun begins.
The granny gear climb morphs into a glorious rip-snorting descent under a kaleidoscope of color. In no time, we were back at the intersection of Routes 2 and 113 and then back over along the Androscoggin for a new look at what we had just done.
But this time those northern Presidential views are smack ahead.
So if you want to plan a bait and switch, head north and to the top of Evans Notch.
The 11th annual Pats Peak Mountain Bike Festival features a trio of races June 9-10 in Henniker. There are two races June 10: X-Country Challenge and lift-served Downhill Thrill. Saturday and into Sunday for some is the 24/12/6 Hours of Pats Peak where riders can choose from three blocks of time to ride. More info at patspeak.com.