We thought we were done with biking, but last Saturday’s blue sky called us out to ride. With a long stretch of rainy weather ahead, we grabbed what might be our last chance to cycle.
Though the day was sunny, there was a brisk wind blowing. We scurried around to find the right combination of layers to keep us comfortable and warm.
This time of year, I take full fingered gloves, hat, ear band, warm socks, wind vest, lined wind jacket, long sleeve jersey and cycling tights. In the bottom of my pack is one more layer — just in case. Cycling uphill warms you up, but going downhill makes you cold fast. In extreme cold conditions, I’d add booties, and a face mask or stay home.
Tamworth was our cycling destination. With its network of paved and dirt backroads, it offers a multitude of riding options with great views and little traffic. My husband has a map of the area with roads labeled around Tamworth and Sandwich, with highlighted route options we could follow, depending on our time and energy.
Our initial plan was to make a big loop from Tamworth to Sandwich and back, using mostly dirt roads. However, a late start changed that proposal. Starting in Tamworth Village, we parked in the public lot on Cleveland Hill Road right past the Distillery and Tamworth Town House.
No matter what road you take from there, you’ll be riding uphill. Tamworth is hilly. There’s plenty of climbing to give you a workout. The advantages of all that uphill work is exercise, views, and downhill rewards. We knew we’d be starting with a steady uphill, but finishing with a long downhill.
Our route linked seven roads. All but two had the word “hill” in their names. The other two had the word “flats” in them — Beede Flats (Route 113) and Foss Flats. Those were our “rest and recuperate” sections, the others were our “climb, suffer and then coast” roads.
Turning left out of the parking lot, we rode past Remick Farm as we climbed Cleveland Hill Road. As we passed Ordination Rock, we spotted a large group of people in the cemetery across the road. It was the “New Hampshire Cemeteries and Gravestones” tour, sponsored by the Cook Memorial Library and Tamworth History Center. The leader, Glenn Knoblock, pointed out the rich history and art you can discover in Tamworth’s old cemeteries. On our ride, we passed at least six old graveyards.
Cranking up the hill a little more, we came to Bunker Hill Road on our left. I’d never ridden this particular dirt road. I found it a pleasant ride past farms and fields. At a bridge over Mill Brook, we checked out future fishing possibilities and a snowmobile/cross country ski trail. We then climbed up the hill and descended, riding past the Community School, to join Route 113.
Turning right on Route 113, we cycled on pavement for a while, noticing the traffic increased. We reached the junction of Foss Flats and Bear Camp Road, and turned right, heading toward the Durgin Covered Bridge. Foss Flats is a shady, quiet road, with more woods than houses. The riding is smooth and flat, a relief for the legs.
At Durgin Bridge, a historic marker notes that it was built in 1828 at the site of former washed away bridges over what it calls the “Swift River.” This confused us. We were sure the river was the “Cold River.” Consulting maps, we saw most identified it as the “Cold,” but at least one labeled it the “Swift.” Somewhere, I came across a reference to it as the “Cold, aka Swift “River. It’s a mystery!
As we crossed the bridge, we geared down for the big climb straight up Brown Hill Road. No more resting. The pavement changed to dirt part way up to the Quaker Whiteface Road and Stevenson Hill Road junction. The Meetinghouse there gave us an excuse to stop. The large white building was in good shape and obviously still in use.
We continued straight on our climb up Brown Hill Road. The top of Brown Hill is 1226 feet, there was more cranking to do. A fun downhill led to a grueling steep uphill. I passed a tennis court on my right, took the opportunity to rest and photograph the view beyond. At the top of the climb, I met Peter, talking to a man beside the road. Behind the man’s house was a magnificent view of the mountains, framed by open fields and apple orchards. The vista made that tough climb worth it.
It was downhill from there — thank goodness. We passed another couple cycling up the hill, rode past Hoag Road on our right and turned left on Pease Hill Road. This dirt road passed a large farm and buildings, with open fields. Peter spotted Mount Chocorua in the distance. When we descended the hill, we crossed over upper Mill Brook. We stopped to check it out for fishing opportunities next season.
At the Great Hill Road junction, we turned right. My tired legs were hoping we were on the down side of the “great” hill, but they were wrong — more climbing ahead. Finally, we reached Great Hill Fire Tower’s parking lot. I knew climbing would soon end and the fast downhill to the village would start. Peter put on another layer. I zipped up.
The ride down Great Hill is spectacular. The whole village is laid out before you and there are views in every direction. As you hold on to your brakes, you take it all in.
Great Hill Road ends at the junction with Cleveland Hill Road. There, we turned right, rode a short distance past the Distillery, and turned left into the park lot. We completed our 19-mile loop successfully. It was getting darker and colder, so we didn’t tarry, loaded up the bikes, turned on the heat and headed home for some hot soup, It was an epic fall ride — hopefully not the last.
In fickle fall, watch the weather, grab the good days and go ride at least one more time.
Preseason Nordic ski conditioning: Taught at North Conway Community Center, led by Jackson Ski Touring Director, Ellen Chandler. Adults, Monday, 6:30 p.m. or Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. Youth program, Monday, 4:30 p.m. free. Cost for adults: $12 to drop-in, youth are free.
Saturday, Nov. 2, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation’s volunteer days, starting at 9:30 a.m. Come help clear the trails, stack wood and help JSTF get ready for the ski season.
Friday, Nov. 8, Everest: ’91 to’19, 6:30 p.m., Theatre in the Woods, Intervale. Three local climbers, Rick Wilcox, Thom Pollard and Mark Synott will talk about their Mount Everest climbs from 1991 to 2019. Event is sponsored by Ragged Mountain Equipment, Synott Mountain Guides and Backyard Concepts. Proceeds go to Mountain Rescue Service. Tickets are $20.
Friday and Saturday, Oct. 8-9, Eastern Slope Ski Club’s 49th Annual Ski Swap, Friday, 3-8 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., North Conway Community Center. It’s a great place to sell or buy ski gear for the whole family. It benefits the ESSSC’s ski program for valley students.
Saturday, Nov. 9, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Jackson Ski Touring’s Annual Ski Swap, JSTF Lodge, Jackson. Buy or sell used cross-country equipment — skis, poles, boots, snowshoes and cross-country clothing. Come early and find a bargain.
Saturday, Nov. 9, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Jackson Ski Touring’s first annual yard sale. Purchase space for $25, and sell your used non-ski items and make a profit. Come shop early to buy.
Friday, Nov. 22, Great Glen Trails skiers’ open house, 4-8 p.m. Check out new gear and clothing, get your winter ski pass, demo fat bikes from 3-6 p.m., enjoy free pizza, beer and door prizes.
Sally McMurdo is a bike safety instructor and cyclist who lives in Conway.