Holiday weekend, foliage and fair traffic promise to be intense. Planning ahead, I looked for a less congested place to ride. My thoughts were leaning toward a gravel ride, mountain bike ride, or both. I didn’t want to drive far, wanting something close to Conway. I focused on the Madison/Freedom area. There, I’d find many miles of shady dirt roads, snowmobile trails and old roads I could link together to create interesting rides. All I needed was a focus area, a few good maps and a willing companion. Good weather and dry trails would be a plus.
Our target area was Lead Mine Road in Madison. Driving south on Route 113 to Madison, Peter and I took a left at the junction onto East Madison Road. After the road passed the colorful Durgin Pond, we turned right on Lead Mine Road. This 3-mile gravel road goes all the way to Silver Lake’s southern end. It would be one of the ride boundaries. It connects with Freedom Town Forest, the Lead Mine area, Silver Lake and Ossipee Pine Barrens. All we had to do is use our maps to plot out a route.
Being “old school,” we still use paper maps. We use gazetteers, topo maps, trail maps and more to give us the complete lay of the land. For our rides this week, we used The Nature Conservancy’s Ossipee Pine Barrens trail map, Scrub Oak Scramblers’ snowmobile map, Freedom Town Forest trail map, and U.S. Geological Survey quad topo maps — Ossipee Lake 3 and 5. Each map gave us useful information to plan our routes.
Why so many maps? The area we were riding in is extensive. It goes almost to Route 153 on the eastern border and Route 41 on the western border. To the north, it reaches the southern end of Silver Lake. To the south, it goes to Ossipee Lake Road and crosses over until it reaches Ossipee Lake.
Most of the land we were riding on is “conservation land,” including Freedom Town Forest, Goodwin Town Forest, Burke Town Forest, Madison Town Land and the Ossipee Pine Barrens. When I totaled up the numbers of acres covered, it came to almost 6,000. That’s quite a swath of public land.
On our first foray, we parked on Lead Mine Road to explore the Goodwin Town Forest. About 2 miles in, Lead Mine takes a sharp right where Black Brook Road goes straight. The pitch pine forest on that corner is the start of Goodwin Forest. We parked near the sign for the “Black Brook Forest Loop.” A wide, grassy road led away from the boulders and climbed the hill. It seemed to circumnavigate the forest. We reasoned it might be there as a “fire break’ when they used “controlled burns” to manage the pitch pine forest.
It was fun riding around the forest. We passed hiking trails heading toward Jackman Ridge and Black Brook but stayed on the road. Eventually, the road dead-ended by a bog. We turned around and cranked back up the hill and down to our car. Even though we didn’t go very far, we got an interesting “inside” perspective on a pine barren.
Across from where we parked, I spotted a trail and decided to explore it. This very nice path took us down to Cook’s Pond. Arriving at the pond, we were rewarded with brilliant fall colors.
At the beach, we turned to climb up the rougher road to the Lead Mine. Crossing Lead Mine Road, we stopped at the Lead Mine kiosk. There, we met a friendly local dog walker. She told us she walked the roads and trails here often and skied or snowshoed them in winter, putting together 3-4 hour forays. She knew there were a lot of ways to experience this conserved land.
On Tuesday, we headed to Madison again, driving down Route 41 to Ossipee Lake Road. Turning left at Crossroads, we headed 2 miles east looking for the Jackman Ridge Trailhead, on the left. Our plan was to use trails here combined with snowmobile trails to get to Ossipee Pine Barrens. We were curious if it was a ridable connection.
We chose the Forest Ecology Loop trail. It was very ridable and connected us to a snowmobile trail that brought us over to the “Fred Jones Bridge” over the West Branch River. There, we paused to admire fall colors on its shores.
Once we crossed the bridge, the trail connected to the power lines. Following a single-track trail along them, we came to the Ossipee Pine Barrens trails. The riding was flat and easy. It would be a good place to bring our young grandkids. As tall pitch pines filtered the late daylight, we thought it a peaceful place. We’re so lucky the Nature Conservancy has protected this unique ecosystem.
Exiting the Pine Barrens, we arrived at Route 41. Turning left, we pedaled to Crossover Road, turned left, and rode to Ossipee Lake Road. Turning left there, we completed our loop on pavement. In the future, I want to avoid riding on this fast road by connecting other snowmobiles trails that head to the Pine Barrens.
The last ride we did was Wednesday. The starting point was on Lead Mine Road. The destination was Gate 1 on Ossipee Lake Road. Peter and I wanted to see if we could ride Black Brook Road and Old Pequawket Trail all the way through to that gate. The last time we rode here, the road had been flooded and was impossible to ride. Would it be dry enough?
Thankfully, it was. We cruised through, taking a right turn at snowmobile trail Junction C toward the “airport.” There we found a wide, sandy flat area that stretched for over a mile. This is what’s known as the “White Mountain Gateway” and still identified as an airstrip on my N.H. Gazetteer. There was a plan to build an airport there, but it never happened. I guess it could be used for emergency landings if needed. It’s flat and very sandy. We were glad we had our “plus” tires. It was like riding on the beach.
Once we reached what’s called the “Green Kiosk, “painted tan, we knew we were at Gate 1. We reversed our direction, but took a woods road to the right — much easier pedaling.
It joined up with the other road we’d taken at Junction C. From there, we continued up the road to the Black Brook/Lead Mine Road junction, turned left and finished the ride.
All these trips are pieces of a larger puzzle we’ll put together someday. I think we can make a big loop, combining Lead Mine Road, Black Brook Road/Pequawket Trail and the snowmobile trails heading to Pine Barrens. I’ll get out my maps and plot my course.
There are many ride variations you can do in this area, from pure gravel rides to mountain bike rides to combo gravel, road and trail riding. The weather and foliage look good for the weekend. Get out your maps and go cycle-explore the many acres of Madison and Freedom town lands, roads and trails.
Mount Washington Valley Bicycling Club Fall Social Get-together: Sunday, Oct. 17, 3 p.m., at Ledge Brewery, Intervale.
“The Howler” Mountain Bike Race-Saturday, Oct. 30, Roger’s Crossing, Bartlett, time trial format, 11 a.m. Benefits Attitash Alpine Education Foundation. Go to Bikereg for details.
Sally McMurdo is a bike safety instructor and cyclist who lives in Glen.