Day’s Verse:
There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.
2 Timothy 3:15-17

Today all sorts of unexpected things happened (and there’s still plenty of day left!), starting with Ian’s choice of dress to church:
Ian's Kilt
He got many comments from friends at church. I pretended not to know him. Actually, I thought Ian pulled the kilt look off pretty well, not at all self-consciously, which I think is key.

After church, we planned to ride our bikes on the Mass Central Rail Trail in Holden, since it was one of the most unalloyed gorgeous days we’ve seen in months. When we got to the parking lot, though, a remarkable sign confronted us:
Beaver Damage

What, we asked ourselves, constitutes “beaver damage”? We both agreed that, even if the trail was totally impassable, we still had to see what kind of damage beavers could do to a trail to cause it to be totally closed. We couldn’t imagine how a beaver could cause the trail to wash out. So, after Ian changed out of his kilt, we set off fairly confidently, joking about dangerous beavers and how intrepid we were to brave them.
Before the Holden Rail Trail Ride

About half a mile along, we found out what beaver damage looks like.
Beaver Damage 1

Beaver Damage 2

I have to admit, those beavers must’ve been really busy, or there were a lot of them, or it was one really huge beaver, because that’s more damage than I’d credit just one or two normal beavers with being able to inflict.

This certainly looked like a setback to our plan of riding the whole 3-mile length of the trail, but it didn’t take us long to decide to try to cross. This involved portaging our bikes down the right-hand edge, which you can see in the bottom beaver damage picture, through the unexpectedly deep stream, and up the other side of the ravine. Ian’s bike proved manhandle-able enough, so it went down just fine. My Xtracycle, on the other hand, proved heavy and stubborn, mulish almost, and I slipped at one point on the way down when I stepped on some extremely lose dirt. Fortunately the bike didn’t fall, we regained our handholds on the bike, and Ian manfully hefted the entire thing down the steepest part of the descent.
Slip & Slide Results

Crossing the stream with Ian’s bike resulted in soaking Ian’s feet and little other difficulty. I had worn sandals and simply took off my socks and waded in, without any serious watery misery. Unfortunately, my leg span wasn’t long enough, and I didn’t have enough upper body strength, for me to straddle the deepest part of the stream and heft my bike across. Thus, of course, my Xtracycle once more gave us difficulty: I had my camera and tripod in the bags, so I couldn’t just wheel it through the knee-deep water without soaking the bags (I know, we could have taken everything out of the bags, but that’s not what we did). For a while I had to stand, precariously holding it with one foot on the bank and one in the middle of the stream, straddling the deepest part of the stream and keeping my bike from sliding into the water, while Ian came to provide reinforcements. I hauled the front and middle half of the bike through the stream while Ian hefted the back, keeping it mostly out of the deep water. This took some negotiating and careful stepping on the pebbly, muddy bottom of the stream, which fortunately wasn’t deeper or faster-moving.

The last stage involved hefting our bikes up the other side of the ravine. If you look at the second beaver damage picture, you can see the way we didn’t take — right next to the path was an incredibly steep section that other people appeared to have used. We bushwacked a bit more, choosing a less-steep section. Ian hauled his bike up by himself, but of course the Xtracycle required both of us. I went partway up, braced myself against a tree, and Ian shoved the bike towards me. Then I held the bike (which took all my strength), Ian scrambled up to the top, and we pulled/pushed it onto the trail.

Here’s Ian, not looking particularly triumphant, but still successful:
Ian Is Tired

He sustained our only injury, too:

All of that, for this view:
The Other Side

We rode another mile and a half or so, seeing the occasional person or family group, but mostly riding by ourselves. When we neared the other end of the trail, we came up behind a couple of little girls riding their bikes very, very slowly along the trail with their parents walking along. Ian passed them, and as I went by, the mom called out “Hey! Ian!” By remarkable coincidence, our friends Dave and Sharron (who live in Fitchburg) had decided to take their daughters Torah and Trinity on the rail trail, and Sharron recognized us as we “zoomed” by. We stood and chatted for a while, and then meandered the remainder of the trail with them, catching up and talking with their girls, who were fascinated with the brakes on our bikes. I took a picture of them just to prove we really had met, totally randomly, in Holden:
Smith Family

Buoyed by that happy meeting, Ian and I went off to explore the remainder of the trail, but unexpectedly steep hills and rusty-chain-related shifting issues on Ian’s bike ultimately deterred us. Instead we made our way back to the car on back roads, still discussing the unlikeliness of meeting our friends like that. Then we passed a sign that said AIR SHOW, and had
a big arrow in our direction. We guessed that it had been a Fourth of July thing, and rode on. Then we saw a guy standing outside an open chain-link fence gate, and on impulse I asked, “Is this the air show?” He confirmed that it was, and that we could just go on up and watch if we wanted. Turns out it was a model airplane show, put on, I think, by the Quinapoxet Model Flying Club. Ian humored me and we stopped for a while to watch people fly model airplanes. I took lots of pictures, mostly of planes too far away and tiny for my lens, but a few turned out.

Air Show 2

Air Show 4

Those are the kind of pictures I could never have hoped to take with my old S1 IS, and they were really quite easy with my new Rebel XS. Several times I commented to Ian how glad I was that I’d brought my camera along, what with all the shenanigans and goings on I wanted to document from this adventure.

The remainder of the ride was uneventful, except that when we got to the car, a very buff middle-aged man with a remarkable mustache asked us how the trail was. We told him it was totally washed out, a ravine, but if you felt very adventurous you could get across. We didn’t mention Ian’s soaked feet. Then we loaned the guy our bike pump, which I’d brought along just in case, and eventually we ended up chatting with him — he asked about our wedding rings, as he was designing his own (the lady I assume was his fiancee showed up partway through and turned out to have ridden the Pan-Mass Challenge many years ago), and then we talked about bike paths we’d ridden on and he recommended one in Providence that we’ll have to try. In all it was a very genial exchange, a pleasant encounter to top off our successful adventure, and we left Holden feeling cheerful and exuberant. I noticed that we’d spent 59 minutes stopped and 48 minutes riding — not exactly a compelling speed record for a 6-mile ride, but we were happy about what had transpired in those 59 minutes, so I deem it a successful outing all together.

KF quality

2 thoughts on “Rail Trail Adventures

  1. I think so. There used to be a moderate-sized pond off to the right, and now there’s just a wide stream. I hadn’t noticed a beaver dam in the pond, but presumably that’s what happened.

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