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Currently I'm sitting at my dining room table, looking at the grey sky outside.  It's raining softly, and I just turned the heat on in my house for the first time since April or something.  But this is about last weekend!  When I was out there moving through the world and exploring.

I just wrote this and apparently I had a lot to say, so this has more words than usual.  Also there are a lot of pictures.  Enjoy!

I wanted to do a very cool gravel 2 day ride, and stay in DAR state forest campground.  I made a route that looked very cool and very challenging. I mentioned this to my friend Joe and he said can I ride with you and I said omg please!

The ride left and returned to my house, in Northampton MA.  I tried to incorporate as much gravel, and as little riding on busy roads as I possibly could.


the first day was hard.  we left at around 1 PM, setting out on the bike path towards Easthampton.  At the end of the bike path, we turned and started climbing.  after a couple of fun gravel climbs and descents, the route had us going straight into a heavily leaf-littered doubletrack section, with lots of big puddles to navigate around.  this was an absolute blast, and we were laughing and filled with joy and excitement at the beauty of the ride and the difficulty of negotiating this terrain, with our rigid bikes and our heavy loads.

the road turned back into gravel, and then back into pavement again, and we made a right onto a busy road.  After going up a long climb, we turned right again.  This time, into what was probably supposed to be just a little turn off to stop.  But the directions (I had made) told us to keep going straight.  Straight up.  Straight up this singletrack stream covered in leaves.  So we went for it.

This ended up being one of the hardest parts of the ride. Many miles of single and doubletrack, a lot of hiking our heavy bikes, difficult to see where the trail was, where the rocks and roots were, how deep the many sections of mud were.  And we found a lot of joy in this section, going very slowly, being in the woods, eating snacks, stepping into nearly knee deep mud a few times, pushing our bikes and breathing hard and getting lost and finding the trail and taking pictures and enjoying being just us in the woods.

As we finally got out of the bone rattling doubletrack and onto a gravel road, we felt like we were on pavement and we let out great cheers and rode very fast and looked at the trees, feeling like we were flying, like this was freedom in the truest sense of the word, grins etched so deeply into our faces, feet wet, muscles aching, all adding to our abundant joy.


there was a big storm forecast for that night.  At this point, we had resigned ourselves to getting very wet.  It was later than we anticipated, after taking so long hiking and riding slowly through the woods.  We planned to meet up with my partner, Liz, for the last few miles of the ride, and as we got to the meetup spot, we were absolutely exhausted.  Northampton and the bike path seemed like an entirely different day.  the sun was getting low in the sky and we turned on our rear blinky lights as we headed towards camp.  Worried about the rain and darkness I encouraged us to ride hard, even though there was nothing left in our legs.

The three of us got to the gate and I checked in, the park ranger issuing a surprised "So no cars?".  We pedaled slowly to our campsite and immediately set up our tents, amazed that we had managed to beat both the rain and the sun.  We ate sandwiches which Liz had picked up on the way to meet with us, drank Ginger Libation, and then settled into Liz and my tent as it started to pour.  We played games and listened to the rain falling on our tent, and then Joe retreated to his and we passed out, sore and satiated from a full day.


Day two was wonderful, although a bit less of an adventure.  The sun was shining gloriously, the roads were all passable on our bikes, and the scenery was picture-perfect.

After breakfast and packing up and some very ceremonial picture taking, we left from the campground and almost immediately got onto some glorious gravel roads.  We followed those for a while, enjoying the peacefulness and the views, until we got to the entrance of Chesterfield Gorge. I thankfully give Liz my heaviest bags to put in the car and Joe and I carry on. This is a spot I had been hiking a few years ago, and since then had dreamed of riding my bike there.  And it did not disappoint!!  The ride through Chesterfield Gorge was the most breathtaking and most fun of the trip.  8 or so miles of passable doubletrack and singletrack, amazing views as we wound along next to the river.


As we got to the end of this section, we see the Knightville Dam to the right.  Immediately, I recognize it - I tell Joe how I had ridden my road bike here on my first fall in Western Mass, with a group ride.  Even though I planned this route, I didn't make that connection until I saw the dam in person (and this time from a completely different angle!)


we continue on, up some very steep gravel and paved climbs, (as much as 35%!!) some long descents, and end with a bit of road riding to get back to the bike path in Leeds.  Joe had the idea to get some comfort food, and Liz rides to meet up with us again.  We add the 2.5 miles to Local Burgy, a favorite spot for smoked meats, and fill ourselves up with delicious calories.  Once we are satisfied and cannot eat another bite, we ride the last 5 or so miles back home on the bike path, arriving with the joy of the trip and the showers that await us, and the bittersweetness that we have come to the end of this lovely journey.

We were not shy about taking pictures, so enjoy these many moments that we felt necessary to document (for whatever reason).  I am already looking forward to the next adventure:)



this route was fun as hell!  It is available on my strava for anyone to use.  I highly recommend it.  Day 2 of the route is perfect, and there is even an opportunity to cut it short.  Day 1 I plan to tweak a bit so it is more manageable.  Both days feature a lot of gravel riding, and only a few sections on mildly busy roads.

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