The first part of the trail in Standish, from Route 35, is a dirt road of compacted glacial till. The fine-grained sediment looks sandy, but was not loose and treacherous the way sand can be. The bad news was that the till contains cobblestones about the size of a potato, which stud the surface with endless bumps. They're not the jagged tire-slicers we have further inland, but the jolting was relentless. The cellist decided years ago she did not like anything resembling mountain biking, so this initial surface aggravated her considerably.
The Cross Checks are well suited to handle rough bits, but their forks are not as robust as real mountain bike forks, whether rigid or sprung.
Once the trail descended to the rail line we reached the paved part that looks like your typical multi-use path. On the dirt, multi-users included people on horseback and many dog-walkers. The horse folk advised us that their mounts were calm enough for us to ride past, but they couldn't guarantee other horses would be as accommodating. Most of the dog walkers just looked at us like something someone else neglected to put into a plastic bag for proper disposal.
On a warm Sunday, albeit a cloudier one than the forecast seemed to promise, the trail saw a lot of use. Planners must feel gratified when people prove the popularity of a project like this. On the other hand, it can lead to other problems of conflicting styles of use. Other problems arise as users try to get on at access points where the planners might not have anticipated as many people trying to leave vehicles, for instance.
In Windham we left the segregated world of the path and joined the rest of vehicular traffic. No one went out of their way to bother us but it does raise the stress level when motor vehicles are buzzing by. Anyone who has ridden with traffic for a few years has had enough encounters to know that anyone at any time could decide to inflict some bullshit. They probably won't. But they might. The bicyclist is an oddity in this country. Some of you may live where these oddities are more numerous, but the cyclist is still in the minority, perhaps well tolerated in places (better in some than in others) but almost nowhere welcomed and encouraged. We are encouraged to drive to side paths to enjoy our little hobby out of everyone's way. When we ball up our little fists and insist on having our piece of the road we may be granted it, but some of our fellow travelers will express their opinion. Traffic riding calls for extending the senses while simultaneously thickening your hide.
The total round trip, including about four miles each way on the roads, came to about 18 1/2 miles.
The next day I went out to do one of my favorite routes, taking in Huntress Bridge Road. Huntress Bridge Road traverses a tamarack swamp on the border of New Hampshire and Maine. I missed the peak golden color of the tamarack needles. There are still a few pale ones left. They made delicate compositions with winterberry shrubs splashed among them.
The red berries hang in the dun-colored framework of leafless branches.
Riding didn't fit the the schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday or today. Tomorrow I'll be back on the commuting trail, finding out if the rails and fallen leaves on the Cotton Valley Trail are merely wet or actually icy.