Dear Pioneer Valley nature lovers who haven't been to Wendell Sate Forest: You are missing a gem, and it's right under your nose.
I spent two hours surfing the double-track up there on Saturday, and I'm not sure I've seen a prettier patch of land in our corner of Olde New England.
There are many miles of NEMBA-groomed single-track here, but I can't vouch for it, because, as rugged as the Vaya is for a road bike, it was barely tough enough to withstand some of the two-track. I didn't get pictures of the truly rough stuff in the first mile or two of Jerusalem Road; I was too busy puffing and sweating over the jagged, closely-spaced, shark-tooth rollers. More than gravel, the roads there are lined with stones, ranging from marble- to golf ball-size. Not great for maintaining control on steep downhills with narrow tires and drop bars. Eventually, death-grip braking on the descents, with my popo hanging out over my rear tire, became as tiring (and tiresome) as the constant climbs, and I sought out friendlier terrain.
Below are scenes from Brook, Wickett Pond, Carlton and Dirth Roads; more rolling in feel, yet with enough zingers to keep the quads softened and the esprit challenged.
Trust me: mere snapshots from a cell phone won't do justice to the back-of-beyond peace and spiritual vibe out there. I saw not one other human being the entire morning (other than a grounds guy on a bush trimmer giving the roads a haircut). Nor biker, nor hiker, nor vehicle humming, on a lovely morning in August.
While I was delighted with the solitude, I also felt a twinge of worry. Don't give the State House reason to cut back on funds for this remarkable treasure folks. It took me 25 minutes to drive there from my front door; load up the bike and just go. It's a win-win.