Sunday, September 30, 2012

East Chestnut Hill

Thirty-six miles, twenty-five hundred feet of climbing. I wouldn't have thought too much of a ride of this difficulty a few years ago, but things have gotten busy in Velophoriaville, and I was delighted today to have the legs and time to be able to enjoy the whole thing.

Started with a lot of steady climbing, including the legendary 4.5 mile climb up Shutesbury Road from North Amherst, where I discovered a lovely bridge and brook on a tiny side road.

This is what you miss when you're doing 30 or 40 mph, my typical speed on this hill -- going down (gravity is my performance enhancing drug). Shutesbury Road is often called the S-Curves by cognoscenti, and descending it is more fun than downhill skiing. The local masochists gazelles also like to time-trial up this puppy; I say, goody for them. It nearly finished me the last time I tried it. I took it steady today and felt good at the top, where I took a quick stretch break in front of a Shutesbury church that's nearly 200 years old.

On to Lake Wyola and a left down North Leverett Road. Then, a twist: A turn up East Chestnut Hill Road in Leverett, where I've never ridden before, mainly because the map says, "There be nasty grades there," some up to 15%. Yes, they were redonculusly steep, but the rewards equaled the effort. It was picture-book perfect up there, tiny ancient farmhouses tucked into near-vertical hillsides, the woods thick all around, riding slowly through swirls of tiny golden leaves drifting to the ground. Then, sudden mountain meadow vistas, with nothing but brilliantly-dressed peaks intimately looming. This, friends, was a highly concentrated dose of what I go out on rides looking for.

From there, it was all descending (at first, down white-knuckle grades), eating lunch, and plowing on home.

Occasionally, I get antsy to see distant, picturesque places. I've been living in New England for 15 years as of this month, and sometimes the initial wonder is missing. But while slow-pedaling through the wonderland up East Chestnut Hill this afternoon, there was no place on earth I'd rather have been.


Human Wrecking Ball said...

I left that state before I had a chance to love it. Everytime I read one of your blogs like this I think about riding there....Someday.

Velosopher said...

My invitation stands.

Anonymous said...

Late to this party, but the Chestnut loop in Leverett is super-awesome. Not sure exactly what you did, but you can also loop at the top end of this ( or extend northward on a somewhat-rough dirt road to Wendell State Forest ( Also from East Chestnut you can climb the paved Laurel Hill development (

Velosopher said...

jpo, delighted to have you aboard, tardy or timely.

I love the dirt roads in Wendell State Forest. I think you'll enjoy this post about them:

I'll definitely check out those other maps, and thanks!