May 28, 2012

Two Days, Two Climbs

This Memorial Day weekend brought lots of bike riding ... not to the benefit of my garden. Saturday and Sunday: two days, two climbs, both through lovely countryside.

Washington Mountain Road on the ridgeline
I've ridden both rides frequently before, and have been intending to make the 3rd week in May a benchmark ride up Washington Mountain Road, a local hill. At the top of the climb, the road along the ridge line offers a long flat stretch through state forest before descending to Route 8 in Becket. The bonus this year was that I rode it on my 6-day old Pinarello. This was to be my first real climb on the new bike, the route totaled about 2000 feet, some of it fairly steep, and the most substantial hill near my house.

It was a totally different ride than last year on my touring bike. Still not what any rider would call fast, I'd still be dropped by a group, but climbing it wasn't such an ordeal. We, Pinarello and I, found a pace, and just rolled up it, never feeling like I was going to explode into a billion bits, not redlined during all the steep sections. We just, simply, rode up the hill. It was delightful!

Pinarello at the start of the climb to Mt. Greylock
But this post, and its photos are about Sunday's ride, with somewhat more climbing and to a more dramatic summit. I instituted an annual Memorial Day ride up Mount Greylock, this was the first annual. There is a paved road to the summit from two directions: Route 7 and Route 2. I climb (and descend) the Route 7 side: it is far less steep. The Rockwell Road was built in 1906 - 1907, and climbs about 2900 feet to the summit at 3491 feet. Climbing Greylock is a local challenge, and achievement for many cyclists.

And at the top of Mt. Greylock

The road to the top was just opened for the season last week, and the summit was crowded. Happily, this seems to be one road around here where automobile drivers are respectful of cyclists. There are usually a few of us on the road, and it is clearly hard enough that I think lots of drivers are somewhat amazed. Certainly every time I've been on the top more than one driver has asked about the ride and then said something supportive.

MA Veterans War Memorial Tower
The summit boasts the Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower, dedicated in 1932. The plaque reads "A Beacon Standing for Peace."  The lighthouse beacon was originally used in Boston Harbor, and is another 93 feet to the viewing platform. In very clear weather the top of Greylock, with or without climbing the 93 feet to the top of the tower, provides views of 5 states.

As usual on holiday weekends in good weather, the summit was a bit of an enjoyable circus, today with people, and dogs, carrying packs, 2 bicycles and a hang glider. (I saw about a dozen other cyclists on my way up and down, but only one other rider at the summit.) Greylock was Massachusetts' first wilderness park, designated in 1898, and now comprises about 12,500 acres.

Disassembling the hang glider: the wind shifted

The Appalachian Trail passes through it, on its way from Maine to Georgia. The park is located north of Pittsfield and is actually a part of the Taconic Range, though everyone seems to associate it with the Berkshire Hills. Probably because that is the name not only of the hills, but of the county.

Hikers, and dog, with packs
Happily except for the road and and the summit (with a small, understated lodge and the tower) it is largely undeveloped. It makes great wilderness cross country skiing most winters, and is laced with hiking trails. I believe there are two unimproved, walk-in, campgrounds. 

The view west, from partway down
The ride up was much like the previous day's ride ... tough, but not miserably so. Riding this bike makes a huge difference. Again, it's all about the bike.

To make the ride a few miles longer, I like to park a few miles away, on Pontoosuc Lake, which also provides the easy opportunity to return to the car either by continuing along the park road and descending to Rt. 2 or retracing my route. As I usually do,  I descended the same route I came up, returning to Rt. 7.


  1. It's good to see you and the new bike are off to a fine start. I particularly like the pic of the historical marker. You know, one could make a nice collection of those sorts of pictures if one had a mind to do so... :)

    1. Why thanks, this new bike is just so much fun!

      Thought of you when I took that photo. VA is much richer in markers than MA.

      By the way, any reader who enjoys history and doesn't yet know his site should visit There and Back Again and look for the Historical Marker Section of his posts.

  2. I'd rather cycle than garden any day too! I love the dog backpack in the photo. Great idea!

    1. Just think of the amazing variety of shapes and colors you could have if you made backpacks for all your critters!


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