Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Ride around Frances Slocum Lake

Monday, December 8th, 2008

I was feeling pretty down on Saturday. Really, I’ve been feeling down since I found out I’m losing my job, but on Saturday I was feeling the very kind of existential angst I’ve been hoping to avoid. I planned to get up early with Sarah (she had to work), but instead I slept in and was moping around the house, not wanting to do much of anything. I didn’t even want to ride my bicycle! You know there’s something wrong when I don’t want to go on a bike ride.

However, I knew I would feel better if I did ride, and I forced myself to get off my butt and go ride. During the week, I had been envisioning a nice long ride on Saturday, maybe riding 30-40 miles and exploring a new area, maybe to the west or south. I didn’t really feel like planning such a route so instead I extended a familiar route into some new territory. Here is the route.

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The ride started on familiar roads. The Bunker Hill climb was harder than usual, probably because I’ve ridden significantly less in the past couple of weeks. Also, it was cold enough (in the 20s) that it was hard to breathe deeply enough to get enough air.

Since I have learned that some local mountain bike clubs ride along power lines at times, I’ve gotten curious about land access issues, and I tend to watch for places near power lines that look like they’d make for a good ride. I saw some great potential places from Bunker Hill Road, but I don’t know how to find out about how to get to them, and how to find out if it’s OK to ride there.

Trail following the power lines

This one might be a little difficult

Once I completed that long climb, I had a fun descent. I kept my speed down, as it was awfully chilly. Also, my bulkier cold weather clothes slow me down considerably. I’m realizing more and more just how difficult it is to stay comfortable when riding in the mountains. During the climb, I generated a lot of heat and pushed up my sleeves and unzipped my jacket to cope with it. But then as I (almost immediately) started down the other side, I had to pull my sleeves back down, and zip my jacket as far as it’d go. Almost immediately I began climbing again … you get the picture. I’m never on flat ground for very long around here, and I’m still learning the implications of that simple fact.

On my way up Manor Road, I saw a really cool geodesic dome house. The road was mostly climbing for the next mile.

Geodesic dome house

Green Road


I passed a Christmas tree farm where a family was cutting down a tree with a chainsaw, rode by a new subdivision that’s in development, and passed a tempting piece of land of questionable ownership. I almost rode there but decided against it. There was a gate, although there was a nice clear spot next to it that I could easily fit through.

Who owns this land? And can I ride on it?

I passed a few trailheads for trails in Frances Slocum State Park. Soon, I enjoyed a fun, twisty descent, a little climbing, and then I was at the main park entrance. I decided to ride through the park. I wanted some different views of the lake, and I thought the park roads would be fun to ride on. I was right.

A fun road

Main park entrance

As I rode through the park, I realized that a DCNR truck was following me. They pulled me over, and I was more than a little confused. I didnt’ see any signs saying the road I was on was closed, or anything like that. The park ranger got out of his truckand told me, “I just read your blog!” He said he recognized my bike. We talked about the park for a few minutes, he offered me a map, and I went on my way. He backed up to go back the way he came from. I guess he’d gone out of his way to track me down. So, if you’re reading this, Mr. Park Ranger, thanks for introducing yourself!

Frances Slocum Lake

I rode down to a pier, and walked out on it. The lake had a thin layer of ice on it that creaked and cracked as the pier moved slightly as I walked. I had some nice views of the lake, but it sure was cold. The wind was stronger than I realized until I was really out in the open.

The sun reflects off a thin layer of ice

The Trucker on the pier

I had a fun climb back to the road. It looked worse than it felt, actually. Then some big rolling hills took me to 8th Street.

The climb toward the park entrance

Looking behind me as I climb

I rode by the water tower, and it was interesting to see it up close, after seeing it from my mountain bike ride last weekend. It was bigger than I expected, I guess. It’s just barely visible in this shot from last weekend.

Water tower

Rolling hills (there’s also a big cemetery to the left, and some mountain views to the right)

Next I enjoyed a descent of a mile and a half. I once again kept my speed down, but even so tears were streaming from my eyes as the cold wind reached them. It’s a beautiful ride through a gap of sorts. I could have taken 8th all the way down to the valley, but I have done that a few times. I opted instead to climb Carverton Road and go down Bunker HIll Road, back the way I came. I had quite a bit more climbing, and I stopped by Frances Slocum Lake to get yet another perspective, this time from the dam at the southeast corner of the lake.

Climbing Carverton Road

View from the dam

Looking the other way from the top of the dam

After that climb, I got to go downhill briefly, and then had another 300-foot climb before I could start the descent down Dug/Bunker Hill Road. It was simply brutal, but I knew I had nearly three miles of descending ahead. I got another great view near the top.

View from Dug Road

It was another eye-watering descent. It’s got a lot of twists and turns, so I kept my speed in check. It’s a thrilling ride, especially since the road skirts the edge of the mountain and you can see a long way down. My ears popped probably three times on the way down.

It was a most enjoyable ride. Even though I only got to see a little new territory, I got to explore some new places, at least. And the ride did lift my spirits, as I thought it would. I’m still trying to get used to how challenging the rides are around here, though. I rode 20 miles and was gone nearly two hours, climbing 2400 feet in the process. In Bloomington, I could do my ride around Lake Lemon, about 35 miles, in about the same time (then again, that ride had less than 1300 feet of climbing).

I need to start thinking of my rides in slightly different terms; in the past, I’ve paid more attention to distance than anything else, but that doesn’t tell the whole story here.

One Response to “Ride around Frances Slocum Lake”

  1. Eric Says:

    I have been out of sorts and not riding much lately either. I should get out and do something, but I have had so little time recently!

    I have a terrible time with temperature regulation here where it’s as flat as a tabletop; I’d die if I had to climb anything more than an overpass at this point. I’m just not in that good shape now.

    It’s hilarious that the ranger tracked you down by your bike, and that he had seen your blog. I love when things like that happen!

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