On Saturday afternoon, I learned that if you are lost in the wilds of North Ferrisburgh, Vermont, Weisenbach Road will not get you from Hollow Road to Rotax Road. Granted that’s not one of the world’s more traveled routes; but I turned off Hollow north onto Weisenbach secure that this narrow dirt lane with trees close on either side would deliver me safely to the familiar Rotax and Lewis Creek and Roscoe roads and the way home. 

On Weisenbach, I imagined the muddy road as a section of pave in Paris-Roubaix and smiled a smug little smile to myself for discovering a new route.  Solo bike rides are good for that sort of thing. Then the road came into a clearing, a house, a horse barn, and a circle drive. End of the road. What?

Just as the farm dog came out barking a guy in a truck pulling a horse trailer came up the road. Uh-oh.

“You can’t believe it, can you?” he said, then assured me I wasn’t the first one. (This disappointed me greatly. I liked thinking—smug smile— I was the first one brave enough to keep forging north on the mysterious Weisenbach.) “There hasn’t been a road all the way through for sixty or seventy years.” Fortunately, both the farmer and dog were friendly. I turned back, not enjoying Weisenbach quite so much on the return now that the veil was lifted. 

Google maps, I tell you, had assured me Weisenbach was a through road.

Well, though my sense of the infallibility of Google maps has been shaken, I’m still a believer in their genius. Checking out the maps for roads, most of them dirt, that I’d never ridden in the area of Hinesburg, Monkton, Ferrisburgh, Charlotte, I came up with a great ride that felt like an adventure though I was scarcely off the usual beaten paths. 

I drove to Hinesburg, parked in the school lot and set out down 116 for about five minutes before taking the dirt of Gilman Road off to the right. All good from there. Tyler Bridge Road, Mountain Road, Church Road, Hardscrabble Road, Boro Hill Road and so on. Riding a road called “Hardscrabble” has been a life goal for me. Strange that I hadn’t given that every other road in Vermont is called “Hardscrabble.” Hardscrabble. Main. Hardscrabble. Main. Hardscrabble. Main.

So I’m praising the dirt road vision quest. Nice climbs (Boro Hill, ouch) and new views and very little traffic. And even that dead-end on Weisenbach was worth it. I’d ride it again. The horse farm at the end was beautiful, all the more so because the road didn’t go through.

A woodsy ramble

May 22, 2010

With a Friday off from work, I put on my trail shoes, put the dog in the car, and headed out to the Hinesburg Town Forest. There’s a lot to like about a place where you can do a two-hour walk/run in which you see no people and one bear. Plus, it’s only about a half-hour drive outside of Burlington. I think there’s something like 18 miles worth of trails in this network built and maintained by a group known as the Fellowship of the Wheel.

Though the trails have been built primarily for mountain bikes, they work great for running. There’s a mix of flats, climbing, descents, all of it doable on a mountain bike and very doable on foot. Wet spots are nicely bridged with timbers or stones. There’s a real poetry to the trails as they twist through pine groves, slice across small clearings, or take a detour to circle the ruin of a cellar hole from an abandoned homestead. A guy named Hans Jenny built or oversaw the construction of a lot of these trails and started up the Fellowship of the Wheel. He clearly knows what he’s doing with the art of trail building and what he’s done in Hinesburg rivals the big fun of the Kingdom Trail system up in East Burke.

The trails are well-marked, but can be a little confusing. I didn’t have  map with me, but had a general sense of where I was going from past trips. You might go in circles for a bit—like I did at one point yesterday—but you can’t go too far wrong.

Easiest way to get there is via West Hayden Hill Road. Basically, drive to Hinesburg. A few miles south of Hinesburg, take a left on North Road, it’s at the top of a rise as 116 bends to the right. West Hayden Hill is a right turn off of North. Follow it 1.5 miles to the parking lot. The FOTW has a little parking lot to the right. Trails go off of that.

Check out the FOTW site. Think about joining. Let me know if you want a semi-informed guided tour from Jimmy and me. (Note: Jimmy is no good for bear protection. He didn’t see the bear; I saw the bear. Actually, the bear saw us first and was heading rapidly in the other direction.)

http://www.fotwheel.org/