Of Acorns and Owls and the Adirondacks

It’s a mast year for acorns. They fall all around. Today my helmet provides protection from any clumsy mistakes, and from the nuts falling from the sky. My wheels spin out on patches going uphill. These guys are everywhere this year. Someone says something about making acorn flour, but that sounds like a lot of work.

We left my parents house this morning, the colder temperatures chasing us to warmer climes. I filled Tyndall’s frame bag with volunteer cucumbers the size of my forearm from the compost pile. I filled mine with chocolate chip cookies. 

I ride down the road, squinting through the mist with teary eyes. It was a good visit. This statement doesn’t do the last six weeks justice, but it’s the best I can do today.

We ride south and west, connecting state forest and conservation lands, following as many of these signs as we can.

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They always lead to the best riding.

Massachusetts has made an effort to save the land. It shows.

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We watch the sunset from a fire tower, sharing the moment with a man on his way home from work. Stuck in traffic on Route 9, he came up here to savour a moment away from the hustle and bustle. He tells us about camping at Phantom Ranch and about his job as a landscape architect. A new moon chases the sun down the western horizon. Owls hoot, calling out to one another through the forest. For this trip, I packed two books. I snuggle in and begin reading, relishing the feel of the paper in my hands.

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I have family south of Albany and we’re going there. Across the Connecticut River, through the Berkshires and across the Hudson. Cucumbers and chocolate chip cookies gone, we fill up on apples and baked goods.

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We ride railways and canalways, going north and then west.

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Leaves crunch under my tires. To connect to the Adirondacks, we ride paved roads. Most are quiet. Some are not. All have road kill: possum, porcupine, skunk, squirrel, racoon, woolly bear catapillars with short brown strips, or none at all. Our collective need for speed is killing these creatures. Perhaps it’s the grey sky instigating my melancholy mood.

The edges of Hurricane Matthew reach the southern edges of the Adirondacks. We take shelter at a picnic pavilion in a town park. I put the cozy cabin rentals up the road out of my head and am thankful for the roof tonight. We’ll stay warm and dry.

The rain passes and the cold sets in, driven by a fierce north wind. We put on all our clothes and make slow progress down the road. Instead of riding, today we hike, trying to warm our feet. The fire tower on Mt. Snowy gives 360 degree views. I linger until it feels like my whole face is frozen, savor a bit more sun, then beat feet down the trail, chasing after Tyndall.

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We ride through hamlets and villages, most businesses closed up for the season. Ice cream cones and baked goods are in short supply.

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Not to worry though, Stewart’s convenience stores provide for all a bikepacker’s needs. Closed campgrounds the perfect place to tuck away in the evening. We find abandoned fire wood and toast ourselves to perfection before jumping in the tent.

Near the summit of Blue Mountain a lady tells Tyndall he has leaves in his hair. We joke we’re not moving fast enough anymore to stop the foliage from settling on us.

With a whole day of rain in the forecast, we savour two perfect fall days. Just as the drops begin to fall, we arrive at the Saranac Lake Library. Inside time on a rainy day can’t be beat.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

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The Land of Plenty

Our return to Massachusetts is timed with a scheduled family vacation to Cape Cod. I haven’t been in years, and Tyndall never has. We walk the dunes on the oceanside and the trails on the bayside, convincing the family daily ice cream stops are good for them. The mercury steadily rises as the week progresses, but the breeze does its job. 

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We return home through rain squalls and stormy skies, only to find it is still dry on Chestnut Hill. The leafy green things suffer, but the tomatoes ripen regardless. A week away nets us this. 

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We harvest and process and eat and repeat.

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The tomatoes are the stars of the show, but there’s peppers and squash and cabbage and kale and a hodge podge of other things too. Grapes thrive on the egdes, where field meets forest. Tyndall is determined to make use of the small, hard pears that grow. My parents have long written them off as Too Much Work for not enough reward, but some chopping, cooking and foly food milling nets him more pear sauce than he knows what to do with. My mom advocates for composting the second bucket he picked.

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A long pent up need to DO and MAKE things is fulfilled. It feels good. 

An invite to a family lake house in New Hampshire provides an excuse to explore the way there by bike. From the house, we ride empty dirt roads, quiet paved roads and abandoned railroads, converted to shady bike paths crisscrossing the state. Tyndall’s route maximizing ice cream stops and swimming holes. 

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

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The grocery store is an eye popping, mind boggling experience full of too many choices; the Trump signs surreal. This IS a great country. We have so much. I want to knock on the doors of these houses and find out who lives here.

A lady tells me her barking, growling dog is wicked friendly. I give her the eyebrow and remind myself throwing rocks at dogs is frowned upon here. A man says “wicked pissah”. It’s a verbal reminder that I am in New England again. Life is wicked good. 

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Photo by Claire Russo.