If you haven't spent much time in Westwoods and have tried to mountain bike there - chances are you hate it.
Before moving to Connecticut, Katie and I had been riding lots of wilderness singletrack. Mostly in Wyoming but some in Idaho. We would routinely ride fifteen miles, twenty miles, or sometimes more.
When we arrived in Connecticut we wanted to ride. Not knowing much, I bought a map to Westwoods at Bishop Orchards. I studied this map and planned, what I thought would be a nice introductory route for us; around six miles. "Sounds great", said Katie.
What followed was some of the most abusive, hike-a-bike filled riding I had ever done. What we planned would be an hour ride quickly digressed into a two to three hour sufferfest. At one point, Katie promised me she would quit mountain biking and sell her bike. We were both in the hate room but we did survive.
As we healed our wounds from this ride, I decided to do some research; "there must be good riding here", I thought. I studied the topography on the map and made note of micro terrain. I learned the difference between a "x" trail, a "square" trail, and a "triangle" trail. I memorized the colors that were blazed on trees. And then, I asked Katie if she wanted to give it another chance.... I am very lucky because Katie is game for about any adventure, I can present her with and usually will commit to it with a a beautiful smile. So we loaded up our bikes and headed to the trailhead.
The landscape was far different than what we had been accustomed to in the West. Twenty to thirty foot high incipient granite ridges divided by wetlands that lead to salty marshes along Long Island Sound. Deep maple, cedar, hemlock, and laurel forests are so thick they create tunnels along the trail and block out the sky. Moss, decaying matter and dense humidity are more reminiscent of a rain forest than the Connecticut coastline.
We avoided many of the trails we had previously taken and knew what a "circle" blaze was rather than a "square"or an "x". This time was different and instead of the hideous hike-a-bikes we found fun technical rock gardens, long sections of slick rock and flowy buff* terrain. We unlocked a part of the secret to Westwoods....
Since those early rides, we've spent significant time becoming familiar with these woods. Getting lost is no longer possible. We ride here in the day and in the dark and throughout the summer, fall, winter, and spring. And although I do occasionally get the desire to explore and find something new - and there are many great places to ride that were built with mountain biking in mind- I always feel a longing for the pure lines within Westwoods.
Westwoods October 26, 2013 from jbiehn on Vimeo.
*buff terrain doesn't actually exist at Westwoods.