Earl’s Trails, playing the game

A few months ago I saw a post on Singletracks that said people had voted for the best mountain bike trails by state. First, I was like, “And you didn’t ask ME??” Then, of course, I had to see what the “best” were in my area. Certainly Otis or Willowdale, right?

No, it said, “Earl’s Trails, Amherst MA.” WTF? Where’s that? I demanded as I scanned the comment section, noting that some said they wouldn’t nominate their favorite trails because it would only bring more users. Another said they might have only gotten five votes, and three were from Hadley, right next to the trails. It’s all a game, really.

Then I felt guilty because two of my minions have lived in Amherst for the last 2 years and I haven’t biked out there much, so it’s really my fault for not knowing more about trails there. My game is slipping.

Last weekend I rolled the dice at Earl’s and it was memorable.


The reviews said the trails were smooth and not technical, so I was excited to try my new bike. It’s important to keep that review in perspective, because “smooth” in one part of the state is challenging to someone else. But it was surprisingly mostly true: I went swooping into the woods, mostly downhill, for the first half-hour, enjoying few lumps and bumps from rocks and roots. Then it got more interesting: hills got a little steeper, there were more roots, drops and mud as I ventured further into the woods. Instinctively I sought the early trails that were more fun and less challenging, and strangely started thinking of the children’s game Candyland as an analogy to the trails. I wanted the fun Lollipop Woods and not so much of the Molasses Swamp.

the smooth shoulder of a pretty little pond

the smooth shoulder of a pretty little pond

zipping around the edge of a glacial pothole

zipping around the edge of a glacial pothole

Apparently the skeptics of the Singletracks voting could have been right: whether from overuse or lack of love the bridges here aren’t well maintained. While I don’t criticize much, I chose to skip several gap-tooth crossings because I didn’t want to do a face-plant in the middle of a brook or pop a tire on the exposed screws that used to hold the slats in place.

the interesting part sent me in search of higher ground with fewer roots

gap-tooth bridges need a little love

All the while I kept thinking, “is this really The Best trail system in the state?” Honestly it was just about average. I guess that means we’ve got it pretty good. I kept trying to orient myself according to a gun range I could hear in one direction, because I remembered passing it on my way to the trailhead. I even got back to the start once, but decided it was too early to leave, so I took yet another turn and headed back into the woods. That’s when Candyland started to resemble something more like Dungeons and Dragons.

a fateful decision

too early to go home: a fateful decision

Here I started down the swoopy, smooth fun stuff again and got a little carried away. Downhill and away from the entrance, I’d found a whole new area of trails I didn’t see in my first hour. They wound deeper through the woods, not another person in sight.

Gretel went deeper into the woods

Gretel went deeper into the woods…

Then I realized I couldn’t hear the gun range anymore. And I’d sort of become disoriented as to the direction to take to get out, lost track of the number of hills I’d crossed. Hmm, lucky I have a lot of experience getting lost in the woods. Then, around 2 hours into the ride, I decided I should really try to get out. And I couldn’t. I started up a trail and ran into some hikers. “Do you guys know which direction is Route 116?” I asked. “Um, well, that’s the Notch,” one of them said, pointing up the vertical trail they’d just descended. “But you might not want to carry your bike up it.” He had that “You’re f*cked” look in his eye. So stupidly I turned around and followed an ATV track that might have been headed in roughly the right direction at first.. until it didn’t, and Candyland became Mordor. I’m pretty sure I could hear Orcs chasing me. Like an idiot I turned on my GPS to get some sense of direction but got only a gray screen with a green dot in the middle. Duh.

single track became ATV track became.. lost, again

single track became ATV track became.. lost, again

So I followed the nontrail some more.. endo’d and was grateful for 100 years of leaves cushioning my fall .. heard Mike’s voice in my head nagging me to be careful and wondered how I’d tell him about being airlifted off a mountain… yet somehow found my way back to jeep trails and bikers who pointed me in the right direction! Ended up by Lithia Springs Reservoir and was thrilled to put some pavement under my wheels again, even if it was a few miles back to the car. And I’d somehow ended up in Granby, what? And me without my passport!

the bruises will heal but this scar will forever remind me of Earl's

the bruises will heal but this turn-the-handlebars-backward endo scar will forever remind me of Earl’s



Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “Earl’s Trails, playing the game”

  1. Quan Says:

    Looks like super fun (except for the endo!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: