Monday, July 31, 2017

Exploring Downeast Maine 3/3

Day 5 - Columbia Falls to Belfast (169km or 105mi)

The day started cloudy and shortly after I packed my tent and left the campground, it started to rain. As I mentioned earlier, trail surface in that section was quite nice and light rain made all bugs disappear. When I got to Cherryfield a heavier rain started but not enough to make me stop and try to wait it out somewhere. In fact, I didn't even bother to pack a rain jacket for this whole trip hoping that it wouldn't rain too much. I certainly chanced it and I might not do that again, but the one problem with summer rain I have is that no matter what jacket I wear, I end up wet anyway - from all the sweat underneath.
My first planned stop was at Schoodic Beach - a little gem hidden north off Sunrise Trail. It's not exactly unknown, judging from the number of cars parked nearby and it takes a good hike from the parking lot to get there, but it's all worth it. In fact, I would like to plan another cycling trip just to stay there overnight. While this may not be completely legal, I'm not longer sure what it. First I saw signs "day use only" and "no camping", then another one saying "group camping only" and then I counted at least 5 small tents along the beach. Seems like an unofficial camping spot to me.
I returned to the trail and continued west to Ellsworth. There are sections of the trail that are certainly boring, looking like a straight gravel road through forest where you would see nothing but trees for miles. My overall impression with Sunrise Trail is that it has many beautiful spots along the way that are worth visiting (usually where trail crosses streams, lakes, bogs, etc.), but it probably does make little sense to try to ride the full length of it.
Singing "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd to make passing miles more interesting, I reached Ellsworth where I stopped for lunch. By then, the rain stopped. Next, I had to get to Bucksport, which meant riding on Route 1 again. To keep things weird a bit, I decided to detour north through Red Bridge Rd to Boulder Rd and then back to Route 1. While Boulder Rd is basically a wide fire road through forest and it has some pretty spots, it's also private, so keep it in mind when you try to ride through someones backyard.
I entered Bucksport by 3PM, as it was pretty much all downhill on Route 1 in that direction, stopped at Hannaford again to resupply and continued across the Penobscot Narrows Bridge to Belfast. Instead of riding along the coast again, I decided to try going north, via Old Country Rd. I stopped in Belfast for dinner and tried to figure out where to stay for the night. There were some quiet places on the way I spotted earlier but I didn't feel like climbing the hills I just descended so I rode to Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. They charge $44/night unless you find cash, then it costs only $25. Smells fishy to me but whatever. The campground was actually quite nice.

Day 6 - Belfast to Wiscasset (113km or 70mi)

On the last day of my tour I left the campground at 6:20AM and headed back to Belfast. It was raining slightly at night and my tent was all wet. I hate packing wet tent.

I didn't bother to stop in Belfast except for some pictures. The bay and harbor were covered in morning fog and looked mysterious.
Next, I reached Camden by climbing across Camden Hills State Park, but since it was still only 9AM many places were closed so I didn't stop for breakfast anyway. After Camden, I had to climb over a few more hills at Mt Pleasant St and then Clarry Hill Rd (tough one!) to reach Waldoboro and then Newcastle.
In Newcastle I was already starving and needed lunch and fortunately Publick House was nearby with good food and some excellent beer selection. The local Oxbow Farmhouse Ale was a hit.

About an hour later I was back in Wiscasset where I left my car. From there I had a 2.5hrs drive to get back home.

Final thoughts

I'm really happy I had a chance to finally try a longer bike tour. However, now I keep thinking that a 3-4 day trip would be better suited for me. The main reason this tour lasted that many days was distance I wanted to cover. After all, it takes a few days to get to Canada and a few days to ride back.

Even though I planned for up to 140km (85mi) a day, I ended up riding more (sometimes much more). This is due to backtracking after going wrong way, cruising around when searching for camp spots and other changes in route. Technically, there are enough daylight hours in summer to ride 160km (100mi) a day with no issues, but that limits number and length of stops we can make on the way.

All this means my touring days were long - get up at 5:30AM, be on road by 6-6:30AM, ride until 6-7PM and then sleep from 9PM. You could say it's a busy way of spending vacation but on the other hand I would have nothing else to do in the morning or evening. I require no coffee in the morning, I travel with no stove so I don't need time for cooking and once sun sets, I have nothing else to do but sleep.

In terms of bike setup, things I packed, etc. I think everything I took was useful so I didn't haul any unnecessary load with me. I rode the whole trip on tubeless Clement X'Plor MSO 36mm tires and they worked perfectly. In terms of equipment, it's always a compromise. On paved roads I wished I had faster road tires, but then on Sunrise Trail I appreciated the MSOs, sometimes wanting even wider tires on my bike.

I think the no-stove approach works for me too. It reduces carried weight, maximizes daily ride time and in general simplifies things a lot.

Compared to the last trip to Vermont, there was one thing I did much, much better - cell phone power management. First of all, I had a new phone with new battery, which certainly helped a lot, but I also followed this guide on how to navigate by GPS and keep battery drain down to minimum. Let's just say that downloading all maps for offline use and keeping the phone in Airplane Mode as much as possible did the trick. The battery level never dropped lower than 80%.

I'm not sure where my bike will take me next year, but it's going to be fun for sure.

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