Tuesday November 11 2014
Reached the Peak
Delayed start, left at noon. Didn't look at thermometer before I left, but it had to be 10C. It was nearly 8 when I returned at six.
One hour and 37 minutes from home to East Burke, nonstop except for border crossing.
Took 91 to Orleans, Maple Hill to Barton, and Route 5 out of Barton as far as Underpass Road.
Underpass Road runs parallel to Route 5, but instead of following the river along the valley bottom as Route 5 does, it climbs all the way to the top of the east face of the valley as it heads south.
It's asphalt is narrow, somewhat bumpy, and very wet in fall and spring. It straight-lines to Sutton and on the way transforms from forest corridor to panoramic views.
Heading south, just before Sutton, Underpass intersects King George Road which forks into it.
King George is a major entry into the network of scenic gravel roads that cover the hilly slopes above Calendar Brook. The Brooke flows through the north-south valley nearly dead center between Interstate 91 on the west and Route 5 on the east: a yam-shaped area about six by twelve miles at its widest and longest points.
On this day I left Underpass on gravel (sand, really) to intersect King George and follow it back to Underpass and into Sutton.
God I just love this town's downtown intersection! More spokes than a saloon fight, and every one with a beckoning siren.
I'd followed Calendar Brook before along its lovely namesake road with more curves than a 22-inning baseball game.
So, "eeny, meeny, miny, moe"... Burke Road it was. Then, with Burke Mountain now almost always in view, I turned south on Gaskel Hill Road, enjoying the blue skies, warm sun, and fabulous southern and western mountain views.
The bottom of Gaskel Hill teed into Route 5 and I turned left (north) and then following my unfailing sense of direction (cue hysterical laughter) I turned right on Bugbee Crossing Road, just a few hundred yards up Route 5.
Off Bugbee Crossing, I couldn't resist a right onto Bumps Road (Closed in Winter) which I converted after a mile or two into a loop back to Bugbee Crossing with a right on West Darling Hill.
Continuing on Bugbee Crossing was taking me further north so I veered around to the south by taking Burke Hollow and that took me all the way down to East Burke and the Mountain.
A serendipitous serpentine scenic route.
Gassed up at the East Burke Sunoco station at 1:37pm.
Across the street I had a bowel, make that bowl, of chili at the general store and learned that the Toll Road indeed did have snow and ice at the top and was probably closed. But the store guy, who also works on the mountain, said that if it was open I could probably get as far as "the pavilion".
The first toll road gate was open, but the second one was closed and locked. I cut the motor in front of the toll collector's cabin and sat waiting for someone to come out. No one did, so I kicked over the Bonnie and we went around the gate.
I made it one switchback past the pavilion before snow and ice made their first appearance. I turned the Bonnie around (carefully - god but that road's steep), parked her on the side, and continued on foot.
Funny how mountains are. You know that if you keep walking up the mountain you must inevitably reach the top. But it's always being much further than you imagined and eventually doubts begin to creep in... could this be one of them Escher-esque mountains?
Well, no. I did make it to the top, but only after the old radiator boiled over and forced me to remove numerous layers of clothing.
It was surprisingly pleasant at the peak. Although the skies were becoming increasingly hazy, there were only scattered clouds and even at it's low level on the horizon the sun felt intense and warm.
The wind was constant, but somewhat variable in intensity. I was fine for some time taking pictures at the peak among the trees without jacket and shirt, but as I climbed the observation tower the wind intensified and as I reached the half-way point it had become a continuous hard blast of cold air. Holding on to pack, camera, and tower frame for dear life I took a few pictures and then climbed back down, totally chilled!
Meanwhile, back on earth...
When I finally returned to earth I was surprised to discover that it seemed even warmer than when I left. Global warming probably accelerated during my absence.
I'd planned on taking 5A north to Willoughby and then over to Barton on Willoughby Lake Road (Route 16), but I missed 5A and wound up taking 5 all the way back to Barton.
From Barton I went up 91 to Newport and took Hinneman Settler Road into Derby Center. It was already dark when I stopped at Derby Village Store to pick up some vittles.
Topped up the tank in Derby Line, crossed the border, and made a beeline for home on the autoroute.
The Hermitage was completely dark and there was only starlight to guide me from the Castle to the Newhouse. Under the clear starry sky it was still ten degrees centigrade.
The house was still warm from this morning's fire. Great ending for a great day.