Domnarski Farm, White Mountains, & Ascutney Trails

The long weekend (including Indigenous Peoples Day) that just passed was full of New England adventure. Our family got a little work done on Saturday morning before heading to the Ain’t No Cyclocross At Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race in Ware, Massachusetts.

We were last on the farm in 2017. I thought I swore never to return to this rugged course, but I must have forgot. The kids refer to this track as “old school 90’s rocks and roots.” That sums it up. It was hardcore on my rigid singlespeed and was no surprise that I was the only one in my category. I recall that I wasn’t alone three years ago, but either the other singlespeeders learned their lesson, or the COVID-19 pandemic really has changed the world.

All kidding aside, it was great to see our teammate Matt Domnarski, and convene with some mountain bike/cyclocross community friends. Several of them were from our own team. Debbie, Shepard, and I all started at 11:30 A.M. within minutes of each other. Dahlia hung out while we raced. She made some friends and explored the horse barn and other surroundings. Social distancing was in order, and once you headed into the woods, you were even more spaced out.

Shepard and Debbie did the one lap 10 mile event and I did two laps. I was slow but steady. I only had one fall, but the steep ups and downs combined with all of the rock made for a sore back, neck, shoulders, and arms. My legs were fine. This course beats you up.

After we packed up and said our goodbyes, we headed north into New Hampshire, stopping in Concord for dinner at Col’s Kitchen, a new plant-based restaurant. The tables were sparse and spaced, but the food was decent. From there, we headed north again until we reached Tripoli Road at the southern edge of the White Mountains. Tripoli goes from I-93 in the west over a pass until it reaches Waterville Valley in the east. Tripoli is the site of the legendary Pemi Valley Road Race, which I did six years in a row from 1993 to 1998. There are no blog posts from that era, which was a time of classic New England bicycle racing. However, the memories are vivid in my mind.

After we packed up and said our goodbyes, we headed north into New Hampshire, stopping in Concord for dinner at Col’s Kitchen, a new plant-based restaurant. The tables were sparse and spaced, but the food was decent. From there, we headed north again until we reached Tripoli Road at the southern edge of the White Mountains. Tripoli goes from I-93 in the west over a pass until it reaches Waterville Valley in the east. Tripoli is the site of the legendary Pemi Valley Road Race, which I did six years in a row from 1993 to 1998. There are no blog posts from that era, which was a time of classic New England bicycle racing. However, the memories are vivid in my mind.

Tripoli Road is about seven miles end to end and from west to east, it climbs steadily to its peak, with most of the climb on rough dirt. After the summit, the descent to Waterville is a patchwork of broken asphalt and dirt that has only gotten worse over the last 22 years. It was treacherous then and would be ridiculous now. Back then, we raced on traditional steel or aluminum road bikes with 22 cm tubular tires and 39 x 23 gearing. That setup is nothing like a modern gravel set-up and Pemi was long before gravel was popular. It was just a hard race with a dirt road. The distance ranged from 42 miles to 60 miles depending on the layout and laps. In the early years, it finished with a mostly downhill sprint on the west side of the course, but in later years, it finished at the Waterville base lodge.

Tripoli is known for “dispersed camping.” We experienced some awesome heat lightning on the rive up 93, but it didn’t rain until we reached the road. Then, the rain came in torrents as a massive thunderstorm blew through. We had no desire to pitch a tent in the dark storm, so we found a good spot near the Mount Tecumseh trailhead, and slept in our van. In the morning, Debbie and I got up early, found a good spot near Eastman Brook, and set up the tent. After the kids got up and we established camp, we drove around to the trailhead near the base lodge, parked, and hiked the Tecumseh Trail one way back to our campsite. It was about 5.6 miles over the top of 4,003 foot Tecumseh. It was chilly, but the sky was brilliant blue and we had a decent view from the top.

The roots were slippery from the prior night’s rainstorm, but the trail was in good shape and quite crowded. The hike took less than three hours. Our kids are keeping up with us now, which is awesome. That gave us all afternoon to relax, goof off, and hang out around camp. I rode back to the van on my mountain bike. It took less than 40 minutes. I drove back and we made an early dinner. We retired early, played some cards in the tent, and chatted about 2020, shared our highlights, and talked about our challenges. We were asleep in no time. The temperature dropped even more overnight and it was in the mid-30’s Fahrenheit when we awoke. It was cold, but inside our sleeping bags, everything was cozy.

Debbie and I got up early again, but not too early. We ran the East Pond Loop, which started only 0.2 mile from where we were camping. This turned out to be a five mile run with the first half all uphill. Little East Pond was the pretty spot on this route and the water level was amazingly low. We chatted and enjoyed each other’s company. We returned to camp and the four of us packed up for our departure.

I had taken Monday off from work, which was a welcome opportunity to spend some extra family time in the woods. We took a circuitous route to get to Brownsville, Vermont where we unpacked all the bikes and spent 90 minutes exploring Ascutney Trails. The Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run may have been cancelled, but we were happy to be at Ascutney in the fall as we have been nearly every year since 1999. We have more of the trails to explore, but we covered some good ground. We spent a little extra time exploring the village before packing up again to head south in the direction of home. Once again, we had a pit stop at Pulse Cafe in Hadley. This has become a favorite place to dine. The tables and customers were spaced out as it was a quiet Monday afternoon. After our meal, we hit the road again and were home by 6:00 P.M. after a three days of fun.

Domnarski Farm Race Results

1 Response to “Domnarski Farm, White Mountains, & Ascutney Trails”


  1. 1 Lisa Cour 18 October 2020 at 8:11 am

    Wow! You are quite an adventurer…that’s awesome! Your sister, my neighbor sent me some photos you took at the XC meet the other day. Thank you so much!!


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