I drove out to Western Connecticut today to have another go at the Dudleytown Loop I originally tried at the beginning of the winter. The centerpiece of the ride is Dudleytown, an abandoned and, according to some, haunted town just up from Cornwall Bridge. On the ride, there are three dead-end roads that get close to the town: Dark Entry Road, Dudleytown Road, and Bald Mountain Road. The town itself is off-limits, and the Dark Entry Association monitors it pretty intently to keep ghost hunters out. My interests, however, were much more terrestrial. All three of those hills are nasty little climbs. In addition, my route also included climbs up Swaller Hill Road, Dibble Hill Road, Everest Hill, Great Hill, and Flat Rocks Road. There were also two other smaller hills that I only discovered as I road the course. Total climbing for the day was about a vertical mile in less than 35 horizontal.
1. Swaller Hill Road. First hill up, and it’s a real brute. I parked at a trail head on Route 7, just north of Cornwall Bridge and rode north on 7. Just north of Cornwall, Swaller Hill goes up to the left. Exactly a mile at 11.6%, this is the steepest hill of the day. The gradient is pretty consistent, but it does ramp up to the upper teens at times. This one, more than any other hill of the day, felt like climbing one of the big Vermont climbs (Ascutney or Okemo). The fact that it was *only* a mile wasn’t really much of a consolation, and I found myself already happy that I had put on the 13-29 cassette for the ride. Unfortunately, the road dead-ends (or turns into a closed dirt road that is inappropriate for a road bike) so I had to turn around instead of taking the route I had planned.
2. Dibble Hill Road. If this hill had been the last one of the day, I think there’d be no question that it was the most difficult. For one thing, there’s actually a pretty decent climb up 128 before you even turn onto Dibble. A little up the road, you hit your first steep section, a sustained 15-16%. When I drove the road in the winter, I had remembered a big “wall,” and after that section I was trying to decide if my memory had failed me and it wasn’t as hard as it had looked today, or if there was still another wall coming. There was. Just before the top, you have to negotiate a sustained 20%+ section. Really, really hurts. It’s a little like Jenckes in terms of length, but steeper. Ow.
3. Dudleytown Road. Again, after the first section, I thought maybe this one wasn’t as hard as I remembered it from driving. then it kicks up again. I would not be surprised at all if that 34% is right, although it’s probably calculated on the inside of one of the tight switchbacks. Nasty hill. At the top, the road flattens out and turns to dirt. You can go another 1/2 mile or so before signs turn you back from going into Dudleytown. No signs of pig-demons, but there were some creepy looking trees.
4. Everest Hill Road. Not much to say about this. The opening of the hill is very steep, but thankfully not too long.
5. Great Hill Road. This was one of the few hills of the day that wasn’t steep enough to keep me from getting a decent rhythm. Not too much to say about it, but it’s a nice hill.
6. unscheduled hill, Seeley Road. Kind of like a Rhode Island hill…pretty easy.
7. Flat Rocks Road. This was supposed to be the easy, gradual climb. And it is, except that it’s actually dirt. So it is quite a bit more difficult than it would have been had it been paved. Still though, not too hard.
8. Bald Mountain Road. I had done this one before, so I knew it hurt. But this time I turned onto it coming down Warren Hill Road. It’s a tough turn because it’s probably about 150 degrees, coupled with a change from about a 7% descent to a 15-20% climb. I had thankfully gotten in the little ring, but I was still over-geared. The first .3 miles is a relentless 14%. After all of the other hills, I was really starting to feel it on this one. I think I may have seen some of the Dudleytown ghosts. [cue Zak Bagans impression] Whoa! Bro, just as I was getting to the top, I totally got a stinging in my eyes. And then when I stopped at the top, I started feeling a bit dizzy and disoriented. Dude.
9. Dark Entry Road. I was cooked by the time I hit this one. I got up to just before the steep kicker right at the top, but I had to stop. To punish myself, I took the steepest line through the final switchback, and watched my Garmin top off at 27%!
All in all, one of the best routes I’ve done in my life. Hard, beautiful, not much traffic. All I need to do is find an alternative to going up Swaller Hill and turning around. Three dead-ends is ok, especially when they all share the theme of getting as close as possible to the paranormal, but the fourth was a bit much. I’ll see what I can do to fix that part, but the rest was completely phenomenal, and Swaller Hill was really a nice enough hill that I’m definitely glad to have done it once.