Sunday, September 9 is the day I show up to the Green Woodlands for a tour of the area with the owner’s nephew, Jared Studley, and New England Dirt podcaster Ben Hall, aka MTBBen. It’s also a day that can’t decide if it’s summer or fall, if it’s sunny or cloudy. There’s a gauzy overcast to the day and a definite chill in the air.
But the trails are sweet and the company laid-back, and we’re riding bikes so it’s all good.
The Green Woodlands is a twenty-three thousand acre tract in the towns of Lyme, Dorchester, Wentworth, and Orford, and has been home to a network of cross country ski trails since the late nineties.
In 2015, planning began for the construction of singletrack mountain biking trails. Jared and his cousin, Bryan Green, had been after their uncle Bob Green to put some trails into the vast woodlands that he owned. As a man with a mission to connect people with the outdoors and the resources to make it happen, Green had been casting about for a way to replicate in Dorchester what had been done on the Lyme side of the property with cross country skiing. But when Jared and Brian approached him, his first answer was a solid, “No.”
It took a few years, and a lot of brainstorming and research, before a plan evolved that would satisfy Green’s mission of land stewardship, connecting people with the outside, and sustainability and safety.
Not content with the usual “rake and ride” method of trail construction, Bob Green assembled a team of experienced mountain biking experts to design and build the trails. Those in the know of MTB trail building will likely recognize the names Will Haring, Corbett Tulip, and Ben Moody, former pro MTB racer and trail building veteran of Highland Mountain Bike Park. Map maker Greg DiSanto rounded out the team.
The process took years of planning and involved plotting the lines on a map and walking the lines multiple times before settling on the course each trail would take. Actual trail building was accomplished with mini excavators. The operator digs trenches alongside the trail to gather up mineral soil, which lacks organic matter, and uses that soil to build up the trail surface. The result is a smooth, mostly root- and rock-free, pathway.
There’s plenty of stuff that experienced riders can rip to shreds. The mountain bike trails are artfully crafted to maximize enjoyment for new riders as well as experts -- the Five Percenters, as Green calls them. Features include tight bermed-out turns (one route is called Squiggles), swoopy rollers, tabletop jumps, and alternate lines. Sustainability, flow, and accessibility are the buzzwords in trail building, and all played a part in the design of the Green’s mountain bike trails.
Also factoring in were considerations of grade and drainage, plus cultural or ecological interest. As part of the planning process, trails were placed to highlight points of interest such as the swimming hole and rapids on Trout Brook, a comely tree or curious rock, an abandoned car and a strategically positioned old bicycle, or any of the dozens of historic cellar holes. There is even a bear den alongside one of the trails.
For me as a new rider, the trails held no unpleasant surprises. On other trails (I’m talking to you, B Lot), you come around a corner to find a jumble of rocks you have to navigate, or trees so close together you don’t know if your handlebars will clear the space. When you’re new and haven’t acquired a lot of skills yet, it often means dismounting and walking. At the Greens, I could ride with confidence knowing that whatever lay ahead I could ride through it, at whatever pace I was comfortable with. I think the only time I dismounted was for a particularly large mud puddle, towards the end when I was getting tired and wasn’t sure I’d have to strength to muscle through it.
Upshot? The Green Woodlands mountain bike trails are worth a visit. They are easily accessible at the parking lot on state route 118 in Dorchester. The trails are fun and flowy, connect well with each other and have good loops. Easy-to-read maps mark each trail junction. And the fee? Just a smile.