Riding Vermont’s Kindgom Trails

I’m waiting tonight outside the shower at the campground, a phalanx of Boy Scouts jamming up the flush and flow in and out of the two men’s toilets, and single shower stall .

I had a great ride earlier this afternoon, and am very pleased to notch 15 miles of sustained pushing on my Santa Cruz Tallboy, whether it was straining to move upward on the steeps, or trying to keep the bike upright as gravity pulled me down these verdant hills.
Heading Out
What’s going on at the Kingdom Trails is barely controlled survival when I careen downward, at times skidding across lateral roots, the ends of the handlebars grazing past tree trunks.  

From their website, “Kingdom Trails in Northeast Vermont, a multiple-use trail system unlike any other and voted as the BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL NETWORK in North America by Bike Magazine in their annual Reader’s Poll. We were the Editors’ Choice in the Yankee Magazine Travel Guide to New England and were also named BEST OF NEW ENGLAND by Boston Magazine Travel & Life. “

I am really pleased that I kept the bike upright all afternoon.  A lot of the success was due to the engineering of the Santa Cruz Tallboy.  To me, the machine is not so much a bike but rather a descending apparatus.  The suspension sucks up big hits on rocks and drops off ledges with a unique mechanical squishing sound.  It’s totally baffling how the bike sustains it’s integrity, ride after ride, week after week, for years. These guys I ride with are not stick boys, or at least most of them aren’t.  They are The Bubbas, who stick it to the trails with authority and confidence.  We don’t break these newer bikes (so much), but we’ve demolished earlier frames and components before bicycles became stronger, and correspondingly much more expensive.

Riding the Kingdom Trails- Day 1/3

I’m sitting here stretching out my aching calf this morning in East Burke, VT after barely suppressing a scream after my lower right leg went into complete tortuous cramp. It’s a new day of riding today at the Kingdom Trails.
I’m here with six other Bubbas who made the trip yesterday from Rockland, ME for the first of our mountain biking holidays this riding season.
We got here yesterday just after lunch, and dodged the rain clouds as we put together 16 miles of whooping, rolling fun here in Vermont’s hilly northeast country.

20140531-075242.jpg

20140531-075434.jpg

Big life, big bike- Bubba style

I joke about attending the Church of Two Wheels on Sunday mornings.  But it’s no joke.
Riding with my long-time friends from the Midcoast Maine never ceases to amaze me.  Week after week, the bikes don’t break, we don’t crash (much), and we experience the pure joy of playing around in the woods, challenging ourselves on repeated sections of terrain.  This has been going on close to 20 years, all year round!  This past winter was a great one for riding these same trails when they are covered with packed snow and ice.  Today, my fat-tire Pugsley stayed home and my full suspension Santa Cruz Tallboy was resurrected  back into action.  The bumpy ledges and long  downhill from the top was kinder to my deteriorating shoulders than the rigid framed Pugs.
A bunch of The Bubbas have downloaded the Strava app on our phones or via our GPS  devices.  We encourage each other and share rides that we’ve completed with the rest of the the guys (and gals now) !  We now have maps!
 Pleasant map

Pleasant map

We get elevation profiles, like this one from Sunday’s ride on Mt. Pleasant !

screenshot

Here’s me jumping on the Tallboy, and following Rigger’s line for the ride down from ” the Blueberry field” to the ” Three way”.

photo by John Anders

photo by John Anders

3 minute video of me descending Mt. Pleasant <<– Click to view three minutes of pure joy, complete with me chuckling as The Hawk and I jockey for the right side into the singletrack.  Thanks to The Hawk for sending me his clip, and The Bubbas for being there for me, week after week.
Sanctuary.

The Sunday When Winter Went Away

There’s still a small pile of snow on the north side of my house but I’m declaring “Winter is over!”  No where is that more apparent than on today’s mountain bike ride on Mt. Pleasant, here in Midcoast Maine.  Just last week, a skeleton crew of Bubbas , labored our way up  the 800 foot climb to the top of the mountain, where conditions forced an early bail back to the parking lot.  Deep mud, ice, sleet, freezing rain , and then cold rain wore us down.  screenshot 3

That was then, this was now.  Nine of us went double the distance this week.  There is still mud and  water to churn through , but it’s not so deep.  And not so cold, and the sun was shining.  There was one big tree that had to be cleared out in order to to make the ledge challenge possible today. It was a very long and heavy tree.

Yo, Heave Ho!

Yo, Heave Ho!

Once we cleared the fallen timber, the challenge began and just a few of us made it up the ledge challenge. Here’s a video clip of  The Hawk and Rigger clearing it:

On the way up, I had what we call “a mechanical”. I had a chain suck, which is a dislodged chain jammed into the drive train somewhere, but not exactly. Then I saw a broken part situation like I’ve never seen before. One of the bigger rings on the rear cassette was bent sideways. IMG_2853
I hiked-a-bike up the last short portion to the top, where Ian launched into action, and went into the woods with a saw, cut a hardwood chisel, sharpened a point on it, grabbed a rock, and made it right. Then he adjusted the rear derailleur and I was able to complete the ride. The guy is an exceptional mechanical problem solver. Thanks, buddy!

Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders

Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders

The rest of the ride was much better, with the climbing over, well most of it.  Ian even made it up the super-challenging Abyss today, a feat that no one else was able to accomplish.  It’s astounding that  four-wheeled drive vehicles get in here right now, when it is so soft and muddy, and totally churn up these old forest roads.  We see parts of cars, lenses, headlight, grills , and undercarriage parts strewn all over the place.

It’s doesn’t get dark now until almost 7:45 PM.  Next up will be my first Rockland Bog ride of the season in two days, now that winter is over.  I hope to have my Pugsley’s rear cassette replaced by then, where I’ll join my Bubba pals in another wild ride through the forest and streams.

Fatbike Says Bye-Bye to Ice

Pugsley takes the plunge

Pugsley takes the plunge

Sunday’s ride marked the end of our visit on top of  the remains of the ” crystal palace”  around here in coastal Maine.  The ice that we have encountered for the past couple weeks is  gone.

Snow almost gone from blueberry field

Snow almost gone from blueberry field

Five riders made a relatively quick out-and-back 10 mile run from the Warren Community School Parking lot.  screenshot We encountered sections of sheer ice that were over a half mile long, with some portions under water that was flowing across the surface.

Ian and I were on studded 45N tires, Jason had unstudded 45N tires, Walter had Surly Nates.

Walter and Ian take a break

Walter and Ian take a break

The Hawk never complained while churning away strong on regular 26″ tires.  Ian declared that studded tires were a good purchase for these conditions- he was consistently far ahead of the rest of the pack.  I even passed Jason once. THE ONLY way that happened is because of the metal pins protruding from my tires.  Walter did OK on his unstudded set, but stated that he is planning to buy a set of studded 45 N’s. Sidecountry in Rockland has some.   At times, he was slipping and sliding.  Walter  told me that Bath Cycle already sold out of the 30 pair that they had a couple of weeks ago.

Enough snow had melted to set up detours around the ice.

Jason goes around

Jason goes around

The feeling of rolling over glistening ice is unique. I expected to go down at some point over the two hour ride, but never did.

Did I tell you how much I am enjoying the winter,  while riding my Pugsley?

Dodging Ice/ Crunching Hoarfrost

Four Bubbas represented this Sunday morning at The Bog under spitting skies over icy trails: Nate,Steve, Jason and I.

20131201-173054.jpg

The view down the powerline was chilling!

20131201-173630.jpg

We passed it up for the usual 6 mile loop, including the Highland. Whoever was first had the loudest and slowest line. The ground was frozen solid a couple inches under the loose and slippery surface. The light rain was off and on-mostly in between.

I picked the right bike today-the Pugsley. Both Jason and Steve rode from their houses pushing their miles into double digits. Here’s the end of the ride where Steve splits to head to the warmth of the couch.

20131201-174403.jpg
The Patriots came from behind again to find a way to win.

Here’s the map:

20131201-174832.jpg

Maine Huts and Trails- wrap up

My bunk room morphed up to warmer last night.
The crew told me the building was so well insulated that a person’s body heat was often sufficient to turn things around.  The bunk houses are heated to around 60 degrees in the off season as well, as there is a caretaker for each hut. However since it is not a full season with a dedicated hut staff to stoke the fires in the basement on a regular around the clock schedule, there might be small fluctuations in heat (never below 50, between 57 to 65), depending on the outside temperatures. Hot water prevails, as well.

In the morning, I made myself drip coffee from the pile of filters and fresh ground Carabasset the boys set out for me before they went up last night.  Normally, breakfast is served st 7:40, but I suggested that they sleep in, courtesy of me!
At 8 sharp I was sitting in the dining room in front of a hot plate of eggs, sausage, and toast.

Flagstaff Dining Room

Flagstaff Dining Room

Lunch fixin’s were set out for me to make my own peanut and jelly sandwich, accompanied by a brownie and granola bar.

Flagstaff Lake shoreline

Flagstaff Lake shoreline

The morning light illuminated the shore and the few leaves that remained on the deciduous trees.

I’m heading back today.  On the way in here, it was unsafe to listen to music via earphones and iPhone- too many pulp trucks thundering down Long Falls Dam as well as  the gravel Carriage Roads to be distracted by tunes. I needed to hear these trucks coming. They don’t slow down at all and the roads are narrow.
This is the last weekend for MH&T to offer their full service meal plans as part of the package here (at regular rates).  Twenty folks are coming in today to stay for this last serviced  weekend- a ” yoga group”.
From October 29 until December 19 daily rates drop more than 50%, down to $35 for nonmembers and $30 for members. For that price, you get everything this place offers except the meal plan.  Guests are free to bring in their own food and use the kitchen.
In sum, I enjoyed my stay here. The facilities are unique- interesting and comfortable. I liked being taken care of. The shower was hot, the couch and reading chairs were super comfortable.
One of the parts I liked about the trip into here along the trail from Sugarloaf/Route 27 was crossing the Appalachian Trail at the exact same place that I walked over on my 2007 thru-hike.

Two thousand miles on AT from Georgia to here!

Two thousand miles on AT from Georgia to here!

It brought back positive memories.
People need to know that the terrain that surrounds the MH&T trail is mostly low country, and right now is surrounded by fresh logging activity.

Fresh logging visible along trail into Flagstaff

Fresh logging visible along trail into Flagstaff

It’s often not so scenic. Don’t get me wrong- in the warm weather the deciduous leaves will hide the freshly cut slash and stumps. Conversely, when the area is blanketed by snow the skiing, snowshoeing, and even mountain biking will be framed in a more natural situation.
I could be wrong, but there is one more reason why MH&T lets their crews go for the next month and a half.  It’s deer hunting season in Maine, and folks will definitely need to be wearing hunter orange if they travel these woods in November.  This looks like prime hunting territory.

This is quite an undertaking- these ” wilderness hotels” that are steadily coming online up here.  I am really pleased to finally experience what they are all about.
I appreciated the care and attention that the staff gave me here, even though I was the only client.
I plan to be back here before the rates double up and return to normal just before the Holiday season.

Bridge along Narrow Gauge path

Bridge along Narrow Gauge path

I have viewed enough YouTube clips to know that I want to ride my Pugsley along the groomed snow pack.