Riding Vermont’s Kingdom Trails

I’ve just returned from my second camping adventure of 2020 Spring/Summer,  influenced by the ongoing presence of Covid-19.

Last weekend I rejoined my mountain- bike Bubbas in the Woods to return to  Kingdom Trails, located in the northeast corner of Vermont, just across the New Hampshire border. It took 4 hours to drive there, some 200 miles, via Route 2 from my midcoast Maine home.

“The Kingdom Trail network has become a destination for mountain bikers from around the world. Evolving for more than 25 years, the trail system navigates the beautiful landscape highlighting views and destinations with shredding descents and enjoyable climbs! The majority of the trails are single-track with interconnecting double-track that joins all sections from the XC terrain to all -mountain to downhill and lift-accessed trails. You will find a mix of handbuilt rake-and-ride as well as excavated flow and old cart and logging roads.” -Kingdom Trails map

A full-time crew of 10 actively maintains the network to keep it fresh and inviting.

KTAssociation riding is open, but with COVID-19 restrictions:
You are feeling healthy.
You are a resident of Vermont.
You are from a county across New England and New York that has less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents(KTA provides maps of these eligible counties online.). Every one of us dozen+ riders met those requirements.

So we were able to go to the next stage, which was :
Read and abide by KTA’s COVID19 Opening Policy.
Purchase an Annual or Monthly KTA Membership online and in advance.
Agree to KTA Ambassadors checking in riders at all designated parking & pinch point locations.

An adult day pass to ride is $35, with an annual pass only $75, which is what I normally buy, because I try to ride/camp there at least 2-3 times a season. I was overjoyed to learn that my list of retirement perks now includes a free Annual Kngdom membership passes for life: “If you are over 70 you can receive a free Annual Membership by emailing us a copy of your ID and mailing address!”

I drove with Andre co-piloting. We masked up for the long car ride, where we made only one brief stop to snag a fresh sandwich from the Polish Princess Bakery in Lancaster, NH.

70 miles of trails were open, with dry and fast conditions for the whole weekend. The three-mile Flower Brook Trail is a brand new one, cutting out miles of travel either in a car or a bike on VT 114. Here’s a brief 2 minute clip featuring the new trail:

 

We rendezvoused with the rest of the gang at a new camping venue for us: Kingdom Farm and Vacation Rentals   We tented at the edge of the large mowed field. The amenities were very good. It is a biker friendly situation. I tented alone,  paying $60 for two nights, including (free clean showers), access to the main building’s common area, and use of the bike tools and a bike washing station. We liked the place so much that we scheduled a return for the last weekend in July. Here a slick gallery of pics from the venue.

The weekend went well for me. Although it was often humid and warm, the temps were not excessive and the nights were cool enough that tenting was comfortable.

I put in nearly 45 miles of riding over a 48 hour period, with half-day rides on Friday afternoon and Sunday morning with a full day of riding on Saturday.  Best of all, I snagged a double digit list of Personal Records (including 8 fastest times), according to Strava. I drove with my co-pilot Andre. We masked up for the long car ride, where we made only one brief stop to snag a fresh sandwich from the Polish Princess Bakery in Lancaster, NH.

Here are the routes for three days’ of KIngdom rides, along with elevation profiles.:

 

Friday Afternoon
Saturday’s Ride
Sunday Morning Ride

Armed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two bike bottles full of electrolyte charged water, and my new magic cramp buster product (Pickle juice), I not only survived another exciting weekend of flow-riding, I even thrived!    My riding skills don’t always come to the front these days, but when they do, I’m doubly thrilled to ride the best in the East and actually master sections of trail that I used to fear.

Momentum helps and so does looking down the trail a bit.

photo by Derek Veilleux

 

 

Exploring the St. George River- Take 2

Steve and I combined forces to continue our exploration of the St. George River from Searsmont to the Appleton Preserve. For this hike, we’re linking to the southern end of the Ridge to River section that we completed a couple of weeks ago.

The day was perfect, and although it became a bit warm in the less forested segments on the hike, there were ample opportunities for refreshing ourselves in the shady, forested segments, and if we so desired (we didn’t swim), a jump into the river could’ve put a stop to any sweating. We spotted my car at the parking lot on Route 105 , then drove back in Steve’s truck to put in at the Ghent Road trailhead.

If you don’t want to spot two cars, I’d recommend parking at the Ghent lot and hike to Magog Falls and return. You’d experience the best this trail has to offer in terms of proximity to the watercourse and the interpretive historical displays. You can come back another time to hike north to Magog Falls from the Route 105 parking lot!

Strava recorded this to be a 3.6-mile footpath that includes travel along the banks of the St. George River.

The St. George River is a bit shy of 3.0 miles from my house, yet I’ve never walked this trail before. Staying at home and exploring local trails opens up possibilities like this!

From the Georges River Land Trust:
“Canal Path is a 3-mile trail in Searsmont that traces a section of the historic Georges River Canal dating to the late 1700’s. There are interpretive displays along the trail describing the aspects of the canal system that are still visible today. The trail also features a self-guided tour of the sustainable forestry practices of our partnering landowner, Robbins Lumber Company. This a level trail that meanders along the St. George River for about 1.5 miles. This trail connects to the Ridge to River Trail as well as our Appleton Preserve, and offers some of the most scenic, undeveloped riverside hiking in our region.”

Photos:

A pleasant view for a picnic
Interpretive Display
Plenty of pleasant views

Magog Falls, a deep pool, and a sandy beach await the hiker

I plan to come back to more closely explore the river. My plan is to walk the trail south from the Ghent Road lot to Magog Falls to trek and even swim back in the river itself

.   I’ve never done such a “wild swim” before and the Canal Path might be the place for me to try it.

Info from the Georges River Land Trust:   Download the printable trail map

 

Full Tang Maine Mountain Biking Weekend

Life is different during Covid-19.

Travel is restricted. The Appalachian Trail is still off-limits, especially group camping at shelter sites and use of outhouses. Travel bans, quarantine regulations, and the establishment of social distancing procedures have forced many of us who enjoy the freedom of the woods and waters to shift to local sites for our reprieve from the stress of doing things in a highly restricted manner.

I’ve leaned heavily on my copy of Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes  as I’ve been alternating walking and biking my mini-escapes around town.


For, example, I’m very close to finishing up my “Ride Every Road in Town” challenge, where I’ve paired up with my neighbor Andy Hazen to ride every one of the 76 miles of Lincolnville, Maine’s town roads. We’ve done seven rides so far, with two more to go. When I get home, I really enjoy coloring in our tracks on a custom topographic map that I ordered that has our town front and center on the page.

This past weekend I joined a small pack of my Bubbas in the Woods riding pals to bypass a long drive to Vermont’s Kingdom Trails in favor of a stick-to-Maine 36 hour off-road mountain biking extravaganza that included two riding locations that I never visited before on Saturday: Farmington’s Titcomb Mountain and Kingfield’s Freeman Ridge Bike Park.

Titcomb is roughly a six-mile loop that has been created by Farmington locals and Central Maine New England Mountain Biking Associaton.

4.5 mile Titcomb loop

The system was well-laid out with above-average consideration to setting up wide turns linked to long, gradual stretches of uphill switchback climbing to “summit and then plummet”. Riding is free during the summer.

 

Nelly coming off Titcomb descent

Freeman Ridge is a “.. private, professionally built, and family-run mountain bike trail network, located 1 mile outside of downtown Kingfield, ME. We offer machine and hand-built flow trails for riders of all abilities. We are just 15 miles south of Maine’s premier MTB destination, Carrabassett Valley Trails.”   An adult day pass is $7, money well spent in supporting this very satisfying private venture.

Freeman Ridge- 4.0 miles

Saturday night was spent with me back in a tiny tent along the South Branch of the Dead River in Eustis at a true Maine camp where we had no electricity, cell coverage, or running water.

One of the Bubs, Shawn, bought the gem of an antique camp in 2015 and has been using it as a base for winter fat biking, snowmobiling, and now mountain biking.  Shawn invited us for the weekend and it was a welcome respite from the blackflies and mosquitoes that are in force this time of year.

Impressive outhouse- note the indoor/outdoor carpet welcome mat

Sunday was a big riding day riding morning and afternoon sessions out of the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center.  In the morning we rode the south side of Route 27 on a long climb up to a high point that afforded us long stretches of exciting but reasonable downhill acceleration.

Sean and Andre at the summit before the plummet
7.6 miles – Sugarloaf south side

The afternoon put us across Route 27 where we headed east for about 5 miles on the Narrow Gauge Trail.

Long straight path ahead

Then we switched back to a long gradual climb of five miles up the Narrow Gauge Bypass to Crommett’s Connector.  One the way up, Ian demonstrated his technical expertise in getting over a massive obstacle and crafting an approach to a nasty stream crossing.

Then a whooperbasket of high-speed, flowing descent on Newton’s Revenge.

16.2 miles north of Rt. 27

Our local weekend was a success. I experienced fresh riding terrain, enjoyed the company of my riding pals, and had a grand stay at Shawn’s camp.

Bubbas are talking about finding fresh terrain to explore in Maine on an upcoming weekend.    Soon!

My May Morning Microadventure

I just completed a microadventure exploring from my camp on Hobbs Pond in Hope.         

Here’s the elevation profile for the hike:

We’re fortunate to have found a traditional Maine camp just one town and a ten-mile drive from our house.

One cold winter a few years ago I rode my fat tire bike from the house over snowmobile trails that included traverses over ice on Moody and Hobbs ponds to get to camp. It was a shorter route that cut out significant elevation changes that are encountered on a drive, hike, or ride.

I have been thinking about biking from home to camp over a portion of abandoned roads. On the drive over to camp a couple of days ago I made a detour up Bull Hill Road in Hope to find that the gravel road ended at a roped gate.

I remember hike-a biking through this area on my Diamondback Apex in the late 1980s when I encountered a thick extended portion of overgrown and downed trees that made forward progress tedious and frustrating. The other end of Bull Hill Road connects with Route 235 near the top of spectacular blueberry fields that look out on Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills. I took a GPS waypoint at the gate for future reference.

Which was now! The black flies and mosquitoes are also feeding on skin and it will hit 91% humidity today so I hiked from camp early. It was cool enough that those pesky little biting annoyances were still quiet.

I followed a route that I charted with Strava’s iPhone app. The upgraded Routes feature made it easy for me to discern paved and gravel roads and switch to manual mode for the one section requiring bushwhacking. Strava predicted 4 miles from the camp to the waypoint at the roped gate.

The first half of this route is known to me as I’ve hiked it before. I walked out the camp door, turned left on Luce Lane, and reached Crabtree Road where I went uphill until the gravel road forked.

Hobbs Pond outlet

Signs of an old road were visible just to the left of the fork.

Entrance to the discontinued road to the left of pavement

This is rideable terrain on a full-suspension bike. Today the mud was mostly dried out, but water flowed down some of the rough double track.

Discontinued road

Eventually I connected to the Morey Hill Road at a point where the Alford Lake Road is reached by going left.

The years take their toll

Unfortunately, the route to the right was eroded, uneven, and plugged with mounds of silt with leaves mixed in, several downed trees, and a rusty, exposed culvert.

Signs say keep out:

As I approached the high point of Route 235 along Hatchet Mountain Road the views improved dramatically. I passed through expansive blueberry fields in full bloom and heard the hum of bees before I came upon a hundred temporary hives, which are trucked in each year to assist with pollination of the tiny, white bell-shaped flowers.

Many pallets of beehives in this field

I eventually reached pavement and briefly walked left downhill until I took a right at the other end of the Bull Hill Road which is signed as the gravel Smith Drive. I passed less than a dozen well-cared-for houses as I ascended this backside of Hatchet Mountain. When the gravel road ended at the last house, I followed a narrow grassy path that wound its way steadily toward the GPS point/gate.

A mowed path appears!

Eventually, the grassy track transitioned onto an old woods road that was cut straight between two old crumbling stone walls, holding to the 800’ contour line.

Nope, not walking through

Several hundred feet of the old road was still flooded, but I skirted around the edges and progressed forward.

Soon, I reached a solid packed gravel-and-stone road that serviced the extensive blueberry fields that were both above and below me.

Solid ground underfoot

I marched on to eventually reach the waypoint at the roped gate to establish the connection from camp to home and back!

Mission accomplished!

Next microadventure?

Riding my full-suspension Trek Full Stache from my house all the way to camp!

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/3530832010

Searsmont’s Ridge to River Trail

I’ve teamed with my friend Steve to explore some lesser-known trails in this southwest corner of Waldo County this past couple of Covid-19 weeks.

On this windy, stellar May weekday, we spotted a car at both ends of the Ridge to River Trail in Searsmont, ME. The trail is a 4-mile footpath that includes travel along the banks of the St. George River before it goes up and over Appleton Ridge. It is an up and down experience with varied habitats and is a segment of the Georges Highland Path, a 50-mile network of footpaths in the Midcoast region that is maintained by the Georges River Land Trust.

Download  printable trail map

The GRLT publishes this:
“The Ridge to River Trail in Searsmont connects our Gibson Preserve to the Canal Path via a five-mile footpath with significant stretches along the Georges River and fantastic views of the river valley as seen from the top of Appleton Ridge. This trail does have some strenuous sections, particularly the ascent of Appleton Ridge, but the extra effort is well worth it.   If hiked together, the Ridge to River Trail, Canal Path, and the trails on the Gibson and Appleton Preserves offer 11 miles of hiking for those interested in longer outdoor adventures”.

If you decide to walk from the lower end from the Ghent Road parking lot on the Georges River up and over Appleton Ridge ( which is the opposite of what we did), then read Aislinn Sarnacki’s ONE MINUTE HIKE report of her adventure. It is well worth a read and has a video clip as well.

Blue blazes mark the trail -approaching Appleton Ridge

After studying the map we decided that we wanted to end our hike with a descent from Appleton Ridge, ending at the Ghent Road parking lot. We reached the west trailhead by starting at the Fraternity Village Store in Searsmont to drive west on Route 173 (Woodmans Mill Road) for about 2 miles and stopped at the left on Ripley Corner Road (which appears as Riley Corner Road on Google Maps).  We parked on the shoulder of the side road and walked down the gravel road to cross a wooden snowmobile bridge.

We found the start of the trail confusing, flooded in parts, and not marked.

Careful!

My GPS helped orient us toward the river. Things immediately got confusing with no signage at the first fork.   Looking back, I bet that the right we missed was the 1.2-mile bypass that would have kept us out of the wide expanses of overflow that punctuated the main road. Nevertheless, we skirted the flooded areas without submerging our boots and passed along the main muddy road with GPS in hand and eventually went left where blue taped branches identified the actual trail….

..which was excellent!

A spot to sit

The following photos may convey our excitement at traveling along this historic waterway. Both Steve and I talked about coming back and canoeing this portion of the river and doing a little fishing as well.

One of the open places along the Georges River

 

Getting through

 

Large pool

 

Wild walking ahead
descending through tree farm approaching Ghent Rd. parking lot

Next, we will explore the GRLT’s Canal Path.

NOTE: The following update was via an added comment by a volunteer from GRLT: The Ridge to River trail begins at the Gibson Preserve accessed from Cedar Lane off of West Appleton Road. Follow the blue blazes through the Gibson Preserve. The Preserve ends at the old discontinued road(the one you walked in on from Ripley Bridge which is no longer used as an access). Directly across the road is the beginning of the R2R trail which ends at Ghent Road near Robbins Mill. The map on on website needs to be updated. And apologies for the blowdowns – we’re still in the process of cleaning up from winter. It’s next on the list.

 

Microadventures to Counteract Pandemic Isolation

If you subscribe to this blog you’ll be familiar with my enthusiasm for Alastair Humphreys’ popular book, Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes. Published in Great Britain in 204, years before COVID-19 caused border closures, social distancing, and self-isolation, Humphreys was way ahead of his time.

The following article in Men’s Journal leans heavily on several of Humphreys’ novel ideas: 16 Local, Low-Impact ‘Microadventure’ Ideas for Pandemic Isolation and Social Distance

I’ll explore some of these suggestions right away: spending a night in a hammock, cooking outdoors in cast iron, fishing, Strava art, building a tiny hut or treehouse,  and the weekday overnight bivvy challenge, but the one that I’m most excited about right now is Every Single Street.

The Every Single Street challenge is to run, walk, or bike, or bike single street in your city or town. Popularized by ultra-runner Ricky Gates in 2018, Gates ran every street in San Francisco, registering 1,300 miles in 40 days.

This is an excellent, doable challenge for those of us living in small towns.

For example, my town of Lincolnville in Maine maintains 76 miles of roads. This will undoubtedly lead to additional mileage, as there are numerous discontinued and unmaintained roads as well that can be hiked or even biked with the right choice of wheels.

I just purchased a custom topographic map of Lincolnville where I’ll draw in my rides.  My riding buddy Andy Hazen is interested in joining me on this caper, even though he’s ridden every single one of them already.  Andy told me that he’s already covered the challenge on a tractor with a mowing bar when he was contracted to trim brush from the sides of Lincolonville’s roads way back when.

If you need any inspiration on what can be gained from exploring all the corners of your own town, watch this 17-minute video of Ricky’s grand adventure!

I’m headed out at 3 pm today to begin my Every Single Street challenge of Lincolnville, Maine.

 

One Short Film Worthy of My Time

via Opinion | Need More Than Netflix? These 15 Short Films Are Worth Your Time – The New York Times

Well, this one did it for me this Sunday morning:

screenshot 10
Note: play arrow is inactive. Click red link below to play

As I experience a restricted life under the spectre of Covid-19 I am being led to a  doors that appear to be more expansive than restrictive.

Yesterday I was one of 15 folks who took part in a free Transcendental Meditation group meditation Zoom session.  I enjoyed taking the time to further hone my technique and started to explore some online course offerings in the practice.

Today I watched this most intriguing 16-minute video. It is just what I need right now to inspire me to think outside the box.

I feel I have some history in common with Dr. Kitchin: I also grew up on a small dairy farm,  have a service career, and although I am not into skating,  I experience a similar spiritual elevation from riding my bike through the forest.

Slowmo appeared to be speaking to me when he explains about the sensation of flying that he achieves while slow skating.  Pay attention to the audio that begins at 8:15, where Slomo explains the allure and physiological basis of lateral acceleration.

I had a lifetime history as a gym rat, dating back to when I first entered the Fall River, MA YMCA when I was 16 years old.  I left the gym in September of  2013 after I felt flat and unsatisfied after engaging in yet another 45-minute treadmill session, where I elevated the pitch to the max and ground out three more 15 minute miles.

Now, I ride bikes and hike instead- outdoors, all year round.  It’s much more satisfying to me and feels more genuine, and is sort of like flying.

 

Daily I Ching Reading – The Sun

Daily I Ching Reading
Hexagram #57-The Sun (doubled)

Hexagram 57

In consulting A Guide to the I Ching ( Carol Anthony) regarding today’s six tosses of three coins two surprises presented.

The essential learning from today’s practice was, “Only consistently firm, yet gentle inner thoughts penetrate to others with good effect. This influence occurs through maintaining a ceaseless correct inner attitude in which we are balanced, detached, and independent through all the changing events”.

Two identical trigrams are stacked today, each presenting as roots, penetrating through cracks in boulders that eventually break them apart. In a similar manner, the influence of consciousness penetrates our subconscious until one day, in a flash of insight we understand with amazing clarity.

Anthony writes, ”Receiving this hexagram indicates (1) that the truth we perceive has been penetrating to us over a long period of time, and (2) that our dependence on the truth must be consistently maintained if it is to penetrate to others with dynamic effect.

Today’s hexagram is concerned with self-correction and is often received together with hexagram 18-Work on What Has Been Spoiled. The specific self–correction most often needed is to cease striving to influence, which inhibits others from finding their own way as well as to prevent any deeper insight from intervening in the situation. As I flipped back the page in my journal to yesterday’s I Ching reading, I was very surprised to see that I had thrown my coins to receive hexagram 18!

Looking out my window to the expanse of fields, trees and stone walls extending to the Camden Hills on the horizon I see a pine tree on the ground that I cut down two days ago. We had a very powerful combination of wind that followed eighteen inches of heavy, clinging snow that toppled many thousands of trees throughout Maine this past week, and the pine suffered from numerous limbs broken of in the storm. I wanted to remove the tree for some years now. Transplanting it as a young tree was a mistake, as the thick masses of green needles began to obscure the winter sun from warming my south-facing windows.

Anthony’s interpretation of today’s hexagram relates here as well.
“We should also cease reacting to shock. We need to bands like the bamboo, without becoming bent or broken through rigid resistance to the situation. Through nonresistance, the wind passes and we returned the upright. We need to ask why we keep reacting after the shock has passed. Do we like clinging to negative possibilities? We need to remember that when we insist on what is correct during times of challenge, and wait for others to go through the learning experience, giving them the space they need to find themselves, the boulders of entrenched evil and hardness Will be broken by the penetrating power of truth.”

Perhaps everything will work out better than expected?