Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kingdom Trails

Kingdom Trails is an organization that builds and maintains a large mountain bike trail system in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We camped just 20 minutes or so from East Burke, where they are located, so Saturday I drove up, purchased a day pass, and spent four hours on the trails. It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of folks in town to ride, coming from all over New England, New York, New Jersey and Quebec. There's over 100 miles of trail, so it was rare that I'd overtake another rider, and only once had to move aside for a group riding the other way. Riders congregated at the tops of some of the most popular trails, like Sidewinder.

The loop recommended to me was at least 12 miles long, with a lunch stop about half way, at the furthest point from the start. I felt good, and the bike felt at home on the trails. The trail builders have really done an excellent job designing trails that flow sweetly from turn to turn, and that take full advantage of the terrain. It's a joy to ride there. Amazingly there are almost no rocks, so its very different from riding in Connecticut, where some trails are nothing but rocks. Also, unlike most of the trails I ride in CT, if I didn't have to stop to check my map, I could ride their whole system without ever getting off the bike or putting a foot down. At home I'm off the bike walking over obstacles at regular intervals. So, its different, and very, very good riding.

My loop consisted of the following string of trail names: Harp-Coronary Bypass-Fence Line-Coronary-Loop-Bemis-Tap & Die-River Run-Webs-Dry Feet-West Branch-Hog Back-Sidewinder-Old Webs-(lunch at the chapel)-Border-Jaw-Maxilla-Sugar Hill-Ridge-Rim-Connector-Widow Maker-East Branch-Vast-Leather Wood-Peat Bog-Nose-Kitchel-Herb's.

The trails in bold were the highlights. Sidewinder is an amazing series of downhill switchbacks cut across a deep ravine, and is as much like a roller coaster ride as you can get on a mountain bike - a huge adrenaline rush, and worth the climb back to the top to do it again! Jaw had a series of wooden ramps snaking through the woods, most a comfortable 2 feet wide. My favorite was a long one, maybe 300 feet long, that started out at the roomy 2', but then narrowed to 1.5', and finally to just 1' wide. It was great because you're already on and committed to the ramp, so you can either ride it out, or fall off. (I rode). Kitchel caught me off guard - it was a steep series of highly banked turns that, if done at the proper high rate of speed, would put the rider horizontal at the apex of each turn. Another wild ride and total rush! About 3/4 way through the day, my legs were starting to ache, and climbing was painfull. I was afraid that I would get cramps in my thighs, so I had to keep moving. It was great to end with some rewarding downhill, and I finished up the ride walking stiffly but feeling great!

Here's a map of the Darling Hill section of trails, where I rode. My track is highlighted in a manly shade of pink:

Here I am half way through, at the lovely hilltop where a lunch stand was set up - great because it saved me from packing and carrying food on my back:

And here I am riding one of the serpentine ramps through the woods:

So, today we packed up and drove due south for home. It's nice to be back, but a little strange to break our ryhthm. There's a lot of work to do, and lots of socializing to fit in, so we'll be staying for about two weeks. The last day of August will likely find us heading into the Adirondacks, and I'm signing off until then...


  1. Austin is very uspet that the "GOAT" was not able to join you on your very exciting downhill adventure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!