Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kingdom Trails: Numbers (August 21, 2011)

Cowpath or Bike Trail? 

Four hours. Three thousand feet.  Thirty miles.

Those are the cold hard numbers that can't begin to convey the more meaningful experience of exploration, exhilaration and downright joy that I found on my third trip to Kingdom Trails this year.

View of Burke from McGill Fields
In what is fast becoming a tradition, Justin, Gered and I met at the Miss Lyndonville Diner for breakfast and to plan our day at Kingdom Trails.

Somewhere between cups of coffee we settled on an epic that would take us up the road above East Burke and onto McGill fields, back down to the East Burke Village and then back up again to the trails on Darling Hill.  To make things exciting, we were under a severe thunderstorm warning with powerful storms slated to arrive mid-afternoon.  There would have been anticipation in the air if it wasn't already too humid to hold it.

The hot, sticky weather clung to our clothes as we climbed up out of East Burke toward Burke Mountain and McGill Fields.  Despite the weather we made excellent time- and as you often do in Vermont- ran into some people that we knew on the way.

After finishing our climb, we set out on the new Moose Alley re-route and enjoyed a nice mix of technical challenges with smooth twisty singletrack.

In my previous two trips to the Kingdom this year I hadn't visited Moose Alley.  For those that have never ventured up that way, but know Darling Hill, it has a very similar feel to Poundcake, but with some drops peppered in to score some glory.

Moose Alley
A short on-road section brought us over to White School which we followed (more or less) back toward Darling Hill.

Our continuing adventures on Darling Hill took us over Poundcake, Coronary Bypass and eventually to the all new Troll Stroll.  At first, I thought the black diamond rating they had given it was generous, until we reached the last third of the trail which employs sharp curves, jumps, dips, bridges and roots to have you dancing around your bike frame.  Taking Troll Stroll essentially replaces the descent on Tap & Die (my favorite trail), however Troll Stroll is generally smoother with more room to open up speed-- particularly on the bottom sections.  It was quickly among my favorites.

We flew through Webs and up Old Webs to the snack shack where we grabbed lunch as thunder rumbled ominously in the distance.

Because it's there.  That's why.
I wolfed down a PBJ, eager to fly back to the village before the storm arrived, while Gered and Justin sat down to three course meals consisting of macaroni salads, wraps and the coconut covered "powerballs".  I glared disapprovingly as they lounged with their full spreads.  In retrospect I was being overly optimistic in thinking we had a chance to get back to safety before the storm hit.  They both knew what I refused to accept:  we were going to get wet (and possibly die).  So why not do it all on a full stomach.

With the storm on top of us we crossed the road and headed out onto Jaws.  The sharp cracks of thunder and winds brought back memories of one of my previous trips to Kingdom Trails with Gered and our friend Andres.  We had been caught by a fierce storm somewhere near Jaws while crossing a large field.  For what seemed like an eternity we had huddled in the underbrush, away from our bikes, shivering in the cool rain as microbursts pushed the trees around us to their limits, and knocked out power to the surrounding towns.

As the chaos of this storm descended upon us, Justin and I yelled to Gered to follow us onto a branch in the trail, but our voices were lost in the sounds of the storm and he continued unaware we had stopped.  As the storm intensified we dropped our bikes and headed into the woods.  Seeking cover under some smaller trees the wind tossed the treetops above us as and we were drenched, car wash style, by a deluge.  And then, just as quickly as it arrived, it left us.

Showing the guns in the heat.
(Even if they are .22 caliber)
Justin and I eventually found Gered, who had also hunkered in the trees, and we headed for Kitchel for the day's finale.

Having never ridden Kitchel, I can now understand why some people can spend all day doing laps on that trail.  High banked curves, ramps and jumps are met by speed, inertia and gut checks.

Exhausted and ready for a brew we retired to the Tamarack Grill to relive the day's adventures.

And in those discussions not a number was mentioned.  Instead we took stock of the moments of the day over cold pints in the currency of glory.

Here's the video:

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