Last summer I charted a big loop out West in search of two-wheeled adventures.
The plan: to stop in every state from Pennsylvania to Indiana and beyond through Kansas to Colorado to sample their singletrack.
The result: We had fantastic riding and met wonderful people in the heart of America. Each day, we pulled into a trailhead, two grubby middle-aged men in a van with Vermont plates and bikes hanging off the back, and usually within minutes we had the locals’ guide to the best trails, the tastiest restaurants, and free, scenic camping spots.
Eventually we rode among wildflowers on the 401 Trail in Crested Butte, and then gasped for air riding at over 10,000 feet in Leadville. In Boulder, I swapped my riding buddy for my family, and we continued to Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota — each state welcoming us with open arms, amazing riding and friendly locals.
At our last stop in Copper Harbor, Mich., I felt a little like I had attained some idyllic, small-town Nirvana. That is, at least, until I came home.
How good we have it
All it takes is returning to Mansfield’s shadow after some time away to be reminded of how good we have it.
Sure, we might not have the long-range views and straightforward all-day epics that are available in the West (not yet), but the variety of our local networks more than make up for the lack of those. Nowhere in my travels did I experience networks as varied as Cady Hill, Perry Hill, Richmond, Underhill, Hinesburg, Trapps and the Mad River Valley all within an hour of each other. Travel a little farther from Stowe, and you have Killington, Kingdom Trails, or Ascutney.
On any given day, I can choose a route from countless singletrack joys, some smooth and flowy and others tight, rooty and technical. This variety is what makes Vermont riding so special, and it is also the thing that will guide my riding adventures this summer — to ride in as many different locations in within Vermont’s borders as I can, with numerous local laps in-between.
2019 will be another exciting year for the Stowe Trails Partnership. Over the last several years, our membership has increased fourfold, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the greater Stowe community, especially the Town of Stowe and Stowe Land Trust for their trust and faith in our work.
Bikers, walkers, runners and skiers, locals and visitors alike — all use the trails we maintain, and many express their support by becoming members and patronizing businesses that share our vision.
We continue to dedicate our energy and funding toward the heavy lift of our mission statement, “to partner with the community in building and maintaining a world-class trail network.”
There are big projects on the horizon — new singletrack that bypasses the Haul Road in Adams Camp, our Legacy Trails initiative to protect access to historic trails, strategizing with our Vermont Mountain Bike Association partners on the Velomont Trail that will eventually connect Killington to Stowe with singletrack, and all the while maintaining our existing trails and envisioning how to better connect each pod in Stowe’s network.
Like a tourist
Sometimes I like to pretend that I have just arrived in Stowe as a tourist, maybe a hiker, but usually a mountain biker.
I take a ride on the rec path, head up through Cady Hill and make my way to the cabin at Trapps, enjoying the climb and that little sting of sweat that creeps into the corner of my eye.
I come back down to town with the whir of my rear hub cheering me down Growler, Pipeline and Flo. I swing by the farmers market, and then take a dip in the Little River to clean off before meeting friends for some summertime music and refreshments in the afternoon’s golden light.
At these moments, I am grateful to all the biking pioneers in Stowe for what they began in anonymity some 30-odd years ago, toiling late into the day to create 1 foot at a time of hand-built singletrack.
The sport and the town have grown in tandem, and now they are woven together of the same fabric. You will see its threads clearly at the Green Chair at the top of the Cady Hill Climb, or when one biker stops to help a stranger fix a flat, or when the tailgates are down and the coolers open at the end of a long ride at any of Stowe’s trailheads.
I hope you all have a memorable season with adventures, challenges and triumphs joining you for every ride. Consider becoming a Stowe Trails Partnership member to show your support, check out some of our neighboring networks, join a trailwork event, and bring a new rider or a friend along for a group ride.
And finally, when you see some grubby out-of-state bikers getting out of a van looking kind of confused, point them in the right direction. They will appreciate it.
Roger Murphy is president of the Stowe Trails Partnership.