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Looking at the map of the Kingdom Trails system in Northeastern Vermont, the feeling of vacation began to sink in.....
10:23 (15/08/16) Laurie Copans

With 100 miles of trails, I could choose whichever style of riding I wanted at the trails. I could have brought my kids for some easy, fun swinging on flowing single tracks through the forests. I could jump, flow, pound over some drops or even, if it were winter, bump and slide over the snow on a fat bike. With sunny skies, well-maintained trails, no mud and three bars serving craft beer at the end of the ride, the world was at my wheels. ``We’re on the map for bucket list destinations,’’ said Tim Tierney, the executive director of the Kingdom Trail Association when I spoke to him during my visit last month. ``We’re making this part of Vermont a biking destination.’’ Okay, so now all I had to do was pick which bike to rent. Since I was without kids, I could choose any style. I decided to go for a challenging ride with roots, rocks and drops. So on the map I picked a few black diamonds with names like Dead Moose Alley, Troll Stroll and Tap and Die. The Village Sport Shop at the start of the trail on Darling Hill had some good bikes to rent. If I wanted to tackle the jumps at the park, I could have chosen the Giant Glory Advanced 1. With 200 mm travel on the Fox 40 Performance Elite fork and the Fox DHx2 Performance Elite shock, you can go pretty high with this bike. It was tempting, just for fun. But a real good time on the trails for me involves speed. It’s the cross country racer inside of me, the girl who likes to try to pass the guys on the uphills. I like to be shaken up a bit on the rough roots and rocks. So I opted for the Giant Trance 2. Not only could I pound over the drops with the Fox 34 Rhythm Fork with no problem, the Fox Float Performance shock would give me an easy landing. And the bike was light enough to get up the hills pretty easily. I was trying this men’s bike for most of you men readers but the shop has bikes for you girls as well. Just to entertain a crazy idea, I could have even chosen a bike with no suspension whatsoever. My brother who lives nearby and collects bike of all ages and types had given me his hard tail Diamondback circa 1995. This bike doesn’t even have a front shock! This light bike is great if you want to take on the Kingdom Trails smoothest doubletracks with names like Bemis, Loop or Fox Run. But that wasn’t my plan. So, style and bike chosen, some trail names in my head, I ventured out. Heading to the western side of the trail area, you immediately start in a grassy field overlooking the mountains. The sun glares on you but as you dip into the pine forest, your eyes have to adjust quickly: the roots and turns are waiting. I decided to ease my way into the trails, starting with the wide trail Bemis and then heading to the black diamonds Tody’s Tour and Troll Stroll. Not many people were on the trails so I could take them at the pace I liked. I pumped hard up the hills and swung back and forth on the downs, only having to get back off the seat at a few points (the bike had a dropper seat but it wasn’t working great and personally I have never gotten used to the things). Not so challenging. My adrenaline was still not flowing hard. I was itching for a bigger challenge. I was born in these parts, in Brattleboro, Vermont. But I only started to bike when I moved to Israel in the 1990s. So this girl likes the rocks, rolling or big but I’m not so used to those roots. I wanted to give them a shot. At the bike shop I picked up my brother Ben who had driven up after he got off work and he and I agreed to head to the Burke Mountain side of the trails, on the eastern side. Here the singletracks zig and zag more as you climb to the 3,257 feet summit and toss you as you wind and jump your way back down. We had a big climb on the toll road where we saw a doe and her fawn and headed to Dead Moose Alley. Wow, what a rush. Finally, real vacation could begin. Lots of roots, lots of boulders to drop over and some major sharp turns complete with tight roots. Good thing it hadn’t rained otherwise this girl from the drylands probably couldn’t have handled the wet roots. At one point, Ben and I came upon a giant boulder with about a yard drop that you have to slide into carefully between roots and over another big rock. I knew I could do it if I could just make myself get on the bike and go. So, after a stop to check it out and pick the best line, I tried it. Yoo, what a rush. Biting my lip but with my rearend way out behind the seat and my back flat, I did it. These trails are for anyone. If you’re a family just looking for some easy wide trails or a group of downhillers looking for some good airtime, you have it all here. Kingdom Trails has 80,000 bikes visits in the summertime and 5,000 (fat bikers) in the winter, Tierney said. Seventy-percent of them are from out of state and the rest from Vermont, he said. Never been biking in the northeastern United States? It’s very different from out West in Colorado or Utah. In Vermont you have more forests and shade and thus more roots. And fewer rocks. ``Here you can do more through the trees but have the rural agrarian effect too with the farmers and the tractors in the fields,’’ Tierney said. The local community in East Burke is big on the hospitality. There are only 1,753 people living in the town but there are 146 AirBNB places to sleep. The tiny town sports a tiki bar thanks to all the bikers and skiers. Sixty-three landowners agree to let Kingdom Trails use their land for the bike system. Biking up to the Burke Mountain side, we saw a bakery out of someone’s house. Many bikers at the Kingdom Trails visit other places in the area during their stay. In Vermont it’s a good idea to also check out the Fellowship Trails near Burlington, Millstone Trails in Waterbury and the trails at Ascutney Mountain. For Kingdom Trails the following of bikers has become so strong that many buy second homes in the area. Those who bike at the mountain visit on average four times a year, Tierney said. For me Kingdom Trails is a great place to reconnect with my brother and ensure that my vacation gets a real adrenaline rush to make it a true vacation. Getting over the boulders and roots on the Dead Moose Alley Abuse trail was a real thrill. It was great to try a new bike that fit the trails I was riding. But at the bottom of the Dead Moose Alley Abuse trail I had a big surprise. I had locked my shock on the way up the toll road. On the way down I had forgotten to open it again. So the drop that I conquered was with a locked shock. Yikes. Maybe I should have tried that old Diamondback without suspension after all? Well, maybe next time.

 
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