Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Scouting out potential future mountain biking adventures


It was January, and the snow was crusty and slick but not deep, not the sort of base you would want to ride a mountain bike on — so of course that’s exactly what someone had done at Otis Mountain where we were doing a little hiking on an excellent trail network that in summer will be filled with cyclists.

He had ridden across the famed Otis Mountain waterfall, which was frozen solid up top with a precipitous drop as reward for an untimely slip, and he (it had to be a he, right?) had ridden up and down some gawdawful slopes with attendant slides and spinouts evident by his track.

It reminded me of a Lollapalooza I had attended (long story, not worth it) where I saw a bruised and blood-drenched kid staggering out of the mosh pit and heard one of his friends gush, “Wow, you must have really been having fun.”

Mountain biking done right is an edgy sport, but one that us mere mortals can still enjoy at lower elevations. But the cyclist who preceded us knew no bounds. We did not at that time know the lay of the land and, with snow covering the tread, we were dependent on the bicycle track to lead us through the backcountry. Until at some point it dawned on us that we were putting our safety and welfare in the hands of someone who was quite clearly insane, and we turned around and went back.

The Adirondacks is home to an increasing number of mountain biking networks, and many of these trails are quite scenic and provide an interesting option for off-season hiking.

The Barkeater Trail Alliance’s Beaver Brook Tract on Hardy Road in Wilmington, for one, has a couple of excellent vistas reached by attractive trails that may not be on the radar of people who prefer two feet to two wheels. This week we hiked the Double Time and Good Luck trails to a pleasing view of the High Peaks to the south and a beaver meadow to the north.

At the top was a mom and her child and a pup, picnicking and enjoying the view. We were in agreement that as a bicycling trail, Good Luck is a bit peppery for us, but as a hiking trail it is most enjoyable. I’d bicycled Good Luck before and found it to be murder — but hiking it, the same trail seemed moderate and commodious. All a matter of perspective, I suppose.

Mountain biking trails of course have more loops than an elevator soundtrack, so there is always the option of taking a different trail down than the one on which you ascended. We completed the Good Luck circuit before finishing on the Beaver Brook View trail, which leads to a panorama of the beaver pond, flanked by Whiteface and the Sentinel Range.

This is a hardened, accessible trail with a view so splendid that you might even forgive the beaver next time he gnaws through your grape arbor.

Hiking mountain bike trails in the off season as we await the hardening of the mud have one other perk for people of moderate skills such as myself — you can scout the route to see if it will be manageable for you on two wheels or is best left to the professionals. Either way, by bike or by boot, they are too good to pass up.

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Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

2 Responses

  1. KA Nugent says:

    Tim, this article was a great read, and I adore your writing style and spirit, with just one exception here: the parenthetical comment that “it had to be a he.” I can think of a healthy number of women within a ten mile radius of Jay who will happily take the crazy line and whoop all the way down. Watch the rad women of Red Bull Formation for context. That said, I am so grateful for the work you do and thank you for all of it!

  2. Hey Tim, great article and you should join us at Otis someday. Your article provides an opportunity to remind everyone that mountain bike trails at lower elevations are also susceptible to damage when bikers and hikers travel on soft soils during mud season. The Good Luck trail can be especially wet and muddy in the spring, even when the rest of the trails at Hardy Rd are dry and durable. The Barkeater Trails Alliance had a piece in the Almanack recently about this very subject –