Celebrating in the Kingdom (Trails)

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Hello friends! Every year, whether we like it or not, we must acknowledge the passing of another year of time, and the gradual aging we all go through. My most recent birthday was not a milestone event in my mind, so I wanted to keep it low-key, but I also wanted to make sure that I marked the day by doing something I loved. With that in mind, it was quite fortuitous that Deanna and I were passed along an invite to a road trip to the Kingdom Trails in Vermont for a weekend of mountain biking and celebrating. I hesitated at first, as I was a little concerned that Deanna might not be keen on the idea of joining three more ‘seasoned’ mountain bikers in this land of amazing trails. However, as you’ll see, it turns out she was as giddy as the rest of us with the experience!

Since it was my birthday weekend, we decided to make a proper road trip of it and visit different Vermont Breweries as we went. After all, Vermont is known for some great beers, as well as great scenery and mountain biking. This way, we could enjoy our drive down and back by breaking up the trip into ‘brewery segments’ 🙂 This meant a bit of advanced planning to make sure we arrived at the right times and could take advantage of tasting room opening hours. In the end, we managed to squeeze in 7 different breweries, one of which we basically had to beg to let us in to buy beer (they were officially ‘closed’ for the day).

The final list includes:

  1. Kingdom Brewing – First brewery across border, and a nice little farm-based family operation. Wish we coulda stayed longer, but bought 2 growlers
  2. Hill Farmstead Brewery – They were ‘closed’, but I convinced them to sell me beers to take. Spend $70USD on 4 bottles!
  3. Trout River Brewing – Closest brewery to Kingdom Trails. Great pizza place too. Sampled all their beers and brought some home
  4. Magic Hat Brewing Company – Magical place to visit, free samples, and brought back a bunch of their beer
  5. Fiddlehead Brewing Company – Ex Head brewer from Magic Hat started this place after Magic Hat was sold to larger interests. Bought 2 growlers
  6. Zero Gravity Craft Brewery – Sadly, no flights or true samples, you have to actually order a pint / growler to try there suds. That being said, I got 2 decent samples out of them.
  7. Vermont Pub and Brewery – Oldest craft brewery in Vermont, final lunch stop on way home. Had a nice flight of 6 here.

Needless to say, on our return to the true north strong and free, the only thing we claimed at the border was 48 bottles of beer.

But of course, we were also in it for the riding. Kingdom Trails did not disappoint. They have over 100 miles of mountain biking trails on offer, with something for everyone. You are required to buy a $15 day pass (or $75 annual pass), but for that, you get well, maintained trails, some of which had amazing flow to them. The trails are truly a testament at what can be accomplished when like-minded people come together with a common goal. The network has grown over the years, with support from the local community, including very gracious landowners.

Deanna and I opted to only get a 1-day pass, with the intention of heading back earlier on Sunday to visit Burlington. The other went with 2-day passes to squeeze in a few more hours on Sunday. As a group of 5, we set out around 9:30am on Saturday, and sampled a wide range of trails, including some favourites including Kitchell, Tap and Die, Sidewinder, and Jaw. The trails are set up so that you can take relatively easy connectors between the more fun trails.

Of course, there was also hills to climb, which is inevitable if you want a nice fast flowy downhill run! We ran trails that were rated from blue square up to double black diamonds, which was a great feat, given that Deanna was essentially only on her third or fourth time truly mountain biking. Although the energy may have started waning towards the end, she still had a grin from ear to ear and bought herself a t-shirt and socks to commemorate the trip, vowing that we will return! Awesome.

At about 3:30pm, we were back in the main village to grab some lunch. From there, Deanna opted to head back to our cozy cabin, while the rest of us headed out for another 2.5 hours of biking, where we hit some more remote trails and found a truly epic long downhill trail called Moose Alley (we also enjoyed Farmjunk on our way). We rolled back to the cabin around 6:45pm, somewhat pooped and ready for eat and enjoy the evening.

In that respect, we had hoped to cook sausages on the fire, but it was taking so long to get things going, most of them were cooked on the stovetop and served inside (personally, I *had* to cook one symbolically on the fire, and boy was it tasty!). We had a nice birthday feast (after all it was my actual birthday!), followed by very tasty ice cream sundaes for desert. From there, beer consumption, story swapping, and eventually, in a most ‘anti-cabin’ move, streamed an episode of Naked and Afraid before hitting the hay.

All in all, that was as near-perfect of a weekend that I could imagine. Thanks to Nathalie and James for organizing, and thanks to Deanna for being as excited about it as she was. I’ll be enjoying the ‘imported’ beers for a while, and dreaming of the next time I can slip down that way and tackle even more of the trails! Next up though, final preparations are underway for my upcoming 4-day expedition race in Maine at Untamed New England. Stay tuned for lots more about that in the coming month!

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