Spring is coming, and if you're new to mountain biking, the Kingdom Trails in Burke Mountain, Vermont are the perfect initiation into the sport and culture. All levels of biker’s can enjoy, as well as, challenge themselves on the trails that thread marvelously through the sentient forest.
Fifty five private landowners partner to allow these trails to be shaped and managed by the Kingdom Association. Envisioned by local residents, the charitable association creates economic stimulation by developing impressive trails that conserve natural resources while displaying the impressible diversity of the forest that surrounds them, as reinforced through their mission statement.
Burke Mountain is located approximately five hours from Ottawa, Ontario— a city filled with biking enthusiasts. However, the drive seems shorter by its straight forwardness. When we were crossing the boarder the guards joked about us being from a “big city”, and that’s when we knew we were headed in the right direction. When you roll into the small town at the base of the mountain the first thing you’ll notice is bikes, everywhere. Bikes parked outside the cafés, laid on the grass by the outdoor bubbly refreshment bar, hanging off the back of truck cabs, and rolling through the streets. The culture of the mountain biker is one of appreciation for the outdoors, and resolute in the ruggedness of the sport. People make you feel welcomed right away, saying hello as we off-load our bikes. Scrapes, skid marks, mud, and smiles went perfectly with the sounds of laughter, encouraging up-tunes of slang, and fresh popping of beer caps.
The trails themselves make you feel more than you can understand. Riding them, at first, the senses are scattered in awe and “oh shit”. Your eyes look for obstacles in avoidance, but later through the day the search gains experience and trust begins to build in your ability. Your wrist begins to click through gears as you gaze the gradient optimizing each bend and berm, as the sun scatters through the tree canopies connecting your thoughts to the sonorous sounds of nature.
At the end of the day your muscles are finer for the fitness and wits as equally knighted from the engagement and acuity of this rightfully named Kingdom. When it’s time to settle you have the option to stay at one of the bed and breakfasts’ or even the newly renovated hotel, however, in the spirit of a culture that thrives outside, Burke Mountain Campground offers an extra bit of awesome. The campground itself is a loop of twenty six clean, semi private sites with washrooms, wash-stations, and a pocket change hot showers within stones throw. When you stay at the campground you're also granted a free pass to the hotel’s pool and hot tub, a mere walk away. At Burke Mountain Campground people were respectful of noise, most likely from the exhaustion of a hard day exploring routes. Getting cozy at night came with the crackle of low lit fires while the occasional bellow of exuberant laughter burst out bringing another round of smiles to each site. In the morning the smell of fresh coffee rose over smoulder embers and with the campground being so close to the Kingdom Trails, rolling out of your tent and into your day couldn’t have been easier. Fortunate is the light feeling felt all around and could be seen by the crows feet in the faces of the people when passing by. The only heavy part was the heart upon departure from such a beautiful place. While biking through the forest the thought of courtesy follows for your fellow friends and forest alike. How do you give back to a place that encourages one to grow along side the trees, flowers, and tall grasses. It’s first in the bloom of the heart perhaps, an appreciation that protects as well as nourishes the sport and the culture that supports its place— the Kingdom Trails of Vermont. It’s undeniable that the wealth of this Great State comes from the forests that feed the soul and the good natured spirit of the rural and rustic charm of the people. Truly a mountain biker’s Kingdom.