Maine Huts & Trails Week: Day Two, Mountain Biking to Poplar Stream Falls Hut

In September 1996, a relatively new magazine called Men’s Journal gave me an assignment to write a story on mountain biking in Vermont. I biked with extreme skier John Egan in the Mad River Valley before heading north and meeting Jeff Hale, a route designer on a network of singletracks he was calling the Kingdom Trails. On a spongy mat of trails dusted with pine needles, we cruised past century-old barns and small, dilapidated sugar shacks lost in the countryside and I immediately saw the potential for an off-road biking route in this sylvan slice of the state. Well, the Kingdom Trails has exploded, with more than 60,000 visits just this past year. 

I see the same potential for Carrabassett Valley, Maine, especially when fat wheelers realize that NEMBA has teamed up with Maine Huts & Trails to create a mountain biking hut-to-hut network. We left Stratton Brook Hut this morning on a sweet trail cut last year into the deep forest, Oak Knoll. The dirt was smooth with high banks around each turn on zigzagging switchbacks. At the Stratton Brook trailhead, we met up with Jon Boehmer who knows a thing or two about mountain biking, having lived in that legendary mountain biking town of Crested Butte, Colorado, for 6 years. 

Boehmer is excited to show us some of his favorite singletrack runs, many that branch off from the Narrow Gauge Pathway, a rail trail that hugs the Carrabassett River. Grassy Loops is a nice warm-up on soft dirt through a meadow of high grass. Meade is a gem of a trail that lines the banks of the river, bopping up and down around tall pines and over roots and rock bridges. Sargent and Crocker Town are more technical runs, with short uphill and downhill turns thrown into the mix. Boehmer also took us to the nearby Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, where you can rent bikes and venture onto their vast network of trails that loop around lonely ponds, with that mountain view always looming in the background. 

We rested our legs on a downhill run on the Narrow Gauge while watching families swim in the boulder-strewn river. Then had our last taste of singletrack that connects with the Maine Huts Trail and led uphill on a tough climb to the Poplar Stream Falls Hut. Lisa and I said goodbye to Jon and thanked him for a memorable day of riding. To top it off, we walked down to the waterfalls and watched the water careen down the craggy old rock into a cool pool of water. There was no one else enjoying this serene scene. Well, at least not yet, but word will spread.