MTB Trip Report: Bradbury Mountain State Park
BY DEB MOULTON
Just six miles from Freeport, in Pownal, is one of the premier mountain biking spots in Maine, Bradbury Mountain State Park.
It has 20 miles of awesome trails in total, with 12 miles of single track, all of which offer opportunities for bikers with abroad range of skill levels, from beginners to technical riders. The trails include plenty of challenging climbs, and a few play areas along the way.
The rangers, who mountain bike themselves, have put in many hours building and maintaining the trails within the park in just the last year. Local bikers also supported those efforts, logging approximately 1,000 volunteer hours.
According to Mick Rodgers, head ranger, "between 25,000 and 30,000 bikers [have] used our trails." There are also continuing plans for expansion.
The trail system has two parts, the trails on the Bradbury Mountain side of the road and the ones across the road. When you arrive, get a map from the rangers.
Both sides of the road are primarily single track, with the mountainside trails having a couple of longer and steeper climbs, as well as some pretty technical (gnarly) areas. The Boundary Trail has a few drop-offs that I walk around, myself. However, I ride with several highly skilled adrenalin junkies that drop right over the ledges. The Tote Road Trail is a pretty good (arduous) climb, though not too long. It takes you to the top of the mountain and will surely get the heart pumping. From there, on a clear day, the view reaches to the coast. It's worth the climb. If you are lucky enough to run into someone at the top who knows the trail system, there is a sweet downhill that ends up by the picnic tables and parking lot. The entrance to this trail can be a little difficult to find on your own, but once on the way down, it is way fun. I use my brakes fairly regularly on the way down, but again, those with skill and adrenalin to burn, brake only on the corners, if anywhere.
Across the road the trails are more extensive, and this is the area where there are plans to continue expansion of the trail system. There are plenty of sweet singletracks for beginners as well as some technical areas. There are also a couple of climbs that may require a walk to finish the way up. The trail system can be run clockwise or counterclockwise, with most of the bikers I know preferring the counterclockwise approach.
While working your way through the system, look for short cuts with single planks that for the skilled (or learning to be skilled) are great fun and challenging There is even a sweet little roller that is fun to circle onto. One of the newer trails, Ragan, has a three and ½-foot wide bridge that goes up, up again, with a nice little run off the back. It is one of those bridges that stopping in the middle or looking over the edge may mean a fall over the edge (which is a good four feet or more, depending on where you are). I gave one of my fellow biker dudes a bit of a heart flutter - not due to love and beauty, but because I did not have the speed I needed to make it over the last rise and had to put a foot down. Lucky for me I am not a big person and my foot landed on the bridge, not over the edge. Going over the edge would hurt!
Things to remember:
Mick Rodgers informed me that Bradbury Mountain State Park was the first Park in Southern Maine to offer shared-use trails for horseback riders, mountain bikers, cross country skiers, and snowmobilers. Snow shoe rentals are available. "This was made possible by money from the Recreational Trail Grant Program, by hundreds of volunteers - of which mountain bikers are the largest contributor - and park funds," said Ranger Rodgers. Initially there was quite a lot of skepticism when this program started, yet these shared trails have turned into a huge success. The plan is for the shared use is to continue and grow with idea of future generations enjoying the park.
There is an entrance fee of $3 for adults, and children ages five to11 can enter the park for $1.Season passes are also available ($30 for an individual and $ 60 for a family)
There are 41 campsites available if you are inclined to spend the extra time.
Pownal has a small convenience store, and Freeport is a short drive for shopping and eating out.
During hunting season parts of the park are open to hunting. It is highly recommended not to bike in those areas of the park at that time.
The Eastern Fat Tire Association race will be July 30 this year. The plan for 2006 is a one lap, 20-plus mile race using existing snowmobile trails that lead to Tryon Mountain, one of the new acquisitions of the park, where there are several trails. Then the race route will be returning to Bradbury. The race being in July means the trails should be in great shape.
This being the state of Maine, the weather (or rain) affects the conditions of the trails. Every now and again there will be a posting to stay off a trail until it becomes drier. Please respect the posting. When it dries up, the trail will reopen. Mick informed me that with the rains in October last year there was "significant damage" to the trails. The idea is to "harden up the trails" this year to allow them to be open at all times.
Dogs are allowed in the park, but only on a leash. This means they cannot run beside your bike, regardless of how well trained they may be. Mick informed me that last year they had several instances with bikers and their dogs, which were not on a leash (the dog, not the biker). In one case the unleashed dog that was with a biker attacked a leashed dog, which was walking with a hiker. When the hiker protected his dog from the biker's dog, the biker took offence. Then, according to Mick, the biker "said some unflattering remarks" before bumping his shoulder into the hiker as he rode off, knocking over the hiker. NOT cool. Most of the time hikers step to the side, but really the responsibility lies with the biker to slow down and let the hiker walk around. Key words: "shared trails." You will be sharing the trails with hikers, which includes small children and horseback riders. They have the right of way.
Night riding is not allowed at Bradbury. Halloween is the only night exception. Trails close at dusk, not to be confused with midnight. Last season, some bikers were riding at night without permission and it was causing problems. Plus night riding by nature is higher risk. It is difficult enough to get an injured biker out during the daytime, with the task being much more difficult at night. It also puts the rescuers at risk. If this statement appears silly or confusing, I suggest you start reading The Field Guide to Wilderness Medicine and try practicing packing an uninjured person one mile down a trail. Having been on a couple of evacuations in my lifetime, the logistics are not easy, it requires a lot of strength, and can be very painful for the evacuee. That is often the case, even if the rescuer has good medical knowledge.
These Rangers and volunteers have worked many long hours to maintain the trails and promote the sport of mountain biking. Respect the rules and hard work that have gone into a really cool place to go biking. It is truly one of the best in the state.
Rated five stars on a scale of one to five.
Deb Moulton is No Umbrella's MTB section editor. When she is not on the trails, she is an emergency room nurse at Mercy Hospital in Portland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Email nick [at] noumbrella [dot] com with your questions, comments and concerns.
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