For last weekend we had planned to go to the Carrabasset valley in Maine for a 2 day bikepacking trip. On monday morning I see an ad for a off road duathlon on their trail system : Bike and Trail running: Yeah we could do that! and then I scroll down and see they are also having their first ever Beer and Views: a beer and food pairing event up at one of the mountain hut. We could definately do that!
If I count right that makes 4 things we love!
We got there early enough saturday morning at registration for a parking lot espresso.
Isabelle studying the course
We don’t race much and this was our first ever duathlon, we had no clue about transition but our good friend John gave us the low down: use a funky towel and lay your stuff out.
The Baxter Backwood Duathlon is a 15 km mountain bike leg followed by a 10 km run. The start of the race was on the scenic Narrow Gauge rail trail next to the river, we then climbed all the way up close to the Stratton brook hut on a constant incline and then tackle the amazing new Oak Knoll trail. Going down the succession of perfect berms, rock armoring, rollers and jumps made us completely forget that we were in a race. At the bottom of Oak Knoll our legs were rested but our heart rate was all the way up. After the transition we ran up towards the hut and then descended down newton’s revenge to the finish line.
I got in 4th place (6th overall) and Isa did awesome to get 2nd place in her category.
There’s a lot of things that now come in a can: shower in can, meat in a can but this was Isabelle’s first ever trophy in a can!
After a refreshing Baxter Pamola extra pale ale and a even more refreshing rain shower we had to……. guess what?…….ride all the way back up to the hut again. We strapped our gear on our handlebar and slowly started our 3rd ascent of the day.
We used the running course because it was much shorter and not much steeper and got the hut.
This past winter we stayed in 2 of the other huts of the fantastic Maine Huts and Trail system for a 3 day fat bike trip but this was our first visit to the Stratton Brook hut. This hut is the most striking of the 4 huts of the system. The views towards Bigelow perserve is simply breathtaking.
The idea behind the Maine Huts and Trails is great. Full service mountain huts way up in the wilderness and connected by great trails. The price of the overnight stay includes dinner, bed, breakfast and even a lunch to pack out on the next day.
There is always something special going on at the huts and that night was the Brews and Views which is a beer and food pairing event with a local chef and Baxter’s master brewer.
We had the chance of tasting several course all more tasting than the next. Several of them used local vegetables and herbs and were perfectly paired with some the Baxter’s finest beers.
This time more and then ever the saying: leave the best for last was spot on. The dessert was out of this world with fresh raspberries picked by one of the chef’s assistant on the hike up and a special batch of a Baxter’s Coffee Dunkel.
Here’s my chance of yet posting another picture of me preparing a espresso with the cool Handpresso machine.
There are a lot of cool things about the Stratton Hut but for a mountain biker the coolest one is being at the very start of one the northeast finest descent. For me the Oak Knoll descent has now taken the throne from the Red tail trail in North Conway as my favorite.
The trail building for this trail is simply amazing, great rock armoring almost Wales worthy, some great berms, good rhythm and filled with spicy sections of rock arrangements and special features.
This is the same trail that we used in the race the day before. Even our gear on our handlebar did not prevent us for going all out on this amazing trail
The Carrabasett NEMBA chapter and the Maine Huts and Trails with the help of the town recently got some grants to build more trails and if they are all as good as Oak Knoll the popularity of theses trails will skyrocket.
We then reached our car, unloaded our gear , put a fresh pair of chammies and we were back on the bike to ride the rest of the network on the other side of route 27 at the Carrabasett outdoor center. The rest of the network is great mix of easy and intermediate singletracks.
These trails reminds us a little bit of the Kindom trails. Trails that everyone can enjoy without any sort of leg breaking climbs or out of flow steep pitches. We climbed up the Toad and buckshot trails to ride them back down. There’s some new trails being built at the top of buckshot and once they are open it’s going to be great because these last two trails are a bit tight for a full on descent but great for climbing.
We did a 20 km ride and it was perfect because we could feel our heavy legs from the day before.
We had a great time over the weekend. The Carrabasett valley is a very special place for us. The scenery is simply amazing and the people are so great! We met tons of friendly faces and we know we are going to see them again.
So who’s coming for this winter 3 days Fat Bike hut to hut expedition and/or for next year’s Backwood Duathlon?