Back Country Excursions /Trails in Parsonsfield, Maine??
So I read about Backcountry Excursions up in Parsonsfield and the trails at times seem to be marketed as private. However, this Maine state website acknowledges that they are on public land. Maine State Planning Office
I'm okay with paying for a map or a fee to ride trails. Though it seems the way it's marketed you have to pay for a guided tour and then buy a season pass to this place.Which is a $200 investment. Reading some of the reviews on MTBR, Yelp and Trip Advisor it is mixed. Some say tourist trap, bad trails and worst time ever while others say it's great. .
Any feedback on quality of the riding and if these trails can be ridden as public open trails? Or is that met with some localism from those looking to profit from these trails? Is there a middle ground to pay a day use fee with a map? Thanks, FP.
I've been there once, had a nice time. I'm not sure there is a map and trails aren't well marked, hence the need for a guide. I'd suggest going out for a days riding to see it for yourself.
The Leavitt Plantation is publicly accessible and mountain biking is a permitted use in the conservation easement. Trails are not marked and I still get lost even having been there a dozen times and paid Cliff Krolick once for a guided tour. We also helped him with trailwork one spring in exchange for a ride, and do some trail clean up everytime we ride there. That said, yes, you will be met with a hostile attitude if you happen to run into Mr. Krolick on the trails.
Originally Posted by Flat Pedals
Many of the trails have good flow and are fun XC trails. In general the stunts are not well constructed and are poorly maintained, I'd recommend you check them out before you ride them. I believe Cliff will do a $15 guided 1/2 day ride which may be the best way to get a decent ride in without getting lost.
Thanks for the info, guys. Seems like everyone is being very polite about the situation. One would think the trails being more open to more users could exist also while providing the recreation vendor with financial viability. Riders will pay for maps, day use and parking as well as rentals, snacks, repairs and so on. Are trail advocacy groups and volunteers involved with the open space? Think that would be a good vibe for the community. I would not say anything about anything if this were private land, but it's recreation easement land guarded by private interest. Big scam if you ask me. For what it's worth--I grew up in Maine and donate substantially to local Maine NEMBA chapters from away--not some random complainer. I want Maine to flourish with open, quality multi use trails. The status quo with Leavitt seems to be counterproductive to the current, amazing trail movement in the state. Hope to ride with you guys when I'm home in the fall.
Did you ever get up there this summer? I worked for Cliff as a guide/assistant so am curious to know what you thought.
As for the hostile attitude towards "poachers" as he'll call them, it is quite existent and as you say, a load of crap. Cliff is always worried about too many people using "his" trails and tearing them up. Oh, and not paying him money.
Just about every place is fun to ride once or twice, and this is no exception. It's just hard to justify coughing up a fee comparable to those paid for epics in Moab and Fruita for considerably sub-epic trails.
If you and a few buddies are looking for adventure, you should head out to Oneonta, NY. We're an hour from Binghamton or Albany, 3 hours from NYC, and 4 from Boston. We've got some pretty rad stuff here and have been building a lot of new trail within the last 4 years. 5 miles of new singletrack built for mountain biking, and still more being dug currently. Definitely worth a weekend trip and I'd be glad to show y'all around. We build our trails so that a guy on a 6" trail bike and his buddy on the super light 29er hardtail can have equal amounts of fun.....which is a lot.
Thanks for your perspective. I'm sure you could tell better stories than mine about Cliff. Keep up the good work in NY. I will put that on the list.
Originally Posted by sambs827
Flat Pedals, you're right about the status quo. I think it's primarily because of the lack of a population base that it works this way.
Glad you posted this. I was thinking of checking this place out. Now, I think I will hit up some other places instead.
Originally Posted by sambs827
You know I kind of forgot about Parsonsfield while I was home in Oct visiting. Spent most of my time out in Camden at my brother's house and riding the stuff at the Snowbowl. I've actually been quite involved in some of the funding and support of the new trails they are building up there. I highly recommend you get up and check out the new trails this spring. You can read about what is going on here: Rush of adrenaline at Camden Snow Bowl | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
I also spent a couple of days at Kingdom Trails in Vermont. It was over hyped in my opinion. Especially for $15/day. I was unimpressed by how poorly the trails drained and seemed to not take advantage of the elevation. I did love the Tap and Die Trail.
Thanks for sharing your experience at BCE. I do want to ride over there, for free, and see what it is like.Always fun to ride new trails I wish that BCE would take more of the high end approach like Cog Wild in Bend, OR when it comes to their outfit. I paid $650 for 3 days/2nights of riding, beers, meals and lodging with their company. I have NEVER paid anyone to take me mountain biking and I would gladly do it again. I also gave these guys a good tip because the guides thought of everything, were super nice and road hard. They took us on all public, free trails and got us out of 5 hours of riding a day and cold beers in our hands as soon as we got back to the clubhouse each day post ride. No skimping, no pressure on tipping or attitude about varying levels of riders. For those reasons they attract strong riders which makes their tours unique. If you are intermediate or below they will put you with your own guide so you can have fun at your level! :-)
Also, I am interested in Oneonta. Had a buddy that went to Hartwick out there back in the late 90s. Didn't know there was a riding scene out that way. Just not sure when I'll have time to get out there. I will keep it in mind and look over the link you sent. Happy Trails, guys!!!
Originally Posted by SundayRiverRider
Get a crew together for a weekend in Central NY. Get all the perks of professional guidance (me) without the fees. And quite frankly, some damn good trails.
It's weird, I live fairly close by the place. Drive by all the time on the way to Conway area in NH. No experience with the place but always had a "don't bother attitude with it". Which is too bad, because it has great potential. It seems that it currently only sees, his potential. IMHO
Maybe involving the White Mountain NEMBA chapter with the land manager is an idea? Seems like club involvement could unlock potential and boost interest.
Originally Posted by money
BCE is almost an hour drive away from us so unless there are some people who live closer who want to take on a stewardship role that's unlikely to happen. We have lots of local projects going and usually more tools than volunteers.
Originally Posted by Flat Pedals
It looks like Cliff is interviewing for 2013 guides at this link (copied below).
MALE OR FEMALE needed
This is a live-in position with food and private room included.
We are a wide ranging small family of choice operation. We are low on commercialism and high on personal service and aim to please. This is a Salaried position! Paid summer MTB vacation? Begins May 1-20, 2013 (4-6 Mo. position) : Excellent spot for an all round x-country man or woman rider. Need to be outgoing, comfortable with lots of people, self motivated, and have a hard work-fun-loving personality. Solid singletrack riding skills a must. Rubbing elbows with hard core riders or beginners NOT A PROBLEM. Definite Income/adventure/benefits potential : Interested Lets talk: Contact Cliff - email@example.com 207-625-8189
This job is ideal for someone looking for hard work and hard play, probably way more play than work. If you're looking to be out in nature for several months, meet lots of cool great/folks riders and are Able to enjoy and appreciate quiet and some down time then this may work out for you.
This is an ideal for folks interested in outdoor recreation fields and small sustainable business development. If you're looking for big bucks not likely to find it here. But lots of fun, great folks and experience to be gained on running a mountain bike operation
Position start time: Spring 2013 Late April to Mid May) exact start date negotiable.
Job duration: minimum end date(August 24) with possible negotiable extention till Oct 20
Position description: Lead guide and sharing of guide duties along with BCE director on the 30 miles singletrack trail system. Also working along side the director to perform trail maintenance, light housework: inside / outside lodge-setting up accommodations for guests,etc.
We are looking for an outgoing person, easy going flexible and relaxed in social situations, Strong level of experience and familiarity with riding mountain bikes on tight singletrack required. Confidence, A+ biking shape, and excellent bike handling skills very important. Need to be flexible and enjoy riding and hanging out with all skill levels from novice to advanced. Will be working closely on a daily basis with director. Self motivated, self directed folks best suited. This is 4-5 day position with flexible,negotiable hours of work. Would be riding/guiding on most weekends, only some weekdays mainly after June .
Salary - $700-$800 per month cash + tips May likely double your income. Room,food Included, dealer discount rates- bikes,parts,etc
Contact: Cliff: firstname.lastname@example.org 207-625-8189 www.bikebackcountry.com
Having worked for Cliff, I'll say this to anyone who sees his job listing:
If you can deal with people of a wide variety of opinions and can accept not getting to do things your way, then it is a pretty sweet summer gig. The riding was often quite beginner-paced (read: slow) but the clients were almost consistently fun people. They sometimes tried to get around Cliff and me splitting tips 50/50 by pulling me aside and slipping me and extra $20 or some such.
For the record, Cliff did give me the option at the beginning of the summer to go evens on tips all summer or to each keep our own. I opted for the former and it seemed to work out just fine. I also can attest to tips roughly doubling the listed salary of $700-$800/month. That may not sound like much, but keep in mind that you get housed and fed for a summer, as well as wholesale cost on bike parts from the local distributor (DownEast).
Cliff really does need a skilled and fit biker though, since he's getting old (will be 63 soon) and isn't as fast as he thinks he is. Personally, when I pay someone to guide me I want to be tired when we get back from a ride because I want my fitness and skill to be the limiting factor, not my guide's.
I rode there late this past summer. The trails are pretty good. They don't seem to get a lot of use other than by Cliff and his groups. None are marked, probably because Cliff wants it that way. No trailhead to park at. The few stunts there are were in good condition but rudimentary. They're not the best trails around but they're not crap either. If you want to ride them you'd probably have to arrange it through Cliff. If you're in the area and looking for an afternoon ride, I'd recommend it.
If I understand it right the trails are on private land, and Cliff and a few other groups have purchased the recreation rights to that land. The price was high, and Cliff is trying to recapture it through user fees, that's why he doesn't like people poaching the trails.
Hmm...if the land is open to the public, folks ougth to Strava segment that system so others can ride it. I am from that area and had a good time there, but jeesh...this situation seems a bit nutty to me.
No, that's not the case and riding there is certainly not "poaching" except in Cliff's eyes. He makes his living charging people to ride on public land.
Originally Posted by Blue Sugar
The conservation easement was purchased through funds contributed by The Nature Conservancy, State of Maine and many other sources, but Cliff did not purchase recreational rights. He just built many of the trails (without authorization according to the land manager) before the easement was in effect and considers them *his* trails. I have a copy of the easement and spoke with the land managers after one harassment episode. There is an excellent parking area but out of respect for Cliff's business I am not going to post the location. It's not hard to find.
More info on the Leavitt Plantation is here and here. I don't believe there is anywhere near 80 miles of trails there. Unless you ride all the dirt roads multiple times.
Originally Posted by indyfab25
i would have this summer if I didn't have a dumbphone. But even with Strava, the canopy in most places is so thick that you could be off by as much as 15 meters. Which on those trails is enough to not see the trailhead at all.
You're right though, the situation is about as nutty as a hippy's granola.
I was going by what Cliff told me. I stand corrected.
Originally Posted by radair
Back Country Excursions
I am familiar with Back Country Excursions and the Leavitt Plantation. You have to realize that Cliff, the owner of BCE, was one of the key players in keeping the 8,800 acre parcel from being broken up and developed. Anyone can freely ride, hike, snowshoe, etc. in the Plantation thanks to a recreational easement and there are many fire roads to follow. Over the years Cliff has developed some 30+ miles of single track for the enjoyment of mountain bikers. As anyone who has worked with Cliff knows, maintenance of the trails takes a tremendous amount of work. Without constant maintenance the trails would disappear in a couple of years.
BCE is unique. It is not a club with many members, but a business that operates on private land. Cliff has developed a great system of trails for his small sustainable business. This is how he makes his living. As with all businesses, if you use their services, you are expected to pay. The trails are not marked for good reasons. It helps keep ATVís and motor bikes from finding the trails and ruining them. And it is only fair that anyone who puts that much time and effort into insuring safe and flowing trails should be compensated. Lastly, with a guide the trails are far more enjoyable since you donít have to hunt around for them.
BCE is a business, but Cliff is happy to allow anyone to ride his trails freely if that person makes a long-term commitment to help him maintain the trails.
I've been following, unfortunately,only recently noticed regional board , some of the posted stuff on regional MTBR. Sorry that you've been turned off to the ride here. If you ever get reinterested I'd be happy to take you out, free of charge or if you think that it was worth having a guide show you some of the terrain you can throw a few bucks our way.
Yea it is a wacky situation, certainly not what most folks have gotten used to for public access. I've tried to mainstream this place over 22 years of operations here, but I've found that it cannot be done. A couple of reasons why: biggest one- there's really no local population that rides. Closest rider population is an hour or more away so that leaves my passion for trails and riding up mainly to me and the very few that have joined up for the long term "ride". for the low impact and sustainable fun .
This is a really dense forested region and maintenance each spring is a must or ...forget finding trails, the tight singletrack disappears fast. There are also many fire roads and I hate to see all the dirt bikes and atv's abuse the inner trails and so would the single land owner too. mainly for that reason it remains unmarked. Anyhow I'll be posting trail cleanup weekend in April and if you can get away for a day, we usually get at least one good ride in and several hours of trail restoration. Numerous rustic bridges to maintain too.
If you're in the area anytime hit me up ahead and I can arrange my schedule to take you out. You might want to mention about the MTBR stuff so I'm reminded.
Of course trails are always accessible. I'm always looking for locals, folks that can appreciate what is here, the unusual disposition of the land, and the possibility of joining all the fun by making a more regular comittment. There really is not any good map but I've developed a crude one that my customers or fellow regular compadres can access. The other issue, seems to be the big lack of help and everywhere you go: Lots of folks want to ride but few want to do much grunt work.
BackCountry Excursions Guide Job 2013 - Now Filled. Thanks for the post!
I went up to BCE twice last summer. The first time was for the annual Brewfest in August, and the second was for Columbus Day weekend in October. I thought the trails were really fun, the people were AWESOME, and there was a nice ratio of beginner/intermediate/advanced trails. Since Cliff started advertising through Groupon and Social Living, he's been getting a high number of beginner riders, which admittedly can make it tough to split up into groups and be a bit frustrating for more advanced riders. I am pretty sure he was able to split them up so that everyone had a good time, though. The remedy for that, would be to make sure you have 4 or 5 buddies at your level to come with you when you go, so that you can form your own group and have someone take you out.
Here's the way I see it: If you spend a weekend at BCE, the rates Cliff charges are akin to what you would spend for a weekend at Kingdom Trails, or any other "destination" trail system, if you were to stay at one of the local B&B's or inns. While the trails themselves are probably not "destination" trails, the entire weekend experience at BCE is. I met some really wonderful people up there and I had an amazing time. It's a combination of everything: the people, the trails, the rides, the hanging out afterwards, the food, the beer, etc. That is what you are getting out of this.
As for paying for a day pass/guided tour, I've had to do that at a number of places, mainly in VT, at least for the trail pass. This was the first guided tour I ever paid for, but IMO, if I'm spending a day or two riding a trail system I'm not familiar with, it's really nice to have someone there to show me the ins and outs so I'm not stopping at every intersection and pulling out a map, trying to figure out where I am and where I want to go, and wasting 5-10 minutes for each stop. I know part of the fun of mtb'ing is exploration and getting lost, but when I have limited time to ride, I'd rather not deal with it. I also know the money goes toward trail maintenance and upkeep, so I'm happy to pay it. As someone (or a few people) have already mentioned, it's hard enough to motivate people to do trailwork in well-populated areas, let alone a place as remote as BCE. I see my money as an investment for somewhere I can only visit once or twice a year, or maybe once or twice in a lifetime, for someone else to keep it "nice and pretty" for me to ride when I get there.
Anyway, that's just my take on the situation. I know not everyone sees it in the same light, and that's fine, too. I just think there's more to take into consideration here than appears on the surface.
I've been going to Back Country for the past 7 years, at first as a guest and more recently as a volunteer guide. I have to agree with mudgirl's thoughts on BCE being a destination. The trails are good and fun but on their own, nothing you couldn't find at countless other places all over the northeast. The experience is in the guiding, the local knowledge, the friendships created and the good times had after the rides are done. I've made some wonderful friends there over the years and I'll keep going back for many reasons, riding is just a small part of it. Cliff has put his heart and soul into those trails and save for a few weekends a year and what help he can muster from volunteers and guests, he is solely responsible for designing, building and maintaining those trails. I can completely understand why he gets upset at other people using the trails there without stopping in and at least giving him the courtesy of a "Hello". You wouldn't dream of going up to Kingdom Trails and riding there without a pass, why would you do that at Cliff's?
Irrelevant. Destination locale, certainly not destination caliber riding.
Agree. The key difference between these trails and KT is that these trails are on public land, not private. It would be different if Cliffy had permission from private landowners, but he doesn't. The public can use the land and these trails, and nobody should have an attitude about what is "theirs" regardless of who built them.