Switching Gears
August 10, 2016

I did not build the Green Mountain Trails

By Matt Baatz
PITTSFIELD—I did not build the Green Mountain Trails. For the longest time I wanted to go on public record with that statement dispelling this absurd rumor. I’m not sure when or how it started, but I know it’s out there and I’m starting a campaign to end it.
As any trailbuilder knows, it would be a John Henryesque task of futility to dig through 25 miles of rugged terrain solo, and probably put me in traction for the rest of my life. Besides, the real story is much more interesting and as quirky as the trail system itself.
The summer before I arrived, a swim team who came from Illinois lived on blue cots in stalls made from canvas sails on the top floor of the Amee Barn. They subsisted on sandwiches from The General Store and a dollar a day wage. They rode in and out of the trails on barely functioning mountain bikes sporting bank logos and helped build the trails.
Before them, there was a retiree who loved manual labor so much, that he would do it unbidden for at least 10 hours a day. If you search diligently enough, you can find a video of him competing in one of the earliest Death Races in dress pants. He would spend so many hours grooming the trails that he earned the nickname, “The Rake.” He wore his tool down to the nubs.
There was a woman I never met named Moe who lived in The Peck House, so called because it was renovated from an old Amee Farm chicken coop. I have no idea what happened to her, but I’d like to swap stories one day. Of course, there was Jason Hayden. who spearheaded the original Pittsfield classics, and, as his wife April describes, was always out working on them.
Then there was Charlie Bowen, Charlton Heston on an excavator, who probably hasn’t stepped foot into a bike shop in 30 years, but could tie his shoes with the mini-ex bucket. Everything that was machine built, which is a good portion of the trails, was dug by him. There were the incredible locals, the O’Briens (so frequently and to this day), Ed Sandbourne, the Zieglers, Tony Sudol, the Mockuses and everyone else who will have to forgive my absent-mindedness.
And also, as any trailbuilder knows, a surprising amount of trail is at least partially built by deer, moose, bygone loggers, riders finding their flow, and erosive forces. Irene rebuilt a significant amount of trail, and not necessarily for the worse. So what did I do? I worked very hard for seven years trying to preserve the spirit of something unique and wonderful. It’s the best job ever.

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