The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 17, 2014

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On Foot or Wheels Pine Hill Park

Sadly, the ski season is over. I know I may be in the minority expressing a thought like that, but I am not an avid mountain biker. The snow is gone and now the rain is our favorite thing to complain about whenever good conversation wanes. For all of us that just spent the last six months under the influence of skiing and riding bliss, the spring brings about a change in daily sport and a shift of gears in our daily athletic output. I have spent some time in the saddle of a mountain bike at Pine Hill, but I do not feel the excitement that I see in the eyes of the riders that spend time on the Pine Hill Park trail system. Luckily, there is more than just great single track for riding at Pine Hill.

Pine Hill Park is nestled in a quiet corner of the city of Rutland. Its trailhead begins in the Giorgetti Athletic Complex. The Park is about 300 acres large, with a manicured single track that loops and climbs and races downhill for 16 miles. The Park is open to walkers and runners, and hikers as well. And yes, when the snow returns, snowshoeing. Most often during the spring and summer, I am in the category of hikers. I bring my dog Sunny with me and walk around the designated hiking trails. Dogs must be in control at all times at the Park, but they are very welcome to be there. But don't forget to pack out what you pack in. That goes for your dog, too.

The hiking trails are the first set of trails you come to as soon as you begin walking up the trail head. As you are crossings the first wooden bridge of the day, a huge glacial drop stone captures all of your attention to your right, and it is aptly called Elephant Rock. This is where the hiking trails begin. There are three loop trails that are near impossible to be lost on. The Lower, Middle, and Upper Giorgetti Loop trails keep you tramping through the shade with trees all around. A good place to stroll with your favorite pet or run some laps. Beyond the enormous Elephant Rock, you may choose to follow the Escalator Trail on your bike, and then the choices become many.

Some trails are bike or pedestrian use only. Be sure of where you are, and of course be courteous to each other whether you are on two feet or two wheels. The Park has plenty of acres for everyone. Once you are peddling up into the larger park area, the single track provides as much fun and challenge as you can make for yourself. There are trails with names like The Sore Elbow and Droopy Muffin. There is the Stegosaurus and Upper and Lower Ledges Trail. You can spin your way straight up the Pond Road which will take you to Rocky Pond, or take as many trails as you want to put together to reach the same objective. Rocky Pond is a great place to take a break and grab a snack. A good size pond to sit next to in the sun.

Besides the well maintained single track, there are a number of beautiful wooden bridges that have been constructed along the way. There is the 100 foot suspension bridge on Overlook Trail and the hourglass bridge on Stegosaurus. There are more bridges that seem to come out of nowhere on the trail. Just when you thought that the single track was in good shape, you get to ride for a smooth moment or two across a wooden bridge.

Rocky Pond is not the only destination to be achieved at the park. There is the summit view on Droopy Muffin, and the 1920's rock quarry in the northeast corner of the Park. Like I said, there is more than just mountain biking to be enjoyed. Here and there along the trail there are places to get a view of Rutland that you can't get anywhere else. Even a bench or two to sit and enjoy it.

At the trail head, housed in the Giorgetti Athletic Complex, resides the bike shop. Doug Earle is the manager, bike maintenance, and rental guy. He does it all. It is the second season of the bike shop and Doug says that the shop "has everything you need to fix your bike on the spot to get you right back out on the trail." Doug was fixing a tire while I talked with him. Besides replacement parts, there were biking pants and shirts for sale. New brake pads, water bottles, trail maps, you name it. A small shop with all you need. There are also hard tail rental bikes. These are bikes with front suspension. Helmets are also available for rent. The shop is open Wednesday thru Friday, 12:00-6:00, and Saturday and Sunday, 9:00-4:00.

Of course the Park could not be in the beautiful shape that it is in without the volunteers to maintain it. This building and maintenance of the Park is completed by the Pine Hill Partnership. It is a non-profit organization formed to steward the 300 acre park. Through the cooperation of the Rutland Recreation Department, the Partnership coordinates with various local businesses, individuals, schools, and organizations, to maintain the Park that they all put together with hard labor from an all volunteer work force. And they are not done yet. Pine Hill is always getting bigger and better. There is an ongoing effort to work with local land owners to expand the Park to make even more miles of single track. And presently construction is being done on a wooden "berm" on the Underdog Trail. Think of a high-banked corner that you can get up nice and high on with the right amount of speed.

You do not need to be a five day a week rider to enjoy Pine Hill Park, but if you are, then you can capture some daily riding bliss at the Park. As soon as the sun comes up, you can peddle up the trail past the flower laden Pine Hill Park sign that indicates the trail head. Spin right under the vintage bicycle that resides at the top of a very large tree stump, and make your way onto 16 miles of trail right in Rutland's back yard.

Rutland has not always been known as a mountain biking destination, but Pine Hill Park is changing that idea with every year as the park gets bigger and better. Load up your bike or good running or hiking shoes and get to know the trails at Pine Hill.

The Park is open from dawn to dusk. For more information about the Pine Hill Park got to: pinehillpark.org.

Tagged: rutland, mountain biking, Pine Hill Park