Outdoor Adventures: Mountain Biking, Disc Golf and Yoga by the Lake
Words and photos courtesy of Seven Days
By Ken Picard & Carolyn Fox
Slate Valley Trails
Endless Brook, 975 Endless Brook Rd., Poultney (across from the Lewis Deane Nature Preserve)
Fairgrounds, 131 Town Farm Rd., Poultney
For mountain bikers living in northern Vermont, it's easy to fall into a rut of pedaling the same logging roads and single tracks week after week. But riders looking to broaden their off-road horizons should consider a trip to southwestern Vermont. At Slate Valley Trails in Poultney, everyone from beginners to seasoned dirt junkies can find miles of new multiuse trails to shred.
In August, Slate Valley Trails, a nonprofit chapter of the Vermont Mountain Biking Association, opened a new connector linking two popular mountain bike networks: Endless Brook and Fairgrounds. Together, the combined network offers 40 miles of off-road single- and double-track trails, all of it free and open to the public.
Andy Vermilyea, president of Slate Valley Trails, said the trails "offer something for everybody." Beginner and youth riders often do laps on a trail called Bumper Cars, which is about a mile long and includes fun wooden features such as teeter-totters, small jumps and balance beams.
Slate Valley Trails, photo courtesy of Chuck Helfer/Slate Valley TrailsFor intermediate riders, Vermilyea suggested Merry-Go-Round and Cotton Candy, both of which are slow trails with banked turns through the woods. More experienced cyclists can ride up Big Top or Carney, which climb to impressive vistas, including one overlooking Lake St. Catherine.
Both Endless Brook and Fairgrounds also offer one-way downhill runs for "people who really want something a little more gnarly." Their advanced trails — Freefall and Hunker Down, respectively — include what Vermilyea calls a "mandatory drop": Riders will get airborne, whether they want to or not. Akin to double-black-diamond slopes, both trails are for expert riders only.
Nearly all of Slate Valley Trails are two-directional and multiuse, meaning that mountain bikers must yield to other users. Before you go, check the website for downloadable trail maps and upcoming events.
Green Mountain Trails, 4276 Route 100, Pittsfield
Pine Hill Park, 2 Oak St. Ext., Rutland
Saxon Hill Bike Trail, 35-55 Thompson Dr., Essex Junction
Center Chains Disc Golf Course, 116 Maple St., Waterbury Center
Smugglers' Notch Disc Golf and Outdoor Center, 1239 Edwards Rd., Jeffersonville
Quarries Disc Golf Course, 44 Brook St., Websterville
There was a time when disc golf — aka Frisbee golf or hippie golf — was belittled as an excuse for hipsters to take meandering walks in the woods in search of places to get high. Today, Vermont disc golf enthusiasts play in weekly leagues, compete in bimonthly tournaments and even teach it in high school physical education classes. And amid a pandemic, social distancing is a breeze when you're chucking discs through fields and wooded mountainsides.
Disc golf, photo courtesy of John JamesVermont has about 50 disc golf courses to choose from, according to Chris Young, owner of Disc Golf Vermont. They range from small, nine-hole public courses, such as those at Charlotte Beach and Pearl Street Park in Essex Junction, to Brewster Ridge at Smugglers' Notch Resort. The latter is one of the top-10 pro tour disc courses in the U.S. and hosts the annual Discraft Green Mountain National Championship each September.
Among Vermont's oldest and most popular courses is Center Chains in Waterbury Center, a free, 18-hole public course encompassing 18 acres of woods and open meadows, with elevated tees and nice mountain views. It hosts a robust doubles league on Monday evenings.
Looking for a more unusual place to play? Young suggests Quarries Disc Golf Course in Websterville, where players must tee off across an open rock quarry on the fourth hole. Having played hundreds of courses nationwide, Young called it "super unique."
Check course websites, when available, for tee times, fees, and rules about pets and alcohol, as some don't allow either. And whatever you do, don't call the sport "Frolf."
Black Falls DGC, 2356 Black Falls Rd., Montgomery Center
North Calais DGC, North Calais
Bolton Valley Resort, 4302 Bolton Valley Access Rd., Bolton Valley
Yoga by the Lake
Sangha Studio, outdoor classes at Battery Park and Waterfront Park in Burlington
When the pandemic began and Burlington's Sangha Studio took its yoga classes online, instructors started seeing attendance rise. Sometimes as many as 80 people would livestream a virtual session, seeking grounding meditation and soothing breath work during uncertain times, said Caitlin Pascucci, founder and executive director of the nonprofit, donation-based center.
Over the past five rocky months, "The purpose behind teaching has really changed," said Pascucci. "It is so much more about: Let's have a routine. Let's come back to our breath, using our yoga practice to calm what is really anxiety and unknowing."
When the weather warmed, Sangha added 20-person outdoor yoga classes at Burlington's Battery and Waterfront parks. It plans to continue them for as long as weather and state guidelines permit. The physically distanced sessions provide beautiful scenery for your practice — Lake Champlain's soft blue waves and gently dancing leaves in the wind. And "there's an energy that comes with being with people," said Pascucci. "There are people that are really wanting human connection."
Focused on safety and accessibility, Sangha outlines class protocol in detail on its website. Preregistration is required, along with mask wearing until you're on your mat. Mat spaces are measured out and marked with blue flags in advance, and folks who need mats can request to borrow one ahead of time. That's just one of the barriers to yoga practice that Sangha is trying to eliminate.
Additionally, the studio recommends a few "tips and tricks for a successful outdoor yoga class" — including bringing water, slathering up with sunscreen and peeing before class. Because, no matter how stunning the setting, you can't flow when you have to go!
Evolution Physical Therapy + Yoga, outdoor classes at the Community Sailing Center, Oakledge Park and Smalley Park in Burlington
Laughing River Yoga, outdoor classes at the Burlington Surf Club
Hot Yoga Burlington VT, outdoor classes at Waterfront Park and Gardener's Supply/Burlington Intervale
About the series
This series, a partnership between Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Seven Days, will run weekly through mid-October, presenting curated excursions in every corner of Vermont. The idea is to highlight the state's restaurants, retailers, attractions and outdoor adventures so Vermonters and visitors alike can plan safe, local trips and discover new corners of the state. Happy traveling, and stay safe.