Natural Recreation: Back Country Excursions

Lumpy Gravy, Knuckle Buster and Moose Nuggets are some of the trails that accompany the terrain at Back County Excursions. It is the Eastern U.S.'s longest running commercial cross country mountain bike center, located in Parsonsfield, Maine. Cliff Krolick founded Back Country Excursions (BCE) in 1991 with humble beginnings and a desire to "help people see the beauty in nature." The philosophy is simple; he wants to expose people to the beautiful areas in Maine so that "they will understand how valuable the land is and want to protect it." Cliff's mountain biking enterprise started out of a small shed that he inhabited after purchasing a 10-acre plot of land. His first real home in Maine was a yurt, which still stands today.

Despite the romantic woodsy-setting and rustic atmosphere, Back Country Excursions is not a B&B. Guests planning to stay for a multi-day mountain bike trip have the option of pitching a tent, sleeping in the yurt, or staying in the main lodge. People come to BCE because they want to ride, not hang out. Cliff has been working with the general public for over 20 years, developing a keen eye for instruction. His background in psychology doesn't hurt either. Cliff prides himself on being able to "vastly improve a mountain biker's skill in a short amount of time." In addition to leading trips for the general public, BCE has experience training cadets from West Point Academy, offering teen mountain bike camps, and facilitating trips for kids from the Community Bicycle Center in Biddeford.

I've always been amazed by the consistency of the trail conditions at BCE. Maine is overrun with some hidden, and not so hidden, pockets of mountain bike trails. But BCE stands out as having some of the best kept and driest trail networks that I've ever had the pleasure of riding. After raining for over a week, I showed up to ride. While other trail systems were muddy and washed out, the BCE trails were dry beyond logic. This is due to the unique land forms in the area, which allow for maximum draining. So, while ripping up and down the natural half-pipe at sickening speeds, crossing one of the many log bridges, or practicing your stunts on the Rock-N-Log Palace trail, you can focus on riding, instead of trail maintenance. And as far as the trail naming rituals go, Cliff didn't elaborate when asked. He only said there was a campfire and beer involved.

Everything about BCE aligns with Cliff's underlying intention to respect and protect Maine's natural assets. He builds and maintains low-impact trails using concepts learned from the environmental stewardship program at Tufts University. He employs solar hot water and hot air systems to heat and cool his structures (with plans for micro-hydro power), and used lumber cleared from his own land to hand-build the lodge and his home. If that isn't enough, a percentage of BCE's annual revenue is donated to Parsonsfield's recycling and green development efforts.

BCE states it best: "We have a unique model to be able to provide a lot of land, give people great riding, and it's at minimal cost and impact—that's what we're all about."

Editor's Notes

Parsonsfield, Maine:Located in the Maine beaches region of the state, Parsonsfield is a quality area for all outdoor recreation. The surrounding land is exceptional for exploring, as it provides uninterrupted landscapes that are not heavily traveled.

Back Country Excursions (BCE): Back Country Excursions specializes in guided biking and mountain biking tours. With 26 miles of trails on private land, BCE caters to all skill levels and offers many options for visitors. Guests can ride by the hour, day, weekend or more. They also supply equipment rentals with opportunities to design your own adventures. It was named "one of the top mountain biking vacation destinations" by Mountain Bike Action Magazine.

Community Bicycle Center: Located in Biddeford, the Community Bicycle Center is a non-profit organization based on serving the youth through biking. It provides a positive and encouraging environment to foster healthy experiences for children. The programs are free and run year-round, six days a week. And even more programs are offered in the summer.

Sustenance Stops:

Bray's Brew Pub & Eatery, Naples: In a Victorian farmhouse, in the heart of the lakes region, Bray's Brew Pub & Eatery has been serving great food and handcrafted ales since 1995. They feature a hearty lunch and dinner menu and an outdoor beer garden.

Krista's Restaurant, Cornish Village: Located in downtown Cornish Village, Krista's restaurant offers a great selection of fresh home-cooked foods, local specialties and seasonal Maine craft beers on draft.

Fun Farms:

You can pick your own apples at Apple Acres Farm or challenge yourself in the apple maze. Or visit Oak Hill Farms for Maple syrup and herbal teas.

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