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Outdoor Adventures

Outdoor Adventures: New trail network opens along popular Kanc

The Albany Town Forest’s Swift River Trail serves up some fine  views captured from the seat of a mountain bike. (Marty Basch photo)

The Albany Town Forest’s Swift River Trail serves up some fine views captured from the seat of a mountain bike. (Marty Basch photo)

The meandering Kancamagus Highway is a wiggling slice of outdoor heaven with its myriad hiking trails, campgrounds, vistas and even a surprise like a high school ski jump.

But now there’s a new network of multi-use trails on the east end of Route 112 built and maintained by mountain bikers, including a wondrous stretch along the rocky Swift River.

And, surprise, the trails are surrounded by the incredible White Mountain National Forest but technically aren’t a part of its immense acreage.

Talk about location and the right neighborhood.

The estimated four miles of trails for mountain biking, trail running, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are part of the 300-acre Albany Town Forest, which extends into Conway.

Under the umbrella of the Albany Conservation Commission, the White Mountains chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association was asked to map and maintain the trails.

“The trails are fun and great for families and kids,” chapter president Rob Adair said. “There are no big elevation gains.”

There’s a trailhead with parking and a kiosk on the Kanc about seven-tenths of a mile west of the Route 16 traffic lights in Conway.

The trails showcase an assortment of beginner to intermediate terrain like sinuous single track, grassy paths and wide and buffed ways – Trestle Trail, Davis Farm Trail, Railroad Wye Trail, Crossover Trail and exhilarating Swift River Trail. Think of much of the blue-blazed network as being on the harder side of easy.

The network is behind the Kennett Middle School with its scenic mountain views and adjacent to Hubbell Memorial Field (there’s a kiosk there too) – the club site for the Mount Washington Valley Radio Control Flying Club.

That’s the beauty of bicycling. It takes you to familiar places seen anew. A sign at the field tells how on the site from 1945-1957, Henry S. “Hank” Hubbell Jr., a former U.S. Navy aviator, operated a CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration) approved flying school, training some 3,000 men and women to fly. The facility had the first radio control tower and the first scheduled airline service in the state. Prices were a tad lower for flying back in Hubbell’s day. A roundtrip ticket to Boston was $18.62 and Portland a mere $8.60.

Who knew?

Let’s get to it.

The exciting Swift, with its single track, surprising s-turns, berms, curves, figure eight shape and scenic spots, has some fun biking and fine river views. For a killer money shot and snacking place with a few log stumps for sitting, find the junction of the Swift River and Crossover Trails and contemplate the glory of the river and beyond.

“I really like the trail along the Swift,” emailed ACC member Cort Hanson. “I thought the eastern end was very nice but once we finished the western end this summer I think it is even nicer. Once the leaves drop the views get even better.”

The gentle Davis Farm Trail is a nice connecting pathway between the two kiosks. The Railroad Wye Trail is a nicely wide and benign trail, while the Crossover allows access to the Swift River Trail from the Kanc entrance. The Trestle Trail contains a mowed section and showcases a look at the Swift River and trestle over the train tracks behind the school.

The Swift River Trail contains a number of scenic outlooks, a split granite slab, old fire rings and even an easy-to-miss picnic table. No fires or camping are allowed in the forest. The western section is quite the ride with its winding terrain.

The network is volunteer constructed and conserved – and there was some grant money from the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and donated labor by the Albany Conservation Commission – so there is still some work to be done.

Hanson wrote that the White Mountains NEMBA chapter has also been key in assisting with work on the western end of the network in particular.

“We would never have been as far or as well done as we are now without their labor,” he wrote.

More information will go up at the kiosks. Brochures and maps are planned. Small laminated maps at key trail intersections may appear. There might even be some interpretive displays detailing the property’s history.

But for now, it’s a new way to wind along the curving Swift during the Indian summer days of fall.

(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)

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