Day 1 – Skowhegan to Pittsfield – September 10
“And they’re off!”
The BikeMaine 2017 route begins along the Kennebec River, following it out of Skowhegan, then travels along back country roads to Canaan, Burnham, and Unity. After circling Unity Pond, the route traces Beaver Brook north, crosses the Sebasticook River, and takes riders into Pittsfield to the BikeMaine Village in tranquil Manson Park.
The town of Pittsfield was known as Plymouth Gore, Sebasticook Plantation, and Warsaw, before being named after William Pitts of Boston in 1824. The rich land provided ample opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping and growing crops. The Sebasticook River offered waterpower for a sawmill and gristmill, and soon new shops opened that attracted new businesses. The arrival of the railroad in 1855 spurred the town’s growth as a manufacturing center. Woodworking plants and a canning factory were established. The first woolen mill in Pittsfield opened in 1869, and at one time Pittsfield had the largest woolen mill in the State. In 1868, Isaac H. Lancey built a hotel that welcomed guests from all over the world. The Lancey House made Pittsfield a tourist destination, and the Lancey name became synonymous with gracious living in “your home away from home.”
Today, Pittsfield is home to Cianbro, one of the United States’ largest 100% employee owned construction companies, operating in over 40 states and employing 4,000 people. The town is strategically located along an interstate highway, has an airport, regional hospital, four financial institutions, and close to 200 businesses. Maine Central Institute, a well-known, private secondary school serving as the town’s high school, houses the nationally known Bossov Ballet Theater. The town has extensive recreation facilities, including a ski slope, 9-hole golf course, public swimming pool, trail system, and the 45 acre in-town Manson Park, which will be home to the BikeMaine Village.
Each July, Pittsfield hosts the Central Maine Egg Festival, featuring one of the largest frying pans in the world.
Day 2 – Pittsfield to Kingfield – September 11
The route traverses Maine’s heartland, with its rolling hills and rich farmland. In Solon, the route crosses the Kennebec River near Caratunk Falls, where the Continental Army, led by Benedict Arnold, passed in 1775 on its way to attack Quebec City in support of the American Revolutionary War. Later in the day, the route climbs into the foothills of the High Peaks, earning riders the visual reward of the magnificent 4,000 footers along the horizon, before descending into Kingfield to the evening stop at Mountain Village Farm.
Kingfield is at the southern terminus of the Maine High Peaks Scenic Byway, and is the gateway to the High Peaks region, home to 10 of Maine’s 4,000-foot mountains. The first white men recorded to have visited the area did so in 1805. They returned in 1806 with their families and formed a settlement, which subsequently was named Kingfield in honor of the landowner, William King, who went on to become the first governor of Maine. Kingfield’s proximity to the Carrabassett River with its dependable waterpower enabled the town to become a mill town centered on the wood products industry and manufacturing. The completion of the Dead River and Kingfield Railroad in 1884 further contributed to the town’s growth. By the nineteenth century, there were several stores in town, at least one shoemaker, a resident physician, several mills, a tannery, and a rake factory. Kingfield’s population of 1000 people has remained fairly constant since that time.
Kingfield has 4 manufacturing factories, including a Nestlé Waters Poland Spring Bottling Plant, and over 80 businesses, restaurants, and shops. Kingfield is home to the Ski Museum of Maine and the Stanley Museum, which pays homage to hometown notables, the Stanley Brothers, famous for their invention of the ruggedly durable Stanley Steamer engine and automobiles. Annual cultural events include the summer Kingfield POPS concert, featuring the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, and the Kingfield Festival Days. The Kingfield Art Walk takes place on the first Friday of September through the first Friday of April. It is one of the only winter art walks of its kind and boasts a variety of exhibits, mediums and food samplings. A horse-drawn carriage transports attendees to each destination, highlighting the charm and history of each venue.
The BikeMaine Village will be on property owned by the Mountain Village Farm B&B and Poland Spring, and affords a beautiful view of the High Peaks.
Day 3 – Kingfield to Rangeley – September 12
Day 4 – Layover Day in Rangeley – September 13
Today’s route circles Maine’s High Peaks, paralleling the Carrabassett River through Carrabassett Valley, home to Maine’s third tallest peak, Sugarloaf Mountain, then climbs to the top of Bigelow pass, crossing the Appalachian Trail between Crocker Mountain and the Bigelow Range. North of Stratton, the route provides beautiful views of both the North and South branches of the Dead River as they flow into Flagstaff Lake. The route reverses in Eustis, but not until riders have a chance to cycle by the stately old growth Red Pine forest at Cathedral Pines. Heading south, the route turns west, along “Moose Alley” through Langtown Mill, into Rangeley, ending along the shores of Rangeley Lake.
Rangeley is at the center of the Rangeley Lakes Region, a resort area that includes the villages of Oquossoc, Haines Landing and South Rangeley. The area initially was inhabited by 5 different Native American tribes, who had the land exclusively to themselves until 1810. The area was first settled by a white person in the spring of 1817, when Luther Hoar of Phillips and his wife and 8 children snowshoed 26 miles, towing all their possessions on sleds, to homestead on a plot of land near what is now called Rangeley Lake. The following year, two other families settled nearby.
The town was named after James Rangeley, Jr., who inherited the land from his father and moved to the region in 1825. The town was a small but thriving farm community with a developing trade in lumber, when townsmen began catching brook trout weighing more than 8 pounds at the confluence of the Rangeley and Kennebago Rivers. News quickly spread, and sport fishermen from Rhode Island and New York City began traveling to Rangeley to try their luck. Soon anglers and their families were coming from throughout the United States and beyond to fish, hunt and recreate in the region. Numerous grand hotels and sporting camps, two railroads, and private “cottages” were built. Steamships plied the waters of the lakes and Rangeley became an “Outdoor Mecca” for the multitudes looking to escape America’s summertime urban areas.
Rangeley continues to be a very popular four-season destination for outdoor-minded tourists seeking clean air, abundant wildlife, and beautiful lakes and mountains, and is the perfect town to host our layover. We’ll be camping in the town park, located on the shore of Rangeley Lake, right off of Main Street. With the many options for touring the area by boat, kayak or airplane, fishing, hiking, shopping, golfing, and visiting museums and restaurants, there will be little time to rest!
Day 5 – Rangeley to Hartford – September 14
Today’s route is the longest of the week, taking riders south along the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway to picturesque Small Falls, once again crossing the Appalachian Trail, followed by a multi-mile gentle descent out of the High Peaks. From Phillips, the route heads towards Weld, where it circles the west side of Webb Pond and passes by Mount Blue State Park. The route flattens out through Carthage and Dixfield and along the Androscoggin River, then climbs around Worthley Pond into Hartford, to Camp Wekeela, an impressive summer camp on Little Bear Pond.
Camp Wekeela, Hartford:
Camp night is back! Located in the small rural town of Hartford is Camp Wekeela, a private summer camp on Little Bear Pond, where BikeMaine will spend the night. First started as a girls camp in 1922, Camp Wekeela has become one of the finest coed traditional summer camps for children and teens in the country.
Camp Wekeela spreads across sixty acres, with an impressive array of recreational facilities, including tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, basketball courts, hockey rink, lacrosse fields, beach volleyball court, climbing tower, natural rock climbing wall, zip-line, high and low ropes course, gymnastics pavilion, dance center, weight room, and a large waterfront for swimming, water-skiing, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, fishing, and scuba diving. The camp has 23 rustic cabins, all with indoor bathrooms and showers, and a new dining room for 400 people that will be opening this season. Generations of campers have come from all over the world to participate in the Wekeela traditions, and now it is BikeMaine’s turn.
Day 6 – Hartford to Farmington – September 15
Upon leaving Camp Wekeela, the route circles Bear Pond and heads south to Turner Center, where it passes Androscoggin Riverlands State Park and crosses the Androscoggin River. In West Leeds, the route follows River Road for several miles before veering east. After going through Twelve Corners, the route passes Mosher Pond, Norcross Pond and the Chesterville Esker. It then cuts across Chesterville and North Chesterville and into Farmington, ending at Prescott Field.
Farmington has long been a regional center for manufacturing, trade and agriculture. Once the territory of the Abenaki Indians, the land around Farmington Falls on the Sandy River was first settled in 1781 by a group of people from Topsham. The land proved to be ideally suited for faming and agriculture, and the plantation was incorporated as the town of Farmington in 1794. The town’s dependable waterpower attracted industry and Farmington became one of the largest wool producing towns in New England. It was designated county seat when Franklin County was formed in 1838. Two railroads, the Androscoggin Railroad and the narrow gauge Sandy River Railroad, connected Farmington to the outside world, carrying freight and tourists to and from the town. Farmington suffered a devastating fire in 1886, when 33 houses, 19 stores, 3 churches, the county jail and the post office were destroyed, but its infrastructure and businesses allowed it to rebuild and recover.
Notable town residents over the years include Chester Greenwood, inventor of earmuffs and five other patented inventions; Lillian Nordica, world famous opera singer of the early twentieth century; and Supply Belcher, accomplished violinist and composer of the nineteenth century known as the “Handel of Maine.”
Today Farmington is a college town, home to the University of Maine Farmington. BikeMaine will stay on the school’s well-tended Prescott Fields, located a block away from the town’s bustling downtown. Farmington’s many amenities include the Emery Arts Center, Nordica Homestead Museum, Farmington Historical Society, Farmington Fairgrounds, Titcomb Mountain Ski Area, and numerous hiking and biking trails. Each year, the first Saturday in December is celebrated as Chester Greenwood Day and includes a big parade.
“Following the Kennebec home”
The last morning of BikeMaine 2017 begins with a series of climbs to the town of Industry, followed by welcome descents into Anson. The route cuts north to the Carrabassett River and the spectacular North Anson Gorge, then into Embden and across the Kennebec River to Solon. The route follows the Kennebec River south for several miles, before turning east towards Skowhegan, ending at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds where a farewell luncheon awaits.
Skowhegan, the Abenaki word meaning “watching place [for fish],” was named because of the abundance of salmon that once swam up the falls on the Kennebec River. The Kennebec has always been Skowhegan’s lifeblood and was a primary reason this particular site was chosen when the first permanent European settlement in the area was established in 1771. Farms produced hay, potatoes, wheat and wool. In 1818, the Somerset Central Agricultural Society formed to organize a fair to improve the breeding of horses and cattle. The Skowhegan State Fair has been held annually since that time, making it the oldest continuous state fair in the United States. The fairgrounds will be the site of the BikeMaine Village.
Manufacturing has been a major economic driver of the town since the 1800s, with products today including paper, shoes and ice cream. Skowhegan continues to be an agricultural hub and is home to a year-round farmers’ market, organic grain purveyor Maine Grains, the nationally recognized annual Kneading Conference and Artisan Bread Fair, two craft breweries, and restaurants that serve local harvest.
The town is nationally known as the home of Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman U.S. Senator. Downtown Skowhegan is watched over by the world’s tallest Native American, a 62-foot wooden sculpture crafted by Bernard Langlais and “dedicated to the Maine Indians, the first people to use these lands in peaceful ways.”