*A trip for two to sunny Las Vegas, entry to 2007's Interbike and the chance to ogle all the new cycling goodies slated to hit the shelves in 2008*

*A 2008 Mission 3, Diamondback’s versatile all-mountain machine. Nimble, efficient and stable, the Mission 3 features Shimano’s new Deore XT components, including the Shadow rear derailleur and high power disc brakes.*

*15 minutes of fame in a Diamondback ad that will appear in Dirt Rag featuring the winner on their new Mission 3.*

*Swag from Dirt Rag, Diamondback, Fox Racing Shox, Rockshox, Shimano and WTB. *

To enter, simply go to diamondback.com and click on the “What’s Your Mission?” button to submit your all-mountain inspiring description and photo.

You will also find the fine print there, too, but here’s some to get you started: No purchase necessary to enter or win. One entry per person. Void where prohibited by law. Contest submissions will be accepted from May 1 through August 1, 2007. Entrant must both author their description and take the photo submitted

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tom L. - Shelburne, VT

“The Homestead Trail” Hinesburg, Vermont Photos and text by Tom Lyons 26 July 2007 These old hills ground down by water and ice still hold tricks. After a week of rain, two hot drying days leave the trail in pretty good shape, or so I think until my front wheel disappears in a soupy hole. I try to vault the stem but I’m clipped in so it doesn’t work right. Slammed on my back, I gasp for air, smell the earth and notice that the canopy overhead is so dense that I cannot see one square inch of sky. The mosquitoes go to work immediately. I pick my way further up this unfamiliar track, creeping along, and survive a long climb through rock-laden switchbacks. During one steep, crowded hairpin, my key move is to reach out, hug a tree, and use it to propel me through the apex. The burn in my legs masks my shame. I’m at the limits of both my strength and my technique. Thanks to entropy and the ice age, the terrain here in the foothills of the Green Mountains is inherently difficult. Imagine taking a giant hammer and smashing peaks taller than Everest down into 4,000-foot piles. Cover this chaotic rubble field with lichen and moss, freeze and thaw for 65 million years, dust sparingly with topsoil, add polished roots and eleven kinds of mud. Drape the result in dense foliage and call it Vermont. Still, not every trail through these parts is such a relentless, hazard-strewn ascent. I wonder who laid out this brutal ribbon of derailleur destruction and what inspired these humbling lines. As I press on it occurs to me that I could have parked in the high lot and descended. But I’m three miles into it now, maybe half done, so I decide to grind it out. Just then the trail architect throws me a treat in the form of a hundred yards of smooth-packed descent along an old stone wall. It’s a welcome relief, and a puzzle: a wall in the middle of nowhere. Each ninety pound stone in this knee-high pile that runs off out of sight into the green shade was discovered, no doubt, with the tip of the plow then lugged here by a determined man. The trail arcs away from the wall to a gradual climb up a loose dirt slope. I carry my momentum up easily for a change, and climb with zest into a place that was once a meadow. The land here is softer, and the forest younger. Pines and poplars advance but seem not bold enough to crowd the few apple trees that stand, aged sentinels of a lost orchard. Light pours down here not in darts but generously in powerful columns. And yet it’s so quiet, I almost expect to find someone kneeling in prayer. Another wall of organized stones is visible in the shadows of a broken tree. I move closer to find that I am looking at the interior of a walkout foundation cut into the hillside. The stones were laid without mortar seven feet high to support a structure the size of a two-car garage. The building is long gone, but remnants of a homemade forge a few yards away suggest that this may have been the barn. Earlier visitors have arranged some artifacts on the rim of the forge; a couple of broken horse shoes, a tin sap bucket, a fractured pinion gear. The trail bends gently around another, smaller cellar hole twenty yards uphill from the barn. When I arrive there, I dismount, shed my helmet and gloves, and loosen my cleats. Here stood the house. I stand where the porch may have been and gaze down toward the barn and the forge, trying to imagine the orchard in blossom, the fields deep in timothy, and the tink of the hammer ringing clear down to the stone wall. The rusted top of an old milk can, a dinner-plate sized metal lid marked “Richmond Dairy Co-op”, hints at the sweet clover and mild days that would grace this place and bring up the butterfat in springtime. But the broken horseshoes and stripped pinion gear say it wasn’t easy. And now a maple sixteen inches across has grown up in the stone foundation where potatoes and corn and all the bounty of the garden and the forest were shelved against the winters. How long did they toil here, I wonder. Two hundred years? Twenty? And after that, what happened to these resourceful people who could forge steel implements in the back yard, and then, using the tools that they made, coax apples, maple syrup and good milk from these difficult hills? The trail above this place is good hard climbing, but nothing like the trail below, which asks you to struggle a little, scrape off a bit of expensive aluminum, maybe eat some mud. A thoughtful person laid out the Homestead Trail, and decided that visitors who choose to ascend to this place should do so with difficulty. So, sure, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by parking a mile or two above and then come hammering down to the homestead in a rowdy and joyous descent. But then I might have scared off all the old ghosts and missed the point entirely.