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ADIRONDACK LIVING: McKeever lives the Adirondack dream in Wilmington

September 14, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

RAY BROOK - Keith McKeever used to do a lot of hunting when he was young, and he thinks a good mountain bike trail should recreate that feeling.

"It should make you feel like a deer running through the woods," he said, "or a mountain lion chasing that deer."

More specifically, McKeever said a trail should be able to withstand the elements, allow the rider to go uphill with minimal effort and avoid unnecessary ups and downs.

Article Photos

From left, Henry Lohr, Keith McKeever, Charlie Wilson and Barkeater Trails Alliance Executive Director Josh Wilson pose at the Hardy Kids Race in Wilmington on Sunday, Sept. 2.
(Photo provided by Keith McKeever)

McKeever is the public information officer for the state Adirondack Park Agency, but he's also an avid mountain biker and a member of the Barkeater Trails Alliance. BETA is a group "that builds, maintains and advocates for a system of community and backcountry trails for ski touring and mountain biking in the greater High Peaks region of the Adirondack Park."

The trail building requires plenty of hands-on work, mainly from volunteers. People could be out in the woods for hours at a time with hand tools such as shovels, rakes and pickaxes, trying to craft a sustainable trail.

"It's definitely a labor of love," he said, "and sweat."

McKeever said the special part about biking in the Adirondacks is the feeling you get when you're immersed in nature.

"You really have a sense that you're in the backcountry even though you're not," he said. "In the Adirondacks, we have our hamlets that are adjacent to the Forest Preserve, so riders can come here and access the trail systems right from motels and hotels in the center of town. Once they get to the destination there's really not a need to be driving around to different trailheads."

McKeever also said the land is rugged and provides challenges as well as rewards for both veteran and inexperienced riders. BETA doesn't want to overexert riders, but they also don't want to strip mountains for downhills, which could then turn into streambeds.

"There's a lot of climbing, but there's a lot descending, too," he said. "It gives people an opportunity to work hard and then enjoy a really fun adrenaline-filled downhill.

"Yes, some people are more endurance built, and they value the climbing more while others like to descend, and I think our system definitely has both."

McKeever said mountain biking is becoming more accessible for two reasons: technology and climate change. The introduction of fat tire bikes allows some people to ride year round. Imagine snow tires but for a bicycle. Fat tires are large and can easily coast over a variety of terrains. Though the Adirondacks experienced a long and cold season during the 2017-18 winter - Whiteface Mountain Ski resort hit a record with 155 days - McKeever said ski seasons are generally getting shorter.

"I've definitely seen a switch in our climate," he said, "and our ski season is getting shorter, so thereby mountain bike season is getting longer. So we're looking at really like a nine-month season for biking. I hope I'm wrong, but the climate seems to be getting warmer and drier. For recreation that's weather-dependent, you want to invest in something that will bring you a maximum return, and mountain biking looks like a good way to go."

McKeever prefers riding in the fall months.

"It's not as humid, there are less bugs and, of course, you have the amazing and iconic fall foliage," he said.

Although the Adirondack Park has plenty of mountain bike trails to offer, McKeever said his favorites are in his now-hometown of Wilmington.

"I get accused of never leaving Wilmington by a lot of my friends," he said. "I can ride right from my home to the trail system. I'm a big fan of Hardy Road and the Good Luck trail."

The Cooper Kiln trail is special to him. It takes riders up to an elevation of about 3,000 feet and passes by Cooper Kiln Pond. McKeever said it almost feels like being out in the forests of British Columbia, Canada - a thickly wooded and isolated area. He's excited to have BETA reroute the Cooper Kiln trail in the future.

"The goal is to reroute it about 2 miles of that trail," he said, "which, right now, are basically hike-bike. It's not rideable. Eventually, when it's done, I think we'll have a trail system that will really be the icing on the cake over there in Wilmington."

McKeever is originally from the town of Schaghticoke in Rensselaer County. He worked in the Governor's Office for Small Cities - a community development program where he applied for water, sewer and housing rehab grants - before moving north.

"It was the job that fortunately took me to the Adirondacks," he said.

McKeever moved to Keene Valley in 2003 after being appointed to his job at the APA. In 2011, he moved to Wilmington, where he lives with his wife, Jennifer.



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