Living

East Grand Adventure Race returns May 12

DANFORTH, Maine — If the thought of running, biking, canoeing and crawling through mud appeals to you, then the 13th annual East Grand Adventure race, scheduled for Saturday, May 12, is right up your alley.

“Fourteen years ago, I thought of an adventure race as a creative way to get students more involved with outdoor activities while reinforcing what we were teaching in the outdoor education class, canoeing, biking and how to use a compass,” Dave Conley, outdoor education instructor at East Grand School, said Friday. “Since its inception, we have included these three activities turning it into a triathlon. About four years into it, we added the adult divisions.”

Danlen Espenschied of Brookton tried her best in last year’s log roll challenge as part of the East Grand Adventure race. (Contributed)

The locations of the compass run and biking course change yearly, while the paddling remains the same, Conley said.

The race takes place in the towns of Danforth, Weston, Bancroft and sometimes in Brookton and features a “compass run,” where runners are transported to the starting line and teams are released every minute-and-a-half. The distance is between 1 to 1.5 miles, and each pair of racers is given a map and bearing (point A to B), before the start. The runners must then figure out declination and direction of travel using a compass.

“It’s a straight shot through the woods to find their bikes over mostly high ground, but sometimes through thick brush, wet holes and traversing across streams,” Conley said.

Racers compete as teams of two in seven divisions including: high school boys, girls, mixed, adult men, women, mixed, and junior/senior. The open division allows anything from solo entries, teams of any size or relay teams, Conley said.

“A family division was added last year and is a great way to get families with younger kids or those that are not up for the biking part of the race involved,” he said. “Family division racers do the compass run and take a time out to be transported by bus to the landing for the fun challenges. Their time starts again when they begin the paddling portion of the race. That has really opened up the race to those that just are not up for doing the biking.”

Next is the biking leg of the race. Upon arriving at the transition point, racers can grab a snack and drink of water, before embarking on a 10 mile ride. The course is well signed and features dirt roads and trails, with an occasional stretch of paved road, Conley said, to get cyclists to the public landing on the Crooked Brook Flowage in the town of Danforth.

At this spot, things get interesting for the participants as they face numerous challenges, including a mud pit and culvert crawl, scaling a wall, environmental challenge (identifying evergreen or broadleaf samples), tomahawk throwing, agility challenge, and log rolling in the river. Successful completion of the challenges results in minutes shaved off their course times.

The final leg of the race involves paddling on the Baskahegan Stream, an easy flowing section of river with (depending upon water levels) one easy class I rapid.

“Overall, the paddling is easier than the Meduxnekeag Stream canoe race course,” Conley said.

Participants can choose a canoe or kayak, and the course involves portaging around the low head dam in Danforth, ending in Bancroft just upstream of Bean’s Falls. Racers are then transported back to the school for a cookout lunch.

One final challenge takes place on the school’s climbing wall. Choosing the easy route, earns 2 minutes off the person’s time, while the medium and hard courses remove three and five minutes respectively.

“Each year, Washington County Community College sends up two students to oversee this indoor challenge,” Conley said. “We aim to finish up with the awards ceremony beginning at 3:45 p.m., when more than $1,000 in gift certificates to Ski Rack Sports of Bangor are awarded to the student divisions and the juniors in the junior/senior division.”

Traveling trophies are presented to the top high school boy’s and girl’s teams.

“The adventure race really wasn’t designed to be a fundraiser, but we’re at the point that with generous donations from businesses and organizations and revenue from entry fees, we’re able to put a little extra back into the program, which may be used to defray the cost on future student outings, pay for student training trips or purchase new equipment,” Conley said.

Learning and using compass skills meets one of our Outdoor Education class goals.

River Robertson of Old Town competes in the separate 34 mile river race last year. (Contributed)

“Early on with the program, I was more concerned about letting young people go on their own off trail, but over time realized there were acceptable risks that are very beneficial for the student’s growth,” he said. “Educating students is preparing them for becoming adults and that involves more freedom and trust along the way.”

Competition outdoors is a fun way to achieve these goals.

“Many young people grow up without ever having learned to safely recreate (boating) on the water, Conley said. “I often hear adults mention that they would never dare paddle a canoe because they can’t swim. It’s never about being a swimmer but a good floater which everyone is when wearing a proper life jacket. I recommend a type III, jacket style life preserver. If young people can gain confidence on the water at a young age, perhaps they can make this a lifelong sport.”

In addition, a separate 34-mile Baskahegan Stream Canoe Race is held. This race begins off Route 6 in Kossuth near Topsfield and ends in Bancroft.

“There are a certain breed of racers that are into distance racing with specialized canoes or kayaks,” Conley said. “Many are in their 60s and are tough.”

To enter either race or learn more details, visit http://www.canoethewild.com/east-grand-adventure-race/. The deadline to enter is 1 p.m. Friday, May 11. The cost is $20 per person or $30 on race day. For the family division members (in the immediate family), the cost is $20 per person for the first two and $5 each for three or more members.

The entry fee includes a race T-shirt, cookout, awards and a chance at door prizes.

More information also is available by contacting race director Conley at 448-2743 or cell 551-8729.

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