Monday August 27, 2012 | 02:25 PM

Most riders who have tackled a century or three probably wouldn't describe any of them as easy. But many who have ridden the Loon Echo Trek would probably agree that it's on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Publicized as "the toughest century in Maine," the Loon Echo Trek also features 25-mile and 50-mile routes that are a little less intense as far as the hilly terrain goes. The event is now in its 11th year and Carrie Walia, executive director of the Loon Echo Trust, said many riders are drawn to it for the challenge.

"Some people use it as a goal to work to throughout the year," she said. Though she hasn't ridden the century she's heard plenty of riders describe their experience as "you think you've hit the hardest hill -- but you haven't."

The route rises to an elevation of 1,600 feet as riders pass through Evans Notch, part of the White Mountain National Forest. "You climb and climb and climb and then come screaming down the mountain," Walia said.

The Loon Echo annually entices about 350 riders, with about half taking on the 100-mile route. Preregistration for all three distances continues through Sept. 8 at $80 per rider. Late-comers can also register on the day of the event, Saturday, Sept. 15, at an increased fee of $95. Century riders depart from Shawnee Peak at 8 a.m., followed by riders cycling the other distances.

"It's a cooler time of year, the colors are starting to turn, there are fewer cars on the road and it's a quiet, scenic route," Walia said. Plus, the ride benefits a worthy cause.

Funds generated from the Loon Echo Trek will help out the Loon Echo Land Trust, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The trust has exceeded 4,000 acres of protected lands and Walia said the goal is to double that over the next five years.

 

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