The Loon Echo Land Trust’s annual Loon Echo Trek will this year be held on Saturday, Sept. 17. The Trek, which takes place at the Shawnee Peak Ski Area in Bridgton, offers a hike, a bike or a combination of the two.

“The Loon Echo Trek is both a great family event and a challenging endurance event at the same time,” says Tracy Burk, event coordinator for the Trek. “You will find dedicated cyclists tackling the toughest century in Maine, but you might also encounter a rider on a unicycle. You will see entire families enjoying the hike and the fall foliage together … At the end of the Trek, participants enjoy great food and live music at the post-Trek party.”

The Trek challenges participants to a 4.5- or a 6-mile tramp across the ridgeline of Pleasant Mountain, or a 25-, 50-, 80- or 100-mile bike ride “through the scenic hills and valleys of Western Maine,” in the words of the event’s website. The “Hike and Bike” option allows athletes to partake of both halves of the trek: They can pair either hike with the 25- or the 50-mile bike route.

Online registration (www.bikereg.com/2016-loon-echo-trek) ends on Sept. 11. There’s no registration cap for cyclists, but there is for the six-mile hike; that route crosses private land, so Trek organizers limit participation to roughly 50 lucky souls.

“We hope to have 300-350 participants across all of the events for 2016,” says Burk. “Our largest Trek was in 2011, when we had just shy of 350 Trekkers. With so many new events on the local calendars, we are thrilled to have such a dedicated core of Trekkers coming back to our event year after year.”

The Trek itself kicks off early on the 17th. Check-in for the 80-mile and 100-mile rides, and the various Hike and Bike combos, is at 7 a.m. Those athletes then depart at 8 a.m. Riders taking the 25-mile and 50-mile routes check in from 8-10 a.m., when they depart. From 8:30-10 a.m., shuttles will carry hikers to their start point.

The Post-Trek party follows from 1-5 p.m., this year featuring a taco bar, Allagash beer, massages by Richard Bader Physical Therapy (which has locations in Bridgton, Norway and Poland) and live music from Junco, a local folk rock outfit.

The Loon Echo Land Trust “strives to protect and preserve land in the northern Sebago Lake region of Maine, and conserves over 6,600 acres of land in this special area for the benefit of the public,” Burk says. Though it holds a variety of fundraisers each year – including sunset concerts, stargazing, kite days and educational nature walks – the Trek is its single biggest such event. In 2015, the Trek brought in more than $33,000.

Wendy Newcomb, a former Land Trust board member, started the Trek in 2001. Newcomb’s original Trek was a bikes-only affair that kicked off and finished at Sebago State Park and followed one of two routes, an 11-miler or a 37.5-miler. Roughly 45 cyclists – not to mention a battalion of volunteers – took part, and after their ride, all involved reveled in a catered lunch and live music, traditions that continue to this day.

Newcomb, who lives in Sebago, is still on the Trek Planning Committee, but Sue Telfeian took the reins as executive director for the 2002 Trek, and elevated it to “a whole new level,” as Burk says. “Sue not only had an experienced biker create three new routes – 100, 50 and 25 miles – but she also changed the venue to Shawnee Peak. The new and improved Trek became very popular and in 2007 the hike was added, and then the Hike & Bike was added in 2014.” Telfeian, a Scarborough resident, is currently a consultant for Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

A number of well-known Maine businesses sponsor the Trek, including Shawnee Peak, Norway Savings Bank, Allagash Brewing and Hancock Lumber. Likewise, a long list of smaller names are supporting the event, among them Camp Wigwam in Waterford, Ernie’s Cycle Shop in Westbrook and Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake.

The Trek is online at https://trek2016blog.wordpress.com/

Trekkers Larry Nansel, Roger Nansel, Bruce Burk, Tracy Burk and Ethan Burk pose for the camera during last year’s journey.

Loon Echo Land Trust’s former director, Connie Cross, volunteered at the Trek last year.

Jeremy and Jillene Wentworth stop at the summit of Pleasant Mountain during last year’s Trek.

The Loon Echo Trek bike routes cover beautiful ground.