Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kettle Moraine -- John Muir Trails

Here is the link to these fantastic wonderful trails.  Wow.  and only about 45 miles from my house!  Why are they fantastic?   2 reasons:  1)  they are built for mountain biking so it's all singletrack with tons of curves and berms and obstacles and  fun stuff for biking, and 2) it is absolutely beautiful Wisconsin scenery:  woods, valleys, lakes, prairies, it's all there.  just lovely.  I rode the 9 mile green loop.  That's intermediate.  I could ride these every week and probably not get tired of it.

How do these compare to all the trails I did on my southwest trip?    Sorry but that's like asking which of your kids you love more.  As fabulous as these trails are, it was also very fun to ride in Palo Duro, Oklahoma City, and Albuqueque. And also Castlewood outside of St. Louis.  and Flagstaff, AZ.

Camrock area #3

After returning from my trip out west I decided to compare the home turf.   Here's my report on camrock.  It is located about 20 miles from my house.  I think it was built by the Capital Off Road Pathfinders.  They are awesome.  I joined and will try to start going to their work days because they do great stuff!  Here is their terse description of this trail.   I rode most of it except for the "most difficult" section.  I am still avoiding those as my left arm is not full strength yet after breaking my elbow this winter.  Actually the main reason is that I reallly really don't want to get hurt again and spend 2 months healing; so I'm being extra cautious.  And the "more difficult" routes are plenty fun and challenging.

This trail is really fun.  There is a fair amount of easy stuff, but plenty of challenging stuff too.  But what I like about it most is that it was built for mountain biking by mountain bikers.  It's hard to rank all the trails I rode on my trip out west.  This one is right up there because of the care in making these trails.  They are just fun.  Most of the trails I rode out west were just trails that they allow bikes on.  They are really fun to go down on but don't have all the fun curves and wiggles and single-track and berms that we have right here in cam-rock.  So this trail is right up there in fun!  and it's only a 30 minute drive from my house.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rides I didn't do on our trip to the Grand Canyon

I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn't do the Kaintuck trail in Missouri because it was flooded.  I'd be interested to try that out sometime.

Another trail in Oklahoma that looks fun is the Arcadia Lake Trail in Edmond, with up to 14 miles of single-track, mostly easy but many tight and twisty sections according to  It also says there's a lot of deep sand.  That is not a favorite terrain of mine.  But overall it looks like it's worth trying out.

We bought a small book on mountain bike trails in Gallup, NM, and were planning to ride there, but a few things made us wary:  1)  we lost the book,  2) On our way out, we stopped to get gas and drove through the town and it seemed depressed and desolate, and  3)  I read a review on (or that also warned about getting your car broken into.  So we kinda just didn't want to do it.  Sorry Gallup.

Grants, NM is also advertised to have mountain biking.  We stopped at the very nice Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center there and got maps for a couple of rides there.  I could have done a ride, but I was too keen to get to Albuquerque and ride there.

In Las Vegas, NV, we stopped at the lovely Red Rock Canyon interpretive association.   Until we saw this, all we really wanted to do was leave Las Vegas.  I don't really like places where I know I wouldn't survive very long if my car broke down--though I suppose the same thing applies to winter in Wisconsin and I like living here.  But Red Rock Canyon is something of an oasis in that harsh desert.   Unfortunately, we didn't discover until we were in the hotel that night, that just down the road from the canyon, literally 2 minutes away was the best single-track in the area.  So if I'm ever back, and I'm not sure what would get me back, I would definitely like to ride the singletrack, as well as visiting Red Rock Canyon again.  I'd need to stop at a bicycle shop to get maps, as there was nothing on

Last ride of the trip--Castlewood State Park near St. Louis, MO

We got lucky finding this one.  At Sac River, I was chatting with some guys, getting advice about the trails, and telling them about my trip.  They said, if you go through St. Louis, I hear Castlewood has some great trails.    So we got to our hotel that night, in Fenton, MO, west of St. Louis, and Marilyn, who has a good memory, googled "castlewood" and said, "Hey there's a Castlewood State Park just 7 miles from here."  So the next morning, instead of sitting in rush-hour traffic, we went to Castlewood and I had a wonderful 1.5 hour ride on the Grotpeter trail.  I added on to it by going up a connector trail, now what was that called (Park office connector?  it was the one to the left), anyway, I went up that, then rode around the full loop, and came back down the connector trail.  The connector trail is worth adding because it's very pretty and it's fun single-track, and the downhill at the end is a blast.

I had to dodge 3 turtles on the trail:

The woods were lovely:

Here's the fun connector trail:

We still got home before 5 pm, unpacked the car, and sat on the deck to relax, before then weather turned ugly again.  Spring has been stubborn to arrive in Wisconsin this year.  I'm hoping to ride Camrock tomorrow as we have a Furlough day at work.

Sac River Trail, Springfield, MO

This is an example of reclaiming perhaps undesirable land and turning it into fun.  It's located next to a wastewater treatment plant.  I found this on  It was green!  I think I must be a midwesterner because even though mountain biking out west is a blast,  the green and even the humidity was ever so welcome to me.  And there were pretty white flowers too:

This was near the beginning of the trail:

It looks deceivingly sweet.  Then it got rocky and pebbly, and steep and very too bumpy.  It was a bit too much because it was hard to go fast downhill.  I think I will go the opposite direction next time and I might get more fun downhills.  Also there were many many trails and loops and maybe I just got unlucky and rode some of the worst ones.  Still it was fun and I would do it again.  Here's the Sac River, towards the end of my ride (beginning if I do it the other way around):

Sandia -- Cedro Area, Albuquerque, NM

I'm also jealous of people who live in Albuquerque (see my post about Flagstaff).  What a choice of both mountain biking and road biking they have; and not just here, all over the state.  I love New Mexico.  Though I have to admit, I do love the green of the midwest, perhaps a little bit more.   There were so many rides on it was hard to know what to pick.  I got lucky and picked a good region.  On the way out, the weather was pretty bad, and we stopped at a ranger station to get more info.  It was closed, but some bikers informed me that this is definitely the best place to bike, when the weather improves.  Fortunately on the way home, the weather was just fine and the ranger station was open.  

I did two 45-minute rides here.  The first was an out and back on Otera Canyon.  Here's the start up the trail:

Next time I will follow the ranger's advice and go out on trail 05236 (236) and return on 05056 (56).  I was concerned I might miss some turns but I understand the trails and land better now.   Trail 56 didn't have as much scenery as 236, but the return downhill was a blast.

My second ride was Tunnel canyon.  I rode on trail 05145 (145) and Marilyn met me at the end.  I rode backwards from the suggestion but it was slightly more downhill and I had someone to pick me up at the end.  This was a blast!   It had a steep uphill climb, a nice view,

and then a blast of a downhill.   What fun this was.  

There are many other places to ride in at Albuquerque.  Next time I will probably check out the foothills region just down the highway from here, and the Petroglyphs national monument down in the valley.

Grand Canyon, AZ

I did two mountain bike rides here.  My take-away message (to myself) is:  stick to hiking at the Grand Canyon.  I mean, how do you top that?  I used the book "Biking the Grand Canyon Area" for my guide.

The first ride I did was the Vishnu Overlook Loop.    First I misread the instructions and ended up on a nature walk--nice for a nature walk but a boring mountain bike ride.

Then I decided to climb the tower:

It had two good consequences:  nice views, and I discovered the real mountain-bike trail started just underneath the tower.  Here are some of the nice views:

I had a nice short 1.5 ride on single track, with a nice bench and views at the turn-around point.

A few days later I rode the Tusayan loops.  I should have stuck to loop 1 as it is shorter and I suspect had more single-track.  I did loop 2 because I wanted something longer.  It was about 10 miles long, but not terribly interesting and I was wishing I were at the Grand Canyon seeing the magnificent views.  So scratch that from the plans next time.  But one nice thing is I was all alone and it was peaceful.  You don't get much alone-time at the Grand Canyon.

Here's the start of this trail:

On it's own, it's actually pretty and nice and there are some fun spots.  I think the shorter loop would be better so I can have some fun, but then get to the Grand Canyon to see the great scenes.

Flagstaff, AZ

I'm so jealous of people who live in Flagstaff.  If Marc is still reading this blog, I hope he is pissed at me for not stopping to see him, because that means we are still friends.  Unless he is so pissed that we aren't anymore.  Anyway, I'll explain in an email, Marc.

We got lucky to ride here.  We were driving through at 4:50 pm on the way to the Grand Canyon and saw a bike shop on the main road with a closing of 5 pm.  We stopped in, got lots of great advice and a map, and I was able to do an hour-long ride on the Schultz Creek trail.  For future reference, we also got a map of Sedona, AZ trails.

Here's the difference between mountain biking in the mountains vs the midwest.  In the mountains you go up, up, up, up, up, up, etc, and then down, down down down down etc.  In the midwest you go up, down up down up down up down etc.   Both are fun.  But it's hard to beat the thrill of down down down down down down etc.   In the midwest though, the local clubs often put a lot of effort into making really nice trails with these things called burns or berns, I don't know how you spell it but it's curves that you make on hills so you can take them fast, and lots of up/down fast stuff.  So the midwest can still be very fun.

Anyway, back to this ride.  I stupidly didn't wear my elbow pads and then I was just sitting on my biking and fell over right on my left arm (where I broke my elbow 5 months previously).  oh man.  That was dumb.  My arm was a bit sore for a few days.  So I wore the elbow pads the rest of the trip.

The ride was fun!  I don't mind going up up up up up.  I just get in a groove.   It helps that I'm a crazy health food nut so I have seemingly infinite aerobic capacity.   The rocks were a challenge, especially as I was spooked after falling on my arm.   But the down down down down etc made me forget everything but how much fun I was having.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX

This was totally awesome!  This is an example of how mountain biking opens up a whole new world to travelers.  Who knew that 15 miles south of Amarillo, TX, is the second largest canyon in the United States!   Who knew!  Not me.  It's lovely.   I found this on  You can ride all the trails in the park so it's a lot of miles.  There are a few trails set aside for mountain bikes only.  I rode those some and took wrong turns and ended up on hiking/biking trails which seemed just as good.  It was a total blast.  You could ride these trails every week and not get tired of them, and that's what people do.  I asked these 3 guys for advice and they let me ride with them and they were very nice.  It was great fun.  We rode the Capitol Peak Mountain bike trail, then the Cottonwood flats, then Little Fox canyon, then back on the lighthouse trail.   Here I am with my elbow pads just in case I fall:

Those black pants turned out to be too hot.

Here's the main mountain bike path.  Everyone gets lost and just rides around until they exit.  On my second ride, I got lost pretty quickly and ended up on the Juniper Cliffside trail.  Fortunately that was loads of fun and plenty challenging.

The lighthouse formation seems to be the signature landmark of the park.  It's not very large, but it's very distinctive, so I can see how that would be a great landmark for getting your bearings.  The lighthouse trail is the most boring for mountain biking, and I would just save that for hiking.  It's meant to be a horseback riding trail (and hiking).

Now that I have my bearings, next time I will actually ride the route recommended on the website:   The Givens, Spicer & Lowry running trail and the Capital peak trails.

Bluff Creek Trail -- Oklahoma City, OK

This was sweet.  We stopped here both ways.  and yet, we forgot to take pictures both times.  In both cases, it was at the end of a long day.  The first time it was very windy.  The second time it was threatening rain.  But I rode anyway and both rides were very fun.  The thick woods made the winds and rain non-events.   I found this in and we picked our hotel to be nearby so it was very convenient.  It's only 3.8 miles long, but fun single-track.  It's the kind of trail that will turn a beginner into an addict.  It was a good trail to start out on for my first mountain bike ride of the year, and because I'm still recovering from my broken elbow in January.  I don't have my full strength back, but my bone is all healed.  On the second ride, I gave a guy my spare inner tube.  He really wanted to ride and didn't have time to go to the store.  I totally understand.  He gave me a seat bag in return, even though I didn't really want it.  He said it was a hot brand.  He's a sales rep.  Like I care about that.  But like I said, I can totally understand wanting to bike on a Friday evening.

Kaintuck Trail, Missouri says "this is a good place for beginners, with its network of mostly easy-to-ride loop selections varying in length from 2-13 miles."  Unfortunately, it was flooded, so I decided not to reck the terrain further with my bike.  So I have no idea if this is a fun ride or not.  It's only a few miles away from the interstate though so maybe I'll find out some day.

Southwest trip

I just did a road trip to the Grand Canyon and mountain biked at various locations along the way.  It was so fun!  I love taking my mountain bike on road trips.  I did this a lot last summer too but I didn't post about it. I'm going to try to post about it this summer so I can compile for my own memory a list of great places to mountain bike, and road bike, on trips.

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to find out where to mountain bike when I visit a place.  The resources I used on this trip were, and local bike shops. and are hit and miss.  They didn't show this fantastic opportunity at Las Vegas that I was 2 minutes away from when we stopped at Red Rock canyon.  I discovered that when I got back to the hotel and googled "mountain biking Las Vegas".  I was bummed.   Local bike shops paid off in Flagstaff and Albuquerque.  There are so many trails that it helps to have a real person tell you what's the best  one to try out for a 2 hour ride.  but found some gems in Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri.

So, here goes...