Category Archives: Trail Review

DuPont State Recreational Forest

The Asheville / Hendersonville area in North Carolina has been a favorite destination of ours for years. But since we usually stayed in Gatlinburg (1.5 hours away), touring this area has been limited to quick day trips. We eagerly looked forward to exploring this area at a more leisurely pace.

One of Jeff’s all-time favorite mountain biking spots is at the DuPont State Recreational forest. A day trip from our Gatlinburg cabin to DuPont was a 4 hour round trip commitment, so he usually only managed one visit during our family vacations. This time staying nearby, I believe we went 4 or 5 times! I’m sure he’ll post a video review at some point.

The amenities at DuPont have evolved considerably since Jeff first began visiting here in the mid 90’s, around the time the DuPont land was sold to the State of North Carolina. Early on, there were gravel parking areas and maybe a Porta-let, if you were lucky. Now there is a bonafide Visitor’s Center and several actual restrooms. Sweet!

Since I was along for these visits, Jeff was able to use me as his Sherpa. I dropped him off at the highest trail head and drove back downhill to the visitor’s center to park. While he romped on the bike trails, I hit the hiking trails.

DuPont forest is most known for its beautiful waterfalls. During my visits, I explored many of them: Triple Falls, High Falls, Hooker Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Grassy Creek Falls. The trails aren’t especially difficult; my average hike was 5-ish miles with only moderate elevation change. But the waterfalls are absolutely beautiful and it’s a wonderful way to get your Fitbit steps in! So beautiful – photos don’t really do it justice.




Oak Mountain State Park

001Our primary objective for visiting Birmingham lies in the mountain bike trails at Oak Mountain State Park. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) has designated the trails to be one of their “epic rides”, an elite classification. So, we just had to check that out! Jeff will post his biking trail review separately.

Oak Mountain State Park has much more than just mountain bike trails. It is quite a large State park with many features:  golf course, campground, cabins, nature center, lakeside beach and boat rentals, archery, demonstration farm, horseback riding, and 25 miles of hiking trails. There’s literally something for everyone. Theoretically we could have camped here, but squeezing our big rig into the State Park sites would have been problematic. (Plus, I checked out the campground restroom facilities and they were not very nice. Pass!)

Even though many of Jeff’s past mountain bike trails have been multi-use, I prefer hiker-only trails. I just think it’s safer. So it’s really convenient when we can park at a trailhead and each set off on our own trail systems. After many days of unseasonably cold weather, we finally had a couple of nice sunny days with highs in the 60’s and gleefully hit the trails!

001We spent two afternoons exploring different sections of the park. Several of the hiking trails traverse the park lengthwise (7-8 miles long), while others intersect and wind, allowing you to make loops. I tackled one of the trails (the Yellow trail), hiking one end of it from the South trailhead and exploring the other end from the North trailhead another day. The trails are reasonably well-marked and in good condition, but heavy leaf litter tended to obscure the trail, forcing me to pay close attention. I only got turned around a few times, mostly at trail intersections.  The trail also featured a surprisingly challenging elevation profile (steep up, steep down, repeat!), making for a decent workout. The leaf color was fading but still evident in some areas, and the weather was absolutely beautiful.

This is a park in which both Jeff and I could spend many happy hours on the trails. But, it is time to continue on south to beat Old Man Winter. Next stop – Orlando!


Trail Review: Bentonville Mountain Biking

Jeff is getting more timely in his trail review posts!

IMG_4966Bentonville as a mountain bike destination has been on my bucket list for a while, therefore, it seemed fitting to squeeze it into our trip back to Florida. Ten years ago there was essentially no mountain biking in Bentonville, but the Walton Family Foundation (founders of the WalMart) donated some land and wrote a check for about $13 Million to fund trail building in the area. Apparently, a couple of the Walton grand kids are avid mountain bikers who thought this would be a great place to host a trail. Cities and Counties who wanted to be part of the system matched the funds put up by the Walton family. Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, Bentonville and some adjoining cities constructed over 100 miles of trails, most of which are connected by the 36-mile Razerback Regional Greenway System. As such, you can add some serious variety to the riding experience by linking the various bike trails with the greenway.

On several days, MB and I parked near the Greenway, and she would walk along the paved sections while I romped on the hand-crafted mountain bike trails. There are three main trail systems along the greenway: the Slaughterpen Trail System (land donated by the Walton family), the Coler Trail System, and the Oz Trail System (actually in Bella Vista). These trails were built by five different trail building companies, with support from the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). The Oz system alone has over 40 miles of buff single track built through Bella Vista, which borders Bentonville to the north. I had the pleasure of riding both the Slaughterpen and Oz trail systems. Both trails weaved through a hilly forest, at times picking their way up, down, and around limestone cliff faces. Trail artisans shaped large stone pieces into berms, jumps, and other features. These trails are made to last, with limited opportunity for erosion from mountain bike tires or weather elements.

My last trail day was spent on the Back 40 Loop, which provided a seemingly never-ending single track excursion through the forested hills and valleys of northern Bentonville and Bella Vista. Although the trail provided an excellent wilderness trail experience, you were never far from civilization occasionally riding behind back yards and across paved roads. One section provided a mountain bike first for me where the trail system cut right through and around an 18-hole golf course. Not quite adventure golf, but close. The trail was well marked and also provided bicycle repair stations and water fountains along the 24-mile, 2,200 foot elevation gain loop.

The Bentonville trail system provides a unique experience for both the mountain bike and road rider. Since the mountain bike trails started downtown, one can feast at many of the trendy downtown restaurants and coffee shops after emerging from the trails. This place will definitely be on our list again!

Bentonville Wrap-Up

030We are at the end of our two week stay here near Bentonville Arkansas. We’ve seen some glorious Fall color and some beautiful cool and clear days. But we’ve also had quite a few gray, cold and rainy days – which reminds us just why we abandoned the Midwest in our youth!

002The gray and rainy days weren’t all bad though. It gave us time to catch up on inside tasks. Jeff had some business affairs to manage for his Dad’s Trust. I painted a new batch of inspirational rocks and worked on a knitting project. I cooked, stocking the freezer with chili and baked ziti. We saw (and loved) the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  I visited a local church on Sunday morning. There’s always something to do!

001.JPGOn the beautiful days, we took full advantage of the fantastic trail system that has been constructed in this area. We explored a couple of different sections of the paved Razorback Greenway trail by bicycle (one day 15 miles, another day 20 miles). The trails interconnect parks with amenities such as bathrooms, bicycle repair tools, and water fountains. The trail is clearly marked, always segregated from traffic, and wide enough for pedestrians as well as bicycles. There are even interesting sculptures interspersed along the way. The Walton Foundation and other supporting towns/organizations have done a stellar job putting this together – I wish other towns would take notes!!  It is our favorite feature of this area.

I also love that the mountain bike trails are interconnected with the paved multi-use trails. So when Jeff went out mountain biking, I went too, and we each would do our own thing. I had started ramping up my walking mileage on the nice trail around our Santa Fe campground, but really increased the mileage here. When Jeff went off mountain biking, I walked the rolling paved trail: 9 miles one day, 6 miles another day, and then finally a 12 miler. It’s been quite a while since I went that distance and it’s nice to know I’ve still got it. I haven’t given up the idea of doing another half marathon some day, who knows? I’d have to seriously work on my speed though.

We also had the opportunity to stop in at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Founded by Sam Walton’s daughter Alice (and funded by the Walton Foundation), this free museum’s collection spans 5 centuries of American art from Colonial days to the present. Organized by era, it is a stroll through artists perception as shaped by their times. The display is as much outdoors as in, with 3.5 miles of sculpture-strewn trails. We had already explored those on our bicycles.

One beautiful sculpture sits just outside the entrance. Although it appears to be a stainless steel tree, it’s actually a depiction of a dendrite (neural cell). Cool! Another favorite exhibit is the pile of gold-wrapped candy mints. Yes, you can eat one and yes, I did! Or the realistic “guy on a bench”. It made me look twice! (Eerily lifelike.) Altogether, a beautiful museum in a beautiful setting, and definitely worth a visit.

Now we’re off to Memphis for some needed repairs (again) and Graceland!

Biking in Bentonville

The area in and around Bentonville Arkansas is surprisingly bicycle-friendly. The backbone is the 38 mile Razorback Regional Greenway trail, which extends from Fayetteville northward through Bentonville. Substantially funded by the Walton Foundation, this paved multi-use trail connects parks, green spaces, and a number of other trails. We picked a beautiful Indian summer day, and saddled up!

024We parked in downtown Bentonville and headed north, exploring the northernmost 8 miles of the trail. Along the way, we passed through parts of downtown and by homes creatively decorated for Halloween. We also meandered through the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art which displays a number of interesting sculptures.


025As a chemist, the sculpture I was most taken with is the Buckyball. What is a buckyball, you say? Short for Buckminsterfullerene, it is a spherical nanoparticle made of 60 carbon molecules. Postulated in the late 1960’s, the molecule was first created in 1984 by scientists who used a laser a laser to vaporize carbon in a supersonic helium beam. Aren’t you glad you asked? The sculpture is an artist’s rendition of a super-giant molecule. Or, it’s a soccer ball skeleton. Whatever floats your boat.

The weather was sunny and perfect as we cycled along through the Arkansas countryside. The trees were decked in their colorful Fall finest. We hit the northern terminus of the trail and looped around, back toward town.


Closing in on our parking spot and desiring to quench our thirst, we stopped in at the Tusk & Trotter for a late lunch. The restaurant offers locally brewed beverages and fresh, tasty fare. My BBQ sandwich and hard cider was delicious, and Jeff made short work of his “carnivore” flatbread. And a bit of trivia – the restaurant space was once Sam Walton’s office and general warehouse.

Another beautiful day!


TBT: Utah Mountain Biking

It’s another Throwback Thursday post, as Jeff shares his Utah mountain biking trail review!


It has been awhile since posting a mountain bike adventure, mainly because nothing seemed to measure up to Whistler’s scenery or vast, adrenaline-filled trail network. Big Mountain in Montana provided a reasonable downhill adrenaline fix, but the trails were not as extensive or as groomed. The smoke from the northwest forest fires also dampened my mountain biking enthusiasm. However, upon reaching Utah, it all changed. According to Singletracks, Utah has three of the top 20 mountain bike trails in the US. Two of them are located in Moab (Whole Enchilada and Porcupine Rim) and the other one in Hurricane (Gooseberry Mesa).

In my exploration of both Hurricane and Moab, I found world-class mountain bike trails with stimulating, multicolored scenery. Hurricane is the staging point for the annual Red Bull Rampage Mountain Biking Challenge, where downhill mountain bikers skillfully carve their way down the gnarliest, jagged terrain on earth. My mountain bike adventures in Hurricane were spent on their well-maintained trail network, more specifically Gooseberry Mesa and the JEM/Goulds Loop. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) designated a 24.1 mile epic variation of the JEM/Goulds loop called the Hurricane Rim Loop. Since the locations were somewhat remote and rather hot in the afternoons (65 degrees in the morning and 95 degrees in the afternoon), my excursions were limited to 17 miles.

For an adrenaline-charged and scenic romp through the desert terrain, choose the 17 mile JEM/Goulds loop. If interested in something longer go for the IMBA Hurricane Rim Epic. Gooseberry Mesa provided a 13.1 mile slick-rock style adventure through a moonscape of rock. Paint marked the way over and around sloping rock formations, making the Gooseberry Mesa Loop. There is also great scenery along the exposed cliff areas.

Moab boasts a vast network of trails, some over 100 miles long. The trails range from beginner to extreme, so Moab offers a little something for everybody. Moab’s trail systems are extremely well marked and equally motivating, displaying a Happy Face location on the trail maps prominently placed at each trail junction. As such, first time visitors can proficiently navigate any trail they choose.  Since I had already completed the Porcupine Rim Trail some years back (a one-way trail requiring a shuttle), my focus this time were loop trails which could be comfortably ridden by an intermediate to advanced rider. The first day was spent on the world-famous slick rock trail, which provided an 11 mile exhilarating up and down romp on slick rock, following paint markings along the way. I forgot how much work it was to crank up the steep slopes, and how much grip is afforded by the rock. The vertical gain was only about 900 feet, but the steep slopes made it seem much higher. The Slickrock Trail also overlooked the Hell’s Revenge jeep trail, and it was entertaining to watch the jeeps and ATVs run over the rocks, while catching my breath on the Slickrock Trail.

Another day was spent on the more advanced HyMasa/Captain Ahab Trail (rated black diamond). This was a 9.0 mile loop trail which entailed a spirited romp down and around slickrock, short drops, single track, rock slabs, and very exposed cliff edges. Some climbing was involved (1,300 vertical ascent), but the stunning scenery keeps you motivated. This trail was incredibly fun, but only for advanced intermediate to expert riders. My Moab stay finished with a 15 mile intermediate loop offered by the Klondike Bluff Trails, which provided some buff single track and colorful scenery overlooking Arches National Park. Moab and Hurricane provided some great, challenging cross country mountain biking and I will be back again!

Throwback Thursday: Terlingua, TX Mountain Bike Trail Review

Being a full-time adventurer, Jeff sometimes has difficulty carving out time for his trail review posts! What follows is a Throwback Thursday post:  his review of the mountain biking trails near Terlingua Texas, from our stay in the Big Bend area last February!

Terlingua Mountain Biking, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas

img_3603.jpgAfter posting the more intense downhill mountain biking of Whistler, it seemed prudent to post about most of my mountain biking adventures which entail cross-country excursions. Downhill mountain biking is predominantly for adrenalin junkies, although you can spend the day on more mellow downhill pathways provided you stick with the green beginner runs. Terlingua, located directly between Big Bend National and State Parks in south Texas, boasts a thriving population of 58. Every year in February they host the Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Fest where mountain bikers from all over the country explore their many trails at Terlingua and Big Bend State Park. Although we happened to be there about the same time, they capped the event at 500 riders, and unfortunately I was not able to participate. However, the trails prior to the event were very well groomed so it was a fabulous time to explore the trails and a great time to be there given the weather.

Big Bend State Park also happens to be the one of the select places in the US to achieve an Epic Trail designation by the International Mountain Bike Association. Less than 50 places in the US and Canada have that trail designation, so my applause to the Chihuahuan Desert riders who made this happen. IMBA’s Epic, better known as the Fresno-Sauceda Loop, totals 59 miles, although there are many, many more miles of rugged desert single track throughout the area. Although a portion of my exploration entailed the Epic Trail, my focus was mainly on the Dome, East Contraband, and Fresno Divide Loops. The Dome Loop was 19.8 miles and the Fresno Divide Loop was another 9.4 miles. My longest single day was about 23 miles. I also spent time the first day on the Terlingua trails which produced another 16 miles of riding. Overall, after multiple days of riding, I managed to complete 70 miles of trails doing various loops around the two areas. Except for a trail maintenance day in preparation for the event, which yielded a handful of people, I never saw anyone on the trails. This was not due to lack of riders because cars were present at the trailheads, but rather the vast desert environment.



These rides were about solitude and self-reliance. If you venture out, you better be prepared to fix a flat or other mechanical mishaps that may come up. Otherwise, you may have a very long walk back to the car. The scenery was visually stimulating, yielding barren mountains in the background, set among a prickly arid environment. Occasionally I would see a rabbit hopping about, but generally did not see any wildlife during the day. Most wildlife in the desert travels at night, which is fine by me. I managed to see a Bobcat in the distance scurrying across the trail one day and a coyote on another. If you ride out here you better bring plenty of water because the desert literally sucks the moisture out of your body with every pedal stroke. The sun was relentless, but during February the temperatures were not too hot even under direct sun (running about 75 during the day). The riding was mainly intermediate level, but there were occasional technical sections to keep it interesting.

Signs were found occasionally on the trail system which provided history of the area. For instance, one of the signs spoke about the red cinnabar ore (mercury sulfide), which was mined from the 1900s to about 1947. The cinnabar ore was extracted from the ground and cooked in small furnaces until the mercury was distilled out. Little was known about the detrimental health effects of mercury at the time. Harris Smith, owner of the (now defunct) Chisos Mining Company in Terlingua, enjoyed great success with the mine, but it came with a price. Smith was plagued by mercury poisoning, a common ailment among mercury mine workers.  In the 1970s he recalled that “every tooth in my head became loose, and I could no longer eat solid food.” He went on to say, “My diet consisted of bean soup, crackers, coffee, and mouthwash.”

One day I rode deep enough (about 10 miles in) into Big Bend State Park to see one of the abandoned mine processing facilities. There were little support buildings which skirted the mine area, and it was here that I noticed a fairly recent pile of scat on the ground. The scat pile was a little larger than what a large dog would produce, but the shape was similar. What made this scat unique was that it contained a considerable amount of hair. It was definitely something I had not seen before being from Florida, so I snapped a picture for further investigation since my curiosity was peaked. After completing my loop and returning to the car, I dropped by the Ranger Station to ask them what it was. The Ranger asked where I saw this, and I provided the location. He stated, “Yeah, there are some big cats up in that area.” From that point forward I was a little more diligent in constantly surveying my surroundings. I also decided to carry an easily-accessible whistle and knife. Don’t know if either one would ward off a mountain lion, but I felt better having those items ready.

The riding in Terlingua and Big Bend State Park yielded some excellent scenery, some great desert riding, and some interesting wildlife. This one will be on my list again and I highly recommend it!



Whistler Mountain Bike Park – Day 2

This is the second part of Jeff’s guest post!

On day two, I decided to head all the way up the mountain. After all, this was my last day here, and I wanted to make the most of the mountain. Enough trails were completed on the first day on the lower mountain that it seemed to make sense to skip this section until later that day. There was a pronounced thermocline heading up to the Garbonzo area. The wind picked up a little and the temperature dropped about 10-15 degrees. Although the chairlift passed through a cloud at one point, I was able to start the trails with great visibility and sunshine. I took Una Mas (a blue free ride trail) followed by Mid-Guard, South Park, and Earth Circus (all very large, sweeping downhills with jumps) down the other side of the mountain to the bottom of Creekside, and took the Gondola back up.

After getting off the Gondola, it was time for Freight Train (black diamond free ride trail), followed by an accidental double-black diamond technical run called No Duff. Oops, I didn’t mean to do that! This double-diamond run was about the sketchiest run I had ever been on.  Some sections I walked down, and on other sections I wasn’t sure what to do – it was that steep! The rock section was about 100 feet down and I couldn’t even get an eyeball on  parts, due to the grade. Ultimately, I was faced with three choices:  head back up to the junction (a long, steep uphill), slide down on my butt (with the bike) or take my chances on the downhill.  (This is where the downhill rig would have been very helpful!) After some water and more contemplating, I decided to mount my steed and cautiously head down. Whew, made it!

After the sketchy downhill this trail took me to an open field area, where I noticed another black bear a little distance off the trail. I took my camera out and shot a couple of bear pictures. Shortly thereafter I saw that this black bear had 3 small cubs with her! This is something not to mess with, so this time I scurried off down the trail with extreme urgency. I finished up doing black and blue free ride and technical trails, with a couple more double-diamond ones thrown in the middle. By the end of the day, I was a little more comfortable with the more extreme trails. I packed my stuff and drove back to Ferndale, Washington, very happy to be in one piece. The only casualty was my Reverb seat post, which broke on one of the many jumps.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park – Day 1

This is a guest post by Jeff!

Whistler, touted as the downhill capital of the world among mountain bikers, is located in British Columbia, Canada. Whistler has been on my radar since the late 1990s, but given its remote location it was a challenge to reach from Florida. As such, it has been on my “must do” mountain bike bucket list since starting our West Coast Tour. The drive from Ferndale, Washington takes about 2 hours, however the scenery starting from Vancouver and heading north to Whistler is nothing short of spectacular. Serious eye candy! The north and west showcases the Strait of Georgia followed by snow-capped mountains, and to the east for the entire drive are steep mountains laced with lush emerald green forests and rocky cliff faces. Whistler is similar to most ski-resort type towns with its many quaint shops, restaurants, and hotels. During the summer the town is transformed into a mountain bike mecca sporting the latest in downhill bicycles, equipment, and gear. My “all mountain” mountain bike is about the minimum recommended rig for this mountain, and countless times during my two day trip I could have used more suspension as mine bottomed out on the larger jumps and drops. One of those downhill bikes would have been nice, but I decided to stay with my rig.

Upon arrival, I parked in one of the many lots for $7.00/day, suited up in my downhill gear (full-face helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, and gloves), grabbed my carbon-fiber steed, and headed for the ticketing area. The ticketing area was bustling with all kinds of people and bicycles. Hikers could take the gondola up in one direction to the subalpine and alpine hiking trails, and a chair lift was used for the mountain bikers, whisking them up in another direction. A lift pass for a bicycle is similar to a skier in that it costs about $53.00/day, and the lifts are open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. My stamina isn’t what it used to be, so 6 hours of mountain biking was plenty for me, before retiring to my hotel (hopefully in one piece). After paying for my lift ticket and getting a trail map, it was time to catch the first chair lift.

While on the chair lift, I studied the map only to figure out that there were many chair lifts and a gondola which serviced the mountain bikers. The main area, called Fitzsimmons, was the original Whistler downhill area. This took up one entire side of the trail map, with a seemingly endless intertwined spaghetti bowl of trails. I flipped the trail map over to find two more large sections of trails. One trail area was higher up on the mountain, called Garbonzo, and the other trail area which encompassed the opposite side of the mountain was called Creekside. After getting off the chair lift, I discovered that the Garbonzo area chair lift was labelled, “experts only.” Consequently, I felt it was prudent to stay on the lower section of the mountain first, before venturing further. Given that the lower section had everything from easy to “Pro Lines”, it would take the better part of the day just to figure out the lower trail system.

The trail map yielded a wealth of information. I determined that the trails were further subdivided into “Technical” and “Free Ride” trails. About 70% was setup for technical riding, and about 30% was earmarked for “Free Ride.” If you don’t mind leaving the earth from time to time, the Free Ride trails offered buff single track, with various jumps and table tops, all broken down from beginner to Double-Black expert levels. The technical trails are much less buff, and generally contained natural obstacles, roots, rocks, logs, drops, jumps, and other natural or constructed features that required technical riding skills, and again were divided from beginner to expert levels. I started on an easy free ride section called “Easy Does It”, and it proved to be a great introduction to the large, sweeping berms all the way down the mountain. Throughout the first day, I spent my time on mainly blue intermediate free ride and technical trails, but ventured down a couple of black diamond free ride and technical trails just to get the flow of the mountain. On my last run of the day, I about ran into a rather large black bear hanging out on the trails. Good thing my disk brakes work well! The bear saw me, and scurried off down the trail. A great first day!

Mountain Bike Trail Review: Texas Hill Country

This is a Texas hill country mountain bike trail review by Jeff. He has so much fun playing, that his review posts are somewhat delayed!

LonghornMy first experience riding Texas was east of Austin at a place called Rocky Hill Ranch. It had rained the day before, so I figured the trails would be well-packed, not dusty, and ready to ride. What was not known was this area is actually low country and my bike went from weighing a trim 27.5 pounds when I started to what seemed like 60 pounds from the sticky, red mud that caked both my wheels and bike while riding a fire connector road to one of the interconnecting trails. I cut that trip short and only did 4 miles as essentially an out and back. Consequently, my first ride out of the gate was not exactly a pleasurable ride, however, I was entertained by the nearby long horns. I am sure that during drier conditions the trail would have been fabulous, but it just didn’t work for me on that day.

mapMy impression of Texas mountain biking changed in a positive way once exposed to the enjoyable riding offered in Texas Hill Country near San Antonio. After stopping at a nearby bike shop (Gotta Ride Bikes), they directed me to two trails which offer the best in the area: Flat Rock Ranch near Comfort, Texas and Madrone Trail overlooking Canyon Lake.  Flat Rock Ranch was smooth and flowy, while Madrone Trail was like picking through a rock garden. Let me start with Flat Rock Ranch first.

Getting to Flat Rock Ranch was easy, just off the highway, but you have to eventually drive your car through a gate which keeps the cows corralled. Being from Florida I am not exactly indoctrinated to this type of trail head entrance. After parking my car, I paid the $10.00 fee and proceeded to the west loop. They have about 29 miles of trails, but the western loop was plenty for me getting about 15 miles out of the run. Although the trail was well marked, my Mountain Bike Project App kept me informed of my progress along the way. If you are a traveler and want a rocking app for mountain bike trails around the country, you should download this jewel. Although the first half of the trail was generally a slow and steady ascent up the mountain, the periodic ups and downs during the ascent kept it always interesting. You know the top is near when the tight switch backs start appearing. It gets a little technical going up the switch backs, but it should be a comfort to know the downhill is not far.

bikeOnce at the top, get ready for a rocking smooth downhill which seems like it just doesn’t stop. After a couple more climbs it is pretty much downhill all the way to the car. This is an active farm, so don’t be surprised by the cows and horned sheep getting out of your way or observing your progress during the descent. This place would be great for cross country races or endurance events. My mind wanted to continue onto the east loop, but my legs just wouldn’t support that decision. I hear that the east loop is shorter and a little more technical, but likely more of the same.

MadroneThe Madone trails did not disappoint either. After parking the car, I proceeded into the loop which yielded about 8 miles. Although this loop was much shorter than Flat Rock Ranch, it felt like doing many more miles. As the loop progresses, you are constantly picking a line through the multiple rock gardens, both up and down hills. Although this is not my cup of tea I managed to keep the bike upright and on two wheels most of the time, and can appreciate the technical appeal of this trail. While picking a path through the rock gardens, distractions abound with the marvelous views of Canyon Lake. Half way through I had a magnificent view of the lake and took a much needed break. Eventually you wind back to the car, shocks fully tested. If anything was marginally loose on the bike before, it likely needs some maintenance now.