Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crowder Revisited: Always Have a Map

Corey and I made our way down to Crowder State Park for some good clean mountain biking fun last year. We were pleasantly surprised with the hilly, rocky and rooty trails we found in this northern Missouri state park. Since we didn't get to ride all of it last year, we vowed to return...

For this year's trip we recruited Nick and Sam into the crew and headed down on Monday.

Crowder is purdy.

I had printed off some local riding tips off the interwebz last year but conveniently forgot to bring them along. This time around I had our little nuggets of wisdom. Apparently Corey and I rode the opposite of the recommended route much of the time last year, but I'm not convinced it matters much as either direction has plenty of hills.

This year we were determined to hit what we missed, the farthest loop, North Thompson. Last year we had a sweet topo map that we got from the trailhead, this year no dice. I could've brought the online map, but I don't think it would've done us much good.

What we should've done was this:

View Larger Map

What we did was this:

We basically missed the east sides of North Thompson and Tall Oaks Trails. We didn't have enough gumption to tackle the River Forks this time around. We also missed the Steep Creek connector on the way back. Its too bad because, with the exception of North Thomson, we missed some of the best trail at Crowder.

There's not a lot of signage at Crowder, but at least what's there is a little confusing. This junction is where we wrong on the Steep Creek and Tall Oaks return route.

Crowder has a lot of wide, double track trail, but it is littered with roots, rocks, ruts and this time of year...leaves. Occasionally a boggy wetspot will slow you down and in the multi-use sections of trail deep pock marks caused by horses hooves try to swallow you whole. It was just wet enough in the low spots and creek crossings to remind me of my beloved Voodoo's biggest weakness - mud clearance.

Action photos

Here's the photo for our (pretend) band's album cover. We're so introspective.

We found the 1800's Thompson manor house, it's very ghosty.

Even though some better navigation would have made our excursion better, it was still an exhausting good time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't Say "Hike"

Even if you really want to, or need to, don't say "hike" around the dog; unless you're ready to go (NOW!) and you are prepared to take him along.

Allie let our intentions slip Sunday morning well before we were ready to leave. Her unauthorized release of information casued quite the frenzy of jumping, pleading and spazzy doggie dance steps all around the house.

He can't help it, he likes:

the car,

and associated wind

and, of course, the trail.

We went to the Center trails and then hit the new sculpture park downtown. I was worried about Trail Dog keeping his city manners in check and mainly not peeing (or doing other bodily functions) in the park.

Luckily he was a model citizen, a refined dog out for a high-brow afternoon of viewing art.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whiterock Again

Hey, found my camera cord. Here's some photos from Whiterock Conservancy and the Ales and Trails CITA event.

WR is getting a large federal grant to construct dirt trail on their land. Let's hope bike friendly singletrack gets the nod.

The land is beautiful, it could be a real midwest mountain biking destination if they do it right.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The End of Gnomerlcy

The frontier chill crept in to where he slept and enveloped the Outlaw, pressing down on him with the finality of his Last Day. On the nightstand sat a weathered, leather bound Bible, its tissue thin pages ruffled open to John 14:27. It read, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

The grizzled old Pastor knew exactly which verse to leave. That was the easy part, he'd sent many a condemned man to the gallows pole; ushered many a soul to its Earthly end...

...ok so, once again, that was over dramatic. I wasn't exactly a dead man walking, but it was the last day of the Gnome Fest and that's a bummer too. Maybe not as much as being executed, but I'm not splitting hairs with you.

We made sure to get up and get moving early enough to break camp and hit the Mounds one more time. There were a couple of short stretches of trail we hadn't hit yet and we were motivated to do 'em all.

Melissa headed out early on her second ladies only ride. She discovered that although she's only been riding a short time, she can already hang with the ladies of Gnome Fest.

I should probably mention now that Melissa dubbed herself as unofficially, officially in charge of our mini-fire making. She demonstrated her prowess by executing the rare and difficult double handed lighter fire starting technique.

Melissa's Estrogen Ride left the boys to do our thing. We again headed out on Dump, Snodgrass and Prime Cut mostly to show Matt he was incorrect in his claim they were "boring". We hit Porky Point and Upper Glen this time along with Toad Raod and Northface again.

We found the lookout.

We staged some epicness.

We treed some porkypines. Yep, real live pinchusions. I didn't even know they lived in the Midwest, let alone Wisconsion.

We rode the Plummer's Crack in the opposite direction this time (my idea). This way meant hitting a very long, fairly steep climb before getting to the Crack. Remember, it looks like this:

Coming through the very narrow part I rubbed the rock a bit with my hand. Once I got it straightened out I thought the best thing to do would be to give it a power stroke on the peddle. Well, I wasn't straightened out enough or I was too wobbly from 2 days of riding plus a long climb. Whatever the reason I quickly realized I wasn't going to stay on the nice little bridge. I bailed out, basically setting my bike off the side while coming down lightly (as can be expected) on the bridge. I landed a little further down from where Corey is standing contemplating my failure. I was most worried about getting my fingers cobbled up in the wooden slats, but I escaped with just a little tweeking of the digits. Whew! That was Type 2 fun for sure.

Unfortunately it was a long drive back to reality and we needed to get on the road. I thoroughly enjoyed the laid back atmosphere, crazy events, unique characters and above all the miles of great trails. I would be remiss to not make Gnome Fest a priority in future Festing plans.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The sun, playing a golden reveille over the pines, announced to camp that another day was not going to wait for them to recover. Inside haphazardly set tents the weary eyelids of soldiers cracked open, their fatigued minds replaying a litany of triumphs and tragedies from the previous day. Outside, the remnants of yesterday’s battle lay strewn across the sand choked grass. In places embers still burned. Several hulking metal carcasses lay in ruin, their insides empty as a string of broken promises…….

...Ok, so that was overly dramatic again. No, it wasn’t exactly a Civil War battle scene. The parts of "soldiers" were played by a ragtag band of mountain bike festivalers and technically speaking the embers were from a festive roaring bonfire…

and I guess the metal carcasses were actually just kegs. Hey, they were empty (as broken promises) though.

We went out three separate times on Day 2. Some of the following gnomeyness was borrowed from this treasure trove of elfin goodness.

'Nuther map in case your following along.

The first time out we rode up North Face, along Cliffhanger and Switchback and back down Hermosa's swoopy descent. We cut it pretty short because some people in our group were still feeling the first night afterfest effect.

We found the infamous Plumber's Crack on Toad Road, riding it up the slope this time around. We would reverse the direction on Sunday with interesting results for Yours Truly.

Is that Corey hiding behind a tree, or perhaps a gnome?

5.8 miles. 1055 feet of climbing.

In the early afternoon, we hit the skills loop for a couple of college tries. I liked the stunts because I'm really terrible at skinnies and these were a little wider and sturdy. Even though there was only one truly anorexic stunt, they were all still challenging.

More stunt pics from Lucy's Loop here

Instead of the Alley Cat race, Nick Corey and I opted to head off for trails furthest from camp, Goat Dance, et al. We knew a trail with that kind of name would feature some painful climbing...and it did. We took Snodgrass and Prime Cut out there, nice flowy lowland trails, perfect for warming up.

Aw, a fern gully, there must be gnomes in there somewhere.

Top a ' the Goat, Ma!

11.78 miles, 1488 feet of climbing.

We again hem and hawed about a night ride, but who would want to miss the Mini Cycle Death Race? This clip was from an early race, it went down (or up?) hill from there. Either way, this is a family blog and what happens at Gnomefest, stays at Gnomefest (kinda, sorta).

Our Very Own, Melissa, tried her hand (and tutu) at the race. She was the only contestant that sat on the bike the whole way.

This pictures sums it up pretty well. The Flickr caption is Caveman v. Zebraman. The names of the racers were colorful, the heckling/cheering (?) was hilarious. It was quite the spectacle.

Starting early and rollin' on into the evening...handlebar rides for many of the on Playah.

Beer potluck; I couldn't resist having a Hamm's (the beer refreshing, the beer refreshing...Hamm's) .

Coming next: Happy Trails to us on the final morning.