Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Camp Robinson NOT Closed Wednesday, Thursday

I was just informed (Thurs morning)that the MTB trails are not affected by this closure, which is actually for a competitive event for guardsmen.

I noticed a sign posted at the Visitor Center stating that the Camp Robinson training areas will be closed We'd. Feb 10, and Thurs., Feb 11.

The sign is addressed to hunters,but applies to riders as well. I was told that a controlled burn is planned.
Pass it on.

Monday, February 1, 2016

BDB-Open and Shut Case

I got reports that the BDB was open on Sunday, and passed that information on via Facebook. I then got information from Jeff Caplinger of NLR Parks that the gate was supposed to have remained closed as clean up and repairs continued this week. There will be more heavy equipment operating in the area this week.
Jeff advises that we should plan on the gate being closed this morning, Monday, until further notice. The intent is to have the bridge and at least some of the trail approaches open for the upcoming weekend.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

BDB-River Trail Update as of Monday Jan 25, Iron Mountain Trails

Things are still a mess along the North Little Rock side of the river. I got out on my mountain bike on Saturday to scout around, and then followed up on Monday night with a ride across the BDB to confirm that the gates were still closed.
 A lot of progress has been made in clearing the trees and debris near the BDB, but much work remains.
 The silt has created large mud/sand flats in the park and along the trail. The NLR crews have learned a lot from recent experience and are spreading out or hauling off a lot of the sand to return the grade to normal.
 The silt goes from being sticky mud to hard-pack to fine sand. None of it is easy to move.
 The new pavilions held up well. Good work, scouts!
The ski platform at Victory Lake did not fare so well.

Ugly. And, as always, the debris piles are full of an amazing amount of litter. 
This shadowy rider made the only set of tracks in the Pfeifer Loop. It was not really as bad as  expected. The area closest to the river had the most debris and looked like a disaster. Behind the tree line, things were not quite as bad, but will still require extensive clean-up and rehab.

North Little Rock Parks and other department crews are hard at work to clean and repair the trail, but they have a long way to go. Things are expected to be back to normal within a couple of weeks and for now, the north gate on the BDB is closed "indefinitely". Typically, as soon as any viable route is open, the gates will be opened as well. There is a lot of equipment working in the area at this time.

Ride alternatives
As in the "not so good ol' days", North Little Rock riders are faced with driving or riding to the Little Rock side of the river or simply deal with riding open areas of the trail and Burns Park loops. Road rides east of town are always a possibility but do not lend themselves to quick evening rides due to to traffic. Once on the Little Rock side, Two Rivers Park is fully open, and there were only a few muddy spots on the trail Monday evening. 

Drive-to-ride mountain bike destination-Iron Mountain Trails at DeGray

I admittedly don't get around much. There is so much to ride within minutes of home that I seldom venture outside of central Arkansas. On Sunday, with the trail a mess and local roads still thawing from the big Friday snow, and Camp Robinson closed and likely still snow-covered, I saw a mention on Facebook of the Iron Mountain Trails on DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia. I had heard good things so I threw the Niner in the truck and headed out I-30. I had only a vague idea where I was going, but in a little over an hour I was at the parking lot trailhead for the Orange, Blue, and White trails, and was getting good advice from the riders I met there. 
 The pine forest makes for an open understory and the trails are smooth and flowy. 
The new White Trail follows the shoreline of a peninsula into Lake DeGray for much of its length.

My experiences on mountain bike venues are pretty limited, but I'll say that Iron Mountain is about as good as I've seen in terms of trail surface, accessibility, and simple fun. I'm sure that there are more challenging sections, but the counter-clockwise trail direction that I rode on the Orange and White trails seemed have long stretches of flowing downhill followed by slightly sharper, short climbs. Advanced riders can fly through well banked turns while beginners can hone their skills and gain confidence while enjoying the scenery. A summer ride could easily include a break to dive into the clear water of DeGray. Iron Mountain is not news to local mountain bike riders, and I saw several Little Rock folks while I was there, but it was new to me. I'm eager to get back down there and explore some more. 



Monday, January 18, 2016

A Day At Girls' Camp. Well, Sort of....

Last week, Diane noticed that Missy Vail was leading a beginner/intermediate ride at Camp Robinson for the ladies of Arkansas Heels on Wheels. She decided to meet the women for the ride and I tagged along to take some photos and let our dogs enjoy a day of running the trails.
The Heels had a great turn-out, as the Visitor Center was crowded with women when we arrived to check in, and they arrived at the TA2 ride area like a convoy on a drill day.

The Heels on Wheels convoy had arrived.

Soon, the bikes were unloaded and the more experienced riders were sharing insight with beginners in the group. The group ranged from experienced intermediate riders to first-timers, so everyone got an opportunity to teach, learn, or do both. 

Final preparation: Air and hair must be correct for conditions.
 Willie and Ivy making a run for it. I tried to keep them out of the group, but Willie is a mama's boy and bolted to join when he caught a glimpse of Diane through the woods. They are good trail dogs and the ladies didn't seem to mind.  
 Missy leads as the pack crosses the new long bridge on 10 Bridges trail.

I am always glad to see opportunities like this for women in sports. Having spent all of my adult life engaged in "male dominated" activities ranging from whitewater boating to windsurfing to fly fishing and cycling, I have observed that, though there are obviously women who excel at all of them, there is a bit of an intimidation factor. Women are often hesitant to reveal their lack of knowledge in the presence of a bunch of boys, so gender-specific events are helpful in breaking the ice.
Guys have big ol' egos, but most of us have done enough dumb shit so as not be embarrassed to ask anymore. I was such a goober when I started riding bikes, I had to call the shop from which I had a demo to ask the salesman how to shift gears after getting stuck in a 39-12. "Oh, the brake levers shift the gears, too??Wow."  He had tried to show me in the shop, but I was all, "I got this".  
A couple of guys, including Richard Machycek of Arkansas Cycling and Fitness, joined the ride. I have a difficult time saying Richard was there for "moral" support, but he checked tire pressures, answered technical questions and handed out rolling advice on shifting, bike handling, and trail features as he rode among the participants. Richard is an excellent rider and can communicate well, he he is good to have along. 

The group gathered at the center road to decided on their next loop.
Richard Machycek of Arkansas Cycling and Fitness initiating a fat bike wheelie for the camera.

And that's not all....
Basil Hicks III was conducting a trail maintenance training session on Saturday afternoon. Basil II, Sharon Saunders, Brian and Melissa Shipman were set up at the shelter with hot drinks and snacks for that event.  It was a great opportunity to socialize and discuss the state of things at Camp Robinson. 

More trail miles...

Last week, Eric Grimmett unveiled his yet unnamed new trail off of ZigZag/Pipeline. On Saturday, Basil Hicks told me that they had just opened up a new mile-long extension of Can Of Corn. I have not come close to riding all of the current trail system at Camp Robinson. Trails range from well-marked, easily accessible beginner loops to some very technical routes. I think that "E" may have set a new standard for technical with his new trail, but I'll have to check it out when I'm ready for a little bike hike. 





Friday, January 15, 2016

River Trail, BDB Status Report

Thursday represented my latest "first road ride of the year" ever. The mountain bike has been a welcome diversion and a means of shedding some holiday gravy, but I'm a roadie at heart.

The BDB north access remains closed
The Arkansas River Trail from Burns Park to the Big Dam Bridge remains closed, and the gates on the north end of the bridge are locked. I'm told that it will be Wednesday or later before this section is cleared.

 Always a sad scene.
There are actually signs that some major trail clearing has been taking place at the approach to the BDB. The huge logs look to have been moved and there is at least a track through the sand.

There is obviously still a lot of work to be done ion the north side, and officials have asked that folks stay clear for their own safety as so as not to interfere with work crews. That said, I've received reports from explorers that say Pfeifer Loop is a total wreck, mostly due to the massive accumulation of sand. I'm sure that once a plan is in place, volunteers will once again come out to aid with the recovery.
The trail is open from Burns Park east to the sub, and all roads east of town are clear, including Faulkner Lake Road which was submerged for a few days.

Two Rivers Park is open and the trail is dry and clear. 


The trail through Two Rivers Park is dry and mostly clear.

Some trail areas still have a coating of dirt that may turn a little ugly when wet, but this well-equipped cyclist ain't scairt. With a rear fender, nice big mirror, and "praying mantis" aero bars, he is prepared for whatever he may encounter. 

We'll have to deal with some minor inconveniences when choosing routes for the next few days, but it is time to get riding.
Be Safe.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Camp Robinson Mountain Biking: Raised From The Near-Dead

Each year, I embark on a quest to embrace my inner mountain biker, with some years bearing more fruit than others. This year, I started out with a declared plan to enjoy my mountain bike more frequently, and that plan has only been encouraged by trail flooding and few days of cold, windy weather. The result is that I have been riding at Camp Robinson pretty frequently.
Riding at Camp always turns me into a cheerleader for both the trail system that exists there and for the many volunteers that have created, maintained, and improved the many miles of well-groomed single-track. A few years ago, a timber harvest in Camp's TA2 almost shut down riding for an extended period of time, and optimism for a revival was at a low.

Here is a comment from a December 2010 post regarding Camp Robinson that puts that state of things at that time in perspective:

... there are a few (literally) riders who maintain or even use the trails at camp. If these riders quit, the trails will disappear and eventually there will be no need to maintain a sign-in log at the visitor center. Who knows what the future holds for cycling on camp?
C.A.R.P. Christmas ride, December 2010. Logging had destroyed much of the trail system and rendered some still-ridable areas nearly inaccessible. Only a few stubborn riders hung onto the notion of riding at camp during this time.


The original "Christmas Tree" was only a stump when this photo was taken. It had been decorated over the years with old wheels, broken chains, and discarded tubes. It wasn't really art, but served as a meeting place and landmark at the junction of Yucca, Christmas Tree, and the center road.

Those were dark times for mountain biking at Camp. I was at the height of my enthusiasm for the place, and was determined to deal with the logging and the ensuing burn-offs and mud. For those of you who have never had to traverse a fresh clear-cut, consider that marketable timber is hauled out, leaving behind a maze of shattered wood and twisted branches. In addition, the dozers, trucks and skidders churn the soil so that wet conditions can add bottomless mud to the mix. After that, as at Camp Robinson in 2010-2011, you can then burn it all off to leave a smoldering expanse of wrecked unrecognizable terrain. I remember one cold night after losing the trace of whatever trail I was trying to follow, likely 10-Bridges, I decided to try to beat darkness by taking a more-or-less straight line back to my truck. My mistake resulted in an adventure of knee-deep mud, thrashing maddened maneuvering of bike over downed timber, and a decision that it simply was not f---ing worth it. There were still a lot of quality trail miles to ride even at this point, but access and atmosphere sucked.

April 2011. Riding at Camp Robinson was at a low point. Even Willie was looking disgusted, his feet and belly blackened by the char. 

We're back, and better than ever.
I did go back to Camp Robinson, as did others. It took a couple of years for the earth to heal and for stubborn trail fairies to make repairs and rebuild or reroute trails.

Basil Hicks and Bryan Shipman, along with others, were at the heart of the trail building and restoration at Camp Robinson. JBarCycling Jan 2012

Basil Hicks, shown above, has since retired and seems to have taken on the CARP trails as a new career. Folks like Bryan Shipman have been very helpful in communicating with the facility administration as some leadership changes have taken place at the Guard. I can't address that facet of things in detail, but it seems that Camp Robinson has been very welcoming of the opportunity for interaction with the local community afforded by the mountain bike trails. I have also met a number of folks taking advantage of the trails who are at the facility for training. While TA2 is still a training area first, the improvements to parking and other trailhead features certainly benefit the mountain biking crowd.
Three good reasons that the trails are in such great shape:
On a recent rainy Sunday, I decided to take the dogs out for a hike at Camp. As I headed in, I encountered a 3-piece band whose music accompanied much of our 5-6 mile walk.


 Sharon Saunders on backpack blower accompanied by her terrier.
Basil Hicks on string trimmer
and Bruce Alt on chainsaw.

It can sometimes be a challenge to identify the trails at Camp when the leaf cover is thick, so the leaf-blowing  is really appreciated.

These folks are often seen hard at work so that we can have some of the best riding around, but they are far from being alone in their efforts. Last Sunday, as were emerged from a cold ride, we ran into Eric Grimmett. "E" was grabbing his helmet and shoes to "go ride my new trail". I had seen Eric, girlfriend Kashari, and his dad logged in ahead of me a few times, but had not run into them out riding. He let me know that they had spent the last couple of months building "the sweetest trail out here". "I'm building it like I build a bike." Eric has a longstanding reputation and as proud and capable bike mechanic, so that means that his yet unnamed trail will indeed be sweet. I haven't seen it, but will likely explore it soon. He might tell you where it is, but I'll let E do the unveiling. 
Update: He unveiled in a Facebook post

April, 2010. These rocks were hauled into this spot on 10-Bridges by wheelbarrow.

I also ran into Lane Septon recently. I first met Lane several years ago as he hauled wheelbarrows of rocks into 10 Bridges Trail, and he was back at work this week clearing leaves from under some of the many bridges to allow the water to flow. 


Improvements


Even longer than it looks- I walked off the length of this new bridge on 10-Bridges Trail. It is about 85 feet long.

In the past, my winter excursions usually saw me leaving Camp Robinson wet, muddy, and cold, with the bike a total mess. There was almost always good riding but many of the key entry trails had some seriously muddy patches and unimproved water crossings. Good policy says not to ride muddy trails, but back then getting muddy was pretty much a fact of life on the CARP trails. Today, even after a big rain event, you would have to seek out off-path soft spots to experience the hub deep crossings of the past. Trails have been rerouted to better use the terrain, bridges have been built or improved, and most of even the smallest water crossings have been hardened. 

The extensive trail system means that even on the heaviest user days, you are unlikely to see many other riders. I checked in on a recent weekend and there were likely 25-30 riders signed in ahead of me. I rode for a couple of hours on some of the most popular trail sections without encountering another rider until I was headed back to the parking lot. If you want company, you'll need to use your charm at the trailhead, as you are unlikely to cross paths with others once you get out on the trail.

A few short years ago, it appeared that mountain biking at Camp Robinson was not quite dead, but seriously ill. Now, the scene is alive, well, and gaining strength.
Get your sportsman pass, air up your knobbies and head to Camp. If you have never ridden there, or if it has just been a while, you'll be amazed by what you find. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

River Trail Update-Tuesday, January 12; Updated 1/13

Update:
Our friend Robert Mooney shared some January 12 photos from the NLR River Trail.



I think there is still a little work to be done before the trail is road bike ready. Thanks, Robert.



My road bike has not been seeing any action lately due to River Trail conditions, but I am getting more deeply involved with the annual mountain bike romance.
Things are still a mess in NLR and, though reportedly passable, I've received a report that the trail at Two Rivers Park is still covered with a layer of rutted dirt. I have really been enjoying Camp Robinson and, for me, it is more accessible for a short evening ride than driving to Little Rock to ride up and down Rebsamen Park Road. Feel free to add any personal knowledge in the comments section.


From the City Of North Little Rock, Jan 12:


Flood Cleanup Update: This morning, Tuesday Jan. 12th, our crews continue to work hard getting our trails and parks back to a condition where residents and visitors can enjoy them. There are still a few portions of the Arkansas River Trail still underwater, but we have heavy equipment removing the tons of sand and debris that settled when the river receded. Still closed are the soccer fields, dog park, Cooks Landing, and the Arkansas River Trail (through Burns Park.) We hope to have many portions of the now closed areas open by later this week, but that timeframe is dependent on the weather cooperating. It could just as easily be next week. Expect some detours on the trail when it does open, due to continuing cleanup by the heavy equipment.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

River Trail Flooding-Here we go again!

I case you have not had any media exposure in the last several days, here is your notice that much of the Arkansas River Trail in central Arkansas will not be passable for the next week or so due to flooding.
Soaked ground, already high flows, and some remarkable rainfall totals have pushed the river to levels exceeding those that we experienced last summer.

We ain't seen nothing, yet....
The impending river levels will far exceed those we witnessed last summer.


The most recent flood crest of the river was at 22.89 ft on 06/03/2015. The current forecast call for  a crest 26'. Last summer's event was considered an "action" level, below even "minor" flooding, while 26' is considered a "moderate" event, approaching major flooding. 

Arkansas River levels this week and those in June will easily make the National Weather Service top-10 Historic Crests list:

Historic Crests
(1) 34.60 ft on 06/01/1933
(2) 33.00 ft on 04/20/1927
(3) 30.45 ft on 04/21/1945
(4) 27.90 ft on 05/31/1957
(5) 27.70 ft on 05/08/1990
(6) 26.22 ft on 04/24/1973
(7) 25.00 ft on 12/04/1982
(8) 24.81 ft on 11/27/1973
(9) 24.12 ft on 05/05/1944
(10) 23.30 ft on 10/13/1986


Before the flood.

I'm sure that the folks building the Broadway Bridge have seen more than enough high water as they try to pour footings, set piers, and assemble some structure on barges along the river.

We shouldn't complain

After a long, cool spring stretched into a summer marred by crazy rain and trail flooding, fall and early winter have been perfect for riding, with October-like temperatures stretching into December and October seeing August-like heat, including a record high of 98 on October 15.

'tis the season. Christmas Eve was marked by temperatures in the 70's. Short pants were prevalent on the BDB. 

The weather seems to have finally caught up with the calendar, though a few days too late for many outdoor retailers for whom cold weather means brisk sales of fleece, down and flannel (our friends at Ozark Outdoor Supply are having a big sale on winter goods, by the way. Go by and spend your Christmas money.). 

Clean up-again. Alternative Service Opportunity.

I'm certain that when the floodwaters recede, the call will once again go out for volunteers to help clean up the River Trail. This time, you can help by either getting out your shovel and rake or by reaching for your checkbook or credit card.

The shoveling is damn hard work, and, while a cold snap might discourage the swarms of gnats that plagued us last summer along the trail, the credit card route is guaranteed to create fewer lower back ailments and no bug bites at all.

Rob Stephens and the Arkansas River Trail Task Force had already embarked on a campaign to help NLR Parks acquire a trail sweeping machine. You can follow the link below to learn more and to make your tax-deductible donation:


The first fund-raising goal is to provide funds for North Little Rock Parks and Recreation to purchase a trail sweeper, similar to the photo shown here. This will enable quicker trail cleanup after flooding. The approximate cost is $18,000.
ooooohhh, ahhhhhh. Very Nice!

As any of us who helped tackle the clean-up last summer will attest, the sediment that get deposited by river flooding starts out as a sticky, gumbo-like mud, which then dries into densely packed fine sand. The usual practice is to use a blade to push most of the sediment off of the trail, followed by sweepers and then blowers. That creates berms piled on either side of the trail which affect drainage and often result in the material washing right back onto the trail. The new sweeper will allow the sand to be moved off of the trail. 



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Along The Trail- The Hoga, Bike Boy, Broadway Bridge and Grants

The past couple of weekends have produced some absolute perfection for cycling in central Arkansas. Mild temperatures, clear skies, and light winds made for the kind of days that we yearn for in December, so where was everybody??  I'm sure that the allure of the shopping centers and malls kept some people under a  roof, but I don't think I know any of those folks. 

I decided on a recent Saturday to take a bit of a tour around town. As always, I found some interesting developments along the away.

The Hoga (YT-146) is here. Finally.

The heroic Hoga has a new home. 

 After 10 years of haggling, maneuvering, transporting, starting and stopping, the WWII era  harbor tug came into port at the North Little Rock Maritime Museum last week, in plenty of time for Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies. The project to bring the Hoga here was a mission of former Mayor Pat Hays and, though I had doubts about the value of the project, I will admit that the account of action aboard The Hoga during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor makes me believe that the old girl deserves to rest in a place of honor. While the Arkansas River may seem like an unlikely spot, it is far better than a scuttling or the scrap yard.

Where has the Bike Boy gone?
I have a fondness for the Bike Boy statute sited near the north foot of the Clinton Park Bridge. I noticed the the boy was not present on recent rides so I made in inquiry of alderman Debi Ross. Debi made a quick inquiry and discovered that the work had been moved to accommodate some recent work by the North Little Rock Street Department. It is safely in storage and will be restored to its rightful place.
 
The Bike Boy statue shown behind former mayor Pat Hays is safe and sound.

What heck is falsework?

I've stumbled all over reporting about the jungle of yellow painted steel that is being staged on the riverbank adjacent to the Clinton Park Bridge. I won't review my various incorrect assumptions and blathering thereof, but will proceed to report what I currently believe to be correct.




The structures make up the falsework to be used in construction of the Broadway Bridge.
From Wikipedia:
Falsework consists of temporary structures used in construction to support spanning or arched structures in order to hold the component in place until its construction is sufficiently advanced to support itself.

Construction scenes, particularly bridge construction, can make for some striking images. 


Much bridge construction requires that work be done with cranes on barges

An engineering feat is set to unfold.

I had an opportunity to speak to John Ruddell of Garver Engineers, and their project manager for the Broadway Bridge. I asked John how the falsework was going to be deployed. In a discussion several months ago with Cooper Khyl of Massman Construction, I had been told that much of the construction would take place on barges lined up between the Main Street and Broadway Bridges. John was able to add some detail. 
We haven't seen anything, yet!

Most folks have seen the many barges lined up along the river at present. That array will be expanded. The falsework will be assembled on the barges and the structure will be built over it. John had been told that the maximum height of the bridge's baskethandle arches and towers arches would rise 170-feet above the river. I found that to be incredibly exciting as I compared it to the heights of downtown buildings,. When the spans have been assembled, tugs will move the barges into position so that the structures are in place over their respective piers. The barges will then be flooded to lower them into place. This is going to be an amazing process, and I hope to be on hand when the moves takes place. 

Grants
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has historically turned back federal dollars that are designated for alternative transportation. 
This appears to be changing. This from the AHTD:

INFORMATION RELEASE  AHTD (98)color 10''.jpg

Office of the Director

ARKANSAS STATE HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT
P. O. Box 2261 – Little Rock, Arkansas                             ArkansasHighways.com
Telephone (501) 569-2227                                                         Twitter: @AHTD


Contact:                                                                                                                       NR 15-406
Danny Straessle/Krista Sides                                                               December 4, 2015

Arkansas State Highway Commission Approves
Funding for Local Federal-aid Projects

STATEWIDE (12-4) – The Arkansas State Highway Commission has approved more than $20 million in funding to applicants for Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program, and Recreational Trails Program (RTP) projects in Arkansas.

The TAP is a Federal-aid program established in 2013 that allows eligible sponsors to apply for funding to construct sidewalks and trails for pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized forms of transportation, create systems that will provide safe routes for non-drivers (children, older adults and individuals with disabilities) or other similar activities.  This year, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) received 93 applications requesting more than $21 million. Seventy-one projects were selected to receive approximately $16 million in available funding.

The SRTS Program was established in 2005 and is used to enable and encourage children to safely walk and bicycle to school. These projects can include construction of infrastructure to improve the safety for pedestrians in the vicinity of schools or non-construction activities such as public awareness campaigns, traffic education, outreach programs and student bicycle safety training.  This year, the AHTD received 39 applications requesting more than $6 million. Eight projects were selected to receive approximately $1.2 million in available funding.

The RTP is a very competitive Federal-aid program established in 1993 allowing cities, counties, state or federal government agencies, and non-profit groups to apply for funding for the construction or maintenance of recreational trails or trail facilities throughout the state.  This year, the AHTD received 48 applications requesting almost $9 million.  Twenty-eight projects were selected to receive approximately $3.2 million in available funding.

The AHTD will work with the successful applicants to develop their projects and see them through to completion.  See attached lists detailing the projects selected for funding.

-more-

Funding Program
Number of Projects
Total Awarded

Transportation Alternatives Program
71
$ 15,970,981

Safe Routes to School Program
8
$ 1,207,262

Recreational Trails Program
28
$ 3,186,694
All Programs Total
107
$ 20,364,937



The City of Little Rock received grants to fund 3 projects, Riverdale, MacPark, and the Safe Routes to School - Dunbar. Pulaski County was awarded a grant for improvements on Pinnacle valley Road, though how that will be deployed is as of yet unclear.
Bauxite received $500,000 to begin preservation of  the Old River Bridge s part of the Saline Crossing Park and Recreation Area. The bridge will be a key river crossing for the developing Southwest Trail project.

North Little Rock received funding for phase 3 of the Levy Spur Trail.

In spite of noise-making by some conservative congressmen, the recent national transportation bill is set to increase funding for trails. Those same congressmen will line up for the ribbon cuttings as projects come to life, but that is politics. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Back To Camp Robinson- Epic Trail Quality In Town.

Each fall, I air up the near-flat tires of my Niner and start learning how to ride my mountain bike once again. Other than a couple of rides in Colorado in June, my fat tire season typically runs from November until March, and is usually limited to those days that are just on damn harsh to enjoy the road. That said, I really enjoy my days riding on dirt, and Camp Robinson is my " go to" choice for local riding. Access is a slight hassle, but it is made worthwhile by the many miles of single track and the fact that it is only 10-15 minutes from my house to wheels-down.
I took a couple of days of the Thanksgiving week vacation to exercise my freshly renewed $25.00* annual sportsman pass and to give our newest mutt Ivy a shot at being a trail dog. Willie is an old pro who consistently paces me for 8-9 miles at a time with occasional forays to remind squirrels that their rightful place is up a tree. Ivy, an athletic whip of a 20-pound Arkansas brown dog, caught on quickly and is remarkably fast and nimble.
I ran into Basil Hicks at the parking lot. Basil is a retired attorney who has spent many years building and improving the trails at Camp Robinson. Since his retirement a couple of years ago, it seems to have taken then place of his full time job, and his efforts are obvious. Basil isn't alone, and his son Basil III, Sharon Saunders, Brian and Melissa Shipman, and others   have spent many hours making Camp Robinson a remarkably complete resource for Central Arkansas mountain bikers.
The CARP trails, as they are known, are located in Camp Robinson's TA(training area)2. The Guard has recently added this shelter at the parking lot. There is also a changing area (the wood structure behind the shelter), along with port-o-potties.

As has been the case on all of my visits in the last couple of years, the trails are in amazing shape. The most frequently used trails have had leaves blown, and many of the areas that suffered from water damage or consistent mud have been hardened, bridged, or rerouted to more suitable terrain.

 Typical trail surfaces at Camp are hard packed and clear, though you can find plenty of more technical, rocky loops if you want to test your skills.

My early days at Camp 8 or 9 years ago were often mud-fests. Though Willie and Ivy still like to cool their paws and drink from the creek crossings, riders can now mostly avoid mud and wet feet while preserving the integrity of the trails.

For many years, much of the trail work was done under the auspices of Central Arkansas recreational Pedalers, or CARP. I won't explore the history of CARP here, but dues collected over the years paid for many of the tools and materials that are still in use at Camp Robinson. More recently, the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance   has brought resources to bear in improving and maintaining the trails. 
You will run across tools and materials caches along the TA2 trails. Keep in mind that all of the trail work done by volunteers.
 The maze of trails at Camp could be baffling to the uninitiated, but over the last few years, signage has been improved and some color-coded loops have been designated to help folks sort out their choices.
If you are new to Camp, or just haven't been in a while, stop and check out the sign board at the entry point. You'll find a lot of information that can make your exploration more rewarding. 

I was pleased to see quite a few weekday riders in the parking lot, but the trails are never crowded, and even on the highest use days the many miles and the diversity of the trail system allows you as much solitude as you could want. 


On my second recent day at Camp, I encountered a group of riders who were gracious enough to wait while I rode ahead to get some photos of them for use in this article. Due to a complete camera fumble, I blew the shots. If any of you are reading this, thanks for trying. 



*NOTES:
-THERE IS A $5.00 3-DAY PASS AVAILABLE IF YOU JUST WANT A TEST DRIVE OR HAVE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS

- TA2 will be closed to riders December 12-14 for a special hunt. These events are usually scheduled a couple of times per year.