Sunday, November 17, 2013

Another Fall Milestone: Back To Camp Robinson

When I describe the level of my mountain biking experience, I borrow a line that I once heard from a less-than-confident kayaking friend who started boating about the same time that I did. At a put-in, he commented on my level of experience by saying, "You have 5 years of experience and I have 1 year of experience 5 times."
That pretty well sums up my mountain biking experience, though I'm now up to one year of experience 6 or 7 times.
Willie loves to see the mountain bike come out, as it often means a run in the woods of Camp Robinson for him.

I enjoy the change of pace that the mountain bike offers up to this road rider, but I'm a firm believer that riding in the woods of Arkansas is best reserved for the cooler months when the presence of chiggers, ticks, and poison ivy has somewhat abated. My mountain biking season started this year with a couple of rides at Burns Park and the Pfeifer Loop, both of which I enjoy, especially since the Burns Park trails were renovated a year or two ago. Those trails now flow nicely. What Burns Park lacks in my opinion is variety, and that is where the pull of Camp Robinson comes in. Where Burns Park offers Red, Yellow, White, and Green trails, Camp has more many more miles, more technical variety, more trail sections, and certainly more creative names. Here are some of the trails that Camp deals up:

Advanced Trig
Airport Loop
Ball of Nails
Can of Corn
Center Road
Christmas Tree
Dead Elvis
Dogwood Trail
El Stupido
Helter Skelter
Outside Loop
Porta Potty
Ten Bridges
Turn, Turn, Turn
Yucca Trail
Zig Zag

Level of difficulty ranges from beginner-friendly and accessible trails like Yucca, Airport, and Porta Potty to "damned if I've ever done it without putting a foot down" Advanced Trig and Helter Skelter, with a whole lot of in between stuff. Among my favorites are Buddha, Ball of Nails and Merlin, each of which challenges my 7 x 1 year skill level but that can usually be completed with few foot dabs or falls.
Buddha is a favorite. Willie is a front-running trail dog. His self-assigned job is to see that squirrels are off the trail and up the trees where they belong. The trails at Camp are in great shape.
Give thanks
For what had been given to you,
However little.
Be pure, never falter.


Riding at Camp Robinson does require just a little planning, as riders are required to obtain a Sportsman Pass at the Visitor Center near the front gate. Passes cost $25.00, are good for a year, and may be had between the hours of  10:00AM and 6:00PM, Tuesday-Friday. It is a good idea to call ahead to verify that the clerk is on duty, as the job seems to entail fairly frequent absences, and the security folks on duty cannot issue the passes. Call 501-212-5100  and ask for the Visitor Center. You will need cash or a check, along with a driver's license, and auto registration and proof-of-insurance. The process takes 5-10 minutes. After obtaining a pass, you simply sign in and out at the Visitor Center and show your pass and ID at the gate.

Credit goes to C.A.R.P.

The trails at Camp Robinson came into being in the earliest days of mountain biking, back long before 9-11. Camp Robinson was historically pretty wide open and had long been popular with hunters, local dirt bike riders, wanderers of the woods, and partiers. As mountain biking caught on, riders gravitated to the trails they knew at Camp and they were soon making improvements and building new loops. 9-11 caused an increase in security and unfettered access became a thing of the past. Folks like Basil Hicks and Jim Holsted lobbied for access to Training Area 2 where the trail system was located. As a result Central Arkansas Recreational Pedalers, or C.A.R.P., was born to serve as a vehicle to regain access to the Camp Robinson trails. The bureaucracy that brought about that agreement has gone through some evolution, but the folks of CARP deserve ongoing credit for the quality mountain biking experience that is available to us.

With support from Camp Robinson, new directional signs are going up throughout the trail system. 
A logging project cleared some areas a couple of years ago destroyed some stretches of single track and seriously disrupted trail use, but time does indeed heal out in the woods and things are back to the "new normal". Adding to the hand of nature have been the hands of Basil Hicks, Jr. and III, Darin Webb, Mike and Jason McGhee, Bryan and Melissa Shipman, Rodney Small, Justin Ray, and others who regularly pack in saws, loppers, leaf blowers and weed eaters to maintain one of the best local trail systems that you likely never rode!

It's not a race, but...

Ride by the numbers: Game On!
Riding is always competitive to many folks. I had noticed some numbered hi-vis signs along the trail, then I checked out this challenge at the trailhead bulletin board. The best time posted as of  November 8 was 1:10:14 by Richard Macychek, followed closely by Daniel Halpain at 1:10:30.  Go get some if you want it, and good luck beating Richard.
Riders Needed
The thing that the trails of Camp Robinson needs the most is more riders! I'm glad to hear that ridership is up and steady, but there are a lot of trail miles out there and the best way to keep the single track in top shape is to ride it!

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