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. 


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

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