Thursday, January 3, 2019

You Can Do It In the Rain-Alternatives

Happy New Year! 
A positive thought that is often followed by grumbling from Arkansas cyclists, especially when the weather forecast looks something like this:

Darkness comes early and winter temperatures are a deal killer for a lot of riders. Add a cold rain and most of us just ain't gonna get on the bike. Bummer.
Many folks find satisfactory respite by droning away on their trainer or by joining a popular local spin class, where they can at least enjoy some company. That just doesn't do it for me. While I value the fitness that comes from hours on the bike, the real draw for me is being outside and the satisfaction of self-propelled motion.

Alternative Plans- Take A Hike, Climb a Mountain, Play In A Boat. 
The good news for those of us here in central Arkansas is that there are many things to do that don't require anything more than a pair of hiking shoes or boots, some decent outdoor clothing, and some direction. Most riders have a good collection of synthetic base layers, which is a good start.

Last summer, I was looking for ways to meet some new people and get out of that old rut in which  that many of us find comfort. I had enjoyed a lot of walking the trails at Camp Robinson while rehabbing from shoulder surgery and Cassie Wells of the Little Hikers Meetup group did a little presentation at a CATA meeting. I joined them for a couple of hikes up around the Buffalo River and I was reminded of the many wonders found just off the road. There is a reason that Arkansas was known as the Wonder State from 1923-1953.

Winter is the best time to hike in Arkansas for the same reasons many of us consider it the best time to mountain bike; the snakes, chiggers and ticks are gone, terrain is more visible with the leaves off the trees, and creeks and waterfalls flow.

Some places are surprisingly easy to get to. Petit Jean State Park is an hour away and offers a range of easy to medium difficulty hikes. The Heber Springs area offers several quality, easy-to-get-to destinations. Both are about an hour of easy driving from Little Rock and the Heber Springs sites are only ten minutes from my home on the Little Red.

Cedar Falls at Petit Jean. The hike is about 2 miles round trip. 

Bridal Veil Falls at Heber Springs is about 1/2 mile off of Highway 5. The viewing platform is just about 50 yards from parking, but there are trails and another waterfall in the small canyon area. Mountain at Heber Springs is a short, fairly steep hike followed by a little chimney climb to reach the top, and the views are  outstanding.

The Ozarks

The Buffalo National River features many popular trails. While often crowded in the spring and fall, winter allows you to enjoy the beauty without feeling like you're on a bus tour. You can be at Ponca in about 2-1/2 hours from Little Rock. 

 Some Buffalo River trails are overwhelmed during the peak seasons. Winter is a great time to enjoy them. 

My New Year's Holiday Weekend-No Ride But Plenty Of Outdoors At Richland
Many Central Arkansas cyclists have become familiar with Witts Springs and the Richland Creek Wilderness through their participation in the Pinnacle Rocks 40 and Lick Fork Gravel Grind. Two hours away from Little Rock, the area is rich in natural beauty, and it is where I spent most of the New Year holiday boating and hiking. As a wilderness area, there are no developed marked trails, but the most popular of many horse trails are easy to follow. If you are not following a creek or a clear trail, a GPS is a good idea. Cell service is scant. Camping is primitive but pleasant, though I took advantage of the offer of a friend's remote cabin. The outhouse was chilly, but the wood stove and satellite dish provided warmth and Netflix. 

Richland Creek boating
OK, winter whitewater boating isn't accessible for everyone, given the required skill level and specialized gear, but it is part of my lifestyle. Rain, especially in winter, means the creeks are up. Friday was cold and sunny. New Year's Day was just cold, but Richland has magic in the foggy drizzle of these days. When I envision the river it is always a scene of mist and waterfalls.
 Low winter sun is still better than no sun at all.

 The high falls above Richland Falls are in the background. I'm guessing it drops over 100' before cascading into the creek. It's just one of many waterfalls in the area. 
Richland Falls

Steep creeks drop fast  but more rain over the weekend meant a return to Richland on New Year's Day. 34 degrees, foggy, and a great day on the river. 

In between boating days, I struck out with adventure dogs Willie and Ivy to find some waterfalls. Tim Ernst has helped make this a popular activity among hikers with his Arkansas Waterfalls Guidebook. I had these on my list before I recently bought Tim's book. Now I have about 200 more falls to seek out. 

 Lower Horsetail Falls requires about a 2-mile RT hike and some medium bushwhacking. Well worth it. 
Upper Horsetail Falls and my trail team.

 In winter, I always carry a headlamp, an extra layer of clothing, and a way to make a fire. Clothes go on and off with stops and climbs and the rest is insurance against the unforeseen. 
Falling Water Falls is a roadside attraction. 

All of the places mentioned here can be done in day trips from Little Rock, and they are just a handful of the hundreds of similar possible destinations available to us. There are several Meetup Groups in the area if you are interested in trying something new and enjoy starting out with some more experienced folks. Download the app and search by area and interest. 
Another very good hiking site/ app is Alltrails. It is also free in its basic form and you can find hikes for every area. It provides detailed directions, along with reviews, photos, and insight from folks who have hiked the trails. 

Don't let the crappy riding weather lock you in the house. Relief can be as simple as lacing up your boots and heading out the door. 

TBT: December 2012 Super-Prestige Cyclocross

Fortunately, it was more muddy than cold for this traditionally cold and muddy event.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cyclocross: 2012 Arkansas Super-Prestige

Cyclocross is a wintertime cycling sport that is closely associated with cold, mud, beer, cowbells, and rowdy crowds. 'Cross is growing in popularity in Arkansas and this season's race series culminated with the Super-Prestige championship races at Burns Park. The promised rains fell Saturday night, but Sunday was rain free, cloudy and still unseasonably warm, making for perfectly atrocious course conditions that delivered a full dose of mud but none of the cold that we might of expected.
You can find results here, and I will not attempt to provide a narrative of the racing except to say that it was damn fun to watch and the open class was decided at the finish line as Seth Rider of Germantown, TN, threw up his arms to celebrate victory just in time to be pipped by Gerald Drummond of Springdale. Hell, yeah, that's racing!

Staying close. The leaders fought it out until the dramatic finish.As you can see, conditions were textbook cyclocross other than the balmy temperatures.
Lakefront race village.
Yes, there was a little mud on the course. Above, participants from the earlier races were embracing conditions as they rinsed the top few layers of grime off of bikes and bodies.
Those with the skills hopped these uphill barriers.
Maintaining speed and bike control was a challenge and many riders resigned themselves to running this section and others.
Thank goodness for warm weather.
There were many small rewards for riders. Addie Teo was handing out dollar bills to riders coming out of the pit, though I think she suffered from a few bites.
Yes, cyclocross riders are a thoughtful and rational bunch.
There seemed to be no good line in axle deep creek flowing across the course, but it was a wide place and tempted racers to pass. Few riders successfully stayed mounted and most just ran for it!
Chad Cragle redefines the line. The few riders who stayed mounted here late in the race did so by hugging the ribbons and staying out of the deepest mud.
Cowbells clanged and the crowd shouted words of encouragement as local favorite Zack LaVergne gracefully loped by with his shouldered bike. No, Zack, I don't know who yelled, "You run like a girl.", but it made you look!
CHAD CRAGLE! I'm not sure what the top finisher won, but Chad was a big winner in the sock prime category, coming away with three pair. I'm thinking he probably threw away the ones he raced in.
This kind of racing makes for great photos, and I took a couple of hundred in 45 minutes or so, but this is all that I have the energy to write captions for! This race drew a good crowd, but more is always better. Keep an eye out for 'cross races near you and I'll try to keep you posted here.