Greetings, Jorks. What a fantastic day of weather, we had today. Quite a Monday, if there ever was one. So what are 9 dudes supposed to do in the woods together on a day like this? Why, ride the Ozark Trail, of course. So yes, I along with the Tropical Storm, Jason, T-Tocs, Mash0r, and our good friends Pat, Nick, and Caleb set our crosshairs on the Council Bluff boat launch, and launched a full-frontal assault. Our plan was to ride from the boat launch and connect to Middlefork while doing the gravel out and riding the singletrack back.
And so it was, a plan more elegant than a poodle taking a shit. We met, and were on the trail before long. However, we didn't leave before discussing Criss Angel's newest magic trick - one which rather than making something disappear, he made something *appear* and then stick around. In this case, it he would make the semen appear on his chin, and then keep it there long enough to have people think it is a miracle, and then come to worship.
As the "Orient Express" rolled up, having camped at a super-secret location the night before and getting in a CB night lap, it was quite clear that they were extra anxious to get back into the woods:
As the Middlefork Man Train rolled out of the station with me as the "bro"-comotive, we settled into a steady pace around the shores of Council Bluff Lake. My muscle memory almost got the best of me as I almost turned onto the bridge to complete the CB loop. However, disaster was averted as I caught my shit at the last minute and we didn't miss a step on the transition to the Telleck Connector. We found that connector, and the short section of Trace Creek to be marvelous, save for a couple of choc0late Jello Pudding puddles. The switch-backed climb up to the DD/32 parking lot was especially hard on our t'aints, but nevertheless, we crested that peak in short time, and were able to stop to see the recently-installed-but-not-quite-completed-and-soon-to-be-dedicated memorial to a true champion of mountain bikers in the OTA, the late John Roth:
It'll be like the mountain biker's version of the old StLCC monuments out on Old Manchester Road, which have been talked about a bunch lately.
Crossing 32, we left the highest point on the trail for the longest descent of our ride, where we would then hop on the gravel:
Descending down that hill, I was going so fast, that I thought I might have been on an Elliptigo:
As it turns out, I was just on my badass Kona Big Unit, accompanied by none other than Randy "Big Unit" Johnson:
It was pretty evident who had the advantage on the gravel road that descended alongside the creek - anyone with derailleurs. We journeyed past the house which now has 6 dogs to chase us, and came to the tailings pond creek, where we took a deserved break before slogging up the steepest climb out there. At this point, we really started to feel the heat of the day - a welcome heat after months of riding with thermal clothing. The sweat was rolling down our brows in the 80+ degree sun as we cockpunched the climbs, and shredded the descents. After a few of Ozark hills, we came to Barton Fen where we started on probably the second longest climb of the day, and as you can see, was also recently included in a controlled burn:
On Middlefork, the climbs keep going, and happen one right after another. As I was climbing from one of the gravel road crossings, I looked up in a haze of climbing-induced delirium, only to see Mash0r having taken an elevated sniper's position just up ahead, no doubt hoping to eliminate some competition for this year - instinctively I reached for my sidearm, but at the last moment grabbed the camera for instead, in order to have record of my killer. I soon realized he was not out to kill me, yet, but rather to snap a photo. Whew.
Coming over that hill, it felt great, as I knew that we were getting closer to the waterfall, where we would stop for more water and food. It can be really hard to keep eating food when riding in the heat, especially when you know you have to wash it down with ever-warming water in your hydration pack. Even little creek splashes like this were a welcome sensation - when only a month ago, it would have brought serious concerns regarding the warmth of my feet:
The last couple of descents before crossing the last gravel road and climbing back up to Hwy 32 were a real blast - super twisty with more flow than Nate Dogg, RIP. I was surprised at the pace that I kept on the ascent to Hwy 32, but I think that I must have blown my wad - because after descending from the DD/32 trailhead to South Trace and climbing the one hill on South Trace before descending to the Telleck Connector, it was all I could do to simply stay upright on that last climb. Of course, my speed felt even slower, as I let Caleb go past me at the base of that climb at which point he was basically in full sprint and out of sight within 15-20 seconds. Damn! I think I felt his accelerations affecting the Earth's rotation, there was so much power.
I was the last person to roll in from the train of dudes that rode the trail back from DD/32 to the boat launch, while the rest choo-choo'd their way down the pavement. Our buddy Pat was a little too euphoric from all the badass-ness that had been crammed down his throat by that trail, and had to hang out at the DD/32 trailhead for a bit as he got a grip on reality. Totally understandable, given the level of enlightenment which he achieved that day.
You can tell that Middlefork has been getting a fair amount of traffic this year already, as we saw a handful of tread marks already there. Traffic from both cyclists, and from trail volunteers - the trail had ZERO overgrowth (not out of the ordinary for this time of year,) but it also does not look to be getting much this year either! I think there was only one tree over which to dismount. Another thing we saw was a "witness tree" and I don't think I was the only person wondering WTF that was. Another glorious day in the woods, as we look forward to the first event of the year, whatever that may end up being.
-Casey F. Ryback
P.S. MFXC grows closer every day. Are you ready?