Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ozark National Forest Ride Report

        I got off work on Wednesday and arrived at my friends house about 4:30 or so. Excited to be off work and finally on our way we finished loading and packing the truck and trailer. There wasn't much left for me to do thanks to Kendall, so it was quickly wrapped up and we were off on our dual sport adventure. Traffic was decent, despite our rush hour timing leaving Kansas City.
         In no time we were out of Kansas City and stopped in Carthage for a quick bite to eat at Arby's. We found one of the tie down straps had come loose on my bike when we stopped at Arby's and resolved to deal with it after dinner. We changed the tie down setup and I was relived nothing had really happened despite the loose strap. Kendall showed me a more effective method and we were off again.
        We arrived at Turner Bend Campground only to find a local who informed us that we were likely to get kicked out with the flood of float trip goers that they were expecting Friday night. Not wanting to break down camp again we headed up to Mulberry Lodge Campground a short way up the road. This turned out to be a great decision. It was a beautiful campground and we never had to deal with crowds of people.
        It was a bit after 11:30 when we arrived so we pitched our tents by headlamp and lantern. I threw my hammock up to sleep in, the tent was a backup in case of bad weather and my wife's impending arrival in a few days. Tired, excited to have finally arrived, and thrumming to get going in the morning, we attempted to grab some shut eye. I enjoyed my hammock despite being a little chilly!

 We woke up pretty early and went through the morning routine. Ate a quick breakfast geared up and got ready for the day. Then it was off for gas at Turner Bend, where we went numerous times over the course of the weekend. 
 This little guy (to the right) was on the side of one of the first rough roads we went up after departing gravel. It was a bit of a rough start. Being a bit green off road, I am still learning and developing my skills. We turned to go down a side road which quickly became rougher than I had business being on. Or so I thought. A quick turn around later we headed up the hill. Somewhere in the middle I failed to climb an obstacle, lost momentum, and over I went. I managed to bend the acerbis hand guard and lock my clutch down and break my mirror. The photo below is the last with the mirror intact and only a short time before it got removed. Kendall held the bike and I repaired the hand guard. A half hour or more later we were on way, after I dropped it promptly on the right side during my ascent on my second try. Third times a charm though, and I finally managed the hill. More than slightly humbled and embarrassed we continued on our way.

 A while later we came upon White Rock. It took some route alteration however due to multiple road closures along our planned route. We adapted and overcame though and did eventually manage to make it to White Rock. The area was beautiful and well kept. They had a nice little covered seating area, pictured below and that is me on the edge of the cliffs pictured above. After catching our breath and glancing at the gps it was time to push on. 

This was our lunch area shortly after white rock. It was good timing for lunch because we were about to get into more trail riding than dual sport riding. It was rough going for a while through some of the roughest riding I have done. There were more than a few times I wondered if I was going to be able to make it up some of the obstacles but to my surprise I had only one drop and neither Kendall or myself are quite sure exactly how I managed it. It was hot and slow going. Eventually we came out on this natural rock bridge waterfall and had to stop to take in the site. It was really a wonderful spot. I splashed some water on my face and prepped to go further because we did not know exactly how far the trail went and still were not completely certain it came out at all. On the gps unit the road did not exist, nor on the Ozark national forest map. After a while though we finally managed to pop out into a branch of the atv orv area, Mill Creek. I was relieved to see some gravel. I was ready for a little more relaxed riding and a chance to let my pulse slow down. We were low on gas though. We took a couple minutes and established where the nearest gas stop was. Thanks to Troy Wolfe for his Arkansas waypoints he posted, we found a gas station off 16 and 295 and stopped for a nice break and a candy bar at the gas station.

It was getting a little late in the day though and it was time to head back to camp. We had attempted to check in that morning but no one had been in the office. We needed to be back by five and so we planned a quick gravel route back to camp and scrambled back. Our route took us through the Mill Creek off road area. It was straight and flat but there was plenty to see along the way. Quickly the straight and flat ended and turned to more switchbacks and downhill to take us finally into camp. I was exhausted. Exhilarated but just beat. I was ready to get my butt off the drz and take some time to have a cold drink and some warm food. The weather had been really good throughout the day, even if it had been warm, but the weather appeared to be turning. We checked a smart phone and sure enough the chance of rain had been increased and it appeared to be a sure thing. We ate and then, almost as soon as dark set in, went off to bed. No hammock tonight though, I didn't want the scramble that would happen and so into the tent I went.
              The rain never came though. We woke up to yet another gorgeous day, maybe even a little cool again, at least in the morning. I was a bit sore to say the least and woke up with a killer headache to boot. Some asprin and a hot shower later I was ready to roll though.
              Again it was off to Turner Bend to gas up and then it was off to the east side of 23. A quick shot up 23, right on 215, and then a search for an interesting looking turn off. Around one of the turns we caught a glimpse of a cayote making a b-line into the woods. We had been listening to them for two nights, so it was nice to finally see the source of all the racket. There was a decent road but it didn't last long. The east side of 23 seemed to be riddled with dead ends and road closures.
After hitting dead end after dead end on what appeared to be roads on the gps we decided to head back over to the west side of the Pig Trail. We decided to head up White Rock mountain road to Bee Rock. It was a gorgeous ride. I love the tight switchbacks with the vast scenic overlooks through the trees. This is one of my favorite roads to cruise up when I come down to this area on anything capable of gravel roads. They were doing some controlled burning on the sides of this road and some of the larger wood was still smoldering throughout the days we passed through this area. We met a local up at Bee Rock and talked with him for a few minutes and then it was off again. I am little hazy on the navigation but we managed to find a great section of road back in this area that got fairly rough. After the rough stuff though there were miles of erosion burms every 50' or so. It was a blast!! We popped out on some easy gravel and cruised down to Shores Lake for a bite to eat. The overlook on shores lake was breath taking and I was excited we returned to this spot the following day as well. We stopped at the dam on the lake and ate lunch. It had gotten much warmer but the weather was beautiful still! It was a prefect day for a ride and the picnic area by the dam was nice and quite for a very relaxing lunch in the shade.

At this point we were out of ideas for routes and it was time to turn to the map and gps resources at hand. We planned out a nice loop that would take us into areas we had not been. We were disappointed though. After the planning and debate we rode the planned route and only made it about 10% through before the roads were closed ahead and we were forced to backtrack.
By the time we backtracked and stopped to try and figure a new route we found that we needed gas in the very near future. We headed into Mulberry for gas. It was 15 miles or so of decent flat pavement. In Mulberry we got gas and reassessed our route once again. We were just exploring the area but our explorations kept ending in dead ends and so we tried to establish a more successful route. We ended up heading into Ozark and north on the Pig Trail from there. We ended up on, I'm a little hazy, River Rock Road. It was a great road. A little rougher though than anything else we had seen that day. We were halted again though. This time a downed tree turned us around and we ran back out to 23 to find a new area to explore. We wandered up to the Mill Creek area and ended up doing a little rougher riding. Nothing crazy, for Kendall at least, but it was another opportunity for me to practice and get a little rougher riding in. We managed to spend a short time in the park but ended up heading out after only an hour or so. I decided to run the Pig Trail three or four times before I went back to camp and so Kendall and I split up for a little bit.
       That is truly an amazing road. I love 23. I have ridden the Tail of the Dragon but on that fateful Friday evening on the Pig Trail I had the whole road pretty much to myself! It was a great time, despite my aching backside from that drz seat for two full days. I stopped at Turner's Bend to grab some fuel and a powerade before returning to camp. By this point they were beginning to recognize me.
       Our wives were scheduled to arrive sometime Friday evening and we were a bit nervous about trying to stay awake long enough. We made it though with the help of some caffeine, smores, beer, and conversation. It was again a wonderful night for a campfire and we wasted away the hours around the fire waiting on our wives. They showed up in due time, even earlier than expected and we spent a few minutes unwinding with the ladies around the campfire before admitting we were exhausted and heading off to bed.
       In the morning Kendall unloaded the third bike and we prepped for the three of us to go out. I had been extremely warm the two days prior but my wife kindly brought me my mesh riding jacket. It made a world of difference! So geared up for the 90 degree day to come we set out yet again for gas at Turner's Bend.

       With a third rider finally with us we resolved to basically run the greatest hits from the two days prior. We started with Bee Rock and from there headed to the erosion berm road. Then on to the Shores lake overlook. From there it was off to White Rock and the overlook on the top of the mountain. It was much more crowded at White Rock and a slightly different experience than days before as a result. Still breathtaking though.

After white rock it was off to the rougher stuff. We wanted to show Alyssa the slower harder roads as well. So we started back down White Rock to that area. It took a couple wrong turns but we got there. With Kendall in the lead we slowly worked our way through the area. It took a little less time than days before but was still slow going. I found myself climbing the steep sections much more proficiently than the previous run down the road. Still a long way to go, but it was clear that I had come leaps and bounds from my arrival in Arkansas. The videos posted below are a creek crossing on the way down this stretch. The waterfall above was our reward for persevering through the roughest stuff we encountered that day. I had a brief swim in the cool water to rinse off the mud and slime from the roads that day. It was cold and refreshing. It also made the rest of the day a nice cool ride! The ride ended the same as our first day, a run down mill creek road and through the switchbacks down to Mulberry Mountain Lodge. We had some cold adult beverages, beeritas to be specific, and they were a perfect way to wrap up the trip. We sat and enjoyed each other's company, drank, and enjoyed the campfire.
          The morning brought packing, no one's favorite chore, and soon after the moderate drive home. The trip was not what I had pictured but it was better than I could have imagined. With little route planning thanks to everything I had going on we managed to have a great ride. There were a lot of dead ends and road closures but it was more of an adventure than I thought it would be and a great time. I can't wait to get down to the area again.
            The next time I go down I would like to spend a few weeks ahead of time planning routes and studying maps instead of two days. I don't think it would have changed much but perhaps we could have avoided some of the dead ends.

Routes still to come later. Waiting on some components.

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