Anyone that knows me knows that I love riding my bike. I am always in search of a good trail or stretch of road to cruise down. This past week I had a little spare time after an insurance conference in Branson and decided to check out the White River Valley Trail, a network of mountain bike loops. I have never been “mountain biking”, nor do I have a mountain bike, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
There are 3 access points to the trail system. After studying the topo map, I chose #2 because it was at the lowest point of elevation on the trail… that way if I got in over my head or broke my bike, at least it would be downhill back to the car.
The first quarter mile or so was flat and smooth similar to any other trail I’ve ridden except narrower and with more turns… it was pretty fun! Then I reached the base of the hill. That’s where the trail turned from a smooth dirt/gravel surface into a steep incline of dirt and ledges strewn with loose rocks. It was difficult to maintain any speed as I navigated the rocks and tree roots, so I kept falling over or peeling out in the loose rock “surface”. I started questioning my ability and my equipment, but my stubborn nature wouldn’t let me give up just yet.
The further I rode, the worse the trail became. Stream crossings were steep and littered with large rocks and there was no discernible trail to follow. I wondered how anyone could ride a bike through such a spot.
Then, after a couple miles I started getting the hang of it, finding some confidence, and realizing that there was a legitimate use for the lowest gear on my bike. I began to enjoy the process of selecting a route and maneuvering around and over obstacles and unusual spots in the trail. Before I knew it I had made it to the top of the massive hill and started cruising back down. It was at this point when I realize how awesome of an experience this really was compared to the typical cycling I was accustomed to.
This particular trail is mostly steep and rocky forest, but it also passes through some open glade areas and a small amount of flat river bottom. Much of the forest is cedar, so the sweet smell added to the experience. Another nice feature is an old cabin/homestead.
I rode all of the loops except for the red loop, which is supposedly the more advanced section of the trail. I decided to save that for another day since the other loops were pretty challenging to me as a beginner and I had already fallen off my bike numerous times. I was glad that my old hybrid Trek was able to get the job done, even though the terrible brakes and constant gear slipping made it a bit precarious at times!
Even with the rocky start (pun intended), I had a great time and decided this type of cycling was also very worthy of my time, even on an ill-equipped bike. It was kind of like hiking and biking at the same time!