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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!