Saturday, December 13, 2008

Syllamo Epic

Syllamo Trails, Mt
34.1 miles, 3327ft vertical, 4:02hrs riding time

The Syllamo Trails network is the second IMBA designated epic I hit during this trip. There are now over 50 miles of purpose built singletrack here. Five major named and color-coded loops offer something for everyone, from first timer to experts. The way my legs felt getting up this morning, the beginner loops were looking pretty good.

I'm finally in an area with Verizon coverage, so I made a bunch of calls driving up. I rarely use my cell phone, even less while driving. I missed a turn while talking with my mom and was well on my way to Missouri before I realized it. Sounds like the situation in southern NH is bleak. Some areas may go a week without power. My house will probably be without power for at least four days. With neighbor's help, Cathy is making out fine with the generator. That thing is finally paying off. The neighbor helping Cathy did not have one, so he installed a hook-up so we could time-share the thing.

My weather here today looked iffy - overcast with some spotty rain in the area. I started riding just after 10am. Lots of guys in camo where heading into the woods with trucks. I guess some hunting is still going on in this section. I put my yellow wind breaker on to be safe.

White River Bluff Loop (Green)
This 5mi loop goes out to the precipice above the White River (map). Great views. But this was some techy stuff. No way could I clean it with my puny tires. Lots of sharp, ledgy slickrock to ride on. Very similar to ridgeline riding in New England.

Bald Scrappy Loop (Orange)
This 7mi loop begins with a serious, rocky descent. I began to wonder what I got myself into. I really needed a dualie with about 6" of travel to ride this stuff. It went down forever, and all I could think about was what is the "up" going to be like. In the CCW direction I rode it, not too bad. But I immediately started to bonk, not 45 minutes into the ride. I had doubts I ate enough last night, now I was certain I did not eat enough. I chowed a Clif Bar and pressed onward. I had originally planned to ride Scrappy Mountain Loop (Blue), but it is claimed to be the most technical loop there and it was long. I was already getting my ass spanked on the intermediate stuff. Instead, I finished the Orange loop which doubles up with the Blue loop back to Green Mtn Rd that winds through this part of the Ozark National Forest. It was nice stuff, popping out on a slickrock ledge for a good distance. No good views though.

Bad Branch Loop (Red)
I rode Green Mtn Rd further in several miles to ride the Red loop. This is claimed to be the most beginner friendly loop at 12 miles in length. It was sweet, very much like the Womble Trail I rode on my first day in Arkansas. Elevation changes are neither big nor steep. No need for a granny ring on this one. Brakes were rarely needed on the descents at 15-20mph. No need to think about what you were doing. On this loop, I encountered the only other rider I saw on the whole trip, another solo guy like myself. Startled me actually. I did see a couple hunters in the distance up on a ridgeline a few minutes earlier though.

I now had a choice. Do I ride the whole Jack's Branch Loop (Yellow) at 14 miles or start working a more direct route back to the car. I had nearly 3hrs riding time already. Jack's had more tech stuff in it, and I was pretty beat up already. I opted to take a portion of Jack's (Yellow) to Scrappy Mountain (Blue) to Bald Scrappy (Orange) back to the car. The 3mi of yellow was nice, much like the red loop. The blue, however, forced me to become reacquainted with my granny ring. This 4 mile portion is closed during the week right now for logging. I at first thought what logging, but then I hit it. What a mess. I could not tell where the trail went. I was ready to give up and back track several miles and take the gravel road back. It started to sprinkle out. Great. But then I saw some fat tire tracks here and there and followed them. They got me back on course. The sun came out (first time all day). Life was good again.

I next reached the junction with Bald Scrappy (Orange), the last little piece of it I hadn't ridden yet. Would it be like the first 6mi? No. This was more like Vietnam in Mass. I was rapidly imploading, having long since finished my carb supply I took along. I got off my bike a lot. Just when I thought this segment would never end, I dropped back down to my parking lot. There were no cars there when I started, now there was one other.

So is this place worth all the hype given it? Yes, I would say it is. For most riders, you could get two full riding days out of it. I covered about 2/3 of it in 4hrs riding time. The more technical parts I missed would add 3hrs I think. I wouldn't try to do the whole system in one day. As it was, the prior three days did not give me any blisters. Riding 4hrs here today put blisters on my hands. What does that say for the brutality factor? When I come back to Arkansas to ride again some day, I would come back to the Syllamo Trails. I think there are still plans to expand he network further.

I ate obscene amounts of food tonight. I'm quite certain I shed a few pounds over the last four days. First I loaded up on all kinds of things that aren't good for you at Sonic not more than 10 minutes from the trail head. It was yummy though. Then later at the hotel, I hit the local Ryan's for round two. I ate a few things good for ya, like steamed broccolli and lima beans, but chowed on steak, pot roast and four rolls with real butter. That was just for starters. After three trips up for hot stuff, I finished up with two oatmeal cookies, carrot cake, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. I used to eat at these places in Michigan when I weighed 230 lbs. Now I can eat at them just to maintain a 160-ish weight.

It's been a great short trip. I rode 16.5hrs in 4 days, mostly on singletrack, most of it at a fairly aggressive pace on rough terrain. I'm pretty happy with how well the body held up. The two days with most dramatic scenery were also the clearest, brightest days which was nice. I come home to a house with no power on Sunday. I don't know if there will be power at work yet on Monday. I don't need another vacation day. You'll have to suffer through a couple more trip updates with photos after I get back since I lost my primary photo editor. These were resized with MS-Paint.

White River Bluff

White River Bluff

I did stop to sniff the berries once in a while. These things were everywhere. Don't know what they are. They almost looked fake because they were so iridescent purple, like 1990's mountain bike parts.

Buff stuff on the Red loop

Standard fare on the Orange loop

1 comment:

Brian said...

You don't know me but I've been loosely following your blog since coming across it about 2 years ago when I was researching a bike ride down Haleakala (ride was just as you described, except Mamane had been destroyed by high winds).

Anyway, I'm nowhere near as well traveled as you but we share a few rides in common including Haleakla, Hermosa Creek, Ice Cave (I'm from Iowa) and now Syllamo. I did Syllamo's Revenge last year and it was a real kicker. Going down this year to do Womble, so I really enjoyed the preview.

Keep up the great blogging.