Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nebraska: Reprieve from gnar

Saturday I drove two hours north to put tires to dirt in Nebraska. The closest place to Kansas City I could dig up was Indian Cave State Park, on the Missouri River. Indian Cave doesn't show up on the MTB radar as a destination riding location. The trails are primarily used by equestrians but are multi-use and open to bikes. Generally, I don't like riding on horse trails, as they tend to be very badly rutted and chopped up. There were MTB destination venues in the Omaha/Lincoln areas, but that was much too far to drive.

Having been beat down the last two days riding technical terrain, I was looking for a lighter day of riding, perhaps just a "token" ride in Nebraska so I could check that state as ridden. My expectations were low.

The weather was going to be the same again, overcast, dry, a bit cooler, but still warmer than average. A cold front moves though in the evening, potentially bringing a few flurries on Sunday, when I have a long urban ride planned.

Arriving at the park, I got the feeling I was the only visitor. The place was deserted. The only GPS track I could dig up was from an equestrian that did a simple, short loop. I planned to ride that, but explore the rest of the park too. The map and signage were pretty good.

I picked up the first trail after bombing down a paved road to the Missouri River. I froze with frost still on the ground. The trail went straight up, something like 20% grade. Lead legs and no warmup. Total shock. I was surprised how good of shape the trails were in for being used primarily by horses. They were generally ATV width and well maintained. Oak leaves were a bit of a problem on steep descents, as sometimes horses cut a deep rut down the middle and you couldn't see it buried under the leaves. And there was nary a rock to be found in the place. This was just want I needed after two days of boneyard picking.

What goes up goes back down. Again and Again. There was no flat terrain in this park. Similar to some of the central Vermont riding I've done. I guess horses have no trouble going up and down 15-20% grades. Many of the climbs lasted several minutes. This was the kind of terrain you could get a serious workout in. It definitely got the Hill Junkie seal of approval.

At one point, I popped out on a knoll with a beautiful view of the Missouri River. The trail began to plummet. I thought about riding it, but reconsidered with patches of oak leaves part way down. I would have been royally screw had I attempted it. It started at around 30% grade and steepened to probably greater than 100% grade. I would not have been able to stop and would have gone into a free-fall. The lower portion was exceeding difficult to scale down with a bike. You've heard the term HAB (hike-a-bike) before. This was a SOB descent (slide on butt). I held the rear wheel with one hand and slid down with bike. This was definitely not a horse trail! The drop at mile 8 in the GPS track is not where I forgot to restart the Garmin. It really did drop like that.  A sign up top would have been nice.

This popped me out at the river close to the Indian Cave. A little bit of road took me back into the trail system. A big climb brought me up to some open meadows. Honest singletrack followed the perimeter of several large open spaces. It was nice to cruise effortlessly for a few minutes.

Having ridden about 80% of the trails in the park, I decided that I had a good day and best to wrap it up on that note. I came to some horses on the loose on my way back to the car. Most were still in the split-rail fence area. They were all curious to check me out despite my strange mechanical contraption and garish clothing. I stopped by the park office to report loose horses but nobody was there.

Indian Cave State Park turned out to be a surprisingly good place to ride. I suspect few other mountain bikers would see it in my light. There are no technical features, just extremely steep climbs and descents with occasional HAB's. I never saw another person on the trails. Great scenery and well worth the drive up. Here are a few photos from the ride.

Cruising the meadows up top

Indian Cave. Supposedly petroglyphs here, but all I could see
was punk graffiti carved into the sandstone.

Missouri River from observation deck.

Beginning the plummet. Pretty much a cliff over the edge.

Starting the ride out along a ridgeline

Another view of the Missouri

Paved climb back up from river. It's cut 10ft deep the whole way
up. Why?

Typical trail terrain


Anonymous said...

Okay dude, glad you got your misconceptions about biking in flatland straightened out. Check out Platte River State Park in Nebraska, and Swope and Landahl in KC. Those last two are about the most fun you can legally have for free. I stumbled on your blog through your roadie post on Maui. Full squish down Mamane trail was fun, but not as much as a rigid SS29er ride in flyover country.

Hill Junkie said...

Hit Landahl on my first day out here. Some pretty crazy shit there. I hope to ride the Swope and BuRP tails today. Bit of drizzle around this morning. Hoping that burns off as the temp plummets.

Dino Piskopanis said...

Looking good neighbor very inspiring!