You would never think of the heartland being a mecca for mountain biking, but people are beginning to use these terms to describe the area. Volunteer groups, such as ERTA, have gained the trust of land managers and contributed thousands of hours to building and maintaining multi-purpose trails. A local news source said KC could be without peer when this urban trail system is completed. Those are big claims.
My primary reason for visiting the heartland over and extended weekend was to put tires to dirt in a few more states I haven't biked in yet. Having ridden in three new states this trip, I have only three to go before completing all 50. These are Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. Maybe a trip next fall can finish the job.
I was pleasantly surprised by both the quantity and quality of trails in the greater KC area. It does not suck to be a mountain biker here. Far from it. Hill Junkie might be a bit lost without mountains though. Denver is about 600 miles over on I-70. The Ozarks are closer.
A cold front moved in overnight, leaving a misty film on the ground by morning. The pavement was wet, but it didn't really rain. I knew the trails would not be muddy, but I didn't like the prospects of riding challenging terrain with the added risk factor of slimy roots and rocks. I had no idea...
A steady stream of mountain bikers were pulling into the Swope Park trailhead when I arrived. Lots of guys on rigid 29er singlespeeds. Not much elevation change here, about 200ft max. I selected a GPX track to follow (I had three variants for this area) and headed into the woods.
I didn't make it 200 meters before nearly hitting the deck. Flat rock armoring was wet, and combined with clay dust, was slicker than wet pond ice. I couldn't even stand up on the stuff. New England brownie mix has nothing on this slickness. It must be just the right combination of smooth rock and type of clay, so even the slightest bit of moisture turns it into Slick 50 surface treatment. That put a major damper on my ride, as I planned to hit all the "black" trails at Swope first. Needless to say, I played extra cautious and didn't even attempt many of the tricky sections that I wouldn't normally hesitate on. The only good thing was the weather was supposed to clear up, become windy with plummeting temps. This would dry things out quickly.
On Woodchuck Trail @ Swope
The Swope Park trail designers did a fabulous job of integrating natural features into the trails. They were well armored for heavy use the trails no doubt see. There was a perfect balance of challenging features and high speed flow. The trail Rancho-D-Lux was more fun than a 50 year old should be allowed to have. I sure had to hit this again at the end of my ride after the rocks and roots dried off a bit (the hardpack tread was dry, presumably because it absorbed the overnight mist).
Switchback on Woodchuck
Several places had overhanging rocks
Meandering through chunks cleaved from bluff
Too much fun on Rancho-D-Lux
About 5-6 miles of Blue River Parkway pavement took me to the other cluster of trails I planned to hit, affectionately called the BuRP trails. I hit Bo-Ho-Ca and Basement trails on the way out (intermediate) and Highline (expert) on the way back. No, I didn't clean Highline. It contoured high on the bluff, working many rocky features in.
Beyond Bo-Ho-Ca and Highline were the Serengeti (easy) and Wagon (expert) trails. Serengeti was high-speed river bottom bombing while Wagon trail sought higher places with interesting rock features. Not as challenging as the harder parts of Harold Parker or MIT/Haystack trails back home, but I failed to clean a couple bits nonetheless.
Speedfest along the Blue River
I also crossed over the river via road to check out a couple easy trails on the other side. Material there was less inspiring, pretty much ride filler that brought the mileage up. I was having so much fun riding here I stopped to get more food before heading back to Swope. Riding at a planned second location today was not going to happen. There was enough here to keep me entertained for a day.
Slickrock ledge along Blue River
When I got back to Swope Park, the sun was out and things were dusty dry, as the rest of my riding over the three previous days was. This time I rode the Rancho-D-Lux loop in reverse. The downhill was insanely fun. There are several kickers along the way. I might have gotten a couple feet of daylight between my tires and terra firma on one of them. Uncharacteristic of Hill Junkie.
First sun in four days on Rancho-D-Lux
I could have ridden for hours longer. My energy level was not waning at all. Alas, all good things must come to an end. I finished with 45mi in 4.3hrs on the Garmin. This was easily my most satisfying ride of the trip.
Overnight, the temperature is supposed to free-fall. Windchills are expected to be in single digits when I get up. My flight doesn't leave until the afternoon, so I may try to squeeze one more ride in at nearby Shawnee Mission Park at crack-o-dawn. I did not bring AmFib tights or wind briefs. May have to improvise protective measures...