Monthly Archives: November 2016
Note: photo credits to Lori, Jessie, and Luke! This post was written by Chuck, and Luke has added commentary in Blue while Bob has added some commentary in Green.
What happens when three manly men from Team Virtus team up with Jessie from Orange Lederhosen for an adventure? An awesome weekend of bikepacking!
We had long planned a weekend adventure for the Nov 5th and 6th weekend, then things like jobs and conflicting plans starting making it look like a no-go.
Luckily some last minute changes brought it back to life. We threw together a quick route plan and with a healthy dose of IWWIO we all met at the Loutre Market early Saturday afternoon. We all filled up on Champs chicken and added to our already prodigious beer stash before finishing the final load-out of our bike packing rigs.
The loosely put together plan would have us ride gravel from the market (near the hwy 19 bridge to Hermann) to the Daniel Boone Conservation area, camp that night at one of the 10 primitive sites, then ride back in the morning via Massas Creek road.
We hit the KATY trail and stopped for a quick pic of our loaded rigs
Luke: I love the planning and tweaking of my rig for trips like this. Especially when I forget a bunch of stuff and have to rig up straps and attachment points with shit I have in the back of my van. Luckily, I have a bunch of shit in the floor and trunk of my van, so there’s plenty of stuff with which to improvise.
And then headed east on the KATY into a beautiful fall day
I obviously have some bikepack learning to do before I get into longer trips. The bike bags were really full, my backpack was bulging, and I don’t yet know what to do to lighten them up. No way could the stainless steel 64oz growler of Friendship Brewery Stout be left behind.
Luke: It’s always a learning process. We need to learn to start leaving some of the bulkier items behind to save space and weight. However, leaving the growler of delicious beer behind is never an option. Never. Ever.
I’ve begun to just accept the fact that my rig will always be heavy. Screw it.
I warned our eager group that there would be doing some climbing on the way to the campsite, but I’m not so sure they were happy with my day 1 route choice once we hit the hills.
Luke: Yeah. Chuck told us we had “some climbing” to do. But that was like saying Bob sorta kinda likes whiskey once in awhile – a serious understatement. Eff those damn climbs!
Those climbs were bullshit. BULLSHIT!!!
Once we got into the DB conservation area the hills leveled off and both sides of the road filled with tall trees of the forest area, we all started to feel good about the weekend ahead of us. We rode past several camp sites, finding them all full. With Missouri whitetail season starting in a couple of days, we suspected this was the last big scouting weekend. We were running out of options, but luckily we ended up snagging the very last site (IWWIO again!) on the far north end of the conservation area.
Luke: After the ridiculous climbing, riding along the top of that ridge was a blast. Beautiful, easy pedaling.
We had plenty of time before dark to get all our camp gear set up and firewood gathered for the night.
Let’s be honest…i look pretty damn sexy in this picture.
Luke: That reminds me… Have I ever told you about my NOLS course?
We even found enough time before dark to practice our Survival Situation Skills with my newly replaced knife (the last one broke while being thrown at dead trees).
After a little instruction, Jessie joined the elusive and exclusive ‘One-Spark Club’ by using flint and steel to start our evening fire with ONE SPARK.
Luke: Well done, Jessie!
Anyone that has been around a Team Virtus campfire knows it is only a matter of time before a chimney log is burning. This weekend was no exception, Bob found a great log not far from the campsite and it wasn’t long before it was blazing away and spouting jet-like flames out the top.
I held a little tid-bit of info from the group until after dark…..My awesome and beautiful wife had a photo-shoot Saturday afternoon not far from where we were camping. So it was a GREAT surprise for everyone when she showed up with deep dish pizza and a second growler of stout from Tin Mill brewery in Hermann.
Luke: Seriously. I can’t tell you how awesome the pizza and beer was. And the pizza was still hot and the beer was ice cold! In the middle of the woods while bikepacking! How freaking cool is that?! Big thanks to the always-amazing Lori.
That was so badass. She’s done that for us TWICE now. So delicious..i think I may have had too much and “fell asleep early”.
So with our bellies full of beer and pizza we all fell asleep near the fire. Lori and Jessie got a last picture of the three manly men before Jessie crawled in her tent and Lori headed for home.
Luke: One of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in the woods. I call the middle spot next time!
(to be continued in part 2….)
It was the Wednesday before 4th of July weekend when a coworker asked how I planned to spend the “3 day weekend”. Until that moment, I had no idea we were gonna be closed. Even better, I already had Thursday afternoon off. This was a golden opportunity to strike out into the unknown.
I’ve always wanted to bikepack Marble Creek, and now I had the opportunity. The ozarktrail.com website lists Marble Creek trail as “lightly used”… so hopefully I’d find some solitude. I loaded my gear, pointed the truck South and started ticking through the mental list of things I may have forgotten.
Printed maps and Compass: Wow, I can’t believe I forgot those….but I’m not turning around for that shit.
2-3 hours later, when I drove across the Marble Creek bridge entering the campground, I knew this was gonna be a good time.
The Ozark Trail (OT) Trailhead is across the street from the campground, so that gave me a relatively safe place to stash my truck. Normally I try to stealth-stash or hide my beautiful 2006 Chevy Colorado, but on this day I stayed legal…paid my money and left the truck. If the moss growing on the collection area was any indication, I didnt need to worry about a ton of people peeking in the windows. There was a warning posted about bears being in the area. Guess I better take the pepper spray..
Thanks to some bikehacks I learned on pedalingnowhere.com, my bike was loaded out with 90% of the weight spread across the handlebars and a rear seatbag. I had a few things in a backpack, but I was really only taking it along as a security blanket, “just in case.” I’ll go into my bike setup in a future post when I’ve got it completely ironed out, but for now let’s just say I’ve ‘almost’ got it figured out.
The trailhead was easy to find, and a hiker was coming out of the trail just as I was going in. Hopefully that meant there wouldn’t be any spiderwebs for a few miles. Awesome.
The planned route can be seen at this link and below. Basically, I was gonna ride about 9-10 miles to a glade overlooking Crane Lake. Once there, I’d set up camp and watch the sunset with my good friend Jim Beam. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward plan at the time.
Entering the trailhead, it was obvious that basically noone uses this trail. It definitely had a “Cedar Creek” feel to it, if you know what I mean.
About 30 feet into the trail, I began a long hike-a-bike which was an absolute beast. I thought it would never end, and pushing that heavy-ass bikpeacking rig was no picnic. There was a lot of loose rock and downed trees, but I was hopeful the conditions would improve as I got further into the ride.
It didnt take long to figure out this was going to be a hard-earned ride to see the sunset. I was never on the bike for more than a minute or 2 before I’d be lugging it over another woodpile or downed tree or some kind of bullshit. It was exhausting. The layout of the trail looked like it would be a blast to ride if it werent for all the litter.
But even with all the extra work, there’s something I love about being on a neglected trail. The thought that maybe noone else has been there for months or years, and it could be just as long before anyone is there again. After all, who would actually want to ride through this shit?
Eventually I got to a gravel crossing with enough cell signal to check the map on my phone. Signal was shitty so I took some screenshots and went on my way. The trail just never got better, and it was really kicking my ass. For such a short ride, this was one for the ages.
Finally, FINALLY, I came to the next road crossing. By the map, I was only about 3 miles from the glade. I was definitely going to miss sunset, but whatever. The “trail” became a fire road and suddenly I could ride. A short climb lead to a long, magical downhill and I was loving it. It felt good to finally be covering some ground. I began to notice the absence of OT trail markers, but like a fool I rode on. The fire road turned into a chunky, rutted-out shitbag of an atv trail. By now I was fairly certain I’d gone the wrong way, but just kept riding anyway, somehow convincing myself that the trail I was on would intersect the OT. So stupid.
At the very bottom, I popped out onto a nicely groomed gravel road. Crane Lake was to the West, so I turned right. By now it was completely dark, and I was almost out of reasons to give a single shit about seeing Crane Lake. A little while down the road, I ran into a MASSIVE pile of trees and brush covering the road, making it impassable.
I shoved my way through the treeline next to the road, (which sucked) and went around it. Coming out of the other side, I looked up and saw this:
Well shit…what now? The road turned past the gate and looked to be going North. I rolled the dice and followed it. Surely there was a trail crossing somewhere, right?
The road dropped down into what seemed like a flood zone of some kind. It dawned on me this was probably the overflow stream for Crane Lake. Everywhere I rode, there was between 3-6 inces of water over the road. Luckily it was solid underneath. The realization that I was lost and “deep in the shit” began to take hold. Then the road started climbing. And climbing and f*cking climbing, until I saw this:
**BTW, that’s a photo of a gate when it’s barely illuminated by a dying headlamp**
There comes a time when a man has to admit he’s failed. I mulled over my options and decided to go back to the first gate. The road had seemed flat there, and it was dry…which was the opposite of what I had to ride through *again* to get there.
I may have felt a little bit defeated, but that quickly faded as I set up camp. The beauty of bikepacking is the absence of urgency. Everything you need is strapped to your bike, so you can eat or sleep anytime you want. It was July and I’m obese, so I’d sweated through every piece of clothing on my body. It wasn’t hard to rig up a clothesline and hang my stuff., and I figured it didnt really matter if I was sitting around naked while cooking dinner…given the fact that I was completely lost in the middle of nowhere.
After the food was gone, I noticed a small amount of hot water left in the stove. Realizing I’d be a fool to waste it, I put it in a cup, dumped a Gu pack in there and topped it off with some Jim Beam. I’m not gonna say it was delicious, but it wasnt terrible either.
Then I crawled in the tent and spent the rest of the night trying to sleep.. with a knife in one hand and pepper spray in the other…suddenly convinced that every sound I heard was an approaching bear.
I made a point of waking up early since there was no telling how far off-course I’d gotten. The morning was vibrant and I felt pretty good. Standing bare-assed looking at my laundry line, I noticed something peculiar in the tree above.
Somewhere in southern missouri, there’s a guy with a game-camera on a remote gravel road. And now he’s got pictures of my fat naked ass setting up a tent and eating rehydrated sweet & sour pork. All I can say is I’m sorry and I didn’t know.
Heading out, I pushed back up the steep atv trail I’d descended the night before. It was a real bitch to be honest, and I’d become disenchanted with the shitty trails of Marble Creek. One highlight was arriving at the spot where I’d made my massive navigational blunder the night before:
But now I was on a hilltop and Google was with me once again. Google maps showed a *road* going North that wasn’t too far away. I went for it…and rode past it up a giant hill. Doubling back, I found the “road” which was clearly not a road, but a thorn infested corridor of pain through the weeds.
The alleged road was super sketchy and paved with grass and fallen rees. Google maps was clearly wrong. One might say that Google was really starting to piss me off with all its broken promises. I followed along, trying to follow the most northward path along the non-existent road.
This part was particularly challenging, but I was grateful it was mostly down hill:
Eventually I came to creek crossing.
Directly behind the creek was a mud bluff and a tall barb-wire fence. By then, I was moderate-to-severely pissed off. Looking back now, it was a really epic trip. But in that moment, I was just really annoyed with Google and their shitty “road” maps.
Eventually I decided that bushwacking boldly was my only option. Fences were jumped, and I may have trespassed a bit but I can’t be sure. After all, according to Google I was on the road.
When I finally made it back to the road, a bald eagle flew right over the road ahead of me. Totally badass.
Making my way into the campground, I had to stop for a “holy shit I made it” photo:
Back at the campground, it was time for my victory celebration. I found a nice spot along the creek and slid right into the water. After all the struggle from the “trails” and “roads,” the cold spring water felt amazing.
I’ll admit that during this ride, there was a significant amount of time that I just wasn’t enjoying myself. But now that I look back on all of it, (and all the shit I’m leaving out of this post), I realize this was a true adventure. I’ll definitely do this trip again. I hope to see that sunset, but I don’t know if it’ll match the joy I felt sitting in that cold water after such a hard overnighter.
Oh, and fuck you Google maps.