S and I took a break from the grind and got out of town for the Independence Day weekend. We enjoy off road riding but there's not a lot to choose from in our area. We opted for St. Charles, Missouri. Good restaurants, quaint shops (did I really just use the term 'quaint"?), wineries and some fabulous mountain biking trails nearby.
After some research with the help of the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) website, we settled on the Lost Valley trail (spoken in loud, echoing voice). Given our low level of off-road fitness for the year, a ten mile trail seemed like just the way to kill a morning but hopefully not ourselves.
GORC's website offers the following description: "The name comes from the bootleggers who once made use of the area, getting lost among the numerous hollows. It was also near the site of an ammunition works and uranium processing plant which necessitated the cleanup that lies under the large mound on Hwy. 94. Now, the trail is a 10.5 mile loop with a mixture of double and singletrack punctuated with old homesteads, rock formations, natural springs, and a waterfall crossing. This is a very scenic and enjoyable mountain bike experience. The trail has gone from essentially having no singletrack to more than 4 miles in a matter of a few years. The gravel/doubletrack sections are fairly flat, with the exception of 2 big climbs. The singletrack sections are super flowy and will reward you with great views and better riding. There is a central fire road that cuts the loop almost in half which can be used to shorten or lengthen your ride. "
"Trail surface varies from dirt to rock throughout the trail, and drains very well, except in the flats of the lower creek bottom. "
We rode the trail clockwise, which turned out to be a good idea given the long downhill at the end of the trail. The first couple of miles were on an old rock road, similar to the KATY trail. The trail meandered through the bottomlands alongside a creek. Pic: We stumbled across what appeared to be an old fireplace right in the middle of the forest. As the trail started to climb and twist up a steep hillside, the rock road dissolved into very nice, dry singletrack. There are a lot of rocks, which was new but manageable as long as you went kind of slow, which is not really a problem for me. Let me just say that fitness gained from running and road riding does not necessarily carry over into mountain biking, which is a lot more anaerobic.
The forest is thick and old here. I had a tough time in the humidity and had to walk some of the steeper climbs. I also walked through some of the more technical sections, mostly because much of the time if you missed and fell there was the very real danger of falling down a ravine. That just wasn't on the radar for the weekend. And here I am pushing my bike across a rocky creekbed.
Something tells me that an Xterra Triathlon is NOT in my future.
We kept leapfrogging with two college-age kids, one who was doing great and obviously did quite a bit of this type of thing. He seemed to be serving as a sherpa to the other, who we learned was out on his first mountain bike ride. This kid was struggling worse than I was with the climbing and the rocks. Evidently he had lost his lunch on one of the climbs, which leads me to suspect the decision to ride this trail had been influenced by alcohol the night before. His buddy was nice enough to snap our picture for us.
I would have liked to have ridden more, but S didn't pack nearly enough fluid. One measly bottle of Gatorade was not going to cut it. On the other hand, I could have put out a small fire with all the water I was carrying between a 70 liter camelbak and two water bottles. Drenched and hungry, we headed out for winery country.