Today's post is from Salsa guest blogger Jason Gaikowski. Jason is the Marketing Director for QBP (Salsa's parent company) and dang strong rider. -Kid
With fall turned to winter, the snow growing deeper, and the calendar turned to January – I started jonesing. Steady climbs, swoopy turns, rocky singletrack, and actual dirt – I heard the call of Arkansas.
With a golden birthday ticket in hand (thanks honey!) – Ryan and I threw a couple of Salsa's in the Subaru and headed south. We spent the night in Kansas City and met up with good friends Scott, Craig, and Andy. Scott, Craig and I have made annual pilgrimages to the Ouachita, Womble, and Syllamo trail systems for several years and Arkansas mountain biking never fails to exceed expectations.
We decided to introduce Ryan (our Arkansas virgin) to the Lake Leatherwood trails near Eureka Springs. Saturday began with an early morning breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy to fuel the drive before the ride. After a couple of hours of driving, we stopped for an appetizer ride on the SAC River Trails near Springfield, MO. After an hour of turning, turning, turning, and a few stream crossings, we jumped back in the cars and continued south.
Eureka Springs is a weekend destination town, complete with quaint shops and local restaurants with GREAT food. Eureka Springs is also home to Adventure Mountain Outfitters, run by Denton West. Denton and his son Cory West are the guys largely responsible for building the local scene; building and maintaining trails, promoting events like the Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival, and working with the local community to promote the amazing riding available right from town.
Denton and Cory also happen to be a couple of dang nice guys, who happily met us at the shop and took us out on a guided tour. Over the next three hours, we found pure Arkansas bliss. Steep climbs, rocky descents, and miles and smiles of pure flow. Our ride covered every mile of the Lake Leatherwood trails and several hidden gems – Cory’s private playground of whoops and jumps – a freshcut switchback climb that had never seen rubber before – and a hidden drop-in by the city bank that leads to a trail like something out of a Dr. Suess book.
At the end of the ride, we regrouped at the shop, where Denton met us with cold beers to enjoy while we changed and then all went out for a great dinner at a local joint.
Oh yes, once again, Arkansas exceeded expectations. -Jason
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