Syllamo’s Revenge of the Turtles

A handful of years of plans that never came into fruition until that moment between the rains when I pulled into the parking area along route 5, I finally was at a trailhead on the Syllamo mountain biking trail system.  It was a ride I had heard much about, and was one that intrigued me:  Is it as difficult as some report?  What do the Ozarks offer the mtber that is at home on the rocks?  Will it knock me out by the third round?

As I headed out on Scrappy Mountain (blue loop), the pedals turned easy with excitement and a little tinge of nervousness, par for the course when exploring new terrain.  It wasn’t more than five minutes into it though that those feelings were gone, and the focus turned to the climb up through the rocks, slick with the prior evening’s rain.  Syllamo’s Revenge course had me breathing heavy and I thought, “let’s get it on!”

The climb and the rocks and the wetness and the disgruntled sky already had fulfilled my Syllamo dream in the first mile or so, but like the greed monsters that we humans can be, I wanted more:

Up, Up and Away

Back around, dropping down and crossing over Route 5, and then through the mountain stream, the road trip grogginess was gone.  The trail turned to logging-operation-double-track-sorta and climbed back up to Green Mountain Road.  I proceeded onto Jack’s Branch (yellow loop) in the direction of Bad Branch (red loop).  The trail rolled fast and included the first turtle sighting of the day.  Sooner than expected, I was at the Bad Branch trailhead turning onto the red loop.

Immediately upon entering the trail, it was obvious that Bad Branch was going to be a blast.  Twisting and turning through the pines and cranking the grassy singletrack was nothing less than pure mtber delight.  The darkness of wet pines with hardwoods in spring lighter-green glory slowed me down to a stop to say to myself, “thank you for allowing me to experience this.”

When I came up on a fungus blazing orange in all the green, it stopped me in my tracks:


Bad Branch spun around and met up with Jack’s Branch, where I rolled on down and had a good time, until the trail turned “up” and away from the Blanchard Springs Campground.  At that precise hard left back up the trail, the work began.  Jack’s Branch over to the junction with Scrappy Mountain was a blue collar workday at the foundry.  Rocks, slabs of rock, loose stones, boulders and sandy/scree-like wet trail were working on the TKO.  I felt Syllamo’s Revenge creeping in, so I stopped, had a few bites of energy food and snapped some photos at a nice view:

Ozark Vista
Escape ... ?

Pushing on, I happened upon another turtle on the blue loop.  It made me smile and charged me up.  There s/he sat trailside in his/her hardshell, looking like a rock we often describe as being a “turtle shell.”  I didn’t roll over the shell, instead picking the turtle up and moving it off the trail.

More rocks appeared.  Some required leaning way back.  When I came up to a spectacular view, I nearly wrecked looking out at the view and not down the trail.  I unclipped, unzipped my pack and got the camera out.  I saw Mother Nature’s brush strokes in the trees leafing out:

Paint the Forest

Scalpel at Rest

White River Bluff (green loop) trailhead came next.  I looked at my timepiece and decided to jump onto Bald Scrappy (orange loop) across the forest road.  I had set a time for driving to Mount Ida so as to ride Womble the next morning, and had agreed that if I was not back at the parking area by then, I’d take a bailout on Green Mountain Road to be picked up.

Orange rolled into blue.  A climb followed by a kick-ass downhill rockfest, with some flatter pedaling and a stream crossing after that, highlighted the way back to the car.  I made it before the time cutoff.  Still, I had to ride the green loop.  I loaded the bike on the rack and we drove around to White River Bluff.  The day turned almost sunny by then, and I saw another turtle out on the trail:

What Are You Doing Here?

The view from the rockin’ good time on the backside was nice:

I was tired and beat down, but the rocky stretch fed me some adrenaline.  And then the rock joy ended, just like that,  and I meandered my way back to the car on singletrack.


Post-ride:  We ate at Tommy’s Pizza and BBQ in Mountain View.  If you enjoy authentic hippies, go to Tommy’s and hope he’s there.  I was refreshed by his “realness,” and the pulled pork sandwich with Memphis-style sauce will treat you right.  Throw in a hand-tossed whole wheat Tommy’s BBQ pizza (pork, jalapenos, pineapple, BBQ sauce, cheese), and you’ll be ready to drive down towards Mount Ida to take on the Womble the next morning…

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