Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Versailles

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Since we had Friday off, Dave and I decided to go to Versailles State Park, located almost two hours away near Versailles, IN, which is in southeastern Indiana.

Note: it seems, based on everything, that in the case of Versailles, Indiana, Versailles is pronounced exactly wrongly, rhyming with “fur sales.” This irritates me to no end, since the correct pronunciation, Frenchly, would rhyme with “fur’s eye.”

Dave offered to drive, and picked me up at 9:00 am. By the time we loaded my stuff into his truck, got coffee and gas and hit the road, it was around 9:40. The ride there was fairly uneventful. It’s a bit boring, but not too bad because there’s a lot of pretty scenery. I saw a deer prancing around in a field, hawks (some soaring and some sitting on power lines), and a whole lot of ponds, hills, ravines, farms, etc.

When we got to Versailles and started getting our stuff ready, I realized I’d forgotten my helmet! I had no idea how that might’ve happened, because I remembered putting it on top of my pile of stuff when I was getting my things together before Dave came to get me. I frantically looked for my helmet, worried that I’d ruin our whole trip by forgetting the second most basic item, behind only the bicycle itself. Fortunately, Dave had an extra helmet — it was a bit too small for my huge noggin, but workable.

Geese at Versailles State Park
A bunch of geese congregated near the water.

Versailles has 4 different trails. The first is the “Turtle” trail, which is an easy mile.

Turtle Trail
The Turtle Trail

Creek, from the Turtle trail
View of the creek from the Turtle Trail.

The second is the Creekside Trail, which is definitely the hardest one there. It’s only 1.5 miles, but some of it runs right along the creek, in one spot with a large section of rock armoring that you have to ride over. Dave and I both just walked that section — we didn’t even attempt it. A large portion of the Creekside Trail is climbing. It’s not as bad as the Aynes climb, but pretty long and intense. We were both pretty torn up by that climb.

Next is the Center Loop, which is tight, winding, and technical. There are a lot of descents and climbs, but they are short and steep, as opposed to the longer ones I’m used to at Brown County. There are numerous technical features in the Center Loop, including some log bridges, logs, roots, rocks, etc., but they are all built into the flow of the trail in such a way that you can carry some real speed into them, so they are pretty easy to manage. It follows a small creek for much of the way, and you get some really nice views.

View of creek from Center Loop
A view from the Center Loop, including a small waterfall (hard to see).

One of the best things about the Center Loop is that you can really keep good momentum the whole time, even through sharp turns, switchbacks, and you can use this to get over the climbs as well as obstacles. There’s really no need to ever stop, until you are getting tired.

The Grandview Loop was next, and was our favorite of all of the trails at Versailles. It had heavy leaf cover, and not in the way we’re used to. It was clear that none of these trails have seen much traffic recently, and on the Grandview Loop, the leaf cover was at least a couple of inches of loose leaves. At Brown County, the leaves get compacted and form an extra layer over the trail, which holds in moisture and makes things slick. The loose leaves had their own set of problems, but the trails were very dry and traction was good. Traction through turns was excellent, but braking was where things got a little difficult. You had to brake very gently in order to avoid having leaves bunch up under your tire and kill your traction.

Bike, trail along Grandview Loop
My bike along the Grandview Loop. Can you see the trail through the leaf cover?

The Grandview Loop takes the great momentum-optimizing design of the Center Loop and applies it to a more open trail, which allows you to really fly through this trail. There are still some tight turns and technical sections, but they won’t slow you down as much as on the Center Loop. This section also features some great wooden bridges and a ride along a ridgetop 150 feet above Laughery Creek that gives you a fantastic view of a horseshoe turn in the creek.

View from Grandview Loop #2
View of Laughery Creek from Grandview Loop.

We rode the both the Center Loop and the Grandview Loop twice, the other sections once each, and we still only ended up riding around 11 miles. That’s the only complaint I have with these trails, there just aren’t enough of them!
On the way back to the car, we were treated to a great view on the descent on the Creekside trail. And Dave and I both cleared that crazy rock garden type thing I mentioned before. He went first and had no trouble; I debated whether to attempt it and decided to go for it. I’m glad I did, because it was a lot of fun and it felt good to successfully cross something like that.

All in all, I definitely want to go back to Versailles for more riding, but the driving to riding ratio isn’t that good (almost 2:1), so I wouldn’t want to make the trip very often. I’d also prefer to have more time there, maybe camp there for a weekend or something and do some hiking while we’re there, too.

Update: I found another cool description of the Versailles Trails.

One Response to “Versailles”

  1. Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » Black Friday rides Says:

    […] year, Dave and I spent Black Friday riding at Versailles State Park. This year we decided to head south instead of east and discussed possibly going to Ferdinand State […]

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