On “Black Friday,” I went mountain biking with my friend Dave. We have made this a tradition: every year, on Black Friday, while millions of people flock to shopping malls to try to find the best sales, we go ride our bikes in the woods. It’s a great way to spend the day and avoid the crowds. This year, we went to Versailles State Park, which is a couple of hours away by car. This is also where we went on our first Black Friday ride, but there are several new trails since that ride. We rode all of the trails, in a big loop. Here’s the map and elevation profile.
View 2009-11-27 Versailles Black Friday Mountain Biking.kml in a larger map
We started out on the new Shadow Run trail. This is an intermediate trail which begins with a climb. It was in the 30s outside and we were cold when we started riding, but this climb helped us warm up. Once we reached the top of the hill, the trail was much easier; it’s quite flat for a while, but it winds through the woods with many twists and turns. Along the way, we got some great views of Laughery Creek, and saw quite a few sinkholes. Rolling on flat ground for a while allowed us to get warmed up before hitting the harder trails.
The trail got a bit harder as turned to go downhill. It wound its way down the side of the hill, with more views of the creek and ravines below.
Next, we had to redo part of the Shadow Run climb in order to make our way up to the Cliffside Trail. This trail was more difficult; it skirts the edge of a cliff, and the trail is narrower and rockier. It even crosses a waterfall at one point. We walked this part due to safety concerns. Trail conditions were mostly good, but parts were muddy enough that traction was poor at times. We had more great views of the creek this whole time, but we had to stay focused on riding, so it was hard to take in the views, except when we stopped.
Next was the Center Loop. This went by really quickly. It was a fun trail, with some twists and turns and a bit of climbing, but it was over just as I was getting into it. It mostly serves as a way to reach the Grandview Trail, which at six miles long, is the longest trail at the park. When we reached the Grandview Trail, we saw this sign, which we promptly ignored, pointing us back to the trailhead (photo by Dave).
The Grandview trail is aptly named, as it offers views of a bend in Laughery Creek some 150 feet below, as well as some nearby hills. These views would be much obstructed during the summer, but with no leaves on the trees, we could see quite a bit. This trail has some fast, flowing riding for a while. Conditions were much better than the last time I rode here. Back on Black Friday of 2006, the trail was covered in several inches of leaves. This year things were considerably better; the trail was fairly clear and those leaves that were there had been compacted. We had only to worry about the occasional muddy section.
Last time I was here, the Grandview Trail was also much shorter. At that point, it had a few minutes of fun, flowing riding, then a climb back to the start. We rode it twice in a row, last time. Now the trail is over twice as long as it used to be. Instead of turning back so soon, it goes down almost all the way to creek level before winding through mixed hardwood/pine forests and finally, climbing back up to the starting point. This gave us another nice perspective of the creek, as well as some extra fun.
The rest of the ride is a blur, we were on Center Loop again briefly, then a fast-but-brief descent on the Creekside Trail, followed by a creek crossing and some very rocky sections.
We finished the ride, right around 11 miles, in 2 1/2 hours of riding. It felt a lot longer, thanks to the climbing, mud, technical sections, and views. We contemplated riding the Grandview Trail twice, but we were tired and hungry.
The trails at Versailles are just awesome. Each has its own character, but they are all extremely fun, and all are very beautiful. I’ll definitely be returning.