Little Clifty and War Eagle Trails
Many people in the town of Bentonville had mentioned Hobbs State Park as a great place to mountain bike (in addition to their own Slaughter Pen Trails). So when Blair (Vice President of Communications for the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau) asked me where I wanted Misty (Northwest Arkansas Director of Trails) to take me… I suggested Hobbs.
Misty liked the idea of heading out to Hobbs State Park and soon we were zooming through the countryside in Misty’s Prius. While riding shotgun I was able to ask Misty a few questions. First thing I asked her was, “What do you do for your job?”
Misty explained to me that there are 5 cities in Northwest Arkansas, and her job was to plan and coordinate all the trails in the area. I asked her what huge lake we were passing over. She explained that we were looking at Lake Beaver, a reservoir that provides water to all the cities in northwest Arkansas.
Later she told me about a mapping project she was working on. When finished, I could put any Northwestern Arkansas trail on my phone or GPS and the app would show me the trail and my present location (without using Google). I told her I use Google to make custom maps for my rides, so I usually have two GPS devices running while biking… my Garmin 800 Edge GPS device and my Samsung Galaxy S5 cell phone running Strava.
Interactive Map for Hobbs State Park…
Little Clifty (Blue) and War Eagle (Purple)
*Note – This track was not created by my GPS… but is a composite of two tracks I found on the internet.
Have you done this ride? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
I also told her about my daughter (Kayley) finding my Garmin in the middle of her driveway the day I flew to Arkansas and how she was FedEx-ing it to me (which hadn’t shown up yet). So, I would just be using the phone to track the ride.
As we pulled into the parking lot at Hobbs State Park Misty said she was going to take me on one of her favorite trails… Little Clifty. Then if time permitted, we would do War Eagle. I told her I was ready for anything.
Although only 5’1” and less than 100 pounds Misty could ride a mountain bike. I had trouble keeping up with her as she wove her 29” Salsa hardtail through a slalom of natural gates formed by the tree trunks and undergrowth along Little Clifty. The trail surface was supreme, a finely crushed rock very much like I’d found on the Slaughter Pen Trails earlier in the week.
The drizzle was quite heavy and the breeze cold so we had each started out with a jacket (I was wearing one that Blair had lent me… being stupid enough to think the hot weather would continue). But the drizzle and wind subsided as we got down into the hollow, and after a mile or so I had to stop and peel mine off. A short time later Misty removed hers.
The next place she stopped was on a bridge with a sign which read “Van Winkle Hollow … Little Clifty Creek.” Below that the sign read, “(Downstream).” After checking the sign I looked at the creek bed and told her, “This looks like a typical creek in southern California.” She asked me, “Why’s that?” I said, “No water!”
Later I asked Misty if she knew any girls that could out-ride her. I told her I had biked with many women of varying abilities… but I could only think of one that could stick with her. She said there were a few, then finally admitted she was the Cat 2 Arkansas State Champion in 2013.
Before we set off she told me we were going to be coming to some uphill (climbing back out of the hollow) and she wanted me to go first. I was a little shocked as she had been kicking my butt on the downhill. She went on to explain, “I really haven’t been doing much riding lately, so I am not in very good shape when it comes to the uphill parts.” But I insisted she go first… figuring she would still out-climb me even out of shape. But that wasn’t the case.
When we did hit the steeper uphill segment she pulled over and let me pass her. While I waited for her at the top I took the opportunity to take some nature photos with my phone, what I now use as my website camera. Actually, Misty had to answer her phone a couple times along the trail to deal with the gas leak they had found that morning in their new home. I am still amazed at cell phones… here we are in the middle of a thick forested backwoods in Hobbs State Park, and… brrriiiiinnng, the phone rings.
At one point I noticed Misty struggle with a very sharp switchback, so I offered her some advice that I hoped might help her. What I have learned is, if you lean your shoulder and head slightly over your outside hand, you will stand a much better chance of staying balanced while your front tire turns sharply and bites the trail.
Another tip I offered was, when trying to power up a steep incline, it might help to center the pedal in the middle of her foot as opposed to on the ball of her foot.
The Little Clifty Trail passed through some beautiful foliage, but that type of trail offers no view of where you are going, where you have been, or anything else more than 50 feet from the trail. So … as we came upon some trail signs I was glad to hear Misty say, “Let’s take War Eagle, it will give us a nice view off a cliff.”
We soon came to the signs for the War Eagle turn-off… and you couldn’t miss the signs. I have done rides with no signs, with damaged signs, ambiguous signs… but not here. I have never seen such large, elaborate signs as I witnessed in Hobbs State Park. There was no way anyone could get lost here… well, I still might be able to.
The cliff was about 40 feet high, offering views of distant cliffs that guide War Eagle Creek into Beaver Lake. I looked off the cliff and told Misty, “If the water was deep enough I would jump.” I told her my brother (George) and I are always looking for places to jump into water. She said, “With someone like you I feel I need to bring my husband along… he is an ER nurse in a hospital.”
We did some more climbing that took us back to another set of awesome signs for the Little Clifty Trail. (so there was a piece of the Little Clifty Trail we did not ride). We turned left and soon came to another bridge just like the one we had seen earlier. This bridge had a sign that read, “Van Winkle Hollow… Little Clifty Creek.” But this time the bottom of the sign read “(Upstream).” After checking the sign I looked below the bridge and was shocked… a creek full of water!
I looked at Misty and said, “What is up? This is the same creek… but downstream there was no water!” She told me that type of thing happens a lot in Arkansas, the water goes underground for a while.
As we finished the trail Misty said she was going to sign the register. While approaching the kiosk she said she estimated we had done 10 miles and had been riding for about 2 hours. I quickly fished the Samsung Galaxy S5 out of my pocket and checked Strava. We had been riding 2:13 minutes and traveled 10.2 miles. I congratulated her on her mental calculations. Just then, I noticed the most unusually dressed mountain biker I had ever seen.
I walked over to the guy and, looking him up and down, said, “I have got to get a picture of you. Do you mind if I put you on my website?” He smiled, then posed, and said, “Go right ahead!”
After taking my photo we got to talking, when I found out he was a spine surgeon. I told him about my broken neck episode and he, like all the other doctors, said I was real lucky. He was pretty well padded up including a full face helmet. I asked him about all the pads …trying to think of any part of the trail that was dangerous. He said his strange hours required him to do a lot of solo mountain biking, and he would rather be safe than sorry… therefore all the pads. I put my phone on video and asked him his name… but, of course, when I checked the phone later… no video. So I am calling him, “Doctor Who.”
We wished him a good ride and headed back to the car. Misty said she was starved and I was too, so we hurriedly got the bikes on the rack, and vacated Hobbs State Park. Once in the car I decided to look at our Strava numbers again… but to my disappointment the activity was gone.
I tried over and over to resurrect the route but it was not on the phone. I had failed to save the ride when I rushed to take the doctors photo and had lost it! No Hobbs State Park GPS track!
When Misty dropped me off at my cottage I spotted a large package on the front porch. Could that be my GPS! I removed my bike from her rack, thanked Misty profusely, grabbed my package, and headed into the cottage.
I feel lucky to have shared a ride with Misty and gotten to experience Hobbs State Park. I wish I had planned enough time do more. But then, that gives me an excuse to return!