Who doesn't already love Boone, North Carolina? If you are looking for your new favorite downhill trail, Rocky Knob's PBJ is a must ride.
ROCKY KNOB MTB PARK
Starting out on Rocky Branch, I rode clockwise up a few switchbacks and gnarly rock & root terrain. I love rocks and roots, especially after all the rain we have been graced with this season. Dirt = Primo. I was torn whether to take Boat Rock Loop or follow Middle Earth, and naturally my inner nerd was pulled to ride Middle Earth like Gollum and his precious.
Briefly, I fantasized about riding my bike through Tolkien's land of make believe and was quickly pulled back to the reality of how bad-a these trails are. I imagined riding Middle Earth the opposite direction and thought of how awesome the rock gardens and rooty terrain would be going downhill, however, I wanted to keep exploring and see where we ended up.
Dobby and I followed Middle Earth to the top of the knob where this fun skills park appeared. It was the perfect set-up to practice drops starting from ground up. Dobby was fearless, as she progressed to the highest drop and rode by my side. She is hands down the best trail partner... in the world. I could get really sappy here and go on about all of our adventures we've had together, but I won't.
We enjoyed lapping the skills park a few times and took in the vista of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the knob. I passed a few other riders and debated asking them which trail we should take back, but I had more fun enjoying the unknown of where we were going. Just a stone's throw from the skills park was the trailhead for PBJ. Some inner voice had been telling me to check that trail out the entire time, but I wasn't sure we'd actually find it. I had a map but am not the best navigator- even in Middle Earth. Hey, it's about the adventure [Insert Relevant meme Here].
There was a gaggle of biker friends chilling at the top of PBJ lapping what looked like a bermy, flowy section. I gravitated to the top of the trail and scanned over the map. I have really only gotten passionately into mtb over the last year and was genuinely stoked about this trail and whatever magic had been pulling me up to it. I hopped on my bike and asked some dude if this trail went back to the parking lot. He said, "Yeah, it's all downhill." I rode into the first berm and sailed through some of the best dirt I've ever felt or maybe I was just more in tune with my bike than rides before. Next, there were some big jumps that I had no ego about riding conservatively over. I sped through the next berm more confidently than ever before and literally dropped jaw at what was around the corner.
The trail forked to a massive rock drop rider's left or a fun rocky descent right. I stowed my bike off trail to capture footage of the drop and add it to my summer bucket list, as a man went full send over the drop. Gnarles on gnarles. Next up, Dobby and I put our hearts into the rest of the ride back to the parking lot. It was a good day, and yes- we will be back.
The Fly's Eye Dome via Crystal Bridges' north lawn
Mountain Biking has been on the rise over the last few years in Bentonville, Arkansas. With more than 28 miles of all-level trails and skill parks, it's no wonder that mtb enthusiasts from all over the country are flocking to B-Ville.
Photo Cred: Collin Wheeler
Aside from the insurmountable access of trails on either side of the pedal, Bentonville knows how to do bridges. And from an intermediate mountain biker's perspective, the room to grow as an athlete is infinite.
Start out peddling low gear down All-American which will lead you to the Slaughter Pen trails. Gap jumps on your left and pump tracks on your right, you'll start to sing a biker's lullaby in your head as you fall into a dirt roamer's paradise.
Make friends right in the parking lot and hop on a group ride, take a solo journey, or bring your own biking partner (BYOBP). I was lucky enough to follow Collin around on the trails and explore as many miles as we could squeeze into a hot & humid two days.
We explored around downtown Bentonville, mostly walking around alleyways and checking out store fronts since Covid-19 has most retail locations at a hault. The town square was was very chic with lots of history. We stopped by to look in the windows of the original Walmart, a small curbside retail shop dated back from 1950.
Walton Family Foundation
When I first learned that Wal-Mart funded the mountain bike renaissance in Bentonville, I had to process that the two were even related.
In 1950, the Waltons opened a "five and dime store" in Northwest Arkansas. A passion for retail led to an overwhelming success of Walmart stores. After celebrating the 25th anniversary of Walmart, they established the Walton Family Foundation. The foundation focuses on three areas: Improving K-12 Education, Protecting Rivers and Oceans and their communities, and investing in the Waltons' home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.
In 2017, bicycling provided $137 million in eco-benefits to the Northwest Arkansas regions. The Walton Family Foundation continues to invest into biking initiatives, as these trails bring about a sense of feel to the community along with support for local businesses.
This North Carolina village sits just above 1,000 feet of elevation with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains! This "No bigger than a minute" town is home to Chimney Rock State Park and minutes away from the breathtaking Lake Lure.
Southern Cities Edition: Chimney Rock, NC
Every good adventure starts with an even better cup of coffee. Not much beats fresh brew right out of the french press other than running into a hole in the wall coffee shop. Coffee on the Rocks conveniently dwells along the Rocky Broad River. Along with delicious caffeinated beverages, they also sell breakfast and allow your pup to come inside.
Hickory Nut Falls
Photo Cred: Chris Turner
The trail to the base of the falls was about 0.7 miles uphill, and that was just the beginning.
It is nice to be able to get such a great climb in hiking and still have tons of oxygen to breathe at lower elevation. The views atop Chimney Rock were literally breathtaking!
I continue to be surprised by hidden mountain towns and new hikes around the Appalachian Mountains. After growing up just over Sam's Gap in Tennessee and exploring much of the Carolina hills, I couldn't believe I had never heard of Chimney Rock before. There is still much to explore in this endless backcountry.