Council Bluff

I've ridden on the Council Bluff Lake trail a couple of times, once for my second Berryman AR and once last summer when Luke and Casey were staying nearby with their families, but I've never ridden all of the way around the lake. Like most trails I've ridden for the first time during my early adventure races, it has stuck in my head as a scary place, so when a free weekend day came up, I was eager to put that fear to rest by finally riding the whole trail.

Chuck, Jacob, Bob, and I met up near Bob's house and caravanned down to the lake, Bob and I riding together with our bikes on my fancy new  used Kuat rack. Goodbye, worn-out trunk rack! In some bizarre occurrence, Bob and I actually beat Chuck to our meeting spot, though the world was quickly set right again when I promptly drove across an intersection and onto the wrong side of a divided road on the way to front of a police officer, who thankfully had better things to do than write me a ticket for being clueless.

Council Bluff
Making fun of my crooked helmet.
I'd say the drive went pretty quickly, but accusations were made from the back car about me driving like a grandma, so obviously it wasn't that fast of a trip; still, we got to the lake just at the time we planned, an un-Virtus-like feat, indeed, and attacked the trail from the beach in a clockwise direction.

Council Bluff

Jacob hasn't really ridden his bike in the past two years, which didn't stop him from totally outridng me.  What he lacks in practice he makes up for in fitness and the natural fearlessness of an 18 year old boy.  Usually one of the things I love about mountain biking is tracking how far I've come from when I first started, but on this trip I felt like a beginner all over again, scared, tentative, and walking things I know I could ride.

Council Bluff
Bob does not suffer from my lack of confidence.
Having chosen to ride on one of the first hot, hot weekends of this very weird summer, we were very looking forward to hopping into the lake to cool off at the boat ramp.

Council Bluff
I opted to walk in.
After hanging out for a while and talking to the fishermen getting ready to launch, we set off again, soaked clothes providing a little additional cooling for the ride.

Council Bluff
And thank goodness for shade!
We took another water break, this time in a lovely, cold, clear creek at the connector to the Ozark Trail.  Halfway around and past the more technical parts of the trail, I finally started to gain some confidence.  Bob flatted and crashed, so I rode ahead to let Chuck and Jacob know we'd be stopping to change a tire.  They decided they needed to finish up the ride because they had plans later in the day, so they rode back to say goodbye.

Council Bluff
Doesn't look like much, but the water here is DEEP and since it's a man-made lake, there are trees down there just waiting to impale someone.

Seeing the rocky ledge near the spot Bob had stopped to change his tire, Jacob told him, "I bet you $10 you won't ride off that into the lake." Most any bet against Bob is a loser's bet, and this was too. I was very unenthusiastic about this plan. The water is deep, and I thought chances of Bob's steel-framed bike sinking to the bottom were good, not to mention his likelihood of impaling himself on a submerged tree. I was so opposed to the plan that I almost rode away, but I decided it would be better to stay and play lifeguard if needed or at least document where rescuers could find his body.

If your sentence to Bob Jenkins begins with "I bet you $10 that you won't..," you're going home a poorer man. Or boy.
Posted by Kate Lavelle Geisen on Sunday, July 12, 2015

Chuck and Jacob took off, and Bob and I were just about to leave when we heard voices approaching pretty quickly. Knowing our pace was going to be considerably slower than the oncoming riders, we opted to wait until they passed. "That sounds like Maria," I told Bob, and sure enough she and Sam rode around the corner. We talked for a little bit before the girls rode away, and then we followed.

Council Bluff
It was a gorgeous day, and it's a beautiful trail
I typically like to be in the back of whatever group I'm riding in; I like being able to see the line of the rider in front of me. This day I felt much more comfortable with a clear trail in front of me. I'm sure it also helped that we were on a far less technical section, too. Regardless, I was finally really enjoying the riding portion instead of mostly just the company.

Council Bluff
It's hard to see because of the shade, but there are quite a few rocks and roots here, and I was so excited to have ridden up it successfully that I walked back down to take a picture of it.  
We reached the last boat ramp before the beach and rode out on the dock. "I kind of have to ride off this, don't I?" said Bob.  "Or maybe I just shouldn't press my luck."

"It's OK if you're too scared," I teased, feeling much more comfortable about this spot and knowing he wouldn't be able to resist the taunt.

More magic words: "It's ok if you're too scared..."
Posted by Kate Lavelle Geisen on Sunday, July 12, 2015
His water bottle came loose on impact, so I offered to swim out and get it.  I took off my shoes and socks and hopped in from the dock so as to avoid the super slippery ramp.  Bob laughed at me as I tried in vain to keep my face from going into the water (I'm seriously turning into my mom) and then again as, after retrieving the bottle, I gingerly made my way onto the bank, squeamish about the muddy bottom, the plants, and the dead fish I saw.  Otherwise it was fun. More mountain bike rides should involve lake swims!

We made our way back to the beach and car, and then attempted to find "the bluff" on Johnson Mountain. My little Cobalt is no off-road vehicle, and if Chuck and Jacob thought I drove like a grandma on pavement they would have REALLY laughed to see me creeping up the rutted gravel.  Stymied at the top when we couldn't find the spot Bob was looking for and too hungry to look for long, we headed back down and into Potosi for Mexican food.

We probably spent as much time in the water as on our bikes, but it was a super fun day. I'm really looking forward to the next trip back. My driving probably won't improve, but hopefully I'll ride less like a grandma!


  1. I have nightmares about my bike going into the water and sinking. I can't imagine doing it on purpose. And muddy bottoms are not my friend. At my tri last week I kept bouncing on my feet as I waited for the swim to start. I didn't want contact for more than a couple of seconds.

  2. I don't know how you can do it. You are special.


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