Posted by: noadventure | September 12, 2013

The Closest Mountain Biking to New Orleans

Editor’s note: Yet another killer post from the talented Whitney Mackman. Cool weather means less spiders. Check out this trail.
Bonnet Carre Spillway Trail
If you’re like me, you’re not from around here. And if you aren’t from around here, you know that this country is riddled with rolling hills and towering mountain peaks you can barely see through the clouds. I moved here from Seattle, a place that signifies a beautiful day with “the mountain is out” rather than “the sun is out.” Needless to say, I miss my mountains and I especially miss my mountain biking. Thankfully, there are a few trails (read: 4) in Louisiana that help me reconnect with my love. Granted, this is not “mountain” biking per say, but the Bonnet Carre Spillway Trail in Norco, LA fills the void for those who live in New Orleans and can’t make the trip to Baton Rouge.
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New Orleans Metro Area Mountain Bike Organization, known as NOMAMBO (http://www.nomambo.net/), does an excellent job maintaining and running events on the Bonnet Carre Spillway Trail. The trail runs in the lush area between the Lower Guide Levee Road and a canal, from the 61 to the 10/Lake Ponchartrain. The trail is a long and meandering single track with twists and turns and built-in jumps and berms for the adventurous. There are even some tree stump speed humps. You can run this trail alone if you must, as it circles back to itself and is only between 5-6 miles, so if you get a flat tire or a bloody body part, you could walk out if you leave yourself enough daylight. The trail is well marked, but it does cross itself many times, so stay to the left and look for the caution tape leading you in the proper direction.
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This trail is an absolutely gorgeous trek through dense trees (ironically, since the area is surrounded by gas pipelines and oil refineries). With the canal to my left, I saw birds taking flight and nutria scavenging out of the corner of my eye. On the trail, I dodged a plague of humongous black grasshoppers. I tried to avoid them, but after a while it became impossible, as they do not move an inch, even when I came right at them. I hit several trees trying to respect them, but in the end I ran over a few. And let me tell you, you will know when you hit one. It sounds like running over an entire bag of Captain Crunch cereal. I spent half my time flying down this trail yelling “sorry grasshopper!” over my shoulder. In the end, I killed 3 but got hit in the eye, the nose, and the boob by huge retaliators, so I think Mother Nature and I are even. Honestly, the grasshoppers add an extra, more difficult element to this trail, as it is tight single track and they are everywhere. Use them as a natural obstacle.
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The trail starts with a wooden bridge and then a meander through the greens. They have recently added some jumps that look like bridges until there is a huge gap (1stjump of trail, in open meadow section, pic below), so just make sure to scout it out or make sure to jump it instead of panic, hit the brakes, and drop the front tire down (I will get to that later). Each section of the trail is labeled with creative names like Seinfeld, South African Headhunter, Up-Chuck, 5 Minutes Alone (one of my favorites), Rat Tail, Chu-Chut, The Hammer, and South Canada. There is a super fun smaller jump in Seinfeld and a larger launch in S. Canada.
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The jump in S. Canada comes after a tight uphill turn, but I discovered that I don’t need speed to land it. While scouting the jump, I noticed the last plank of the jump is gouged by chain rings because some people panic, brake, and let their front tire drop over the ledge instead of jumping the bike – most likely flipping themselves over their handlebars. You only have to make this mistake once to realize you must pop the jumps! Don’t brake! Don’t panic! Right when the front tire hits the edge, pull the handlebars up and “jump” your bike. This will keep both tires parallel to the ground (and in the air) until you land. The rest of the landing is up to your balance, speed, control and belief in your abilities. A friend warned me about this jump, so I ran off it once on my feet, then biked up the launch (it’s a bit curved) to get a feel for it, and then I just hit it on my bike and landed it on first try. You can do it! There is a berm at the bottom to catch your speed if you hit the jump fast!
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The trail ends at what used to be some great jumps, but I don’t know what is happening to them now. They are overgrown and some of them are too vertical to jump on a bike, but it wasn’t always like that. I still pushed my bike up the levee and turned around and ran the jumps. The trail doesn’t quite end where it starts, so once you hit the jumps, you need to push your bike up the levee and turn right on the graveled Lower Guide Levee Road for a few hundred feet back to the park entrance.
I ran the trail once and emerged to thunder and lightning, so I ate a banana and watched the storm pass for 30 minutes, then ran the trail again as the sun set and tiny frogs appeared. At a pretty steady pace, I can run this trail in about 30-45 minutes, depending on stops, scouting jumps/re-doing jumps, nature encounters, etc. I’ve seen people post 25-minute laps of this trail during timed races but I’ve never done it faster than 35 minutes. I’m also in it for the love, not for the speed – this isn’t downhill biking after all.
(Need to hit the trails? Check out Norco, 3 others in LA and 1 more in MS on Baton Rouge Area Mountain Bike Association’s website: http://www.bramba.org/trails.php. I hear there are also good trails in Mobile at Chickasabogue Park and on the University of Southern Alabama’s campus. Posts on Hooper & Comite Trails in Baton Rouge and The Beast in St. Francisville are coming soon!)
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Responses

  1. Since writing this article, they have connected the end of this trail back to the beginning! No more pushing up on the levee. Now, near the end, you will see a path to the jump mounds on the left, but if you keep going forward you will find the “connector” trail back to the parking area.


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