Sometimes you stare at the trail map and website forever, but you really have no idea what you are getting yourself into. This was definitely the case for me when I agreed to go to Devou Park. Dan wanted to go. Chadd had been there and wanted to go again. But, when I looked at the map, it didn’t look like there were very many miles of trails. Was it going to be worth the 2-hour drive from Columbus to the Covington, Kentucky?
Why did all the trails on the map look so short? I was concerned, but I decided I would just go with the flow so I could see a new trail system.
On the ride there, I asked Chadd about the climbing at Devou. He said he didn’t think there was much – just a little to get to the trail head and then it was flat like Alum Creek.
Alum Creek? That’s only a 10 minute drive from my house. Not sure I need to ride 2 hours to experience something that is just like my home trail. And, to be honest, I was hoping for a little climbing.
Dan Fausey, Mike Whaley, Chadd Hartman and I loaded up in the dark at a Walmart parking lot in Grove City and made the 2-hour drive together.
It was below freezing when we pulled in the parking lot on Sleepy Hollow Road and I was excited to experiment with my new Bar Mitts and Old Man Winter Boots. It was a little chilly when I had to strip down to change though.
The ride starts up a gravel road that is parallel to Sleepy Hollow Road. There is a bridge overhead and you immediately come to a an old abandoned building that will sear it’s in image in your mind. I found out later it’s an old incinerator and that is why the opening climb is called “Incinerator”.
Anyways, that’s probably too much time spent on the incinerator. This is about the trails.
We continued along the incinerator trail and I noticed something immediately. This place is not flat at all. In fact, it’s very hilly.
“I didn’t remember it being this hilly,” replied Chadd. The human memory acts in strange ways sometimes. We had about 200 feet of climbing in the first mile and it kept going up from there. I would kill to have hills like this at Alum to train on, I thought.
We stopped at an intersection.
“You’ll find out that all the trails come back to this point,” said Chadd, who had reluctantly become our ride leader. We climbed another mile or so to a clearing with some wooden benches. This was the top. Everything was downhill from here. At this point, I was once again concerned. I wanted to get a good XC workout with 25 to 30 miles or more. We were only 3 miles in and already talking about descending to the trail head. How we were we going to get enough miles for the day to be satisfying?
We took off down the hill. Too be honest, I’m not sure if that first descent was Back Bowl, Train Surfer or something else, but what I do remember was fun. There was almost no pedaling effort. We were swooping through berms and flying over jumps (or at least hovering very briefly in the timid way that I do it). There were well-place rocks that both enhanced the stoke and kept you on your toes. It wavered between flowy and easy to technical and challenging. Basically, you could hold back and be safe or push yourself to your limits. After descending for a mile, maybe two – time and distance lost their meaning in this stretch – we hit the bottom.
We stopped. We looked at each other. We smiled. We looked at Chadd, our leader.
Can we do it again Chadd? Can we? Can we? Can we? Can we do it again?
Should we do it again or should we do something new? Can we do it backwards? Come on Chadd. Can we? Can we? Can we? Can we do it again Chadd?
We climbed back to the benches and prepared for descent #2. This. This is how we would get the mileage. This is the magic of Devou Park Trails. It’s not one long epic 24-mile loop like Mohican. It’s a network of short trails that are very sessionable. You want to do them multiple times. Can you do it faster? Can you hit a certain jump higher? Can you flow those banked turns better? It’s not about acquiring the most miles. It’s about improving the quality of those miles – kind of like hitting the same ski slope several times in a row to see if you can shred it just a little sweeter.
But, just when we thought we had seen it all Chadd said, “Now it’s time to cross the road.”
What? There is more?
So, if you take the road right out of the parking lot, then turn at the first left, you can see another trailhead on your right. This is the entrance to basically three trails – Sleepy Hollow, Goat Path and Full Monty – which Chadd described as even better than the first trails. (There is another trail on the other side of the park, that I did not get to ride)
Coincidentally, at this point we met up with some other riders who are local to the area, Eli Orth and John Pimenidis, two regulars in the Tri-State 6-Hour and NUE race series (I recommend both of these race series to mountain bikers). They agreed to show us the other side of the road. These trails would be less obvious to new riders in the park, so it was awesome to have a tour guide to show us the way.
Unfortunately, half way up Sleepy Hollow trail, I got my first flat of the season. I was running a lower tire pressure and smacked my rim on a rock. Burped the tire. I tediously pumped it back up with a hand pump, but it wasn’t enough. I was leaking air and the Stan’s wasn’t cutting it at this point. I made it to the top of the Full Monty Trail, but I had to gingerly ride the road back to the car at 25 to 30 mph – still very fun.
While the other boys were trying out another trail on the far side of the park, I was pumping up my tire with a floor pump at the car and climbing Sleepy Hollow again. This time the air seemed to be holding. Stan’s is amazing.
When I almost reached the top of Full Monty. Eli and the boys came flying by me. I finished my climb and turned around to catch them.
Wow. That was fun. Even more fun than the descents on the parking lot side of the road. The trail is built in a way where you can catch air without too much risk. But, if you build speed, you can catch even more air. I cruised down the trail and felt like I was pretty aggressive considering it was my first run. I loved every turn, every undulation, every rock. People talk about “flow”. This place had “flow”.
And when I hit the bottom that flow turned into a smile. We were at the car and Mike and I did the calculations. We still had 30 minutes until we had to leave. We both wanted to go gain. Dan and Chadd were feeling a little fried from all the climbing, but they didn’t want to stay behind.
The four of us climbed Sleepy Hollow to Goat Path to Full Monty again. We stopped and chatted with some locals. Time to go again.
It was even more fun the second time. I went a little faster and got a little more air. But I knew I could do even better. If only I didn’t have to go. Devou Trails was sucking me in.
We packed up the car. Even though there are only about 7 miles of trails at Devou, we ended up with over 25 miles of riding and 2700 feet of climbing. We crushed it. However, we left wanting more. I would have gladly ridden for another hour or two. Once I got past the stress of navigating the new trail, I couldn’t get enough of it.
My summary of the place: not a ton of trails, but the fun per mile ratio is pretty high. You will want to ride each trail a few times to push yourself to new limits. That might mean faster or more air, but for some it might just might mean more confidence and smiles.
Don’t forget to like Quickdirt on Facebook. Hope to see you on the trails soon. Start thinking about 2017 and what events we should be doing. Send me your recommendations. Thanks, Jimmy