Three Cheers For Spontaneity!

By Josh  //  cycling, MTB, Trips  //  2 Comments

Wide Open Kansas Sky

The Stage

Lately I’ve been feeling that my life has been getting a little too predictable. I know in reality that no one’s life is really the same, nor does anyone’s life really stay the same. It can, however start feeling the same, and while there is a very very small amount of comfort in that feeling, for the most part I loathe it. I want to be free, and ever changing, because I believe that change breeds innovation and improvement, and who can’t use those things, right?

KC to Fancy CreekAnyways, so I’m sitting in Kansas City on Saturday afternoon, getting stir crazy. It’s going to rain (boring), Emily has a show (so I’m on my own). I’m pondering what to do with the evening, and the only option I can think of is to continue to plow through the seasons of Mad Men (which is excellent), but I keep getting upset at the fact that because of the impending rain, I won’t be able to ride my MTB for a couple days.
Then it dawns on me: Get the F out of town. Perfect, but to where? Long story short I found a great candidate, Fancy Creek Trail. I’d never been there before, it’s only 2.5 hours away, and a quick weather check showed sunny through Tuesday!
I grabbed some stuff (much more than I really needed in retrospect) and took off on a course for adventure.

The Trip

Driving from torrential downpour to sunny sky’s is always kind of fun.  It was a rejuvenating experience for me to make the transition, and made an already enjoyable trip just that much better.

Me at a Rest Area Near Topeka, KS.I knew I was going to need to get some more food than I scrounged up from home (from home I found beer, colby-jack cheese, a Fiber One Bar, and a Nectarine), and as I was making a mental list, I realized I had forgot something else, toilet paper.  Luckily there was a rest area on the side of the road (near Topeka), and I thought, what better way to recoup some of my tax money then taking a roll from the rest stop?  I thought it only appropriate to document it with a photo from said rest area.


Provisions-YumI got into Manhattan, and even though I had never been there was able to locate a grocery store with relative ease. I want in and picked up some food. Hot dogs, buns, chips, and then some granola, cookies, bananas and beef jerky, all of the essentials for successful camping and biking. I threw it all in the car and headed north out of Manhattan to my final destination around 7PM.


Campsite 4I arrived at the campsite without any trouble around 7:30PM.  I was selecting a campsite was pretty easy since there were only 2 options that had trees where I needed them to be for my Hennessy Hammock tent (more on that to come).  Campsite number 4 it was.  The other upside to this spot was that it had a tie-in trail to the main Fancy Creek Trail system right next to it.  You couldn’t have a more convenient campsite.

First thing to do was set up my sleeping area.  I’d been gifted a extremely clever contraption called a Hennessy Hammock for christmas about a year back, and I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet. Hennesy Hammock packedI figured it was a great opportunity since I was by myself, had a truck to sleep in as backup, and cold weather wouldn’t be an issue (the low for the evening was 71 degrees).

The hammock is light (3 lbs total) and uses no poles, so it’s super packable.  I tied it between two tree and viola! it was ready to go.  I would estimate it took me about 10 minutes since it was my first time.  I think I could do it again in about 5.

It’s pretty unconventional.Inside Hennessy Hammock There’s a full rain fly option, (which I have), and the upper portion of the hammock is comprised of highly breathable mesh. The hammock is designed so that when your in it you adjust your body diagonally in relation to the ropes that the hammock is hanging, this way you can flat, and even on your side.  It’s really comfortable!

The hammock doesn’t even use zippers.  There’s a slit in the bottom center that runs for half of the length of the hammock.  The slit is lined with velcro, and so you tear it open, sit down, lift your legs, and your body weight closes it.  This was my lovely campsiteIt’s ridiculously well thought out and proved to be the best camping sleep I’ve ever encountered.  I highly recommend it to any serious camper.

The Evening

From there on the night was coming fast and ended up being pretty simple. I forgot a saw or axe, so I broke up some deadfall I found. My knees and hands were less than happy about that, but I wanted a fire!! I also forgot lighter fluid, the simplest way to make a fire, so as an alternative, I gathered up some evergreen sheddings. They worked like a charm and I had a booming fire going just as darkness fell. I cooked hot dogs, ate chips and drank beer to my hearts content, all the while enjoying the fire.

I think I ended up going to sleep around 11:00PM. I slept pretty. I was woken several times because their was raging party taking place in the area. I thought this was pretty interesting because the campsite had a host who was present. I figured that thy would have broke up a huge party like that pretty quickly especially since it lasted literally all night. The only thing I can figure is that it’s a semi-normal occurrence and that the noise was coming from private property, so the camp host and rangers had no control. The worst part of that was the partier’s incredibly poor taste in music. At one point everyone was cheering for a song, and when I recognized it I laughed and cringed at the same time. The song was Nookie by Limp Bizkit.

The Morning

When I finally got up in the morning I was feeling pretty good. I had gone to the truck around 4:30 to get a light jacket, which I used as a blanket. I had brought a sleeping bag, but that would have been way too much. The light rain shell was just perfect.

Food was on my mind.  I grabbed a banana, some cereal, and water, and ate my fill.  I had forgot a bowl (or any kind of utensils for that matter) so I had to shove my hand into the cereal box, grabbing handfuls at a time.

Camping Hands Are Kind of GrossThat got me to thinking about how dirty my hands get when I’m camping.  I mean, I can rinse my hands with water a million times, but under my nails always is out of control!  I’m a messy camping kid.

Anyways, I finished eating, and got to work tearing down the hammock.  It was very easy and took all of 5 minutes to complete.  I love the Hennessy Hammock.

From there I really had nothing to do, but go on a bike ride.

The Ride

Since there was only one other group in the entire campsite (and they were far away from being in eye shot), I was able to change into my riding gear in the open.  I can see the appeal of being naked outdoors, but on the flip side of that, all I could think about was how much more access I was giving bugs to my skin.  So I gingerly put on a bib and riding shirt, changed into my shoes and got the other various things I’d  need for the ride ready.

Fancy Creek Trail MapI was taking a Deuter Race-liteX (which is the best bladder backpack in the world) with about 1.5 liter’s of water.  Normally on a trail I’ve not ridden before, I’d take a little more water, but I knew a loop was only about 6-7 miles so I figured I could carry a lighter load and stop in-between laps to re-fill.  I packed a banana and some Gu energy chews.  I find popping 3-4 of these an hour vastly improves my endurance (especially on hot days when I’m sweating electrolytes at record pace).

When I got to the tie-in trail that was supposed to take me to the main trail system, there was a problem.  No one had used or maintained that piece of trail this season, and so consequentially it was horribly overgrown.  It was hardly ridable.  I had to get off at several points and duck down really low to get through sections where the trees had been unkept.  I started to think that the entire trail system might be in this state of neglect, in which case it was going to be a long and uncomfortable day!

A Corridor Cut through treesAfter about 1/2 mile of that I hit the main trail, and it looked to be in much better condition.  Since it was nearly impossible to notice the trail I came in on, I marked a big arrow in the dirt of the trail so I could find where I would exit from (I was dreading taking that section of trail again) and also I could mark my laps.

The first lap was horrible (as is usually the case with a trail that hasn’t been ridden for 3-4 days). Spiders of all kinds like to build their webs between trees, and since trails go between two trees quite often, I ran into well over 500 webs. The spiders were all shapes and sizes. I know as a general rule of thumb the spiders that create webs in tis pattern aren’t poisonous, but any time you run face first into a spider the size of a quarter it’s disconcerting.

Kansas meets CO: The Flint HillsThe normal pattern in this case is hit web on face, if spider is in peripheral vision then take a free hand as soon as possible and brush across the brim of your helmet, flicking your hand after to ensure the spider falls off the web that’s inevitably stuck to your glove hand. About every 5-10 minutes I came to a full stop and tried my best to de-spider and de-web my body and bike. Despite web after web, I was committed to the adventure of exploring the trail in it’s entirety. After that first lap though things improved.

The second lap (because I had already cleared them) was web free, leaving me to go much faster. Knowing what’s coming around the corners helps a lot with speed and successfully making it over obstacles as well. I really had a great time on that second lap, but the realization that I needed to start heading back home was looming in the back of my head.

I decided not to fill my water back up after the first lap because I didn’t want to navigate through that horrible tie-in again, and I was starting to get low on water after that second lap. I decided to get off the trail at a point where it crossed a road, and head back to camp.

The feeling of the trail was nice.  At times I felt like I was back in Colorado, and other times I felt like I was in Kansas.  There was a constant mashup of the two distinct climates. The smell was all Colorado, or New Mexico, with the thick smell of evergreens hanging in the air.

I arrived back at campsite #4, hot, exhausted, and sweaty. I dried off, did a final spider and tick check, and headed for home. So would I go again? you bet! It was a blast, and I think even if you didn’t like biking, it’d make for a good hiking destination also. It felt like a miniature Colorado, and since I love it there, I enjoyed Fancy Creek Trail.

This picture doesn't do this justice. Super steep and rocky grade. This is me in all my splendor after a summer ride. Stats from Fancy Creek ride

Garmin Connect Route:

2 Comments to “Three Cheers For Spontaneity!”

  • This article makes me want to leave work right now.. and go hiking!

  • It was a good time!

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Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Plato

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~Epictetus

Anyone who trades liberty for security, deserves neither liberty nor security. ~Benjamin Franklin

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as they do it from religeous conviction. ~Blaise Pascal

When a person is down in the world, an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching. ~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton