Clear Springs Recreation Area has much to offer outdoors lovers

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 8, 2003

NEAR MEADVILLE &045; Eric Dubroch realized soon after he swallowed an energy pill he had made a mistake.

The epiphany came last Sunday on one of Clear Springs Recreation Area’s windy mountain biking trail during the 2003 edition of the Homochitto Hammer, a race for riders of all ages and from different skill levels.

Dubroch &045; who along with 10 of his friends drove up from Mandeville, La., to participate in the second annual event &045; was so queasy from the twists and turns he had to pull over and take a break.

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It is a concept not many riders new to Clear Springs are prepared for when they unlock their bikes from their respective SUVs.

&uot;It’s absolutely incredible. I’m sure there may be more technical trails out there, but by far this is the most technical I’ve ridden,&uot; said Dubroch, who rides Fontainebleau State Park back home. &uot;It was a blast. I’m not use to all the hills. It can get pretty tricky out here.&uot;

Clear Springs, tucked just a few miles off of U.S. 84/98 between Roxie and Meadville, has three biking trails ranging from very difficult, i.e. Tally’s Creek, to a more scenic ride in newly open Richardson’s Trail.

Mountain biking is just one of many ways to amuse outdoors enthusiasts on the 12-acre spring-fed lake with a campground, hot showers and a bike wash.

&uot;I don’t think people realize &045; even those who are real fans of mountain biking in other area &045; that (Clear Springs) is as developed and as challenging as it is,&uot; said Don Blankenstein, Hammer co-organizer who began riding mountain bikes October in 2002. &uot;These are some of the better mountain biking trails in the area, and not because it’s the only one we have. People come from all over to ride Clear Springs.&uot;

For a $3 daily use fee, bikers and/or hikers can make use of trails, such as Tally’s, Mill Branch or Richardson’s.

Campers will be charged additional, however reasonable, fees.

Tally’s Creek is an 11-mile stretch that is the original trail at Clear Springs and is known for its steep climbs.

Mill Branch is only five miles, but still maintains fast and tough hills.

Richardson’s, a nine-mile ride, is the newest addition to Clear Springs, and is considerably less difficult with its bridges and less focus on climbs.

&uot;It would be a real challenge to ride all three in one day,&uot; Blankenstein said. &uot;I’ve done two &045; Tally’s Creek and Mill Branch or Mill Branch and Richardson’s &045; so I have a new challenge. That’d be a heck of a … man. But people do it all the time.&uot;

Blankenstein said he got involved in the sport due to the thrill and the challenges it provides him each time he hits the woods.

The sense of accomplishing goals and one-upping yourself each time out is indescribable, Blankenstein said.

With the possibility of 40 miles of trails under development at Okhissa Lake, a mountain lake experience that is still in the works in Meadville, mountain biking fans in the Miss-Lou see the sport as an opportunity to attract guests.

&uot;I think it’s important to promote this type of thing to attract visitors to the area,&uot; Blankenstein said. &uot;We need to let people know there are alternative things to do when they come to Natchez.&uot;

The Hammer made for folks, such as Dubroch, pledge to return with his wife and two children in tow for a camping weekend and to see if he can tackle those hairpin turns again.

&uot;I’m sure it takes some getting used to,&uot; he said. &uot;It became evident, wherever a group of volunteers were, it was a likely spot for a spill.&uot;

&uot;We were pleased; it was bigger than last year,&uot; Blankenstein said of the 2002 Hammer that was plagued by rain. &uot;Most people thought it was completely rained out. We had about 42 this time. We’d like to see it grow to maybe 60 or even better.&uot;