Homochitto Hammer returns after long hiatus

Published 1:21 am Sunday, March 7, 2010

CLEAR SPRINGS — When Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav swept through South Mississippi, some effects of the destruction they left behind were more publicized than others.

And though the damage to mountain biking trails at the Homochitto National Forest didn’t gain national attention, it did have lasting effects, Natchez resident Scott Hanson said.

The trails haven’t been used regularly for quite some time, and Hanson hopes to help revive their use later this month when the forest hosts a South Central Regional Championship mountain bike tournament.

“I was racing in the series last year, and had people talk about our home trail at Clear Springs, and everyone was asking, ‘Why don’t they do races out there?’” Hanson said.

“Others said they used to, so I researched it, and found out they did have one (called the Homochitto Hammer) that was really popular. It’s one of the best trails in the state, and we’re trying to draw more people to our trail, because it’s kind of dissipating and not many people are riding it. Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav really did a toll on them.”

The revived Homochitto Hammer race will take place Sunday, March 21 at the trails. Category 1, or expert racers, will start at 9 a.m. Category 2, or intermediate racers will begin at 9:15 and beginner, or Category 3 racers will start at 9:30.

Hanson said the Hammer’s 2010 race marks the return of a competition after what he believes to be an eight-year hiatus.

“I think the last time it happened was 2002,” Hanson said. “I tried e-mailing the guy who used to run it, but he hasn’t gotten back to me.

“It was actually quite easy getting permission to start the race back up. When I got involved with the series, I thought about trying to bring it back, and the people in the series were really open and friendly toward the idea. They immediately wanted it to be a part of the South Central Regional.”

Hanson said he became involved with the series last year after having been a mountain biker since 2008.

“I started riding as a means of exercise, since I was playing soccer at Co-Lin. My attitude was, after I can’t play soccer, I’ve got a bike and I can keep riding. At first, I was just road biking, and that was boring, so a friend of mine told me to try mountain biking. I really liked it, and he said, ‘Hey, come to a race.’”

Being able to stay physically active for a long period of time is what makes mountain biking an attractive sport, Hanson said.

“It’s another means of exercise, and it’s something you can do forever,” Hanson said. “I know someone who is 80 years old that can still ride with the best of them.”

Registration for the tournament will be Saturday, March 20 at the bike shop at Trippe’s Western Auto in Natchez. Race day registration begins at 7:30 a.m. at Homochitto National Forest and ends before the race time for each category. For more info, visit www.scrcs.com, or e-mail Hanson at shanson14@yahoo.com.