The “B” in “B Road” stands for Bikepacking! Fellow adventurer, Phil Scalfano, and I confirmed that while exploring the Viles Branch Trail. The VBT is a 26-mile hiking/biking/equestrian loop in a remote section of the southern Ouachita National Forest. If you are familiar with the storied Eagle Rock Loop hiking trail, the VBT follows and crosses it on several occasions. The route offers varied terrain, ranging from smooth dirt roads to near bushwhacking. You’re guaranteed to get your feet wet too. The picturesque Little Missouri river must be forded no fewer than four times!
There is much to love about the VBT. Between the dramatic scenery and the challenging terrain, boredom is not a possibility. “Losing your mojo,” however, is, as Phil describes the phenomenon. This “fatigue of the spirit” is brought on by crashes (mainly slow speed tumbles in lose rock gardens), thorn bush entanglements, falling in the river, frustrating bike snags when hopping fallen logs, and losing your beloved GPS device. These all happened to me. Phil briefly lost his mojo after running over a sharp stone and blowing the tubeless setup off his rear wheel, spewing sealant carnage everywhere. To top it off, a passing truck ran over his skewer. As I said, though, there is much to love! The VBT is guaranteed to provide some unexpected challenges – the main ingredient for adventure.
Phil and I took two days to enjoy the route, though you could probably do it in a day (but that wouldn’t technically be “bikepacking” now would it). We arrived at the trailhead on a Saturday afternoon around 3:30, started the loop in a counter-clockwise direction after roughing it through the 3 mile “stick” of the lollipop, and found our camp after 14 miles or so at about 7. Our campsite, by the way, was infested with more stick bugs than I’ve ever seen in my life! They were boldly climbing up our legs, into the food boiling in our cooking pots, and trying to break into our tents.
The next morning we headed out early during a break in a rainstorm and then ducked into a pavilion at Shady Lake to enjoy some coffee. This rushed departure was the cause for my tragic GPS casualty. I think it fell out of one of my bike bags. So long Garmin etrex 30 that guided me down the Tour Divide. (Kind of ironic to lose a GPS, though, eh? This lost device knows EXACTLY where it is.)
We then started back along the southerly, Viles Branch portion of the route, which is where things got a little
tough awesome. The highlight was exploring the caves and rock formations around the beautiful Winding Stair area of the Little Missouri. We got back to the car around 2:30 feeling worn out, as you should, from a proper adventure.
The VBT is definitely on the do-over list. I highly recommend it.
Download the GPX.
This route is 26 miles roundtrip.