Mount Magazine, the highest point between the Rockies and the Appalachians at 2,753 feet, looms on the horizon of my childhood home, Charleston, Ar. We were in town visiting family and I had my bike, so I thought why not. I planned to ride from Paris, over the summit and on to Havana and then back, which would be a 60-mile ride, climbing approximately 5,000 feet.
I parked just off the square at the Paris Christian Center and set out. Considering I was riding alone through rural Arkansas, I was a bit concerned about dogs. My worries were realized almost immediately. I had just clipped in and started to pedal when 3 dogs began chasing me. This happened within the first 2 blocks, which translates to near blow up from sprinting on cold legs. I got away with no problem but soon turned left on Hwy 308 and immediately found myself on the first climb of the day. I set a manageable pace and spun over the top of the 2.5 mile long hill. A dog chase, cold legs and a moderate climb made for a difficult start.
I knew this would be a long, steep ride to the top, but I didn’t know that the road would immediately turn upwards. I tried to distract myself with the spectacular views of Paris Reserve and the nearby hills but the road was more real then scenic views. The first 5 miles were undulating, with flat sections here and there, but overall mostly up. The first real break came around mile 7, where the road turned down to Cove Lake (pay attention to the warning signs because the right turn at the bottom is nasty!). The lake was beautiful with the morning sun and fog rising over the nearby hills. I crossed the spillway, a narrow bridge just wide enough for two cars, and started the hardest climb of the day. The climb out of Cove Lake was almost 3 miles long and steepened with each turn of the pedals. I was slow-turning my highest gear for the last half of the hill, wishing all the way that I had another gear or two. The pitched eased slightly and then slowly fell away to a short descent into Corley, a small town of 5 or 6 houses and 1 store at the base of Mount Magazine.
The heat, humidity and south winds seemed to go up with each turn of the road. I passed two overlooks around mile 14 and despite the wonderful views, passed up the opportunities to stop. Soon after the second parking area, the road changed from being tree covered to more wide open. It also became a little less steep at that point. Without cover from the trees, the wind and heat were more challenging than the climb…and it was just approaching 8:00 AM!
It took me 1:10 to reach the summit. I took a quick loop around the lodge and decided to cut the ride short due to the heat and humidity. I had 2 bottles with me, one was gone and the second one was already half empty, and I didn’t know if drinks would be available at Havana. So I turned north and started the fast descent for home.
Just like the start, the climb out of Cove Lake was the most difficult section. I raced to the lake at 30-40 MPH, only to find myself geared out on the climb. Fortunately, it’s only a half-mile long going North. I rolled over the top and tucked again for the ride into Paris. No dogs when I returned! =)
Overall, the climb from Paris to the summit of Mount Magazine is awesome. It’s a definite test of legs and lungs and it rivals most climbs in Colorado or North Carolina. Granted, it’s not 11,000 feet above sea level, but as with any climb, it is what you make it. I hope to return during cooler months and hopefully with a few riding buddies. Next time, I’ll take a few warm-up laps around Paris before setting out!
the image was borrowed from Cormack 13’s Flickr page and was found by good ole Google. The hazy day made for bad pictures.