Most people think of Mark Twain National Forest and visions are conjured up about fishing on a serene lake or camping under the stars or hiking through a stand of mixed oak and pine with a scolding bird or two breaking the silence. But, there are also people who enjoy extreme and challenging recreational pursuits, such as mountain bike, horse riding, or running events on national forest trails.
Such events require a special use permit before they can be held. Becky Gordon is the Realty Specialist for the Potosi-Fredericktown and Salem ranger districts and has helped process special use permits for recreation events over the past six years. I asked Becky to choose one or two permitted events to highlight in this issue of Mark Twain Outdoor News.
The Forest Service issues permits for a variety of recreation events, such as the “The Squealer” and “The Pork Chop.” These timed mountain bike challenge events were organized by a couple of local men who named their promotional company 2 Timing Guys, LLC. They were looking to create a new adventure for mountain bikers brave enough to participate in a rugged and challenging race.
The Squealer is a 50-mile timed event in the Council Bluff Lake area. Cumulatively, there is about 7,500 vertical feet of climbing as the mountain bikers travel from Council Bluff Lake to the Ozark Trail and then onto various graveled county roads.
The Pork Chop event utilizes a smaller part of the original Squealer route for those mountain bikers not quite ready to tackle the long course. This course is about 32 miles in length with only 300 vertical feet of climbing. Organizers appreciate the challenging topography of the area, but also recognize the area is a place to enjoy peace and solitude after the event.
Both of these special use events are weekend events, which gives the participants and their friends and families a chance to enjoy Council Bluff Recreation Area and more of Mark Twain National Forest. Participants come from the local area, the St. Louis metro area, and even from around the United States. They love to come and experience the Ozarks and what the national forest has to offer.
A special use permit has also been issued to the United Church of God. This church hosts teenagers from all over the country for a week-long program of rock climbing and rappelling at Silver Mines Recreation Area as part of the church’s summer camp program.
Rock climbing experts go out to the rocks to train and prepare the site for use by the teen climbers. When the teen climbers arrive at Silver Mines Recreation Area, they receive training on proper use of the helmet and harness and instruction in safely belaying each teen climber. The goal is to get every young person to climb and rappel at least once in each session, thus ensuring every teen has a sense of success and fulfillment.
The United Church of God staff has pursued this activity for their summer camp for the past five years because it gives the teens a chance to enjoy Mark Twain National Forest while also learning the skill of climbing and rappelling. As the leader of the program often states, “Climb on!”
If you are interested in having a special event on Mark Twain National Forest, contact your local Forest Service office for an application.
The Potosi Ranger Station is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. You can reach us by calling 573-438-5427. To receive updates on Mark Twain National Forest events and happenings, follow us on Twitter @marktwain_nf, and like us on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest.