Every day that we live, every person we meet, every turn on the trail is another opportunity. Simple as that. –anon
So true, and such is the case with “GF-X” (Gnomefest ten). As I read and re-read each part of that quote, I realize just how perfect it is when describing the gathering of people that took place recently at The Bear Paw Adventure Center in Langlade Wisconsin. The Bear Paw served as host and the magical Nicolet Roche trails (and others) were perfect for the fat tired bikes and riders.
Each year for ten additions mountain bikers have gathered at a prime trail system somewhere in the state for a weekend of fun, camaraderie and always at the heart, riding bikes. My indoctrination came when Gnomefest made several stops at my home trail at Levis Mound. At the time, I really didn’t have a clue what it was about-it wasn’t a race, although there is “racing” and “festival?” Well, yes, but laid back and more a congregation of like minded riders.
The G’fest had been around for a few years before I experienced it, so I wasn’t in the core group who’d made it into an annual event. Still, the enduring quality to me was meeting all these new people with a common love of riding dirt and how quickly friends are made. Most live way outside of the area-riders coming from Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and even as far away as Winnipeg Canada, as in this most recent addition. They meet once a year, and as I have found pretty commonplace, act as though they’d ridden together yesterday. Friendships are picked up where they left off the previously. Of course, with social media like Facebook, we tend to stay in touch and may even hook up for rides or events at other times, but for the majority, it’s GF as the gathering.
|Post Derby Fire|
The fest started at the Nine Mile Forest in Rib Mountain, held there several years, then moved onto Levis Mound outside of Neillsville for several more. A quick return to it’s roots at 9 Mile and then it ventured east to Langlade. Between the trails of the Nicolet Roche and Bear Paw, there could hardly better a better location for unique riding opportunities. Much discussed around the campfire was how different each trail in the state can be, and play host to a GF. Nicolet has giant boulders to (attempt to) ride over and around, flowy fast singletrack and some of the longest sections of uninterrupted trail in the state. Trail builders like Lloyd, Charlie, Scott and the rest there have created a system that all serious riders should not miss. As a trail builder myself-I’m humbled by the effort these people have put into the trail there.
|Dirt Cat Talent|
Typical Gnomefests surely put “fun” high on the list of weekend goals, and “Mayor” Julio dished it up. A huge campfire serves as the gathering place each night and a launching pad for night rides and perhaps an impromptu “derby” – a short circular “race” with the last person riding declared the winner. Saturday is the big event day, with a Womens ride headed out early, the ladies this year exploring sweet trail on the Bear Paw property and then along the scenic Wolf River…perhaps getting little more scenic. All riders head out later for the uber fun “Dirt Cat” which involves some orienteering skills, bike riding, talent and this year a good poker hand and yatzee score to win. A non- timed event, riders could hit the check points in any order and just enjoy riding the trail. My friend Dave and I rode plenty and our tails were dragging a bit by then end-the Nicolet whipping us a bit!
|Dwarf-Cycle race of Death|
Topping the fun checklist is the “Dwarf Cycle Death Race.” Racers sign up to compete in single elimination bouts, riding tiny kids bikes in a figure 8 course around cones-usually in costume. Spectators pop up lawn chairs and cheer on their favorite riders. “Rules” were mostly followed this year, and I have to admit, it was some of the best racing I’d witnessed at a GF-some real talent out there keeping those unruly two-wheelers upright.
There is plenty of swag as well-some of the prizes festers bring to exchange, some from generous sponsors. Awards are given for the Dirt Cat and chili cook-off and plenty of freebees are tossed to the crowd. My chili didn’t make the cut again this year, but I’ll keep trying. It is so cool to have everyone gathered at the food and beer potluck, where riders just being everything, hang out and visit. More new friends made as we talk of bikes, trails and riding.
|Have DOg-Will Moto|
With long drives ahead for most, the final morning is usually filled with relaxed easy group rides offering plenty of time to spin the legs out, stop for pictures and explore trails missed during the weekend. Packing up is always the worst of course and saying good bye. Almost everyone camps and the grounds return perfectly clean and picked up if not a bit quieter….the knobbie tires silently resting on bike racks now.
|The Mayor-Dirt Cat|
Each Gnomefest offers that “opportunity” to live, meet new people and take every turn on the trail. Simple, like the quote reflected. GF is now a perennial date on my calendar for I’m not quite done riding, meeting new people and living.
When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. -H.G. Wells
|West Loop-Nicolet Roche|
|Big Wheels=Big Traction|