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Mountain bikers - mount up
Muddy Spokes Club challenge includes Winder's Fort Yargo

WINDER - So you think you've got the moxie to conquer Georgia's trickiest mountain-biking trails?

The Muddy Spokes Club invites you to prove it.

Launched this year by Georgia State Park Systems, the club challenges seasoned bikers and casual cyclists to tackle 11 state parks from Cartersville to Comer.

Joining is easy. The club works like this:

Bikers buy a $10 membership card at any of the listed state parks. This card is then punched at each park until it bears the distinct markings of all 11 trails.

Members who conquer them all are awarded a mud-splattered T-shirt and bragging rights. Helmets are suggested.

All told, the circuit includes 68 miles of trails, ranging from no-sweat flat tracks to leg-burning treks of elevation and mud. Fort Yargo State Park's 12-mile loop in Winder - the nearest trail to Gwinnett - makes the list.

Leaders hope bikers will discover the state's abundant (but sometimes tucked-away) natural treasures while improving their overall fitness.

Kim Hatcher, of Georgia State Parks, said the Muddy Spokes circuit includes every park in the state that's accessible to riders. All skill levels are welcome, she said.

"(Trails) range from really easy and very flat - to challenging, single-track trails for experience mountain bikers," Hatcher said.

Eric Bentley, Park Manager at Fort Yargo, anticipates a strong interest for the club, which will likely be an ongoing project.

But don't let the Winder trail's status as "Difficult" scare you off. Bentley said his park's loop isn't quite as arduous as the state's rankings make it seem.

"In comparison to other trails on there - yes, this is a difficult trail," Bentley said. "But in the mountain biking world, they'd consider it moderate."

Bentley said projects like the Muddy Spokes Club benefit the entire park system by making riders visit places that might not be next door.

"We want you to fall in love with state parks," Bentley said. "That's what we're after - for people to realize what assets we have sitting out there."

Muddy Spokes Club membership cards are also available by calling 770-389-7401 or by e-mailing jeannenewoodruff

@dnr.state.ga.us.

SideBar: If you ride

Muddy Spokes Club checklist:

Easiest trails:

' Panola Mountain State Park, Stockbridge - Rockdale River Trail - 12 miles

' Magnolia Springs State Park, Millen - The Trooper Trail - Three-mile loop

Moderate Trails:

' Mistletoe State Park, Appling - Rock Dam Trail - 6.25-mile loop

' Red Top Mountain State Park, Cartersville - Iron Hill Trail - 3.9-mile loop

' Richard B. Russell State Park, Elberton - Biking Trail - 3.3 miles

' Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston - Perimeter Trail - 4.1 miles

' Watson Mill Bridge State Park, Comer (near Athens) -

Hiking and Biking Trail - 2.5-mile loop

Difficult Trails

' Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth - Gold Mine Loop - 6.3-mile loop

' Fort Yargo State Park, Winder - Outer Loop Trail - 12-mile loop

' Tallulah Gorge State Park, Clayton - High Bluff Trail - 4-mile loop

' Unicoi State Park, Helen - Mountain Bike Trail - 7.5 mile loop