Hi folks, Snowcatcher asked if I’d like to write a bit. So, here’s to spring fever...
I‘ve been getting bored with the road bike. Since we’re about a month ahead of schedule on temps and snowmelt; I’ve been saddling the Black Pearl and hitting the trails instead. Hopefully we won’t pay for the weather gods’ niceties come April or May. Nonetheless, as I write, we’re sporting temps in the ‘40s with a forecast of rain and snow.
After a hiatus lasting two years, Waterton Canyon reopened access to my favorite Front Range mountain bike riding. In early March, the six-mile stretch up Waterton to the beginning of the Colorado Trail was dry, except for some ice in the darker environs. The trailhead proper had a fair amount of snow, as it should this time of year.
Each foray surrendered access farther and farther into the forest.
Within weeks, I was able to ride ridgelines of freeze/thaw fluffed trail, frosted in pinecone. Except for steep, sun-starved drainages, portaging snow and ice was easy. Even annual spring blowdown was minimal.
With an education in hydrology, anything water-related piques my interest. Snowpack is way down this year. Even more concerning is forest soil conditions. Areas patch-quilted in snow still have moist forest soil. But, in areas already melted, soil conditions are summer like — not good! The big fire you probably heard about raging southwest of Denver took advantage of strong winds and current summer-like dryness. In the above photo, follow the ridgeline left to the edge of the pic and you’re very close to what would become the east edge of the afore mentioned fire. Too soon, too soon.
Kokopelli’s River Trails
Snowcatcher and I decided to travel to my hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado, to visit my grandmother who just turned 92-years of age. We also wanted some high desert mountain biking and hiking. We decided on the Kokopelli Trail, which extends roughly 150-miles from Loma, Colorado to Moab, Utah. The trail is largely rough, isolated, desert two-track crossing a very remote region. There is some single-track, most of which is found on the Colorado segment, commonly known as the river trails.
Saturday would be Kokopelli day, whereas Sunday we would visit with my grandmother. After a four-hour drive, and sporting a cast, Snowcatcher began a long hike with lots of photography. I clipped into my pedals, full of childlike giddy anticipation of being back on my favorite trails, and excitedly pedaled toward Mary’s Loop.
The ground was dry, very dry! I watched small wakes of talcum powdered dirt bellow from under my treads. It didn’t take long for the bellows to cover my lower legs in fine dust. Soon, my first loop, Horsethief Bench trail, came into view. I scampered down through the cliffband onto the bench proper and took off! The riding is delightful mix of Jurassic sandstone and ancient fluvial fill, the result of eons of a meandering Colorado River. Fun — pure and simple!
Back up on Mary’s Loop, the journey was a short jaunt above the river to the intersection with a superb trail called Steve’s Loop.
Initially, Steve’s is fast single-track of Jurassic sandstone ancestry. The second half sports a stiff climb (off-bike portage) up onto more colorful mudstones and siltstones of the Morrison and Summerville Formations (Jurassic). After my affair with single-track, I set my sights on my next task.
Waving goodbye to the fun steps of Steve’s, my mission became a tad more serious — Lion’s Loop. Yes, lions reside in this area; however, I’m not sure if that is how Lion’s received its name. The loop is serious because after a steep climb, the trail contours a fast, often loose, boulder-infested hillslope. Moreover, help is a long way off. Lion’s and Troy Built (the day’s next segment) are somewhat remote and don’t see the use the previous trails get.
The climb up to Lion’s contour elevation went quick, and I settled in for on-your-toes fast riding. To me, the trail is quite enjoyable because I’m often the only one on it. I usually stop above the Colorado River (about halfway) to eat and take in the openness below me. The day’s ride was no exception. As for trail, I’m still riding Jurassic history, and Utah is only 8.5-crow miles west.
Lion’s Loop roller coasters along, eventually reaching a 4x4 track. At this point, it’s a short grunt up to the Troy Built Loop (named after a BLM guy, I believe).
The Troy Built Loop has a bit of everything on it. It’s a delightful trail with a warp speed descent, short steep climbs, sand, rock, cactus, flowers and wildlife. At the northern end of the trail, Jurassic park is left for the Lower Cretaceous members of the geologic spectrum. As usual, Troy Built went by too quick. Often I catch several other trails on the way back to the car. However, I was a bit spent, and opted for the flat dirt road back to the start. Combining the trails ended in a 23-mile day. These trails take some exertion that more than make up for the relatively short distance.