Sometimes you have to lose something grand to discover other good things.
Waterton Canyon recently closed, probably through November, due to increased bear activity. That's the official explanation. The unofficial explanation (and my personal opinion) is the bears needed to be protected from aggressive paparazzi.
Although I hate losing one of my favorite rides, as well as the wildlife opportunities of autumn, I'm very, very happy the bears will be safe. If anything had happened, the bears, or at least mama bear, would have been put down. This way, she and her growing family live to see another year.
We made it about a mile up the canyon before we were turned back by officials from Denver Water and the Department of Wildlife.
We were shocked and disappointed, and yet thrilled the bears would no longer be harassed. Waterton has been closed before. Just a couple of years ago, it was closed for 18 months while the riverbed was dredged. Being without the canyon for so long back then felt like torture. But we survived. We rode. We celebrated when it opened again, and we've been trying to make up for lost time ever since.
Being turned back at the beginning of a ride we'd planned for all week forced us to be creative. An hour or so of daylight remained, and we're die-hard when it comes to cycling. We were not about to lose the cycling time we'd allotted.
There wasn't time to go to Vail Pass or Deer Creek Canyon or any of the other training rides we enjoy. We took off from the Waterton parking lot to nearby trails connecting pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians along the South Platte River to Chatfield Reservoir. That's an option we had not considered when Waterton was closed two years ago.
Way back in 2003, while training for my first Ride the Rockies, I'd been on this very same trail, so it wasn't entirely new to me. The soil in this neck of the plains meet mountains is not soil. It's clay, and when clay gets wet, my goodness, you aren't going anywhere unless you can lift the anvils that form on your shoes and/or bicycle tires. I'd forgotten all about my previous adventure on the Chatfield trails until now. Chatfield in 2015 was a far better experience than I endured in 2003!
Chatfield's dirt trails still aren't the place to ride during or immediately after a moisture-laden storm. But when it's dry, Chatfield has some amazing scenery, wildflowers, wildlife and recreation. What a gem of a ride we had!
Our ride was so phenomenal, we went back the next morning (Saturday) and did three whole laps for a total of 23 miles! Not bad for an unplanned adventure!