Sunday, July 19, 2020

Rillito - Pantano - Saguaro Sashay 100k - inaugural ride!

On February 20, 2019, I tried out my new Rillito-Pantano-Saguaro 100k perm populaire in Tucson!

I'm only publishing now, 16 months later - because I forgot it hadn't been finished and published.

The preponderance of the route is on the river park trails (Rillito River Park Path and Pantano Wash Park Path) plus the delightful Cactus Forest loop in Saguaro National Park (East).

So while on a map the route may look urban, that's not the riding experience. And this was my goal in designing the route. Smooth pavement, tranquil miles, and a scenic cactus experience.

Catalina Mountains to the north-northeast, and Rincon Mountains to the east / southeast, which borders Saguaro National Park (East).

After the mile on Ft. Lowell Rd. and mile plus on Mountain Ave., we're welcomed by the Mountain Avenue Bridge (no motorized vehicles) onto Rillito River Park Path (north bank).

This gateway is just one example of artwork along the trail.
Catalina Mountains in the background.

Serene spur down the Rillito path to Mile 0 (and a checkpoint).

Sand on path after high water from rains. 
This isn't on the actual route, so I don't know why I included it,
but that's how it is on the river park trails.
This gets cleared away quickly by park staff.

Heading back east on the Rillito River Park trail.
Now it's a 1% grade uphill.

Pantano Wash trail has a sequence of evocative Commemorative Tree Parks where folks can sign up and plant a plant in honor of someone (with a numbered plaque in front - the photo above shows the key to the plots - and often a photo of the honored person). 

Here's one with some Christmas decorations left over.

Next it's the two miles up Golf Links Road, with places for food and drink. Then the sinuous Old Spanish Trail Road, such a departure to the grid system of Tucson proper.

At the entrance to Saguaro National Park (East), there is a visitors center with water, restrooms, and brochures. At the entrance, show your pass or pay your entrance fee. (Or if it's before 9am or  8am, there's no staffing.)

Cactus Forest Road - the high point of the trip - 
no need to rush through this!

But that first dip across a dry wash gets your attention!
Rincon Mountains in the background.

In the course of the Cactus Forest loop, you dip, climb, and wind around, to the western flank of the Rincon Mountains. You pass trailheads heading out into the park. Motor traffic tends to be slower than cyclists.

Before now, I had not ridden this loop. We had only driven it. Seemed like it might be harrowing - especially with signs like the above - but it turned out to be fun.

View of the Tucson Mountains to the west.

Javelina Rocks plaque - I have not seen javelinas in the park, 
but am sure they are there.
They are not in the pig family.

Javelina Rocks view

After a stop (checkpoint) at the Tanque Verde Ridge trailhead, it's a fond adieu to the park. 

This was the original Saguaro National Park tract. At the time, the cactus and other vegetation was in decline, from livestock and from a big freeze one winter in the early 20th century. But now it is a lush Sonoran Desert landscape.

The way back is downhill all the way to Mountain Ave.

Actually a dawn view. 
You might see something like this towards the end of your ride if you started later in the day.
Notice actual water in the Rillito River (after rains, or maybe mountain snows).

This is a 100k you can do year-round. In the summer, starting before 6:00 am means it's only getting toasty towards the end of your ride.

- - -

My friend Lynne Fitzsimmons, from Portland, OR, rode this route when she was visiting Tucson. Here is her write-up with photos!

Perm Pop in Tucson - Lynne Fitzsimmons


Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Poudre Canyon DC

On June 24 - with the promise of great, summery weather, and a solstice-length day - I headed out on essentially our Poudre Canyon (Rustic) 400k brevet route. It would be a good stretch of the legs, and a way to reconnect with longer brevet distances!

Poudre Canyon past Mishawaka

A giant burger the night before on a jalapeño - cheese bun provided nutritional inspiration.

3:57 and a mild start from the Dale Estate, swinging by the brevet start in Louisville. Temps in the mid to upper 50's under clear skies. Pretty much perfect.

Pre-dawn light descending 95th St.

Dawn on 75th St. 

A sunny morning on Glade Road to Masonville

Quiet on Horsetooth ... both on the water and on the roads!

Stopping at Ted's Place rather than Vern's because it seems that their convenience store has been closed during the virus.

A warm, tailwind climb up a quiet Poudre Canyon. The rafting companies have plenty of business, but it's not as frenetic as on the weekends.

Here is that shot again, of Poudre Canyon beyond Mishiwaka and before Stove Prairie Road.

Around the bend, flaggers were pausing traffic for scaling work at the rock tunnel. After waiting a few minutes, I asked the flagperson about wait time. He said he couldn't tell - could be five minutes , fifteen, etc.  Some of the notations on the rockface indicated possible explosive work in its future.

Doubling that potential wait time - because of the return trip from Rustic - persuaded me to turn back ... even though the stretch to Rustic was the high point (literally and scenically) for the trip. Call me the impatient rando. :-)

This turned out to be a mile or two less of Poudre Canyon than on the Stove Prairie 200k from April. Oh, well. 

I did explore the exciting new reconstructed stretch of Owl Canyon Road with smooth asphalt and full shoulder (an improvement over no shoulder). 

And the exciting snake warnings at the Rawhide Plant, a reminder from the winter Rawhide Ramble 200k brevet, when the snakes would probably have been in torpor.

This sign was also a reminder of a similar snake warning on the lovely Rillito River Park Path in Tucson, a venue we have had to forego this spring and summer because of the virus.

Rillito River Park Path - Mountain Ave. bridge - at dawn
Catalina Mountains in the background
Can you imagine an ice warning here?
But it's actually possible.

Actual water in the Rillito River

Back in Northern Colorado ...

Services and precautions at the Kum & Go in Wellington were very good. Widespread mask usage, and the pizza slices were fully enclosed and wrapped up tight. Also, to fill your water bottle, they gave you your own large plastic cup to get water from the vending machine - no direct contact with your suspect water containers. Nicely done.

I am not sure I have ever pedaled so slowly downhill on the I-25 frontage road, as SW winds kicked up - desiccating winds, I might add.

I always love the quiet stretch of Weld County Road 23 heading down to Severance, after getting off busy Hwy. 14 (albeit with nice concrete shoulder).

Here is a picture of the wetlands along CR 23, where I stopped to photograph a yellow-headed blackbird. It's one of my favorite birds, and reliably found right here during migration. By the time I had coaxed my phone camera into action, however, the yellow-headed blackbird had (predictably) departed.

Wetlands north of Severance

In Severance, already out of water, I stopped at the store, where the clerk was extremely polite and helpful, really a welcoming store and friendly small town.

Climbing past Milliken, virga had started to form above the foothills. That was ok, because the weather people had predicted that storms would stay in the mountains.

Rd. 19 outside of Milliken

Showers began moving down the foothills. Good thing the forecast was for dry on the plains!

After a few glancing blows, however, one shower hit head on, with gusty winds and drenching precip.

Rd. 20 at I-25

Well, in the end not 400k but a good double, 203 miles, and a fine use of the day!

Bike shoes drying in the sun
the next morning.

Hope you're able to stretch your legs, too.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A Climb to Brainard Lake

On May 26, I made my first-of-season climb to Brainard Lake.

My first-of-season bird up there was the gray jay - even before I took out my sandwich, which is a magnet for gray jays, a reliable denizen of this altitude. I heard tweets that were probably migrating warblers, but didn't see them.

It's an ideal time to be at Brainard, since the campgrounds and day use areas aren't open - under 10 feet of snow at the moment - and perhaps wouldn't be open anyway, in this Time of the Virus.

Climbing up to Ward, you reach the early bright green just-unfolded foliage near Ward at 9,000 ft.

The evidence that spring is finally here! 
And that summer is coming.

But no leafing out yet at 10,000 ft.

Near the entrance to Brainard Lake.

At Brainard: plenty of cars in the parking lot before the entrance.

And then that classic first view of the Indian Peaks.

Brainard Lake Road just past the entrance hut

Higher roadside snow passing the closed campgrounds

Looks like a while until Day Use will be open.

(The clear roads are only clear because of plowing.)

Not plowed across the lake outlet bridge

South part of lake loop - time for a break!

The snowfield provided warming rays while I took a moment for a sandwich.

Among the few folks on bikes were (1) an angler with fishing gear headed to the lake and (2) a mountaineering skier with backcountry skis heading to a trailhead.

Heading back for a chilly but delightful descent.

Here's hoping you can enjoy a cool get-away on this eve of summer!


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Climb to Wind River Pass

On May 22, I decided to climb up to Wind River Pass, chiefly because it was a wonderful, bright, and blue day, perfect for the mountains. Also to ride a newly-reconstructed section of Hwy. 7 for the first time.

After heading up a quiet St. Vrain Canyon, over the also recent resurfaced Hwy. 7 to Allenspark, some stops along the way ...

The Ferncliff Store remains closed as it has been lo these 20 years. I remember good home-baked pastries they offered inside when we first moved here. But a new sign has appeared, advertising a new liquor store next door. So Ferncliff is showing signs of life, in that respect.

Side of the Ferncliff Food & Fuel

Complete with cheerful bread, gas pump, and drink!

At Allenspark, Crystal Springs is open, unlike the spigot in Ward.

As usual, folks were lined up to fill large containers. Normally in spring, Crystal Spring is unavailable for a short time during tests for turbidity, but we're past that now.

Crystal Spring in Allenspark

Across the street, remodeling by the new owners continues of what was the Fawn Brook Inn.

It was a joy to climb past Meeker Park on the new segment. It now has a nice shoulder, and new, smooth pavement has replaced the potholes, rough surface, and glacier-like fissures of the old road (which had gone from bad to worse thanks to the 2013 flood).

This project meant new culverts, clearing and grading, and of course widening the road itself.

New segment of Hwy. 7

Mt. Meeker looking good, plenty of snow left.

Ditto for Longs Peak

Wind River Pass was my turnaround point, at 9,150 ft.

The stretch beyond this, past Lily Lake and through the rock cuts has been resurfaced (great!) but still doesn't have a shoulder. Dynamite might be needed for some of that.

Time for a bite of sandwich and judicious drink, sparing just enough liquid for the descent back to Hygiene.

Wind River Ranch in front of Twin Sisters

And what a smooth, delightful descent!

Two bottles of Gatorade at the Hygiene store (Mtn Ftn) - the only external contact on the entire ride - provided enough rehydration for the home stretch.

Face (homemade) mask now part of the outfit!

The Lyons to Estes-Park to Glen Haven route, of which this is a part, is a components of the Glen Haven Gallivant 200k Permanent, and the St. Vrain Canyon 400k and 600k brevet routes. Now that Hwy. 7 beckons again, we can start running these routes again ... once perms and events are reactivated, that is.

Meanwhile, I hope you will get a chance to enjoy this stretch of road yourself!


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Glen Haven update

On May 6, I headed from home up Big Thompson Canyon to Glen Haven.
My first visit since last season!

Paused briefly at the new rock cut on US-34, which I think they termed the flyover, as it puts the new road above the old one, and above the river.

Post-flood "flyover" rock cut in Big Thompson Canyon

They have taken up the pavement on the old stretch and strewn it with boulders, presumably to deter motorists. But anglers still have good access.

Old road alignment

They have, however, installed this access gate to a property's driveway. You can only get past it by driving (or walking, biking, etc.) around it on the dirt.

Secure gate at start of old road alignment

 A sign of "real" spring on the Colorado Front Range is that the Glen Haven Store - with its beloved cinnamon rolls - will be opening.

Glen Haven still looks like a (very tidy) ghost town compared with pre-flood. The only buildings left are the post office, store, Inn at Glen Haven, and (new) firehouse.

Glen Haven Store - opens May 22!

And a bit further up lies Devil's Gulch, either for a cinnamon roll powered climb or a cinnamon roll anticipatory descent.

Devil's Gulch beckons!

Another reminder of how lucky we are to have these areas so close at hand, in this case, from out my front door.

Enjoy your springtime outdoors!