Thursday, May 24, 2012

Riding the Brainard Lake Breeze 101k Perm Populaire

One of the latest new perm offerings is the Brainard Lake Breeze, a "mere" Permanent Populaire, but plenty of  scenery and a "quality" workout over those 101 km!

A gentle warm-up, starting from our traditional, friendly "secret control" in Niwot, brings you to Lefthand Canyon and James Canyon, where you may see seasonal warning signs:

Jamestown is an info control, so you can actually breeze right through, on your way to the Super James climb.  I was too busy climbing to give you a photo of the switchbacks and sand barrels set out for icy conditions on steep pitches, but had to stop for this reptilian painted rock near the top of the climb:

After the Super James summit, the road turns to dirt, and you get your first big views ... closer looks at the same peaks you saw leaving Niwot:

At the Brainard Lake entrance, you can pay the $1 cyclists' entry fee if they're open, or walk around the barricade if they're not (e.g., in the off-season when I rode ... mid-May still constituting off-season at this altitude).

The Brainard Lake Road, with which most of us are familiar, offers a cavalcade of great views of the Indian Peak Wilderness peeking out through pines:

At Brainard Lake itself is another information control, and a great view of Arapahoe and other peaks:

You can turn around here, or spend another two miles riding up to the Mitchell Lake and Long Lake trailheads (highly recommended, and why not, after all this climbing?).  Here we are nearing the Mitchell Lake TH, with a good view of Torrey's Peak, a favorite backcountry skiers' destination after mountain-biking up this far.

I had to skirt several snowdrifts.  Here is one standing between me and the Longs Lake TH.

The nice things about riding Brainard at this time of year: no motorists, only a few hikers and hardy cyclists ... and places to lean your bike (near the Niwot Cutoff TH):

But it's not so bad riding at high season either, in shirtsleeves at 10,000 ft., with glorious mountain wildflowers and cheerful hikers heading for the tundra.

The return starts with a descent down the Brainard Lake Road ... followed by a descent down Lefthand Canyon ... followed by a shallow, mellow descent down Neva/Niwot Road.  What a perfect way to end a ride.

Give this one a try!


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