Sunday, November 17, 2013

Riding the New "Black Forest and Back" 209km Permanent!

On November 9, I tried out the new "Black Forest and Back" 209km Permanent.   It was a nice day, starting in the upper 30's and zooming up into the 60's under sunny skies.  With some wind, of course.
The route is pretty straight and straighforward, heading up from the Plains into more rolling terrain and then into some wooded areas at the turnaround, gaining 2,000 ft. along the way.
An early start heading out to Bennett, in the land of the flat horizons.
I head off into a moderate SE/SW headwind, the typical prevailing wind pouring off the Palmer Divide.

Kiowa-Bennett Road is now fully paved, but some sections are older and "wearier" than others, such as the Arapahoe County section out of Bennett.  (Still, very light traffic, and even the large ag trucks are polite.)

Outbound, Pikes Peak is a beacon from early on.

This section crosses gully after gully, reminiscent of Eastern Colorado on the Last Chance.

Through Elbert, the valley becomes more wooded and meadow-like, some of the most pleasant scenery of the route.  Black Forest 300k riders are familiar with this stretch.
 And yes, it's Pikes Peak again!

After transiting Kiowa and Elbert, we're turning west.  Here's Pikes Peak framed by a (pioneer?) cabin and a Manitou Springs streetcar, mysteriously relocated and juxtaposed.

On Hodgen Road, they've smoothed off a couple of the rollingest segments with cut and fill.  There's now a nice bike shoulder, and trees cut back from the shoulders.  This should provide a fire break, and more sun during icy times of year (an issue, if you believe the warning signs along this stretch).  The short but steep rollers impeded visibility, so this ought to be safer for everyone.
This new layout gives a park-like feeling (in contrast to the former "woody thicket" atmosphere characteristic of Black Forest).

 Our route traverses some of the severest burn sections from last summer's Black Forest fire.  This is the first time I'd seen this in person, and it made a strong impression.

Lots of cleanup, but still a lot of ashe and charcoaled trees, too.

Turning on Black Forest Road near the turnaround, a final glimpse at our friend, PP.

The Black Forest checkpoint is aptly named, and I had been looking forward to a BBQ sandwich for some miles. 
Ironically the real firehouse across the street is no more.  Only an empty lot strewn with straw and posted with neighbors' signs about the fire.

The way back reminds you of how evocative area this is, with big, old farms and ranches, like the Triple B. 
Downhill with a tailwind made the trip back more than hour faster than getting to Black Forest.
Nothing like that to put a smile on your face!
You just never know the connections you'll make. At a store in Kiowa, the checkout guy asked me about my jersey - turns out he used to live in Los Gatos, just down the road from Santa Cruz. What a change of scene for him this must be!
Driving back west into the sun, after a great ride of expansive terrain and quietude, it's been a good day.

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