Monday, May 12, 2014

Poudre Canyon 400k/600k Pre-Ride

On May 3, I checked out the new Poudre Canyon 400k/600k course.  It's an alternative to our traditional routes that use Lefthand, St. Vrain and Big Thompson Canyons, all hit by last September's floods.

A nice, quiet early morning climb over Horsetooth.
 We dip down to Overland Trail on the west side of Fort Collins heading to the checkpoint at Vern's.

On this ride, Poudre Canyon was very quiet going up and not bad coming down.  But rafting hadn't started up and, with no shoulders, you need to be aware and ride single-file.

Entering Poudre Canyon, the trees are just greening up.
 It's a long, 31-mile stretch of canyon climbing to Rustic, but the grades are very shallow for the most part.

Verdant, but you can also see burn areas from the 2012 fire.

Bob Dean is also pre-riding.  We hope our combined perpectives will be useful.
 The Glen Echo checkpoint store in Rustic is friendly, with some but limited items, as it's a camp store.  Friendly staff.  At this point you're at 7160ft., only about 2,000 ft. higher than Ft. Collins, but the high point of the route.
One of my favorite stretches is this narrows section, about 20 miles up, or 10 miles zooming back down from Rustic.
 On the descent, keep an eye out for crowds at trailheads like Gray Rock, and at the Mishiwaka venue.

Back at the base of the canyon, you turn left at Ted's Place up US-287 (the highway to Laramie).

US-287 is not a quiet road, but it has a shoulder, and an open western kind of beauty.

There is also the U of W (Wyoming) painted rock to take a gander at.

You can see the Wyoming bronco in there if you look closely.
The road is bounded by hogback formations.

You cut through the formation on your way to the turnaround.

This scenic cut at Owl Canyon is part of the final climb to Livermore.  The passing lane gives a clue to the grade.
The Forks store and deli checkpoint at the Livermore turnaround (at the junction of Red Feather Lakes Road) is well-supplied and a friendly place.

Descending is in general more fun, but there can be gusty upvalley and crosswinds.  
There are also a couple of sections where the shoulder narrows and there is sand, so you need to keep an eye out.

After passing back through LaPorte, you're entering the Plains segment, and viewing the other side of the US-287 hogback from Rd. 19.  Turning on Rd. 70, a bright and pastoral scene.


Much of the route is now similar to our traditional 400k's and 600k's ... except that we head east to Severance.  You approach Severance on pastoral Rd. 23, bordered by a ditch that winds its way under the road.  In the rushes you may see red-winged and even yellow-winged blackbirds.

Severance used to be a quaint crossroads - it is now a quaint crossroads with a nice convenience store (the checkpoint).  As on our normal 400k/600k routes, as you come into Windsor you may see cormorants and white pelicans (as I did!).

Past the Johnstown store, it's the familiar way back via Rd. 13 and on through Erie.

Sunset nears with Longs and Meeker Peak as a hazy accent.  
And it's been a good, scenic 400k (or first 400k loop of the 600k)!

The final 200k of the 600k is our familiar Kersey Kick and the prospect of burritos in Kersey.  Nothing new to report on this stretch except for wearisome downslope winds on the homebound segment.  Still, a nice ride!