Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Echo Lake Enigma 107k perm populaire

On September 1, as one of my post-PBP recovery rides, I rode the new Echo Lake Enigma 107km Permanent Populaire.

We've all likely ridden every mile of these road segments, perhaps on our way to Mt. Evans, or as part of Catherine Shenk's Squaw Pass Scramble 200k perm. Though little over 100 km, it's quality all the way, starting with the Lookout Mountain climb that starts half a block from clipping in in Golden.

Route map courtesy of RideWithGPS and Google Maps

Climbing up Lookout Mountain Road out of Golden, one is reminded that this five mile stretch is (I feel), mile for mile, one of the most scenic and dramatic stretches in the state ... and right at our doorstep!

Sunrise over South Table Mountain

Dawn brings almost toasty downslope winds to parry as you corner the switchbacks.

Two groups of downhill longboarders [someone will correct me on this term] descend minutes apart, wearing fully enclosed safety and visored helmets and flying downhill in a skating tuck. And fortunately exhibiting plenty of centerline discipline.

Clear Creek Canyon to the north ... the large white vehicle is probably a bus heading to Blackhawk or Central City

We often drive Clear Creek Canyon to and from the mountains, and can gaze up at this very overlook (eastbound).

Windy Saddle TH overlook to Clear Creek Canyon

The Genesee to Rancho Grande path is an improvement over riding I-70, but it offers the steepest pitch of the entire ride.

After transiting the Evergreen Parkway highway and Bergen Park, it's an extended climb up the Squaw Pass Rd. As you ascend, you can get views to the right (north) of the Idaho Springs mining district diggings and tailings.

Climbing higher up Squaw Pass Rd.

Passing the junction to Witter Gulch Road is a reminder of one of the stiffest climbs (or descents) on the Colorado Front Range "Super Six" SR 600 perm. Ah, memories!

This is the high point of the SR 600 perm route, and ours today, over 11,000 ft., but not above timberline.

Near summit of Hwy. 103 / Squaw Pass Rd.

Turnaround at the Echo Lake Lodge!  The only congestion I experienced on this ride was at the Echo Lake Lodge, with proximity to the the Mt. Evans Road entrance. But everyone was congenial. And there are sodas, chocolate, a cheeseburger if you wish, plush toys of mountain species animals, and postcards to purchase in the lodge. The lodge staff is amiable as always.

Echo Lake Lodge
(lowest flag is City of Denver, as this is a Denver Mountain Park)

Lots of riders were heading up from Bergen Park or Idaho Springs for a climb up Mt. Evans. I didn't exactly have to fight for bike-leaning space, but there were plenty of bikes there.

Convenient bike parking at the lodge

Heading back, you get different views from the three-or-so-mile climb out of Echo Lake. 

Upper Bear Creek viewed climbing back up from Echo Lake

CDOT has chipsealed about five miles of the easternmost part of Hwy. 103 (from Squaw Pass). It's well done, but it's still chipseal. They've striped the upbound lane with an ample bike lane. That's something.

New chipseal from MP 18 high point to end of Hwy. 103 
(about 5 miles, to Squaw Pass crossing)

The descent down the Squaw Pass Road used to be hair-raising, with its sudden sharp turns coinciding with ruts and potholes you had to find a line through, but road surface now is just great.

All too soon it's time to plummet down the Lookout Mountain descent of the Lariat Loop, enjoying vistas along the way.

View up the Front Range towards Boulder County
descending Lookout Mountain Road

And our finish in Golden beckons ...

Golden and North and South Table Mountain

It's interesting to compare this, the Echo Lake Enigma 107k, to the Guanella Pass Gambol I rode earlier in the summer. The Guanella Pass ride seemed much more intimidating to me, and lots more work. For sure the Guanella Pass ride had more prolonged steeper grades. But look at the stats ...

 min maxclimbing
Echo Lake 107k   5698'  11157'7662'
Guanella 100k 8025'  11669'7201'

According to RideWithGPS, Echo Lake actually has a tad bit more climbing, and only 500 ft. lower max altitude than Guanella. Echo Lake is more frontloaded, with more climbing at lower elevations. And Guanella Pass gives you the sense you're above timberline. And there is no lodge at the Grants turnaround point. Some of the factors, and I'm sure there are more. I enjoyed both!

You could, too!