On Saturday, Caroline and I rode up into the hills to explore the area that burned in the Fourmile Fire a month ago. The mosaic of isolated, unburned green trees on steep blackened hillsides was striking. Streaks of red fire retardant abut scorched forest in many areas. Tall fire place chimneys are all that stand above many burned houses, and scorched metal appliances and shelving units form jumbled messes within the foundation walls. Amazingly, a closer inspection of the forest floor revealed tiny patches of green where plants are already regrowing. But it's going to be a long time until this landscape recovers.
Yesterday I headed up higher for an adventure that had been planned for a month ago, but the fires put that plan on hold. The plan called for an extended period above 12,000', but the forecast looked grim, and the higher we got, the more ill-fated the adventure appeared.
After climbing into snow and fierce winds at 10,500', we decided to call off the adventure and head to lower elevations. Owen led me through some trails I had never been on before we made the always foolish but sometimes rewarding choice to try to link up where we were to where we wanted to be via very unknown territory that may or may not have tracks on public land in between. After reaching a gate with stern warning signs back a dirt road, a local drove up and said there was no good way to get where we were trying to go. The friendly guy, sitting in his old Chevy truck, mentioned one route passing Dry Lake could get us there but that it wasn't a place for bike.
Predictably, we ended up exactly where that guy said we shouldn't go, and a network of good singletrack hidden far from any roads or trailheads appeared before us! Occasional rain showers became more frequent, but Owen and I were highly amused by our discovery. My legs were really starting to tire, and my knee pain was slowly returning, but we rode on, eventually bailing down a long-deserted mine road to the gulch below. A long climb and a few fence hops brought us to where we had hoped to be!
After nearly 9 hours of riding, Owen headed back up toward Ned, and I climbed to Magnolia and slowly made my way home. The sun finally came out, warming my back as I descended on the sloppy dirt road. Spending the day exploring the best and worst riding the foothills have to offer is always enjoyable, especially when you're joined by someone else with the exact same mindset.