Winter has arrived. A damp cold gnaws at your bones as soon as the sun sneaks behind a cloud or drops below the horizon. A fresh white coat of paint covers the peaks above town, and upon closer inspection, this paint is crunchy and cold. I spent the weekend riding at elevations higher than I should have been, chasing goals a bit too lofty for the changing seasons.
On Saturday morning, I found myself somewhat excited to do a sort of repeat of my stupid ride from several nights prior. Except this time, things would be different. I spent a while staring at maps and located a new place to ride. I use the term ride loosely, because there's no trail there. There are no old mine roads, 2-tracks, or moto routes. There's merely a striking ridge, standing high above the plains to the east and the sub-summit surface to the west. After a few hiccups, this ridge steadily descends 2500' over 5 miles. There needs to be a trail on this ridge, so I headed up to scout it out before winter really sets in.
A snowy 2000' climb up steep jeep trails kept me warm in the freezing temperatures. No one was out in the hills despite it being mid-morning. I had the trail to myself and enjoyed the painful climb that I've come to love. This is one of my most common winter rides, yet my doppelganger is the only other rider that seems to frequent the area.
Leaving the jeep trails behind, a burn zone prevents the first obstacle. First down, then up. 100% unrideable.
Then I struck off to the north on an old mine road that is now littered with downed trees. Strangely, this road often seemed to have more trees on the ground than anywhere around it, so I spent most of the time bouncing around next to it. Another steep uphill portage followed, bringing me to a high point with grand views. To the east, spots of sun decorated the plains, and to the west, snow squalls shrouded the landscape to within a few kilometers of my lonely peak. I wandered around for 15 minutes, trying to find a way down.
Thick woods and incredibly precipitous slopes on the north side were particularly uninviting. Eventually I found an elk trail which was so well trodden that I could follow it beneath 4" of fresh snow. My brakes bugled all the way down the 800' descent as I slid over and down hidden rocks. I popped out in an isolated meadow, feeling especially isolated from the rest of the world.
I again hoisted my bike across my back and began another long slog up to the highest point of the day, 1000' above. The sun warmed my back, and I thought about the pizza in my pack. I settled on taking my first break of the day atop this peak to enjoy the leftovers. Then, I looked forward to the beginning of the long descent.
An approaching wall of snow cut my break short as I realized it was already 2:30 pm. That gave me only 3 hours to return to known territory by dark, so I hustled on. Downed trees on either side of the ridge crest made forward progress far slower than I had imagined it would be. Half a mile later, I still had not even gotten on my bike. A sidewall puncture from a pointy log slowed me down a bit more. An hour later I had only covered another mile. The snow had stopped, but the skies were dark and visibility was low. And the frequency of some slightly troubling cat tracks was increasing, causing me to look over my shoulder more and more often.
It quickly became clear that this ridge would not be conquered with a bike in tow and in waning daylight, so I bailed off the east side. Two hours later, I was home, completely convinced that this trail I'd been imagining could be one of the best tracks around Boulder.