Thursday, July 24, 2008

Best Descent Ever

Lime Creek/Pass Creek/Engineer Mtn Loop
Took a "breather" from epic riding in CO today. After riding over 20hrs in four days, the legs were thoroughly tenderized. Today's loop, just north of Durango, went like this. Ride up dirt Old Lime Creek Rd about 12 miles and 1000ft of gain (lots more total climbing). Then head back towards Durango on Hwy 550 up to Coal Bank Pass. This gains upwards of another 1000ft, summiting at 10,640ft. At the pass, Pass Creek Trail is taken up, at times handlebar deep in wild flowers. It gains about 1000ft in just 2.5mi. This is nice singletrack, but a few very challenging sections required brief dismounts. We encountered hikers here, and soon we were to learn why.

Pass Creek Trail starting out from Coal Bank Pass

Pass Creek Trail ends at Engineer Mountain Trail above tree line. A small amount of climbing on Engineer Mtn brought us to a saddle in the mountains at about 11,750ft elevation. The steep climbing in rarified air made for some slow going. The views up here were the best I've encountered in Colorado to date. This is partly due to peak flowering season. Many hikers came up here for the views and wild flowers.

Engineer Mountain with nearly 13,000ft summit in background

If the scenery weren't reward enough for riding up here, the descent certainly was. Engineer Mtn Tr drops 3000ft in about 6 miles on pristine singletrack. It was 100% rideable. Non-stop switchbacks, alternating between open meadows, dense forest, and cliff edge hugging in a couple spots. The descent was so relentless, Dave and I experienced descent fatigue. Alpine skiers might know what this is. You know that feeling you get dropping a couple thousand feet in powder on a bumpy run, that burn that says stop for a minute but fun factor says it is too much fun to stop? That was this descent. I would say this descent tops the famed Trail 401 in Crested Butte.

We started the ride in pristine, cloudless skies. But as we wrapped up the descent, we felt a few errant drops falling out of blue sky above us, although dark clouds were forming around Engineer Mountain. Loading the bikes up, thunder could be heard. We no more than pulled out onto 550, the skies opened up with rain. A short ride at 24.2mi and just over 3hrs riding time, but one of the most satisfying rides of the trip.

Looking north from high point on Engineer Mtn Tr

Yesterday's riding will have to wait for posts after we get back. Dave and I did out and back on the most famous trail in Durango, the Hermosa Creek Trail. Most riders do the lame shuttle thing, that is, get dropped off at the top and bomb 21+ miles down to the bottom. I bet shuttling riders wouldn't have seen the bear that we saw. Dave's knee was bothering him, so he chilled for the rest of the day while I headed 40 minutes south of Durango into New Mexico. I rode Alien Run near Aztec. It's an 8.3 mile singletrack loop that sweeps past the alleged UFO crash site. Really cool riding. Think 50/50 hybrid of Moab Slickrock with Tucson Fantasy Island. Only couple scary bits and wicked fast for the most part. Intense lightning across the desert kept my pace moving. Stayed dry again, hitting heavy rain on the way back. We hear thunder every day, but keep lucking out.

We're in Fruita, CO now. It was 100F when we rolled into town, and even at 8pm, it was still 98F. Will be almost as hot on Friday when we plan to ride the infamous Flight of Icarus loop. This too drops 3000ft, but at a far more aggressive pitch. But to drop that 3000ft, we have to earn it by climbing Hwy 139. If the sun doesn't doom us like Icarus, we plan to hit Zippity Do-Da in the Bookcliffs trail system in the afternoon. Then we're off to Boulder.


plum said...

These photos look like they're from another planet. I thought Kingdom Trails were the end-all-be-all after riding nothing but local singletrack, but this place blows my mind. Wow.

solobreak said...

What a couple of runway models...

Hill Junkie said...

We thought about holding hands...