Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Worst Luck

I'm heading out west with family next week for a little riding and sightseeing. The focal point of the trip was Sun Valley, Idaho. Sun Valley has been making ripples in the mountain biking world the last couple years with trail building and high-level races held there. Seeing imagery of high alpine ridge riding convinced me I needed to make a visit.

But wouldn't you know it, things have been pretty dry out there with decades of accumulated fuel waiting to burn.  The massive Beaver Creek fire burned most of August and torched 111,000 acres, including most of the Sun Valley mountain biking trails. The screen shot below shows which trails are currently closed in red, which essentially defines the burn area.

The trail I most wanted to ride is the Osberg Ridge Trail, which kind of runs west to east in the upper third of the trail system. Closed. Only trails close in to town, the ski area and the highway have re-opened, as these trails are located in an area that burned in 2007. No fuel to burn there, so the edge of that burn created a natural buffer for the Beaver Creek fire.

This fire no doubt impacted the town pretty severely, loosing nearly a month of prime tourism. The hotel I booked said don't even bother coming for a couple weeks. Much of the area was evacuated. The fire is out now, the air is clearing up. However, there is the pesky detail of another rapidly growing fire just west of this one. The closure area for the new Kelly fire overlaps the western portion of closed red trails above.

Needless to say, most of the red trails above will not reopen before my trip. They are posted with $5000 fine and 6 months in jail. No messing around. The soil is unstable, burned trees can fall without warning, and erosion concerns all have to be addressed before many of these trails can reopen. That would be next year at the earliest.

There is one respectable loop on the east side of 75 I can ride, the loop out to Pioneer Cabin, which sits almost 4000ft above town in the Pioneer Mountains. There will be some good scenery on this loop. I was hoping to get three rides like it in and sample some of the famous, buff 10 mile descents where you barely have to pedal. Maybe another trip.

I've booked lodging in southwest Utah for this portion of the trip also. I can cancel one or the other early in the trip, as Idaho or Utah will be the last half of the trip.  It means a lot of extra driving if we cancel Sun Valley and head to Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks instead. No fires down there last check. I still hope to visit Sun Valley, and if a few more trails openings can open bigger loop options on the east side of 75, we'll go there.  Plenty of other activities for wife and mom to do either way.  At least we'll get to see Yellowstone in the first few days, and there are some good rides in the Jackson, Wyoming area.


Anonymous said...

Don't miss out on the Warm/Cold Springs loop. It may be on the ski area, but it has a much bigger backcountry feel than you'd imagine. Fisher Creek loop north of Galena pass is short but worth every second of the drive.

Hill Junkie said...

I was hoping to ride from hotel each day in Ketchum so the women could have the car. But now I see there is some excellent riding up in Stanley. An even bigger loop with 4th/Ants/Williams can be had, going over 10,000ft pass too. Thanks for the suggested. That might clinch it for Ketchum. I'm sure I can have the car for half a day. The women will want to shop one of the days anyway.

Anonymous said...

Also open is the popular Fox/Chocolate loop as well as a lot of Adams Gulch. Eve Gulch trail is open...this is a signifiant jeep road climb/hike-a-bike that leads into an incredible singletrack downhill that is xc rider friendly. Working in trails like the Whiteclouds system and Corral Creek you'd be surprised how many rides are still available. The stuff that is open might only be a small slice of the pie, but it was a huge pie to start with. Bald Mountain is good for several hours of riding. Warm to Cold Springs is a 25 mile loop all by itself. All this of course assumes the Kelly Fire doesn't send smoke eastward...

Hill Junkie said...

I see now there is even a bigger fire burning just west of the Whiteclouds, the Little Queens fire. The closure area of that comes close to 75. The fire itself is several miles from 75. Remote area. I don't think they will put many resources on this one. Could burn a good while. Air quality would be biggest concern. Just ordered a Whiteclouds map. Hope it arrives in time.