Sunday, September 3, 2017

CO Day 1: Barr, Missing Link, Jones Loop

Today I hooked up with Paul R. who showed me the goods higher up on the flanks of Pikes Peak. Paul moved to Springs from the NE a year ago and has been exploring routes with sick vertical that don't suck. Such a vast riding area, the possibilities and potential are mind boggling.

We started from Manitou Springs at just over 6000ft. We met early at 6:30am to get ahead of the masses expected to hike Pikes via the Barr Trail on this holiday weekend. There's really no warm-up before going right into a double-digit 4000ft climb on marbly pikes gravel. When I hiked the Incline a few years ago, I came down the Barr trail. I knew people rode it, but didn't see how. I crashed twice on foot with my feet rolling out from under me on marbles. It is actually quite climbable. More than a few water bars and rock outcroppings confounded me, but there were no extended hike-a-bikes.

We passed quite a few hikers, even high up, who must have started in the dark. It was not a problem and everybody got along just fine. Most were encouraging us and impressed. We reached our cutoff on the Mountain View trail just before reaching the Barr Camp. This trail descended some and contoured. The trail was barely there at times. It was gorgeous passing through aspen groves.

We crossed the cog railroad and at some point picked up the Missing Link Trail. This is still a work in progress but when finished, it will open up many high country loop possibilities. Paul led us through a hodge-podge of barely-there trails to avoid suck (lessons he learned). We popped out on Forest Road (that really is the proper name for it) and climbed a whole bunch more back above 10,000ft to Lake Moraine. The view of Pikes Peak was fabulous from here, and the air was perfect temperature now.

Now the fun begins. A connector brings us to the beloved Jones Park trail. This will likely be my first and last time riding it. Long story, but a rare trout that was once thought extinct in the area was discovered in the brook this trail follows. A new trail was machine built away from the brook that lacked soul and everybody hated it - hikers, cyclist and the moto crowd. Input from the user community was no put into the design. Now that the new trail was open, the old trail that everybody loved will begin deconstruction on Tuesday.

Jones Park had much of the same feel and vibe as Silver Creek coming off the Monarch Crest. Jones is looser and rutted though and required much more care in many areas. You rip down a narrow ravine always near the brook with occasional crossings. I liked it, but was forced off my bike a couple brief times because I didn't want to risk an endo.

I never saw Paul, except for maybe 10sec after each time we pushed off from a stop. I think his tires barely touch dirt on these descents. I could see trail disappearing to infinity under his tires because that is how high off the ground he was most of the time.

Further down we picked up Trail 666, continuing along the brook, but now much more grown in and narrow. Plenty of sketch and always wicked loose. There were places where if you slid over the edge, you were probably going all the way to the bottom on marbly gravel.

The ride finished but dropping through Red Canyon Park, where I rode last night. Paul linked up mostly trails I did not touch. So many trails in there. Most are pretty easy, a few challenging, and a few recently purpose built with flow. Great way to wrap up a ride. Over 200ft per mile on this one, almost all on loose gravel. Took a bit out of me. Paul has another punishing route even higher up planned for Monday. I'm going to be dead two days into two week trip!

Heading up Barr Trail, Pikes Peak just becoming visible

Guessing that is Cameron Cone with balance rock in foreground

When failing to make a rocky step-up, don't lean your elbow into granite to save yourself. Stuff is sharp AF.

Boulder tunnel you ride through on Barr Trail

Our turn-off from Barr Trail just below the camp

Mt View trail. A lot to like about this.

Pikes has its cog, Washington has its. Both have roads to top. Both are CFs at top. Interesting that Pikes puts the teeth on rails, which Washington puts the teeth on the engine.

Switchback on Forest Road and Pikes

Paul at our turn-off to pick up the Jones Park descent

Jones Park and surveyors rock. Paul says park in this context means meadow

Marbles and exposure all the way down

Don't look down. Springs in distance still crazy amount of vertical down even though we ripped a lot of down.

We came over that in the back ground through a notch

I chickened out going over this hump

Close-up of what traction, or lack thereof, you have to work with here. Like this everywhere.

Finishing descent in Red Rock canyon, forget name of this trail

Upper Codell. Kicked my butt last night going up. Still walked parts of it going down today.

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