Saturday, September 9, 2017

CO Day 7: Junction Creek, the full monty

I think I've ridden Junction Creek three times now. I wasn't planning to ride it this trip. This trail can be shuttled via a couple dirt national forest roads. Since I self shuttle almost everything I do, riding Junction Creek is a big commitment. It is nearly 4000ft net gain from town via Junction Creek Rd, 5000+ feet if going all the way up to Kennebec Pass. I've been up to the pass from town only once before. Lot of hike-a-bike across the scree field...

Forecast was less than ideal again, so getting in the car to ride somewhere with later start just didn't excite me. Start of the Junction Creek climb is just a couple blocks from the hotel. Hitting Kennebec Pass is a out-and-back poke above tree line, so not much risk.

Temp was perfect at 8:30am. Legs felt better than they should've. Saddle sores were a whole different issue. I made decent time up dirt Junction Creek road. Saw no other bikers, but two large support/shuttle vans came down as I approached the top. The sky was filling in with clouds but didn't look too threatening, so I continued upward on the Colorado Trail (CT) to Kennebec Pass.

The grade goes from constant 6% climbing on Junction Creek Rd to persistent 20% on the CT. There were sections I could not aerobically sustain at that pitch at 11,000ft.

I forgot to put the memory card in my good camera, and my stupid iPhone memory filled up at that same time. I couldn't take any pictures! This drove me batty. Deleting old photos made no difference. Deleting an app I didn't use anymore did free up 10 photos worth of memory. The IT guys at work will have to sort this out. Anyway, I spent an obscene amount of time screwing around with this, which was good in that it gave me some recovery after climbing well over 4000ft already and bad in that I was flirting with getting soaked later.

I saw only two riders on my climb, on the steep part of the CT above Junction Creek Rd. They were bombing down. Maybe they rode the dirt road up the other side. Probably the smarter way. There was considerable hike-a-bike up the scree field. From town though, going up the west side would make for 10's of highway miles for me. I'll take the HAB.

Last time I rode up to Kennebec Pass, I did not check out the Muldoon Mine up there. Supposedly the worlds best outhouse view is there. After seeing it, I have no doubt this is true. From the mine, it is a 5000ft drop back to town on singletrack, but far from all downhill! There is a spanker of a climb halfway down that entails more HAB for an old, tired, sea-level dweller like me!

It was quite warm dropping back down. At the bridge where the spanker climb begins, I stopped to filter some water from Junction Creek. Tastes like... water! Nice and cold. I drank 16oz and filled the bag again for later. I still had some of my 100oz Gatorade left too.

When I finally reached the top of the spanker climb, back up to around 9600ft, there was a young, local couple sitting there. They rode up a different way. We talked a good while, gleaning all kinds of useful info on trails and living in Durango. Of course, as soon as we pushed off, it started pouring out! I had 3000ft of vertical drop on clay and rock to go. The brief downpour did little more than make the vegetation wet and me soaked. Maybe I'll luck out.

I didn't dilly dally ripping down. It is very chunky rocky terrain that considerable speed can be carried on. I felt my wheels bottom out hard several times, like taking a hammer to a steel drum bottom out. No sidewall tears! Racing Ralph's at <20psi are="" cut="" for="" not="" of="" out="" p="" riding="" this="">
Before I reached Gudy's Rest (where the final CT switchbacks begin), it started pouring again, more earnestly. Now the trail was getting juicy. I could see tracks from somebody that must have been just ahead of me. I caught him. He had crashed already and was going very slow. It is scary how quickly you get cold at higher elevations when it starts raining. Like you go from sweating to shivering in two minutes. The rain stopped again as I finally reached the road, where a gang of MTBers were re-grouping, maybe part of the supported group whose vans I say earlier.

Bike got a little yucky, but I escape with only nuisance wetness and never had to put my rain gear on.  Finished with about 52mi, 8300ft of climbing, in 6.5hrs moving time. Tons of tech on this ride. My hands, wrists and ass are hurting. If I lived here, I'd probably ride Junction Creek periodically, maybe explore some of the other ways to get up top.

Buttes that are towering when starting out. About 1400ft up from town on Junction Creek Rd.

Note bad climbing on Junction Creek Rd

First view of the high peaks on Junction Creek Rd

Will be up there before too long

View to north from Junction Creek Rd, prob around 10,000ft

Colorado Trail from road junction at 10,400ft
Beginning switchbacks on the CT above road junction

The infamous scree section. At ~20% grade and 11,000ft and loose as can be, it became a protracted HAB

Looking back down the scree section

After cresting Kennebec Pass and dropping part way down the west side to the trailhead there, this is the view. I hope to ride that 12,000ft ridge this coming week if a good enough weather day materializes. That is the same ridge further north I got caught on in lightning storm a few years ago. Never, ever again.

View south from Kennebec Pass trail head parking area

This is where sane people shuttle to when riding the scree field. It is all rideable going down.

Looking east up at Kennebec Pass from upper trail head
View from Muldoon Mine

Looking down on Kennebec Pass from Muldoon Mine site

The famous Muldoon Mine shitter. It is on verge of falling off the cliff.

Looking down at scree field and CT trail from Muldoon Mine

Muldoon Mine ruins at around 11,800ft on Cumberland Mtn

The falls on Junction Creek Trail. Was flowing today, been dry on prior occasions.
Junction Creek Trail. Don't look down!

Junction Creek Trail

Of course, after epic effort, and epic feast is required. Serious Texas BBQ. Big Six platter, feeds 2-3 people, six kinds of meet, upwards of two pounds of food. That's a cafeteria tray for scale.  Very nearly finished it in one sitting. Have to visit this place once each time I come to Durango. Probably not the best recovery food, but it sure is satiating. 

1 comment:

Scott Powell said...

Can I skip the ride and just have the bbq?