Monday, September 11, 2017

CO Day 9: Phil's World in the desert, avoiding high country lightning

Had planned to ride Indian Ridge up around 12,000ft today. I attempted this a few years ago when I got caught up there in an intense lightning storm. Most scared I've ever been in my life. I never made it to the part called Indian Ridge, a highly scenic, exposed section of the Colorado Trail.

The forecast turned more sour when I got up this morning. 60% chance of lightning by noon even per optimistic sources. No way was I going to chance that. It takes 3hrs of climbing just to get up there, and reports say to expect a lot of hike-a-bike up top. That would put me into early afternoon before coming off the ridge. I bailed.

Instead, I went to Phil's World, a purpose built trail system near Cortez, about 40 minutes west of Durango. It sits between 6000-7000ft and is essentially desert terrain a lot like Moab or Hartman Rock near Gunnison. Moab is only a couple hours from there, one of the potential benefits of living in Durango - day trips to Moab!

Hated "wasting" a possible good legs day after hiking yesterday on low country riding, but riding in rain, or worse, lighting, is no fun.

Starting out it seemed ridiculous that I drove out into the desert to ride without a cloud in sight. The western wildfires smoke was finally gone and true bluebird skies have returned. It didn't take long for clouds to build, though. From Phil's World, the high peaks Indian Ridge traverses were plainly visible about 25 miles away as the crow flies. By 11am, it was almost certainly raining there. Felt vindicated in making the right call this time.

There was a surprisingly large number of cars in the parking lot for a Monday. Many had Utah plates. Seemed there was an organized group of old fogies (like me) doing a ride. Many others too, including kids with parents who you'd think would be in school. But on the trail, I rarely encountered others. Traffic is one-way, which greatly reduces interference.

It got toasty, my Garmin logging 95F before the end of the ride. Could have been some solar heating there, but car read about 90F driving back. Went through three liters in three hours. At least it's a "dry" heat.

Full loop went 30mi with 2000+ feet of climbing in 3.2hrs moving time. I took it pretty easy, but there are a lot of steep, punchy climbs here. Will have to try again on Tuesday for Indian Ridge, maybe try to drag my old ass out of bed earlier to have better chance of not dying. Forecast looks only slightly better Tuesday than it did today.

Much of the loop follows rocky rims like many trails in the Moab area do.

Moab be out that-away. Irrigated farm land around Cortez.

Looking southwest

Can be techy but never chundery

A large area that burned many years ago now filled in with flowers


Just after 11am and Indian Ridge looks like it is getting hammered already

No weather to worry about on Phil's Trails

More ledge with cumulus clouds over Indian Ridge high peaks

Lens doesn't really capture it, but this was seriously fun roller coaster stuff. Hard as pavement, tires would buzzzz, quiet, buzzzzzz, quiet, etc. The quiet intervals where you'd find yourself in the air.

There were cairns like this in random places

Some hard as pavement sage brush cruising. When I watched the Breaking Bad series, they always showed sky shots and it looked a lot like this. New Mexico is just a few minutes south of here.

Around 1pm, the high peaks are surely getting hammered. I would not have been off the ridge yet.

Parking lot when I finished early afternoon. More cars out of view.

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