Saturday, October 20

Mayhem and Travail

My twitter invite for an early morning MTB session at Centennial Cone went unanswered. But I possied on alone, arriving at Mayhem Gulch Trailhead just before 7am this morning. In my heart of hearts I was hoping for some mayhem. The trail, alas, does not live up to its name.

When there was enough light to see where the trail leaves the parking lot I struck out. While there is no mayhem the trail does climb, if rather smoothly, for 2.4 miles and gains 700+ feet.

I reached the intersection with the Travois Trail. Alright! Now we're getting somewhere. Wasn't the travois a vehicle used by the Native Americans to extract injured mountain bikers from the backcountry?

After the long climb up from the canyon, the initial section of Travois heading east is a nice reprieve, first descending into some trees along a high shallow drainage, and then contouring high on a steep sage and scrub slope.

A travois may have been necessary if I'd blown it along the section on the steep slope. The trail rolls somewhat, is narrow, and is, for lack of a better word, exposed.

As an old climber, I've experienced exposure many times, but rarely have I felt its effects on a second class trail. It's a good thing that portion is not technical in any way.

I continued on until I reached a wooded section with a fast, but still narrow, downhill. I lost a lot of elevation fast. I was hoping I was making up some time. To complete my proposed 16.6 mile loop in an hour and a half was going to be tough.

I'd never been in that portion of Centennial Cone Open Space. I'd wanted to ride there for a long time, but had just never made it for whatever reason. I had no idea how technical the trails would be. My hope was for 16.6 miles of flowing singletrack. At around mile 5 I encountered the only technical terrain of my ride his morning, a set of stair steps in a rocky bend. I stopped at the top and walked down. Not today. Not alone.

Then I was bombing on down the ridge. I picked up speed and was finally confident I was making some miles. I rounded the ridge to the north and across a broad gully I could see the trail snaking away far into the distance. I grabbed both brakes and skidded to a halt.

"Oh man!" I said aloud. I still had a ways to go to reach the halfway point of my loop. I pulled out my phone and checked the time. I was 45 minutes and 5.6 miles into a 16.6 mile ride I needed to complete in an hour and a half. No way I was going to pull it off.

I flipped The One around in the trail and took a pull from my water bottle. I was bailing, but it was for the best. We had a full day planned and this ride, though rushed, was my brief reprieve from the week. I needed it, and it was enough. It was a little bit of riding to return to the guaranteed downhill of Mayhem Gulch, so I plodded back.

I enjoyed the narrow exposed rollers while wondering where I'd begin seeing other cyclists.

Jeffco Open Space has come up with (or copied) an ingenious idea. Weekdays the trails are multiuse: hikers, bikers and equestrians. Weekends are an alternating schedule: hikers odd days and bikers even.

So this weekend mountain bikers were allowed today, prohibited tomorrow and next weekend it'll be hikers Saturday and bikers Sunday. I believe equestrians have no limitations. I don't know if this arrangement concentrates the number of cyclists at a given time or reduces the overall load. I've stayed away primarily because I never know when it's okay to go.

Anyway, I was almost back to the Mayhem Gulch Trail before I saw the first cyclists of the day cranking up from the trailhead. Then it was a train all the way back to the canyon floor. Since I was descending I yielded to all. Halfway down I began to worry I was going to be late getting back to sub-urbia.

I needed to be home by 9:00. I reached the car at 8:35. Right on schedule!

I was a bit chilled after my descent. I'd climbed out of the canyon wearing a jersey, arm warmers, MTB shorts and full fingered gloves. The temperature had been about 45F. At my turnaround point I stowed the warmers and gloves but I was generally losing elevation from that point on and generating little heat. I'm sure the air had warmed only slightly during my ride under the clouds up in the canyon. Brrrgh!

Back home I told Mandy about the ride and she wants to go check it out. I can't wait to take her now that I know it is mayhem free and the travails are minor in nature.


  1. Sounds like this was better than my get away ride :)

  2. Wish I had more mornings just like that one.