Saturday, January 12

High Rocks

Not where I rode today
One of the high points in Powell County is a sandstone promontory located at the heads of Cat Creek, Cow Creek and Gladie Branch of the South Fork of the Red River.

Two roads skirt all but the northern-most side of the residual capstone. At one time the USFS had a fire lookout on the 1,400' point. Today there are only a few homes nearby and some lonely stretches of pavement. Steep pavement.

Last week I rode from the Cat Creek side with Mandy's dad. I'd never ridden that side and it is stout. Reportedly there is only one paved climb in the area that's steeper.

Today Mandy, her dad and I met Jeff M at the AmVets cemetery just south of Rosslyn for a longer ride. We were trying to hit the "dry" window of opportunity for the day. While there was no rain falling, the humidity was high and most of the roads were damp. The saving grace was the unseasonably high temperature.

The morning started out foggy with an untrustworthy promise of clearing skies.

The four of us headed up North Fork toward the Gorge. The plan was to ride out to the end up the pavement just upstream of Indian Creek. Jeff and I pulled away and rode pretty hard out the desolate ribbon of blacktop.

It was hard to keep the pace high and carry on a conversation. When we reached the turnaround point the sun peeked out. After a bite to eat and a rest we turned back west and rode until we met Mandy and Tom. They were having a good ride and planned to continue on out to the end of the hard surface. Jeff was planning on going home via South Fork over High Rock.

I've ridden High Rock before. Pre-Colorado I rode it from home via Cow Creek, which was a haul, and then I rode it once from South Fork with Gump support.

Last week Tom and I rode from Stanton up Cat Creek and I ascended High Rock from the northwest. Hands down Cat Creek is the hardest. It never really lets up, and the mile long climb is steepest at the end.

I opted to follow Jeff, if not home at least as far as the junction of CR 1102 (Cow Creek Rd) and State Highway 1057 (High Rock Rd), and rack up some miles.

We parted ways with Mandy and Tom. I promised to return to her parents' house early enough so she could get back and watch the Broncos play this afternoon. I even promised to watch the game with her despite my general lack of interest in organized team sports. Of course I'm composing this post as the game plays out...

Jeff and I rode up South Fork and then made the right at "the forks." We rode past my mom's family's old place before starting up the short steep climb.

The air was warm and wet. I peeled off my arm warmers and swiped my forehead a few times with my gloves. Initially I left Jeff behind, cranking in my middle chainring, but about 3/4 of the way up he passed me and cranked up the final pitch to the high point along the road.

I could have rode on past Jeff's house and back out Furnace Mountain. I'd have needed to bum some food to carry me over the long series of rollers I'd have to traverse. I was running short on time but with only 209 days until Leadville that option would deepen my base. The other option was to return via Cat Creek. Short screaming descent followed by a relatively mellow few miles back to town...decisions, decisions.

We chatted for a few minutes and then Jeff dropped over towards Rogers Chapel and I went into free fall down Cat Creek. I needed to get back fast.

Cat Creek was fun: descending rollers with little traffic. Then I jumped back on highway 15 and as I approached the drive-in a light rain began spattering me. I geared down and hunched over the drops.

I surged back into Tom and Laurie's bikeport just before the rain began in earnest. Tom and Mandy beat me back by about 20 minutes. They'd ridden 32 miles to my 42. It had been a good morning to ride.

Jeff and I talked about a lot of stuff, but one thing we discussed was the incredible road rides in Powell County. He said he was amazed at some of his Lexington friends' reluctance to ride in the Red River valley. The climbs seem to scare them off.

He told a great story about a friend of his that weighs about 150 that stopped at the bottom of Sky Bridge Hill to empty his water bottles before beginning the climb.

Those guys would go running knock-kneed from Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.

It was good to do a significant ride. Jeff and I talked of riding Cobhill soon. I've driven Cobhill. I won't say much more about it, except to say I'm not certain I can clean it first go. I think I'm going to get well acquainted with Cobhill soon enough though. Leadville. Leadville.

Notice the elevation profile at the bottom. Can you spot the High Rock climb?


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