Monday, August 5

Live From (The Road To) Leadville: Prairie Biking Bliss

North and South Table Mountains (NTM & STM) might be one (as a pair) of my all-time favorite places in the universe.  This might seem strange coming from a guy that considers himself an aficionado of high places.  In the whole scheme of things the mesas flanking Golden, Colorado aren't really big or high summits.  The elevation difference between the table top prairies and the surrounding plains is comparable to that of the Pottsville Escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau where I've been tooling around lo, these past seven months.

This morning I went out on dawn patrol and tooled around on both mesas.  Tooling was good.

The friends we're staying with live in Pleasant View which is on the south flank of STM.  Within a few minutes of leaving their domicile I was climbing up toward the prairie island in the sky via the NREL trail.  It was good to be back on the familiar trails of the Front Range foothills.

I caught the sunrise from the same old place I used to catch the sunrise from on my prairie bike commutes.  Then I bombed down the Ancient Palms Trail into Applewood and through before cutting over on McIntyre and 44th to the neighborhood access trail up to the North Table Loop from Easley Road.

I'd never climbed that particular trail.  I always used it as a descent on my way to work after climbing over NTM from the north.  One thing became clear as the Colorado sky: Front Range singletrack is a lot rougher and more technical than any comparable trails I've ridden in Kentucky.  I'll discuss baby heads in more detail later in this post.

I took it slow because I wasn't sure how my body would react to climbing in the thinner air.  I'd traversed STM with no ill effects, but the south side of NTM involves considerably more gain.  Eventually I gained the girdle loop trail and I turned right to head clockwise on the newest section of trail that hadn't been completed when we moved in December. It was a long, fun run to the very northern slopes of the mesa.  

Somewhere along the way I decided I was stupid enough to attempt the fabled Mordwand climb. I was curious how it compares to the recently slain Hart's Orchard.  Ironically, after comparing the Strava segments for both its clear they are well matched.  They're both about 0.8 miles and around 450' of gain. The main difference is that the crux and bulk of the gain on the north fire road of NTM comes in the first half and the crux and bulk of Hart's is spread out over the first 2/3.  Hart's has a longer consistent climb while the Murder Face attacks you severely but early and gives you plenty of recovery before the finish.

Then I was on top.  I felt pretty good.  I felt better and stronger than I did after riding the Orchard last week.  And this was at 6,000+ feet!

Up on top of North Table I found my zen.  For some reason it then occurred to me why I do so love being up on top of the mesas, particularly NTM.  The trails up there were the friends I made in Colorado; lonely as they are they spoke to me.  The summit plateau is a bit of the Eastern Colorado prairie, the suburbs encircling the massive geologic feature like the bottom of an ocean of big sky.  That landscape speaks to my soul.  Up there I'm a castaway in a dream.  

I was running short on time, but I just had to ride the Rim Rock Trail.  I don't know why, but I think I love that trail best.  It's the most remote of the mesa trails, and out near the rocky upper end it feels like you're riding across the face of Mars.  That feeling was compounded by the fact that it looked like few people had been hiking or biking it recently.  It was almost overgrown.  As I noticed on particular patch of greenery was more and more common along and across the trail I began to wonder what goathead blossoms look like. 

Baby heads.  I'd forgotten how rough the foothills trails are.  Rocks abound.  Loose, imbedded, protruding from beside the are everywhere.  They're basalt, rough and ragged, and they give the trails character and proprioceptive appeal.  They also give mountain bikers contusions and abrasions.  They make you lock in your attentiveness, never allowing your gaze to wander to the magnificent views all around you.  One decapitated baby head can be disastrous.

I descended Cottonwood Canyon back to civilization.  I hated to leave, and there were sections of trail I left unridden for the day.  But I had to get back.  Mandy had a date with one of her dear friends (autocorrect took some more artistic liberties and labelled her a "dead" friend in one of her texts), and I didn't want to make her late.

I plodded along my old morning commute from Applewood to Pleasant View and back to Lindtopia.  Mandy and Lily headed out.  I pedaled easy over to the Bonfire Burritos RV to snag breakfast for Boone and I.  I'd missed those big-as-a-ten-year-old's arm chorizo burritos.  I could have easily eaten two!

It's somewhat disappointing though.  The place used to be owned by a Hispanic family given at least the appearance of authenticity.  It now seems to have been bought by a hipster and "updated" with graphically designed signs and even an iPad with credit card scanner.  It's nice, but its more of a change than I like.  I miss the old friendly faces I knew.

The rest of the day so far has been lazy.  I got enough riding in.  Well, there are really hundreds of miles I'd love to ride while we're here, but I'm content to have ridden my favorite trails, even if I'd been somewhat bored by them when we lived here.

Heading up to Leadville in the AM...

1 comment:

  1. Love the pics. Those look like the type of trails that I would like to try.