Thursday, September 5

Motherlode

It's just another hill climb on my bike.  One third of a mile...150-ish feet of gain...gravel.  It was just a squeeze-in obstacle, ridden for its own sake, not along a line from point A to point B, but simply a point itself.

I've had a big paradigm shift over the past eight or nine months.  I've famously (okay, not really) stated that all points are connected by roads, with "roads" having a broad definition that includes everything from mega-eight lane highways down to goat paths.

When I ride the bike as a vehicle I demonstrate this truth by connecting two points, but when I subject my bike to the indignity of being hauled on a car and the ride becomes the destination cycling is reduced to a sport.  If I at least transport my bike to the place I want to ride on its own two wheels I've connected a utilitarian trip with a recreational one.  Where thetrip line ends and "Point B" begins is uncertain.

On Labor Day I drove to the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP) to ride the Flat Holler Trail.  To make the car trip worthwhile I wanted to get as much riding in as possible.  I also rode the Sore Heel connector trail out and back.  I did two laps on Flat Holler.  At that point I was way ahead of schedule and I needed to tackle one last thing: the Motherlode hill. 

The Motherlode is a world renowned sport climbing area.  The road that accesses it is Bald Rock Fork Road.  There is a short gnarly descent from the ridge top to the valley floor.  The bottom of the hill is the location of the Motherlode parking area.  At times in the past this road has been too rough for two wheeled drive passenger cars.  Currently it's in fine shape, and I drove in on it to get to Flat Holler.  So before I lashed The One back onto Gump to drive home I headed up the road to knock it out.

Motherlode hill is problematic for only a very short distance.  It's very problematic though.  To the tune of like a gazillion percent grade (Strava literally showed a 98% grade, and we know Strava never lies).  But only for a few yards 2/3 of the way up.  Then there's a reprieve.  Then it's steep again.  Sick steep (see parenthetical statement above).  Then it's over.

After ticking off one not insignificantbut not terribly terribleclimb I was finished with my point visiting.  I used the car then to connect Point B with Point A.

I’d gone to the PMRP to check out Flat Holler again. Jeff and I had ridden that short trail a few months ago.  I’d kept meaning to go back with a rake…it needed a little love.  At the recent RRGCC Johnny and Alex Trail Day (JATD) it got some love.  I would have been there, but the trail day occurred on August 10.  I was indisposed on dirt roads west of Leadville, Colorado that day.

There have been some improvements to the trail, and the good folks at the RRGCC have started an extension to the existing trail.  The Sore Heel connector is actually a really good easy mountain bike trail.  It’s just short at only 0.3 miles.  If you continue on out the trail to the Shire area you can easily get in another 0.4 miles.  Out and back that gives you over a mile of riding which you can combine with the Flat Holler loop for 2+ miles of singletrack and dozens of miles of oil access roads.  There’s scads of potential...
 

Sore Heel Connector at Bald Rock Fork Road

Flat Holler Trail
 
Since I was ahead of schedule and behind on miles as I made my way home I did the short detour out to the end of Tunnel Ridge Road where I picked up the old road/trail along the crest of Star Gap ridge.  That trail has some wicked potential.  I rode out the ridge about a mile and only had to carry the bike over a few big logs down across the trail.  There’s amazing views.  There’s bare rock.  There’s exquisitely technical terrain.  Oh, and at the first bare rock descent if you fall…fall left.

It had been years since I’d tried to ride out there.  I’d hiked the full two miles out as far as was feasible many times.  The ridge crest is private land with very little practical access from the valley below.  There are lots of exposed overlooks and high cliffs.  The ridge where the trail passes is narrow in places and undulates with few hard climbs.  While you access from the National Forest the ridge is privately owned.  In fact, there used to be a private campground out there before the Forest Service closed Tunnel Ridge Road past the Auxier Trailhead.

With the longer foot/bike approach it seems as if there has been less traffic in the area.  That’s good as it did seem to get quite a bit of use in years past.  All that ultimately means is that the usage has shifted somewhere else in the area.  It also means that this ridge might be just the perfect place for an autumn bikepacking jaunt.  There, I said it.
 

 

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