Big Fat Tire: Where to ride Summit County singletrack in June
June 10, 2016
Summer has finally decided to show up here in the High Country.
When the temps in the valley bottom start consistently getting into the 70s, then is when we know the snow is going to finally start melting. The creeks and rivers are really cranking, and all that water has to be coming from somewhere. (I'm an old river rat, so it's ingrained in me to follow the river flows.)
Rapidly melting snow means more trails are melting out. It also means there is a lot of water pouring out of the hills, and a lot of that water will end up on the trails.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Here it comes — the muddy trail Nazi rant." Yup, that's exactly what's coming.
Actually, I'm not much in the ranting mood. I just finished the first ride where I felt almost recovered from being sick for two weeks. If something like that doesn't put you in a good mood, I don't know what will.
Anyway, all I'll say is be respectful of our trails. The degree of trashing will depend on a lot of things: soils, aspect, tree cover, the workings of the subsurface hydrology on the trail — all make one trail a lot different than another.
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One thing that is common to just about all trails is this: If you start encountering water running down the trail, it's time to turn around. There doesn't have to be snow on the trail for water to find its way to the tread. When the soil is saturated and water carries the dirt you churn up, ruts become entrenched.
But, whatever you do, don't ride off the trail to avoid the mud. We call it SINGLEtrack for a reason. If you're not willing to turn around, at least stay on the trail.
Pick your trails wisely
With the forecast looking warm for a while, we should have plenty of dry trails to choose from by mid-June, so there's no reason to beat on the wet ones. There are a few trails that, due to groundwater seeping in, will take a bit longer to be in riding condition. Routes like Peaks Trail, Spruce Creek, Hippo and a few others take longer. It's best to give them an extra week or two.
OK, enough about where not to ride. How about where to ride? Personally, I'm over having to drive to get good miles in — I want to ride out my door.
As of this past Monday (I'm in Indiana as I write this), here's what I know, either from trusted sources or from my own experience: In the Keystone and Dillon area, Ryan Gulch, Oro Grande and lower Frey Gulch are all dry. Granny's, Aqueduct, Soda Ridge and Hay Trail are also good to go.
Closer to Breck, Blair Witch and South Horseshoe are dry. ZL and Galena Ditch, as well as the trails around the Highlands area, are also ready for tires. The Flumes system, Slalom and the trails on the south side of French Gulch, like side door and Prospect Gulch, are good. Sally Barber has a bit of snow and water in some places, but roads are a lot more durable than singletrack. Lastly, Barney Ford is also ready.
If I haven't mentioned it …
… It's because I haven't been on it or haven't received any good beta. I'm sure there are more out there than those I listed, but you can kind of see the trend — a lot of trails below tree line are ready. Higher trails and trails in shady, perpetually damp places need a bit more time. A little patience and respect will go a long way to keeping our singletrack single and in primo condition.
The first Summit Mountain Challenge race of the season is in the books. I wasn't there, but it's my understanding that Westy and crew from Mav Sports did the usual top-notch job and everyone had a great time. I always remember the Frisco Peninsula races as being dusty and brutal — one punchy climb after another, with almost no place to really rest. From what I've heard the dust wasn't too bad, which cuts down on the dust-colored loogies at the finish.
Speaking of the Summit Mountain Challenge, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the series. I remember that Greg Guras from A Racer's Edge ski shop started the series way back when, and, even then, it was a well-attended series. A bunch of the courses are long gone for one reason or another — the Breck Nordic Center, the Spruce Creek loop, Bakers Tank, a few others — but a bunch of the courses Westy still uses have their origins in the original SMC. There is a lot of history and tradition at the SMC, which is one thing that makes it so fun.
Mineral Hill trail project
The town of Breckenridge will be hosting the International Mountain Bicycling Association trail care crew on June 18. The crew will spend half a day in the classroom talking about trail-building techniques and the other half in the field putting some of that book learnin' stuff to work on the Mineral Hill trail, a new route that will connect Lincoln Park to the Minnie Mine trail. The Mineral Hill trail will be a technical, chunky trail for more advanced riders to beat themselves up on.
Good Indiana grinds
As mentioned, I'm in Indiana this week rediscovering my Hoosier roots. One might think there's not much for mountain biking in Indiana — and it ain't Colorado, that's for sure — but they've done a great job in some places.
Brown County Park has one of the finest trail systems in the Midwest, with 20-ish miles of roller-coaster singletrack and a couple of advanced chunk trails purpose-built to keep more advanced riders entertained.
It goes to show that, in many places, there is great mountain biking where you might not expect it. When traveling, keep your eyes open — you never know what you might find.
Mike Zobbe is a member of the Summit County Fat Tire Society.
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