Double-dipping Aspen style: spinning and skinning
I love it when it’s the time of year when you can spin the wheels of your bicycle in the desert one day and skin up the Aspen ski slopes the next. I just wish it hadn’t come so early this year.
My friend Bob and I finally got our schedules coordinated, cycling gear loaded and headed west Saturday. We decided to skip the Lunch Line trail network in Grand Junction, the North Fruita trails, the Kokopelli loops and Rabbit Valley for a greater chance of solitude in Westwater. We were certain we made a good call when we pulled up to a trail kiosk at 10:30 a.m. and saw no other adventurers or parked vehicles.
We backtracked east on the Kokopelli Trail, a jeep road at that section, and reacquainted ourselves with the saddle of a bike. It felt glorious to stomp the pedals somewhere other than an indoor spin class.
The temperature had climbed to 60 degrees by 11 a.m. A thin layer of clouds kept it pleasantly cool. We climbed on the road at a good clip for about an hour then flipped back west on a single-track trail that roughly paralleled the road while snaking around the contours of a rim. Our third hour was spent on another single-track trail that popped in and out of a dry streambed.
Dry was the key word of the day. If I had been plopped down anywhere along the route, I would have guessed I was riding in October after a dry fall. The snow was long gone, as expected, but we didn’t even encounter packed sand, let alone damp patches in the shade.
The only hint that it was spring rather than fall is that the trails hadn’t been hammered. The soils seemed slightly expansive after a short, midwinter break from wheels.
Also missing was the smell of pinon, juniper and other desert vegetation rejuvenated by winter and spring moisture. There was no aroma. It’s like the vegetation is storing up everything for the long summer ahead.
We wanted to camp that night, but my riding buddy needed to be back to work Sunday. I drug myself out of bed the next day and skinned up Tiehack before the lifts started running, then took advantage of the perfect corduroy. I sure hope we get some snow for the sake of the environment and skiing for the remainder of the season. It will be spooky this year without the moisture. The desert riding — fantastic as it is — seems likely a guilty pleasure when it comes thanks to a freakishly dry winter.
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