Short but sweet Summit summers
Big Fat Tire
One of the knocks against Summit County as a world-class cycling in general and mountain biking in particular is that the season is short. It’s pretty hard to argue against that. In the world below 8,000 feet — which is where almost everyone else on the planet lives — April, May, June, September and October are generally not months where snowstorms are routine or where snow covers the ground. Here in Summit, well … we have mid-June till late September that we can generally count on — the freak 4th of July snowstorm notwithstanding — that trails will be open. The trails in the high alpine above tree line have an even shorter season.
That, I think, is what makes those couple of months when you can ride (or push as conditions and fitness dictate) or bike in the glorious world above tree line so sweet. We have a plethora of trails and jeep roads that we can follow into the High Country; and, on bluebird days when the alpine flowers are showing their stuff, for me, there is no better place to be.
Today, I rode the Wheeler Trail from Crystal Creek over Wheeler Pass to its intersection with the Colorado Trail then up and over the “crest” and down to Peaks Trail. Since this route involves a lot of pushing, it’s not one I do every year; but Breck Epic promoter Mike Mac wants to send riders over the crest this year (Mike is a masochist), so I was getting a GPS track for the race map.
Not only does the CT over the Ten Mile have a lot of pushing going up no matter what direction you go (the Copper side has less), but it is one of — if not the most sustained — technical descents in the county. From the Peak 5 saddle to the Peaks Trail, it takes total focus; there is absolutely no place to let your guard down, no place to relax. The trail is steep, narrow, full of rocks and boulders, tight switchbacks, an occasional 2- to 3-foot drop with enough loose kitty litter gravel/baby heads to remind you your front brake is your friend — till it’s not. With a steep drop off on the downhill side, it’s not a good place to fall, which I did. Twice.
I’m not so sure, at least to me, I’d call that descent all that fun — in my view, just because something is challenging doesn’t necessarily make it fun. But, it’s a magnificent place to be on a beautiful day. The view alone is worth the price of admission, and, even if I don’t find I have as much fun on super sketchy descents like that, there is a certain satisfaction in making it down more or less (minus a little skin) intact.
There are many other wonderful trails that traverse the above splendor of Summit County. Lenawee Trail from the top of A-Basin down to Peru Creek is one of the all-time classics. It’s a grunt to get up the ski area, but the descent offers stunning views — technical, but not as sketchy as the CT off the top of the Ten Mile. French Pass, usually done as part of the classic “circumnavigation of Mt. Guyot” ride, is another above-tree-line ride that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Like almost all other rides that go up high there is a bit of pushing, but it’s a remote feeling place that has views of the “back” of Baldy that you can’t see anywhere else.
So if you’re feeling up for a challenge head higher. You’ll be glad you did.
Related, sort of: My dropper post failed a few weeks ago (OK, more than a month ago), and I’ve procrastinated sending it back to get it fixed. I’ve had a dropper for a few years, and, for most of the riding I do here in Summit, I don’t feel the need for it that much. Where I’ve used it more is places like Moab or Fruita where there is a lot of steep, ledge drop-type riding on rock. Since I put a standard post back on until I get it fixed, I haven’t really missed the dropper that much, and my legs like not having that little extra weight to drag up the hills. I must say though, that I missed it on the descent from the top of the Ten Mile to the Peaks today. Some people think because I don’t gush about dropper posts and consider them a “must have” that I’m anti-dropper, which I am not. It’s just my personal cost/benefit ratio is weighed a little differently than those who are in love with them. I will say though, that I would have loved to have had a dropper in my life for at least a little while today.
The Summit Fat Tire Society is having a movie night at the Frisco Adventure Park the afternoon/evening of Aug. 6. There will be clinics, beer, snacks, all followed up by the Movie “Builder.” It will be great fun, so be there! Go to http://www.summitfattire.org for the lowdown.
The Summit Fat Tire Society needs volunteers this Sunday, Aug. 2 to do some maintenance of the West Ridge/Horseshoe Gulch section of the Colorado Trail. Meet at the Tiger Dredge trailhead at 8:30. Once again, go to the SFTS website for more beta. There will be a big project on Tenderfoot Mountain Aug. 15 and 16. This is a partnership between the Forest Service, Summit County Off Road Riders, and Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado. The trails will be mostly for dirt bikes, but they will also be open to bicycles. If you ride the Tenderfoot area a lot, it would be a good one for you to pitch in. Check out http://www.voc.org/project/tenderfoot-mountain-trail-construction for more info.
Summer is here, and it’s fleetingly sweet! Embrace it now, or it will be gone before you know it!
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