Tuesday late afternoon, Durango. I had ridden more than 4 hours in the Horse Gulch trail system east of Durango. A looming thunderstorm had driven me to the library. Around 3:30 I made my way back to my truck, watching the sky. The T-Storm had diffused into mostly cloudy, the afternoon was cooler, and little spritzes of light rain fell once in a while. But this weather looked quite benign. No thunder, no place visible looked like it was getting truly rained upon.
I was feeling a little lethargic, but thought this weather might actually be perfect for a little tour of Durango's test track. I had picked my parking spot based on that strategy that I'd be able to ride either Horse Gulch or Test Track with little inconvenience. So I reached into the truck for my duffel, and pulled out what turned out to be my last clean jersey and my last clean pair of lycra shorts. I squirted a copious amount of Chamois Butt'r into the shorts and pulled them on while sitting in the passenger seat, parking lot superman.
I got my bike back out, threw a leg over, and grimaced as my sore butt settled onto the saddle. It had been a long 5 days of riding. Oh yeah.
I pedaled over the raging Animas River on the river trail pedestrian bridge. Then I turned left and made my way through a residential neighborhood toward where my map showed one of the many trailheads.
Passing a sign that said Durango Mountain Park, I saw a whole herd of shrimpy mountain bikers on 20" and 24" wheeled bikes being supervised by two racer type young riders. Durango is a bikey town. Those little goobers would have been on a soccer field anywhere else in the USA. I passed them and spyed a singletrack emerging from the gambel oak to the left. I turned onto it and began to climb.
It was very tight, cut through a narrow tunnel in the scrub. I was mostly climbing, and the sight lines were short. I felt a little vulnerable, since any fast-moving downhill rider would be on top of me quickly and there would be not much room to bail off the trail. But there was nobody.
Soon I came out into a little junkyard-looking lot. There was some recently bulldozed soil on a ridgetop, and I looked down on some commercial property. There was a little residential trash and some discarded household items. So this was kind of like Salida's S-Mountain, or maybe the Camel Humps. Soon I saw a fridge. Seems like every Rocky Mountain town has somewhere that the goat-ropers go to get rid of couches and the like.
My opinion soured a little. Even though the singletrack was very interesting, my impression of the area was being blown. I figured I'd spend maybe another 20 minutes then bag it and get on with my evening.
Soon I topped out in an open area that looked like it was bulldozed tailings or some such. There was the hardbody gal, one of the two riders supervising the little kids. I rode up to her and asked if most of the riders who used this park climbed up on the road as she had to descend. She pretty much told me that I should do whatever, that there were no rules or customs. She also told me I'd come up the farthest southern trail, and that I should work my way up to the north if I wanted to really see the park. So I did, descending the trail I had just climbed first, then up a rough doubletrack back to where the kids were, then I spotted a singletrack to the right and took it.
I went up, then down, then up again. The trails were more of the same, for the most part very tight and fairly steep. Almost all were climb-able though--after all this is Durango.
On one of the trails on a ridge top, I found a really killer dirt jump series.
Eventually I found myself in a wash gulch, climbing good singletrack. There were a series of solid wooden bridges. I stayed low, following the trail until it became the wash itself. It turned into kind of a Death Star type setup, wash bottom with steep vertical sides. When it turned muddy I turned around and headed back down. I had a much higher opinion of the Test Tracks than my early impression, but I was getting tired. So I figured I'd leave the rest of it to explore another day.
But then I saw a track heading up out of the gulch, and it looked really good. "OK" I said out loud, as if I was a little exasperated at myself, and I clicked down into granny to climb another trail and headed on up.
Damn it was good. If I'd been a little fresher, I would have been able to climb it without dabbing. But it was steep and the switchbacks were tight. The gambel oak leaves had just come out, and they shone bright green in the late afternoon sun. After about 15 minutes I topped out on a ridge with absolutely fabulous 360° views. OK, OK, here was another incredible community asset. A little rougher than the finished diamond that is the Horse Gulch trail system, but damned good. And variable. And quite vast for a trail system that literally comes right out of a residential neighborhood.
I got back down to the truck after another very satisfying, more than two-hour ride. I loaded up, and headed downtown to find one of the two Thai restaurants that I'd located while on the 'net in the library.
I got a curry dish, inhaled it, and got onto hwy 160 headed east. With all my important clothing dirty, it was time to head home. I figured I'd get at least past Pagosa, find someplace to crawl into the back of the truck near the bottom of Wolf Creek Pass. But when I got there I didn't feel too tired, so I just rolled. I got back to the tPOD at around 11 PM and crashed almost immediately. Back in Salida, ready to re-enter Real Life™.