The National Weather Service was predicting a very gloomy weekend, and I was bumming because I wanted to finish up my scouting. Much of my free time last week, mostly in the mornings before work, had been spent messing around with my GPS trying to get it to work the way I need to have it work to be a route-finding tool. Finally advice from the GPS route-finding expert, Scott Morris got me to a solution. I loaded my hand drawn route from Trout Creek to the ghost town of Futurity, connecting to the SBFL course. And I started looking for my window of opportunity.
Saturday morning dawned mostly clear. Get while the gettin's good I say. I loaded up my bike and gear, drove to 9,500 ft Trout Creek Pass with warm clothes and food. And off I went.
I love a morning in a remote place in Colorado. Even when it's 30° F. This was a really good one, because it had the thrill of exploration and discovery all loaded up and ready to travel.
Waugh Mountain, a landmark I track during many of my Arkansas Hills/South Park type adventures
This part of the SBFL is going to feature lots of views of wide open South Park country.
This guy circled around me for 10 minutes or so while I peeled off clothes and ate a little food. He was more curious than cautious, but finally headed for the horizon when I re-mounted my bike and started moving.
Beautiful morning. Breezy, chilly, and the threat of weather. But as of 8:30 AM it was really pretty nice out.
As I followed the line on my GPS, a couple different times the route took turns that I wouldn't have picked without some clues that I'd gathered studying a map on a computer while drinking coffee. The third one passed through an opening in a fence with a sign that said No Outlet. It was a 90° right turn onto a much more faint doubletrack than what I was on. I stopped for a minute. What if it took me on a multi-mile wild goose chase that ended at a campsite up in the trees or a locked gate that has a Private Property, No Trespassing sign?
Well, it was still early. I was following something that looked right on the map, and I figured I might as well do what I'd come to do: Scout that route.
The double track went from faint to almost completely gone. At one point it looked like it might be heading right for a house, maybe a ranch house. But then it climbed up further on the slope and it became clear that the house was just a regular house in the Ranch of the Rockies subdivision. It went along next to fences a couple times, then popped out onto a graded gravel subdivision road that was so rarely used that it had grass growing on it. My little line followed those subdivision roads for less than a mile, then across a cattleguard and back onto a regular BLM double track. Woo Hoo! The route is solid, and it's relatively primitive! And the views are stunning. Win!
Just as the little line predicted, it turned west and headed back up into the Arkansas Hills, following a numbered Forest Service Road to where it would meet with the old Harvest Moon Ride route. Once I was there, at a place labeled on the maps as Black Dumps, I was golden. I had my SBFL Long Route.
Only one bit of route that I had not seen before remained, the bit from Black Dumps through the ghost town of Futurity into Bassam Park. But that was just a bonus. If it was good, good. If not I could still use what I'd just ridden to build the SBFL Long Loop.
I passed through the Black Dumps, a 5-way intersection of Forest Service Roads and followed my little line to the south. It did some climbing, a fair amount actually, then topped out at a little divide and started back down. I was watching my little line and the road ahead because I appeared to be approaching one of those infamous 90° right turns.
I passed a very much closed trail that the Forest Service had clearly put some effort into obliterating. There was a steel Closed To Motor Vehicles sign, a bulldozed hole at the start, and many many down dead aspen. Couldn't be it, so I kept rolling. But the GPS told me, nope, turn around. That's it.
Just like earlier, I had a decision to make. But now it wasn't earlier. I'd been out there for nearly 3 hours, I was many miles from the car, and random snowflakes were swirling around.
I was about to head back to Black Dumps, then said to myself, "I don't have a motor vehicle." The topo on the GPS showed a fairly short climb to a saddle maybe 250 of elevation higher than where I stood. I could kind of see it through the tangle of leafless aspen. "Might as well see what's up there." Off I went, pushing the bike over deadfall.
You guessed it. About 15 minutes later I crested the summit. The sky was looking a little gnarly, but I could see most of the mountains across the valley. Couldn't be that bad yet if I could mostly see the tops of 14ers. Let's see how tangled the descent would be.
I rode down off the saddle, and almost immediately onto... singletrack! How long might it have been since mountain bike tires rolled on this bit of trail? Had they ever? Deer tracks, elk and deer poop, almost no barriers to rolling along at a nice clip.
In less than five minutes I was in Futurity. Success! Success #2!
I rolled down a good road out of Futurity onto the main Forest Service road through Bassam Park. Took the right turn and started making my way back to Trout Creek Pass to the car. Came up on this little flock of Bighorn Sheep in Castle Rock Gulch. Then crossed 24/285 into Chubb Park and climbed up and around to finish a 38-mile 5 hour voyage of discovery.
SBFL is going to be killer. I've got the plan. There will be a standard 90 mile route, a long 102 mile route using the stuff I found today, but just getting onto the normal route at Black Dumps. From Black Dumps there will be the option to do the extra climbing and hike-a-bike needed to roll through Futurity. I'm going to plant some small rocks there with paint markings that will be picked up by riders as proof that they did that option. Fun!