Monday, April 23, 2012

Doing it the Hard Way™

Late this past week I was thinking about a scouting problem that I had uncovered when looking at my topo maps with the two SBFL routes drawn on them.

From a place shown on the topo maps as Black Dumps, an intersection of dirt roads overlooking Bassam Park, my route lines went down off the ridge following a line that was not on any route showing on the map. That doesn't mean there isn't a route there, only that it needs to be confirmed that there is one.

The route line came from the original Harvest Moon Ride. Back in 2005 we went that way. But from last week's scouting trip, I could not remember 5 ways out of Black Dumps. I could remember 4. I felt the need to put my eyeballs and tires onto the segment of the route that I had included in both Standard and Long Loop courses.

Panorama of Bassam Park

So I needed to get up there one more time.

I had a little extra time this week since I had worked some overages. And I made my first bike commute on Tuesday, so I felt like I could do that again but then take the afternoon off and go home the long way.

I also wanted a nice clean GPX of the route from the end of the Midland Trail, up Shields Gulch and the Lenhardy Cut-off to McGee Gulch and back to Highway 24/285.

So I rode my Hunter Cycles dirt tourer to work with everything I'd need for a big backcountry ride. It started out as a normal road ride to BV, but then I hit an evil head wind about half way and had to grind my way the last hour into that mofo just to get to work. Ouch.

I worked through the morning then left BV at 1 PM and headed up the Midland. By about 2:45 I was across 24/285 and heading east toward Bassam Park. In my scramble to leave the house I had neglected to load a GPX of the short route that I could follow. I needed to get to Black Dumps, and I wound up going from memory. But memory can be fallible.

I encountered a left turn off the main road into Bassam Park at about 3:30. It was marked Castle Rock Gulch 2 miles, Dry Lakes Gulch 4 miles. I remembered Dry Lakes Gulch, I had come up that way the week before during my long route scouting trip. And I thought I already was on the Castle Rock Gulch Road (turns out I was, Castle Rock Gulch is pretty long. Odd that they were saying it was 2 miles because I had been riding in it already for at least 2 according the the topo.)

Well, that road was wrong, and it's not practical to make it part of either of the loops, but it was beautiful. The whole time I was on it I was worried that it was going to take me out into the middle of nowhere (which that whole area would be considered by some standards). So I was kind of nervous and hurrying, and therefore took no pictures. Too bad, it was nice. I will go back sometime though.

Elk in Ark Hills

Eventually I did find myself back on the road that is part of the long loop. Shortly after I saw that I was in good shape route-wise, 4 or five elk ran across the road in front of me. This one needed to check me out for a while. He (or she, too early for antlers) stood and let me take pictures for almost a minute.

Ouray as Seen from Bassam Chaffee County Landmark, Ouray Peak doing a peek-a-boo between hills along the west side of Bassam Park

Well, when I got to Black Dumps I found that it was a good thing I was doing this. There was no road going in the direction that the track from the original Harvest Moon Ride took back in '05. After looking hard for some way off that ridge directly down to the road to Aspen Ridge I saw a bootleg ATV trail that the forest service had closed. Ah, we must have followed that ATV trail back when it was still there.

No way am I going to route the SBFL down a closed trail. The routes are both going to need to be altered. Good to know now!

Sawatch from Aspen Ridge

So my route confirmation task was complete. Now about riding the rest of the way home... Time to climb up and over 10,300 foot Aspen Ridge.

I was Pretty. Darned. Tired.

With the 25 miles I had ridden, much of it into a gnarly headwind and the 30+ miles I had already ridden from BV, I was well into a riding day that would turn out to be as big as any ride I have done probably since July of last year when I developed a knee problem that kept me from riding pain-free for more than 3 hours.

I actually had not ridden over Aspen Ridge from the west side for a couple years. Funny  how your memories wind up being a little different from the reality. I think that what happens is part of a self-defense mechanism: when you're put through a harrowing ordeal like a car accident or The Cascade Cream Puff, you don't store very complete memories. Your brain helps you cope by forgetting the details of the painful situation.

I made it home about 6:30 PM after a hard core descent off Aspen Ridge. Bikes without suspension make you pay big time for hurrying off that divide. Ouch.

The GPS told me that the part of my trip that involved getting home from BV was just shy of 50 miles. A little over 5,000 feet of climbing. Add to that the 25 miles spent getting to BV on the road, which has a little over 1,000 feet of climbing (and featured a painful headwind in this case) and you have a pretty hard day. I'd call it about 60% of a Leadville 100, but without any aid stations or cheering crowds.

For early season, this was a hard ride. But it feels good that I could do it--nice to have that knee issue behind me. And I did get some good scouting done.

As a postscript, on Saturday while hiking with Kathy and her mom I ran into my friend Taf, who's a former Ft Lewis College mountain bike team racer, Arkansas Valley ranch girl (I think she's a 4th generation Chaffee County resident) and who is signed up for the SBFL. She and her friend Mark had just ridden across Bassam Park and down through Futurity. They told me that there is a way to pass through Futurity without hike-a-bike. Then Mark sent me a GPX.

So I have some choices to make in terms of finalizing courses. As of now, the long course goes through Futurity using what had been an option with hike-a-bike, and the short course now doesn't even have the option of going through Futurity. I could allow the short course to go through Futurity, with or without the hike-a-bike. And I could allow the long course to take the non-hike-a-bike route that Taf promises me is there (and I have a GPX that shows it thanks to Mark.)

But I'm more inclined to make the long course riders see Futurity the Hard Way™.

When I've had a chance to rest a little more I'll make the final, final course GPXs. There are two new ones out on the SBFL site now, and they may wind up being final. I promise to have the finals posted by April 30.

1 comment:

Ed said...

You picked a bautiful weekend!