For flatlanders, a trip to the high mountains is a good time, every time. Mild to severe hypoxia is expected and always a treat. The thin dry air batters our bodies and our senses, but the views and the spectacle of alpine passes and craggy peaks make it all worthwhile. We drove up Pike’s Peak to get a good start on our cerebral edema. All we could think about was how sweet it would be to get our bikes out and ride back down to Colorado Springs from the top for the ultimate shuttle DH run. Is that possible? Let us know.
We finally got to ride in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area near Pine, Colorado. We wrote a few months ago about this IMBA epic trail system and we were not disappointed. We found a familiar campsite right off of FR550 leading into the area. It was one we’d camped at a decade ago while on a kayaking trip. The huge granite boulders nestled into a pine covered hillside gave away the location. We rode the Shinglemill/Morrison creek loop on the first evening. The ride down Shinglemill was a swooping, swerving dose of near perfect singletrack. We were surprised to see the views afforded by the burned out areas. A lightning strike in 1996 caused a fire that burned 12,000 acres. The trees are mostly gone, but the striking abundance of wildflowers reminds us that mother nature is back at work.
The Green Mountain loop served up a post breakfast ride that got our second day started out just right. We ended up shuttling the Shinglemill trail down to the highway a couple of times because we had a tired little trail dog with worn out paws. The trails are built in decomposed granite, so they are solid and weather resistant, but take their toll on tires and little feet. We got info from some local dudes about the rest of the trails and promised to ride them all when we had more time. We’d also find out later that a freeride trail is in the works here, but we didn’t see any sign of it. After we rode, we drove down the road to Foxton and sat in the river on a huge granite slab, dipping our toes in the cold water and having cherries, Cheez-its, and beers. From the river, we saw the Cynical Pinnacle. I tried to climb it way back in the day, but weather drove us back. There was another striking granite feature in the same Cathedral Spires area. We ended up dubbing it the Meanest Penis due to its familiar silhouette.
Of course, we ate some nachos and had another beer at the Bucksnort saloon. We wrote our names on the back of the booth and found an aborted attempt at a personal carving from the last trip through the area. We inspected the bathroom, but alas the moldy old turd was no longer on the ceiling. In fact, it had been repainted and was devoid of anything interesting save for one sage message. Over the urinal was written the truckstop classic, ‘what are you laughing at, the joke’s in your hand.’ Before we left, we flipped a few coins and good luck wishes from the back deck of the saloon into Elk Creek and then headed down the narrow winding road back to the highway.
We drove over Guanella pass and again, thought of doing some big mountain riding. If only we had a helicopter we could go for it. In reality, what seemed like a verdant mountain carpet was probably rough as shit and we’d surely taco a wheel upon dropping from the chopper. We opted to keep moving towards Keystone to ride the bike park there. For $35 a day, we got to ride the gondola up the mountain and do as many runs as our brake fingers and forearms could stand. Although tailored more for gravity geeks, there is a series of easy green trails that will get you down the mountain. Most of the terrain is black diamond, experts only stuff. We found it to be rideable enough, though the first trip down each individual trail was necessarily slow for scouting purposes. We were surprised to see how rutted, rooty, and rocky the trails were. In fact we’d never seen braking bumps as huge as these at Keystone. Imagine stacking 20 concrete parking blocks in front of your favorite berm and slam into the whole set at 40 mph. We got over it and rode every trail on the mountain. There were doubles tucked into the trees, steep and loose rocky chutes, ladder drops, skinnies, and a giant wooden corkscrew. One of the highlights was Money, a trail with 22 tables and huge sweeping berms. It was fast, flowy and fun.
We liked Keystone, but thought it needed more skinny stuff. In our minds, it also didn’t need to have overall gradient as steep as it was. It seemed that the trail design was nowhere near sustainable. Maybe that’s ok if you have a trail crew working ’round the clock to keep things in order, but that didn’t seem to be the case. We did appreciate having a 203mm front rotor for the first time though. We chatted with a local aboard a brand new Intense 951 about Winter Park. He said that their bike park wasn’t as steep as Keystone and was jumpier and flowed better. He also said that lift tickets were less expensive. We knew it would be buffed out in preparation for Crankworx, but couldn’t find the time to get over there and ride. We’ll definitely put Winter Park on our ‘to-ride’ list.
We also saw a bunch of dudes wearing Leatt neck braces. In fact, most of the riders we saw took their personal protection very seriously, in stark contrast to our local skateboarder and BMX ‘ers who seem to think that a bandana will offer some form of head protection. After recently having a friend break a few vertebrae in his neck at a local DH event, the Leatt brace didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
An afternoon thunderstorm stopped the lifts on Sunday along with our riding, but we got to watch the last stage finish of the tour. We also saw a portion of ‘Déjà vu,’ a Denzel Washington movie. They spoke of creating disturbances in the time-space continuum. During our arduous trek back across the wastelands of Texas and Oklahoma, we were wishing for such a wormhole to speed things up. We dreamed of folding a map and clamping it back together with Little Rock butted right up to the front range. How sweet that would be…if only.