|A winter day with highs in the 40s is a good day for a canyon climb. It's always good to get some climbing in occasionally throughout the winter, so it's not such a shock when you make that annual spring trip to Fruita. So with Saturday's great weather, it was just a question of "which canyon to climb"?|
Four Mile canyon and Sunshine canyons were the choice for today. Starting and ending in Boulder with Gold Hill as the mid-point, this is a great ride with good views, little traffic, and some reasonably steep sections. I call this ride the "super Poorman", borrowing from the colloquial phrase "super Walker" (another awesome ride) which involves riding Walker ranch starting from Boulder, climbing Flagstaff to get there. In this case, climbing Four Mile, connecting to Sunshine by way of Poorman Road, and dropping back to town is a popular loop, but Gold Hill is a much longer alternative to the same basic concept.
I tried to coerce the Punisher into this ride, but he had ski plans, the bum. Guess he buys into the whole "cross training" concept, maybe I should look into this idea...
I started just off the Boulder Creek trail at 30th and Arapahoe. Here's a gratuitous bike shot at the start:
This is my Salsa Fargo, the SUV of the mountain bike world. It's a drop bar mountain bike, great for off-road touring. Not the lightest MTB I own but it's comfortable, stable, it can carry a lot of crap when properly equipped (e.g. with the custom Epic Designs frame bag and gas tank I have on it here) and it thrives on dirt roads and moderate single track. This bike will be the basis of my bikepacking ambitions later this year.
The ride started with a gradual climb west up Boulder creek trail, dodging peds, dogs, and patches of ice. Here's the end of city maintenance, things get more fun from this point:
Finally, something more interesting than pavement and crusher fine:
Then begins the long climb up Four Mile canyon. This climb is all asphalt though the end of Salina, then it changes to dirt which is typically snow packed this time of year, and fun to ride. Here's the turn off to Poorman road, the quickest way back to town while still feeling like you accomplished something. Today though we're going higher, so onwards and upwards:
I had forgotten about the fire that happened in this area last year until I started seeing the damage. I realized I hadn't been this way since this happened. Here's just one small sample:
Just below Salina, here's where we turn off onto Gold Rim road:
Salina is a pretty place, at this point it appeared it had thankfully escaped the fire:
Except perhaps for "Cold Beer" this is the best sign you can ever see. But where's the snow pack typical for this time of year?? Guess it really has been dry here on the Front Range lately:
It was unfortunate to see some houses were affected at the upper end of Salina. In this case all that remains of this lot is a tub and some scorch marks on the trees:
A view off to the plains, where we started. More fire damage is evident on the trees here:
Approaching Gold Hill:
And we're here. Ahead is Lickskillet road, supposedly the steepest two-wheel drive road in Boulder county (in other words a hella fun climb).
At this point the more masochistic side of me is thinking it would be fun to drop down Lickskillet to Left Hand canyon, then climb to Sawmill, then descend back to Gold Hill, making a figure 8 out of my loop. I ponder a bit but another part of me comes up with the fact that I probably don't have enough water. Nice excuse, so I turn right towards Sunshine.
The climbing's not done yet, in fact the steepest part of the day is just ahead. This is why this is a great route, like any good climb the worst part is at the end, just past the point when you think it should be over:
Near the high point of the day looking backwards to a nice view of the Indian Peaks. A great view is all the sweeter when earned:
Near the top:
At the top, a good place to pee, put on a coat, balaclava, and dry gloves. Oh, and double check that my quick releases are on tight. Please pardon gratuitous shot #2 of the rider and bike. Perhaps I should pick a more level rock next time for the camera:
And so begins the downhill. I recently installed new rotors on the Fargo and jumped up in size on the front from 160 mm to 185. I had been getting some scary brake fade last year on some long descents on the Fargo. I also threw on some organic brake pads to see what they were like. This was my first real test of my new brakes. I'm alive so it appears I installed them right:
I was too busy enjoying the downhill and avoiding sand to take many more pictures, but here's one. The fire damage appears to have been the worst here at the top of Sunshine canyon. My thoughts go out to all those who lost their homes, and the heroic efforts of the fire fighters who saved so many others:
Done! Time to scare up some food:
Here's a map of the route and some ride stats:
Distance = 25.7 miles
Total ascent - 3380 ft.
Max elevation = 8492 ft.
Moving time = 2 hr. 41 min.
Total snot rockets blown = 27 (what, your GPS doesn't measure this?)