A black Lamborghini Countach racing down a California highway at break neck speeds; what impressionable young man can ever forget that opening scene? So I’m standing at the trailhead just off the Brainard Rec Area parking lot contemplating the Waldrop or N. Sourdough trail. According to most trail guides I’m in for a black diamond run whichever route I choose and at first I feel like Burt Reynolds but soon I’ll feel like Dom DeLuise.
Right out of the gate and past the 814/835 split the tread is absolutely amazing – a superb mix of moist Dirt, pine needles and fine Rocky Mountain gravel. Waldrop (trail 814) slopes gradually on tight single-track before the cannonballs make their first appearance. The insanity continues as the descent progresses, sometimes steeply, over boulders that would give any would-be Cannonballer pause.
A rider with supreme rock hopping abilities cold probably make it down on two wheels but for an intermediate rider like myself, with a mortgage, I thought it wise to avoid Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing and dismounted where appropriate. Your sense of smell will be overcome with the aromas of pine forest, rain and moist Dirt kept ripe by the abundant shade; will surely take your mind off the treacherous terrain.
At 1.68 miles you reach a trail junction with the Brainard Snowshoe trail. Clouds were building and I didn’t have much time for exploring more unfamiliar terrain so I stuck to the main trail to the right. Here it got a little wet but the black clay mud stuck to the ground which made for nice traction, for mud anyway. You’ll roll along a couple of raised platforms to keep you above the really soggy stuff – they’re about 6 to 8 inches wide and will test your balance – before reaching a sweet bridge over the South Saint Vrain creek at 1.84 miles. The rushing water was quite a sight and flows west in case you lose your bearings – also a nice boardwalk at 2 miles.
From here it is a short climb to another trail split at 2.17 miles with South Saint Vrain trail No. 909; I chose to stay right toward Sourdough Trail 835. The trail in this direction starts flowing nicely but the rocks reappear with a familiar vengeance. You reach another split at 4.05 miles and here’s where I made my first mistake. Having caught up with some other riders I decided to head in their same direction or left on Sourdough 835; that worked out about as well as a couple of priests in a red Ferrari trying to win a date. In hindsight I probably should have gone right toward the Red Rock trailhead but I was riding solo and if I had any trouble out here in the wilderness I thought it would be safer to be near other trail users.
This section of Sourdough was gnarly (see opening paragraph pic) I found myself dismounting often to avoid any pain and suffering. I soon lost track of my comrades and after about half a mile I finally spilled out onto an isolated forest road tucked away within a canopy of pine trees now simmering in the cool mist of cloud cover. The trail sign pointed left so naturally I went all Bradshaw/Tillis and headed right to a dead end at the private and secluded Duncan Park. After the short detour I was back on track, so I thought. Having passed a few feeder roads and missing the trail along the way I was relieved to catch up with a firewood delivery truck and followed them out to Hwy 72. From here it was one long climb back to the Brainard Rec Area parking lot.
Turning around and retracing my route would have meant more hike-a-bike and could have felt longer than sitting through Cannonball Run 2. You’ll quickly find that Black Diamond up here in the Rockies means boulders and the Waldrop/Sourdough tandem is full of ‘em. I wouldn’t recommend riding alone out here but if you do make sure you stick close to other trail users. I had the wherewithal to bring along my Garmin handheld but thankfully I didn’t need to use it.
You can find the route profile at Waldrop Sourdough North; this was one heck of a ride and one I won’t soon forget. Thanks for clicking in and hope to see you on the trail.