Monday, May 18, 2015

Hall Ranch | Bitterbrush, Antelope trails

The Sister City relationship between the citizens of Boulder and Dushanbe was born during the Cold War and has survived the break-up of the Soviet Union, civil war and the painful birth of a new nation.  With goals of international friendship, peace and understanding, the people of Dushanbe gave Boulder a magnificent Tajik Teahouse.  The Teahouse is now a Boulder institution and is visited by more than 100,000 people annually. (

So what's Dushanbe Tajikistan have to do with Hall Ranch you ask?  Well, nothing except that the average temperature this time of year in Dushanbe is just over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and lately here in Boulder County its felt more  like Mawsynram, India - the wettest place on earth.

The horizon looked great this weekend so I headed up to Heil Ranch only to find it was closed due to the recent rainfall - shocker - so rather than turning around I decided to head to Hall Ranch - I guess I don't have enough body parts aching!  This was my second trip up here this year and locals know Bitterbrush is not your everyday ride but I wanted to map the Antelope trail so as Cosmo Kramer would say "From pain comes pleasure!"

All the stories about Hall Ranch are true so before you tackle this relentless trail take a peek at the map and expect a good helping of boulder hopping and no one would blame you for padding up - rocks hurt and yes they don't move!  The brutality begins around 1 mile into your ride and for the next mile you will be tortured by boulders and roots and beware on wet tires, roots and wet rubber is not a friendly combination.

If not for all the rocks and roots, the climb isn't bad.  This ride peaks in elevation at about 2 miles.  Descend down to the Antelope Trail on well-groomed and exhilarating single-track to the Antelope trail split.  Head right and enjoy the ride down to the Antelope Trail trailhead.  There are some great switchbacks and tight turns that are sure to give any mountain biker a thrill. Antelope is also accessible off Apple Valley Road but get there early because there is very limited parking.  Click here for the route and map.  Upper Bitterbrush will require exceptional skill and you must pass this section to reach the Nelson Loop.  You could walk your bike up the service road if you wish to bypass this section or you can come up Antelope Trail just remember that parking is very limited and your best bet is to park down in Lyons and ride up to the trailhead.

The rain continues but don't let that stop you, thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hall Ranch | Bitterbrush

Hall Ranch boulder garden; there's a trail there somewhere!
I remember huddling up in gym class on rainy days with my buddies, the occasional glance from inside the scrum deciding who was going to receive the massive dodge ball assault that was only moments away.  At the sound of the whistle we unleashed a surge on our unsuspecting target that even General Petraeus would be proud of.  This past weekend I was the target and Hall Ranch held the Lawgiver!

I just can't seem to make it out of that boulder garden without a scratch but this time it wasn't the garden but the training wheels section that saw my endo; half a mile from the trailhead and my front wheel came to rest perfectly against a rock the size of a watermelon.  Another slow motion maneuver, clipped in I tried to adjust but no use I was over the bars head first into an Orangutan somersault and another fine example of why we wear helmets.

Antelope and Nelson Loop were closed so all I could map was Bitterbrush.  By the way, Bitterbrush just before the 2 mile mark is now winding singletrack and a blast at speed; kudos to the track builders.  Click here for the trail profile and check out the player for the play-by-play.  Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lost Lake: Indian Peaks Wilderness

There's nothing like a long hike up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness to clear you mind.  This past weekend I just needed to get away and for two and a half hours I was treated to one heck of a winter wonderland.

Just outside old town Eldora you'll find the Hessie trail head and this time of year the trail is covered in 4 to 5 feet of snow, prime for snowshoeing but this day I gave it a go with just my Keen snow boots.  The trail was nicely packed and snowshoes seemed to keep the other trail users pace down.

Travel along past the Hessie townsite through the narrow trails among the towering pines, dusting you from time to time with that champagne powder Colorado is so famous for.  At 2.19 miles you come to the Devils Thumb/Bypass trail marker.  Low on fuel I decided on the short hike up to Lost Lake.  At 2.63 miles the trail splits again with Lost Lake to the left.  The hike from here was a bit steeper through dense forest, it was amazing.  You'll finally reach Lost Lake after 2.89 miles.

The hike to Lost Lake is a mild climb but it does begin over 8500 feet and peaks at just over 9700 feet in elevation so be prepared.  It was an amazing day and I hope to make use of those campsites this winter.

Click here for the trail profile and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Monday, February 16, 2015

Specialized Fat Boy: Dirt Life Quick Take

I rented another Specialized Fat Boy from University Bicycles in Boulder this past weekend but this time it would be rolling on dry Dirt and rock out at Heil Ranch in north Boulder.

My last time out on a Fat Boy, my friend and I took them out during a winter snow storm and what an experience and since then I’ve seriously been considering replacing my trusty 26er with The Jeep of all mountain bikes.

The Specialized Fat Boy I rented was fully rigid with no suspension in front or back.  While this made climbing a breeze (I don’t know if it was the offseason workouts or the fat tires but I never had an easier time flattening out the climbs) the rocky tread out at Heil Ranch was punishing on the wrists, even on the portly rubber.  The weight was never a problem although you quickly realize that these Fat Bikes are not built for speed.

On the descents the bike tends to bounce and at times rather uncontrollably.  My biggest mistake was leaving the toe-clips at home.  With such a big contact patch the bike felt like 8 seconds on Bodacious and left this Cowboy with 2 perfectly spaced bruises on my shin.

I liked the grip shifters in the snow but on dry Dirt I think I would prefer thumb shifters.  The Tektro hydraulic brakes left much to be desired.  With the extra weight you do need sturdy brakes but both times these brakes hummed annoyingly almost from the point I had to start applying them to the end of the ride.

The great news is that everything wrong with this bike is easily corrected except for the suspension.  Rear is not so important unless you’re bombing downhill on rocky terrain but a front suspension I think would make this ride perfect.

If you’ve been thinking about giving a Fat Bike a try, don’t put it off any longer.  You will be amazed how friendly they are on any trail.  You can rent one at University Bicycles and be out on the trail in 15 minutes.  You can find the ride profile on my Garmin page.

Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you out on the trail - Dirt Life

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tool Box Essentials

Great article from Bike Radar's Home Wrench column for those looking to fill a tool box; my favorite and still missing in my own tool box is the torque wrench.

Click here for the full article and I hope to see you on the trails.

Dirt Life