The venue was Waterton Canyon, gateway to the Colorado Trail. Waterton Canyon is a popular non-motorized recreation area southwest of the city, near Chatfield Reservoir, and is at the nexus of two trails. The Highline Canal Trail begins here and meanders toward the city. The Colorado Trail also begins here, rambling off road some 500 miles, over mountains, valleys and streams before reaching Durango at the other end.
The pastoral character of the Highline Canal Trail is shared by the first six miles of the Colorado Trail (otherwise known as the CT). The CT starts as a well maintained, gently upward sloping gravel road, very lightly trafficked by a few maintenance trucks, and much more frequented by runners, walkers, fishers, photographers, and bicyclists of all types. The scenery in the canyon is rugged yet serene, and picturesque in any direction.
Within the first couple of miles, the CT enters the Pike National Forest. Earlier this summer, a number of forest fires appeared in many places in Colorado, including in the vicinity of Waterton Canyon. The acute heat and drought this year has desiccated much of this already fairly arid region. However, the day's temperatures in the low 70s F, coupled with heavy rains earlier this week, have given the canyon and surrounding hillsides a comfortably damp feel.
The terrain would seem to be a perfect place to bring a dog for a walk or a ride, but they are not allowed. The reason why is here:
Encountering wild animals larger than squirrels seems a little foreign in modern life, yet there's nothing quite like it. Perhaps excitement at being close to a large, wild animal remains hardwired into our brains after thousands of generations. Seeking out animals for food and/or muscle power was a necessary survival skill. In any case, riding past a docile bighorn sheep is memorable, though I am not dumb enough to attempt to get any closer.
Past the sheep, the trail continued to slowly climb up the canyon. I paused to take a photo of myself using a convex mirror posted at the apex of a sharp turn. I'm wearing a 15-year old Voodoo Cycles jersey and bibs that were torn on a ride in Moab 9 years ago and later repaired, because they were the first items I could find. Like I said before, I don't wear spandex bike-specific clothing all that much anymore.
In short order, the Strontia Springs Dam came into view. Just off the trail here is an area equipped with nice picnic facilities for those who mark this as their turn around point. Nearby is the tidy house and lawn of a lucky caretaker of the area. In all, it's a very pleasant spot, but my objective lies ahead.
For those of you who are still reading this and are somewhat familiar with my blog, you may have noticed that for this ride, I'm on an unfamiliar bike. You may have even been keeping track in your head. Let's see... It's got fat tubes; too fat to be steel. It has not only front, but rear suspension, and count 'em 7...8...9 gears on the cassette. Hold on, those don't look like top-mount thumbshifters in friction mode. Oh, and where's the bell? Hey, what gives?!?
Well, I have to admit to to you, diligent and sharp-eyed reader, that I have once again fallen off the wagon and secretly acquired another bike. It's a 2006 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR. I've actually had this bike for a few months now, but I couldn't quite face up to it to you, my loyal followers.
|2006 Stumpjumper FSR|
The short story is that the husband of the woman who was running the yard sale had passed away a couple of years ago, and she was finally cleaning out the garage. Much of the other items were selling briskly, but there was not much interest in the Stumpjumper, a higher dollar item than typical yard sale bike fare. Another reason for minimal interest was that the tires were low, the front wheel was installed slightly askew making the brake rotor squawk if it was moved, and there was a little play in the rear shock. I made the assessment that none of the problems were serious, and that it might be fun to have a full-suspension mountain bike again. Shortly thereafter, I was towing it home on the Big Dummy, along with a nearly new Bell helmet and Pearl Izumi riding shoes that fit me well. I also ended up with a cheap one-person tent and a bench grinder.
As you might image, I had to engage in all sorts of wrangling of logic in order to justify the arrival of two bikes into the fold within the space of a week. I soon had the mechanical issues squared away, and started to rediscover suspension-enhanced riding, albeit on urban trails.
Back to the main story. This was my first real off road ride on the Stumpjumper, and once the going got more challenging, it was easy to see the advantages inherent in its design and construction.
This version of the Stumpjumper was a fairly modest model in 2006, but it's a good quality and well designed bike, and I'll have to say that I'm very impressed with the ride. I own several mountain bikes, but most are 20 or more years old, and none of them have any suspension. Even judging by what was available in 2006, a lot had changed since my first experiences with nascent Rock Shox and Manitou forks in the early '90s, and my early generation Specialized Ground Control FSR that I bought in 1997.
This full-suspension Stumpjumper not only weighs about the same as my much vaunted and rigid 1990 Bridgestone MB-1, but it is a much more capable machine for the purpose of trail riding. Even in my short experience with the bike, I have ridden surfaces and grades that I wouldn't have been able to before. I don't yet know if this bike will be with me for the long term, but riding it is a valuable rediscovery for me that the best mountain bikes are not necessarily just those from the increasingly distant past.
|The fork lockout is the blue ring on the right stanchion.|
|The rear lockout is the blue lever on the bottom of the shock.|
|The bike has 120 mm of travel, front and rear.|
|This rough section at the corner of a switchback is steeper than it looks. I rode it a few times, primarily in the astonishment that I actually could.|
Eventually my efforts paid off, as the sun radiantly emerged from the trees at the top of the climb, at a place known as Lenny's Rest, in remembrance of a young hiker. Reading the plaque on the bench made me think about how the bike that I was riding, as well as the helmet and shoes I was wearing, were previously piloted by someone who is no longer with us. Although I knew neither Lenny, nor the original owner of the Stumpjumper, it doesn't take much to realize that life is fleeting and we should appreciate what time we get. I'm satisfied to know that it is likely my bikes may someday be ridden by someone else in much the same manner.
Gypsy Nick says are some good camping spots nearby.