Sunday, September 23, 2012

Waterton Canyon family ride

The girls at the Waterton Canyon trailhead.
We went out on a grand family outing today, lasting much of the day. This ride was originally slated to happen yesterday, but a few things cropped up to delay it until today. Apart from the fact that it takes roughly the same amount of preparation for a ride like this as it did for the D-Day invasion of Europe, we missed certain windows of opportunity associated with nap time.

In any case, we were all loaded for this morning, and got to the trailhead at a good time, for us that is. However, the little issue of one of my crank arms nearly falling off almost resulted in disaster. I had decided to ride my single-speed Surly Cross-Check, and in preparation the previous day I'd swapped some 130 BCD cranks with a 46 tooth ring for some 110/74 BCD cranks with a 34 tooth ring. This was something that I'd been meaning to do for some time, but the prospect of towing a trailer uphill for several miles spurred me to action. Yet, apparently I had insufficiently tightened the non-drive side crank arm bolt, and the damn thing decided to mutiny on me after a few hundred yards. After a hurried trip to a bike shop for a wrench and a crank arm bolt, while I left girls temporarily stranded on the trail to have lunch, everything was once again in order. Off we went.
The shades are for speed.

My bean green, single-speed Surly Cross-Check as the tractor towing the Burley trailer.
Note the custom cowboy shirt sun shade. 
During the heat of the day, the shade of the canyon was refreshingly cool. We took our time, which, as anyone with kids will know is the only really viable plan of action, and stopped whenever we felt it necessary. It's a slight, but consistently uphill ride all the way to Strontia Springs Dam, and I new that maintaining positive morale among the ranks was essential if we had any chance of going all the way. Luckily, spirits remained high and muscles held out. It didn't hurt that the scenery was terrific and a light, pleasant breeze was working in our favor. The miles rolled by under our tires.
Rolling past ancient rock.

The Cross-Check tugging the trailer under a full head of steam.

Waterton Canyon is idyllic this time of year.
We had a bit more extended break at the bridge, where we snacked some more (thanks for the gingerbread, Oma), threw a few rocks in the water, and took some photos. It's easy to get used to being out of town with some dirt beneath our feet.
The convoy taking a break.

A rare photo of the whole crew captured in one shot.

Me and the girls. I'm happily Semi-Rad today, and actually living up to it.
For what it's worth, I'm definitely in favor of doing over watching.

This can be taken at face value.

The girls. Yes, we're living the dream.
We made it to the top with everyone still smiling, with the exception of the baby who was happily snoozing away. It seems like she's always slept a bit better with a little bit of jostling, whether in a stroller or in the bike trailer. Big sister showed her climbing prowess by sprinting the last several hundred meters just before we stopped for a little rest at the turnaround spot near the dam. Then she got off her bike and climbed any rock she could find. This girl is a climbing fiend.
The whole crew assembled in the complimentary self-portrait mirror thoughtfully installed along the trail. 

A friendly little flying beetle of some sort. Can you I.D. it Tarik?

A couple of sisters having a good time.

Getting down the fundamentals of drinking out of a bike bottle.

Boulder, conquered.

The girls in front of the Strontia Springs Dam.
On the way back down, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labors, alternating between coasting and pedaling for miles. Initially, big sister sought out any ruts or washboards she could find, because as she noted, "I like the bumps." After a while, she concentrated on speed, finding the smoothest parts of the gravel road. She also discovered the 'aero' position by crouching behind her handlebars. I must say that she can scrunch down into a pretty small profile; not much of a target for the wind to hit.  She really cooked up some speed.

Speed demons.

Just when you're least expecting it... 

...she springs into attack mode.
The views along the canyon continued to be impressive, even more so into the late afternoon. A few clouds moved in and diffused the light in ways that neither my camera nor limited photographic talent could capture. When we were most of the way down, we encountered a small group of bighorn sheep grazing along the banks of the South Platte River. A little further down, we saw several mule deer crossing ahead of us.
It's hard to top views like this...

...or this.

This sheep was sporting a radio collar.

They seemed not to be concerned with the human users of the trail.

On the other hand, the deer remained more aloof.
By the time we got back to the trailhead, we had logged about 12 miles. This was a milestone ride for a lot of reasons. It was little sister's first trail ride and longest ride ever. It was her's longest ride while riding on her own bike. It was Julie's longest ride in probably about 10 years. In addition, she also acknowledged that it wouldn't be bad to have a bike with fatter tires for these types of rides, so I may have a to put together a mountain bike for her.

As for me, it was my first ride in which I packed up the whole family in the van to go to a trailhead, as opposed to just leaving our house on bikes. Ordinarily, I am not strongly in favor of driving somewhere to ride. However, in the end, driving was worth it. We've got great places to ride immediately adjacent to our neighborhood, but it wouldn't have been feasible to leave from our house on bikes and get to Waterton Canyon. Perhaps in a few years things will be different. In the mean time, I foresee quite a few more rides like this one, where we are able to explore more of the family friendly trails in our part of the world.

As a postscript, after we got home, we encountered another milestone. Lil' sis did a number of perfect, stiff as a board, Marine Corps pushups and seemingly tried to figure out how to coordinate her arms and legs in a locomotive motion. She is likely only a short time away from crawling. We're simultaneously excited and frantic about the prospect of a self-mobile baby in our not yet fully baby-proofed house.
This kid will be crawling in no time.


  1. I am a materials scientist, yet I play an etymologist on the internet. I will go with some variety of shield bug. I would have called it a stink bug growing up in NJ. We can dub it the Waterton Canyon multitriangle shield bug.

  2. Well, then, let's make it official. Using my very plebeian and likely incorrect Latin skills, that would make it multis triangula scutum Watertonus Canyonae.

  3. Had a great ride up there with a similar familial configuration a few years ago. Haven't made it back due to the dredging. Hope to get up there again soon and ride out that derned Colorado Trail you keep going on about ;)

    1. It's a great place to ride with a family. No cars, great views, and a great riding surface. I hadn't been there for several years, in part because of the closure for dredging and in part for my refusal to drive to a place to ride. However it was well worth it, and we'll be back.

      The Colorado Trail is extremely tempting. With around 100,000 feet of climbing over the course of 450 or so miles, it could be a good place for you to train. Good luck on your go of it.

  4. Andy, Great ride. I'm happy to see the whole family out riding, especially in such a beautiful place. As Lael and I pedaled up the canyon, I jealously waved to all the downhill riders zooming past. Stella is developing into a barnstorming cyclist.

    These stylish kid-friendly bikepacking bags come to mind, if a gift-giving occasion is soon to arrive:


    1. We had a great time on the ride, but it would have been hard not to in such an ideal place and perfect weather for family biking. It is certainly fun to zoom down the hill, and it's a great payoff for an out and back ride. Stella did plenty of whooping and hollering on the way down, much like you've described you and Lael doing when you hit downhill sections farther up the trail. Riding with Stella has been a great reminder for me in the sheer joy of being on a bike.

      Thanks for the link to the kid bikepacking bags. Jandd makes great stuff. I think that the pink bag with stars on it would be a big hit by at least one little girl around here.