The weather mavens said it was coming, but I’m never quite ready for the first snow of the season. Five inches of the white stuff graced my yard with leaves still on the trees. Yard work would have to wait. I had just finished painting the exterior of my house, so I just got under the wire in that regard. I wondered if the storm was signaling the end of our great fall weather. Last October was rainy and cold and put an end to my mountain bike season.
Fortunately, I had done a ride up the Dry Fork of Escalante Creek two days earlier with Alan Reed, Paul Wiesner and Dave Batten. It was an idyllic, Colorado fall day – sunny, calm and not too warm. The perfect scenario for mountain biking. For many of my cycling friends, fall is their favorite time of the year for mountain biking. I concur.
The Dry Fork Trail cuts through some rugged, wild country. The trail isn’t buffed. It is definitely a throwback trail to the early days of mountain biking – no cell service, no one else on the trail and dozens of miles from the nearest town. All the more reason to go prepared. Carrying first aid supplies, a spare tube, tire pump and a few bike tools could go a long way when self-rescue is the only realistic option.
Once the snow melted and the cold snap faded, my thoughts turned to hitting the trail again. Glenn Webb and I loaded up the bikes and headed for the Grand Valley. We met Rick Walker, Rick Corbin and Yuelin Willet at the Hawkeye Trailhead. Our plan was to do a loop connecting the Hawkeye, Mack Ridge and Troybuilt trails. It wasn’t my first time on those trails, but I had never tied them together.
The initial climb on Hawkeye is over 2 miles long. It weaves its way up slopes, along ridge lines and across small benches before topping out on the north side of Mack Ridge. It incorporates many of the rocky features on the landscape. The climb is relentless and keeps you focused on the tread ahead.
We then rode the Mack Ridge Trail west. The trail provides the grandest view of the Kokopelli’s Trail system. Miles and miles of Lions Loop and Steve’s Loop (aka Handcuffs) are easily noted from the ridge. A great place to check out the fall colors along the Colorado River. Eventually the trail leaves the ridge and drops down to the Lions Loop Trail. A good chunk of that section is rocky and technical, much like the Moore Fun Trail a mile away – hike-a-bike fare.
After a brief pit stop, our crew took on the Troybuilt Trail. Back in the early days the initial section of Troybuilt was steep and barely rideable. Today there’s a rocky singletrack that follows the contours of the slope before connecting with the original trail. For the next half mile or so the trail rolls along a smooth, flowing path that Rick Corbin calls his “happy place”. Too bad it had to end.
The trail then heads up Salt Creek. Below I could see the bridge that was built across Salt Creek. When Kokopelli’s Trail was built in 1989 travelers had to ford Salt Creek. Cold water up to your waist. I did it, once. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell shepherded an appropriation through Congress to fund the bridge.
A stiff climb on Troybuilt brought us to a frontage road that took us back to our vehicles. We sat around our vehicles sipping on cold beverages and snacking on trail mix. Corbin broke out a bag of dog treats for his 2 pooches, Mabel and Nellie. With a smirk on his face, he offered me one. I politely declined.
As Glenn and I drove off, Rick Walker thanked me for organizing the ride. I responded, “the pleasure was all mine.” I could think of no better way to spend a bluebird, fall day in Colorado.
If you go: Online go to Colorado Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area Travel Map. Download PDF map. Dry Fork Trail is located on the lower right side of map, labeled 056. For the Kokopelli’s Trail system map go to copmoba.org., select Grand Valley Canyons chapter, scroll down and click on Kokopelli Loops.
Bill Harris has traveled the back country of the Colorado Plateau since 1976 and is author of “Bicycling the Uncompahgre Plateau.”