Since we got new bikes last week, I wanted to get out and do a big training ride to work out any kinks. New bikes always have minor issues, including bolts that loosen, cables that stretch, etc. We decided to do the first segment of the Colorado Trail from Waterton Canyon up to an old rock quarry above the South Platte River. When we officially start the trail on the 5th of July, we’ll take an alternative start which is a bit higher in elevation, takes some distance off the first segment, and is more bike friendly with sweet singletrack. But I had heard that the ride up Waterton was quite pretty, and if we were lucky, we’d see bighorn sheep that call the canyon home.
Day 1 – Waterton Canyon
The initial ride from the parking lot is a gently inclining road that hugs the South Platte river for several miles. This river is a major source of water for the Denver metro area, and as you climb you pass the Marston Diversion Dam.
At six miles you pass the Strontia Springs Dam, set back from the main road and protected by gate. It’s a cool looking structure, over 240 feet high with water flying out of the base of the dam. The dam was completed in 1983 and is the exit point for the 7700 acre Strontia Springs Reservoir.
Waterton Canyon to the Colorado Trail
At this point the road thins out and starts a steeper climb. And then the road becomes a real trail.
As we got going on the trail, we were pleased with how the bikes rode, as well as our fitness level. Kyle specifically noted that “This is easier than the Kokopelli,” which was music to my ears – our increased training since March was paying off. Another improvement over the Kokopelli was finding water at several places along the trail. I read there was a fair amount of “hike-a-bike” along this section.
As we ascended, the wildflowers start to show up. The columbines in particular were plentiful. As the day warmed, the scent of pine became really intense.
And the trail is pretty well marked.
Sure enough as we got near the summit Kyle’s bike started to act funky. The bolt which binds the derailleur cable to the bike had come loose, and the cable got wound up in the derailleur. We pulled over and using our trusty built-in Stumpjumper toolset, were able to get it back in place and get 10 out of the 11 gears working. Kyle groused a bit about not having the 11th, which is admittedly the most important big ring for climbing, but dealt with it. A big part of this ride is learning how to deal with adversity.
We got on our way, and as we got to the top we were treated to great views.
South Platte River
From this point, we had a fun steep technical section of switchbacks down to the South Platte. At the river, we crossed over the river and parked on a bank.
There we refilled water, washed socks and bandannas, and just hung out for a few hours.
Finally, we fired up the stove and had our ‘slop bag’ dinner. Eat it up, yum!
The Rock Quarry
After dinner we packed up, and began climbing up to the rock quarry. At about 7pm we arrived, and were quite pleased with the spot.
We put up the Z-Packs tent with no issue. I love how easy the thing is to set up.
Finally we got out of our bike clothes and into our thermals, and by 9:30 we were out. The next morning we needed to decide whether or not we’d go onto Buffalo Creek and do the Little Scraggy loop.