I had gone to bed early the evening before, with no alarm set and no plans to speak of. After a restful, nearly 10-hour sleep, while laying in bed contemplating options for the day, I received a text stating “Thinking about Enduroing before the storm.”
It was all the motivation I needed to hatch and unleash a fairly ambitious yet somewhat stupid ride plan for the day: ride all the trails in Golden from my new place, just east of South Table Mountain park. This would include riding a bit of trail at Golden Bike Park, North Table Mountain, White Ranch, Chimney Gulch, Apex Park, and South Table Mountain before returning home. After a few texts we assembled a small but capable crew of myself, Bobby, and Big Leg Greg. To prepare for the day I scooped a heaping spoonful of coconut oil in my coffee and got some green chile simmering in the crock pot for our eventual return.
The pedal over to Golden Bike Park was uneventful and easy, and after a hot lap down the flow trail we headed to North Table Mountain. We climbed Lithic to Cottonwood, and descended the newly-rebuilt “Waterfall” section of the Mesa Top Trail, ending with a spin around the North Table Loop and ducking into the neighborhood to make our way to White Ranch. We stopped for a quick selfie at the top of Cottonwood (L-R Bobby, me, Greg):
Heavy clouds threatened rain all day, but never materialized. The cloud cover and cool temps made for great all-day ride riding conditions, and the dirt was super tacky from recent precipitation. We pedaled on from North Table Mountain towards White Ranch, climbing Belcher Hill Trail up to the Maverick cutoff. Me and Bobby on the climb:
The crew decided on Longhorn > Shorthorn > Longhorn for our descent, a route that is more uppy-downy than pure descending and punctuated with technical bits throughout. In and out of the clouds we rolled, onward towards Golden where we planned on getting some lunch. If you look closely you can see Bobby in the corner, somewhere on the Shorthorn trail:
After descending the trails in White Ranch, we were all in need of sustenance. There are usually food trucks parked outside many of the Golden area micro-breweries, and we decided we’d take a look at which food truck was at Cannonball Creek first. If we weren’t interested, we’d pedal on towards the Mountain Toad to check that one out.
We were in luck, tacos!
After a few delicious street tacos and a beer, we decided that we should probably just stop by the Mountain Toad anyways to make certain we had made the right food choice. Fortunately, tacos had been the winning call. After another mid-ride beer we pedaled towards Chimney Gulch around 5pm, 20 miles and 5 hours into our ride for the day.
Chimney Gulch would be the pointiest part of our ride, a singletrack climb that gains nearly 1,800′ in just under 4 miles. During the first part of the ascent, we were all suffering from being off the bike for a couple hours, eating tacos and drinking beer. I found it difficult to get in a rhythm, and small technical obstacles were daunting. We pressed on.
Towards the top, beer buzzes faded and heads cleared. I found a sort of “runner’s high” and fell in to a great rhythm on the climb. Riding was enjoyable again, and we ascended up and up into the ethereal cloud bank. Greg in the mist:
At the top we chatted with some folks who were riding Chimney to Apex as an out-and-back, which is a sizeable day on the bike as well. They assured us trail conditions in Apex were all-time, and we bid them good luck as they started their descent down Chimney to end their day. We were still around 10 miles and another climb away from home, so it was time to pedal on.
Being an even day, the Enchanted Forest trail was open to mountain bikes for descending. This was to be the highlight of the day, as tacky dirt greeted us in every corner and we giggled our way down Apex Park. By the time we reached the bottom, it was apparent that we were loosing light, fast, and that Bobby was pretty well cooked. Slowly we ventured on, making jokes and trying to keep the mood light.
After making our way through the Heritage neighborhood, we rode through the south Golden area to the final obstacle between us and a dinner of crockpot green chile and beer: South Table Mountain. Fortunately, the climb up and over South Table isn’t long or steep, and we made it a bit easier on ourselves by taking a dirt access road for the upper part of the climb. After wading through a nearly knee-deep swamp on top of the mesa, we barely managed to squeak out the final descent of the day with just enough light to see without headlamps. Ancient Palms is high-speed and rocky, but was also a bit of a muddy mess. After a couple close calls with deer running across the trail, we were safely down.
Once off South Table, we cruised easy streets to the footbridge that spans I-70 near my house, climbed up and over that, and collapsed into my dining room 8-1/2 hours after we started. Green chile was voraciously eaten, Insane Rush IPA was guzzled, social media feeds and significant others were updated.
I spend a lot of time exploring Colorado looking for big, epic rides everywhere I travel. It’s pretty rad to be reminded that sometimes you don’t need to travel far to find a great ride. At 39 miles and just over 6,200′ feet of climbing (and descending!) this one certainly qualifies.
Next time though, I’d start earlier.