Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lion Gulch on a dark snowy night.

We've had a lot of good Tuesday Niters this year and it's sad to see the prime riding season drawing to a close. Clinging to the thought that it's not near over yet, our crew hit South St Vrain last week. We left the shop with no precip, but by the time we were 4 miles out of town, the fog was so thick we had to use the wipers. It was snowing pretty good at SSV. We normally do it as a loop - up the road, S on Sourdough, then down SSV. Anticipating a wet slog on a dirt road and not looking forward to it, we opted to ride South St Vrain as an out and back. Despite the fresh snow and moisture it ended up being a great ride. Great enough that it would be difficult to top...

We made plans that night at Oskar's to hit Lion Gulch the following week. Lion Gulch is tough enough during the day and we had yet to hit it as a night ride. The date was set. Enter yesterday. The forecast called for big, big snow but we held firm on our plans. Estes web cams showed good skies, etc. As the 5:30 meetup time drew near, though, the rain started coming down pretty good. Not ones to back down to a challenge, we gathered the troops for a wet conditions ride.

Fortunately, we got started off on the good foot. Eric, the Lyons brewer at Oskars, dropped off a fresh uncarbed growler of double dry hopped Gordon's.

It was just the ticket.

Since it was raining in Lyons, we decided to keep driving west up 36 until the rain turned to snow. Fortunately, that was just below Lion Gulch. There were a few wet inches at the trailhead already and the wet snow was coming down hard.

It was more rideable than we presumed. At first anyway.

Some of the rocks were not covered in snow and there was good enough traction under the snowpack. The creek crossings were all rideable.

I love night riding in the snow. You don't need as much light power as the snow amplifies the brightness. After the big staircase, it took a lot of pushing to get up towards the meadows area but it was worth it. Snowy bikes are heavy and hard to push up steep fields of snow covered baby heads.

Those of you that have ridden Lion Gulch may understand our apprehension at turning around and going back down. The snow in the gulch was getting to be 6+ inches and you absolutely could not discern the rocks underneath. Turned out to be a good thing I guess. We all dropped our saddles and played pinball on the wet rocks on the way down. There were a few spills but no major carnage. Some of the big rock sections were *almost* doable. Dirtydoug makes the slickness look easy.

I think the drive back down 36 was more sketchy than the ride.

I also think we'll not be riding trails for the near foreseeable future. Hope everyone got their riding fix in!

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