In the saddle: Conditions closer to mid-July than mid-June |

In the saddle: Conditions closer to mid-July than mid-June

BASALT – I got out on two good mountain-bike rides last weekend in different parts of the valley and was shocked at the severity of the dry conditions.

A good rule of thumb for nearly 20 years has been that the “upper loop” on Basalt Mountain is dry enough to ride right around my birthday in the third week of June. There has been many a year where I jumped the gun only to turn back when I found swampy conditions on the singletrack on the mountain-top, after leaving the old logging road.

A rock-garden traverse through the woods on the top of the mountain is legendary for the deep, muddy puddles it often harbors well into the summer, even after the rest of the trail is dry. Not this year. I rode with two friends on Saturday and discovered conditions closer to a dry July than early June. No swamps, no puddles. Two stream crossings on the downhill plunge to Cattle Creek barely got our tires wet.

The trail was actually in amazing shape. A lot of it is rocky, and it’s often in the dark timber, so it had been beaten yet to fine powder. The rocket-fast downhill to Cattle Creek had only four or so downed trees, despite the persistent winds. I can only assume the Aspen-Sopris District trail crew of the U.S. Forest Service has gotten in there already and worked its magic. Thanks, guys.

I took a trip Sunday to Snowmass Village for my first dabble in the delightful trails out there this spring. The singletrack Highline and Sky Mountain Park trails were a pleasure to ride, as always, but they’ve already been hammered. The trails are exposed to the sun, so they are dry as a bone. They are also getting ridden a lot, presumably because some of the killer trails on lower Burnt Mountain remain closed until June 21 to protect elk during calving season. The trailers were pounded into dust a few inches thick in many places.

Let’s pray for rain, even though these gorgeous, sunny days are a treat. We need relief from fire danger, low river and stream levels and hard-trodden trails.

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