In the Saddle: Hurtin’ on the hill
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
EL JEBEL ” “Wanna do the hill?”
I was having second thoughts before I’d finished blurting out the question, but a friend and I eschewed the relative ease of riding the Rio Grande Trail in the midvalley this week in favor of the climb up onto Missouri Heights from El Jebel.
Real road bikers climb this hill ” sort of the paved equivalent of Aspen’s Smuggler ride to the platform ” as a warm-up, while real mountain bikers ride up this hill and keep on going, until the road turns to gravel and climbs Basalt Mountain ” their true destination.
I’m something of a poser in bike shorts, which was readily apparent when I switched into granny gear about 30 feet into the climb.
Upper Cattle Creek Road cuts sharply up the hillside, ascending to “Misery Heights” ” an appellation I’d like to think was coined by bicyclists ” and I wasn’t even halfway up when I began wondering why I hadn’t used my lunch hour to do something more enjoyable, like eat lunch. The pavement was a blur, and it wasn’t a factor of my speed. Delirium was setting in.
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At least a half-dozen dump trucks rumbled past in the first 15 minutes of the ride, but when it appeared two of them, traveling in opposite directions, would meet right next to me, I veered onto the gravel shoulder to take a break. It gave me a chance to dry-heave over the handlebars.
I stopped again near the top of the climb, fearing I’d toss my cookies (literally ” I’d consumed two Fig Newtons before I left the house), but I managed to crest the hill with the snack intact.
I have a friend who does a lunch ride that loops across Missouri Heights between the Catherine Store turnoff from Highway 82 and El Jebel. That’s because it doesn’t take him more than half of the ride time just to get up onto the mesa.
For a shorter lunch-hour loop from El Jebel, turn left at the Aspen Mountain View sign from atop Missouri Heights, then left on Green Meadows and left again on Fender Lane. This route winds through a rolling landscape of verdant meadows, sage and houses ” all dominated by imposing Mount Sopris ” and tosses in two more short climbs before Fender connects with Upper Cattle Creek Road.
Turn right and it’s all downhill from there.
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After 14 years, a lengthy lawsuit by area residents and nearly $4 million in construction costs, a half-mile trail to two school campuses in the Castle Creek Valley was finally completed this week.