In the saddle: It’s a jungle out there

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The cool, wet spring, combined with the heat of June and the recent monsoon, has turned the backcountry into a thriving jungle.

I had the good fortune to ride my mountain bike both days last weekend, and even managed to dodge the worst of the storms.

Credit goes to ambitious friends for getting me out early both days. We were riding the Scout Trail network outside of Glenwood Springs by 8 a.m. Saturday. The second half of the ride is spectacular singletrack hanging far above Glenwood Canyon. The vegetation along parts of this route is typically thick and the wildflowers plentiful, but this year is nothing short of magnificent.

Riders spend a fair share of time in the thick forest canopy, where duff and limited sunlight keeps the plants at bay. But when you emerge into the open slopes, it’s like Dorothy opening the door of her wind-wrecked house and emerging into the Technicolor splendor of Oz.

There was a blur of blues, reds and yellows of thigh-high wildflowers of various shapes and sizes as we sailed along the traverse. We encountered a drizzle, not even enough to warrant putting on shells, but we got drenched anyway. The brush protruding over the trail was still soaked from the prior night’s rain, so it was like riding a gauntlet of bystanders whacking you with sponges. We were drenched from head to toe.

We didn’t care. We had been on the Scout Trail too often when the temperatures were in the 80s, the sun was beating down, and the skeeters threatened to pick you up and fly away. A cool ride on an overcast day was a welcome tonic.

A different group of friends organized an early ride Sunday up Smuggler Mountain, into Hunter Creek Valley, up Van Horn Park before winding to Four Corners. A threatening storm quickly dissipated, but not the memories of foliage on steroids. The phrase “lush, verdant hills” certainly was coined with Van Horn Park in mind. I swear that plants have added height from all the moisture this year. And in the high country, the best is yet to come. Many wildflowers from Van Horn Park on up were just getting ready to pop.