In the Saddle: Timber trouble | AspenTimes.com

In the Saddle: Timber trouble

Bob Ward

One of my favorite midvalley mountain bike rides is the long Cattle Creek loop on the north side of Basalt Mountain. I wondered, as I parked my car at the trailhead above Spring Reservoir, whether the trail would be muddy or wet, given the weather conditions through June.There were a few pools and muddy spots, but the real problem was the deadfall on the trail.The way I like to pedal it, this ride begins with a long climb up the west flank of Basalt Mountain on a switchbacking Forest Service road. The ascent is unexciting, but it gets the blood going just right for the singletrack beyond the gate at road’s end.Where the singletrack starts, however, so do the potential hazards – in this case, large pools of water that tend to remain long after the snow has melted, spawning lots of mosquitoes and making bike travel problematic. There were pools this time, sprinkled here and there in the spruce-fir forest, but they were small enough to ride through or walk around, and fortunately the bug larvae hadn’t hatched yet.What stopped me more often on this ride was fallen timber. Almost every time I got into a nice groove, it seemed, I had to stop for a downed tree. Some I was able to hop without dismounting; others required more complex bike-hoisting and climbing. Whatever – it was a perfect morning, and nobody was on the trail (could they have known something I didn’t?). I was having a grand time.The Basalt Mountain Trail comes to a junction with the Red Table Mountain Trail at about 9,800 feet and from there descends seemingly forever, switching back and side-hilling through aspen forests and meadows full of wildflowers. Except for a few stream crossings, it’s usually a screaming descent all the way to Cattle Creek. But not this day – I must have run into a dozen fallen trees left and right.What windstorm hit this place? Does Basalt Mountain get more wind, or is it this way everywhere this season?Don’t get me wrong – Basalt Mountain is still a great ride. It’s just better without all the deadfall. This could make a nice trail project for the Forest Service or a group of fat-tire volunteers.

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