Marolt: No trail for old men
You know that feeling when you want a little snack. There’s stuff to make a salad in the fridge. The fruit bowl is freshly stocked. Leftovers are always an option. You are surrounded by healthy choices to ping the hunger pang. What do you do? You open the pantry and grab a handful of chips. Then you come back for another. And another?! It’s as unsatisfying as it tastes good.
That’s how I’ve been on my mountain bike all summer. Airline Trail is my cardiovascular Goldfish. Cozy Line is my aerobic Oreos. Skyline is like — hmmm — Twizzlers! I’m surrounded by incredibly robust riding routes, but I can’t pull myself from the Droste property’s (aka Skyline Park) slacker gravity.
I ride my bike to work whenever there is heavy traffic. That’s another way to say “every day.” That’s a bit of exaggeration, but let’s just say most mornings I burn granola and coffee like an idling Yukon burns $5 gas.
With the new trail candy I mentioned above so handy, my typical morning goes like this: “I’ll take it easy and grab the Skyline to the Airline and then cruise the bike path to town. I’ll jump on Government after work and do some real riding.”
I close up the office with the best intentions. “Today is the day I am going to gird my loins in extra-thick chamois and get my face spackled with sweat-mud on the meanest, dirtiest, nastiest trail west of Pearl Pass — Government Trail! Dunt dunt da!”
Before Droste existed, Government wasn’t that big a deal. For mountain biking, it was either that or the Owl Creek bike path for getting between Snowmass and Aspen. The Owl Creek option is great, but how much tenderization by knobbies on asphalt can a human flank take? It’s plausible twice, maybe three times a week, max; never a round trip. How many times can you pretend it’s the plains of France approaching the Pyrenees and that the tuna you had for lunch might contain some similar chemicals to anabolic steroids that you think you can maybe feel kicking in? BTW — there is never a tailwind on Owl Creek.
This all changed with the development of the Droste property. Instead of the 50,000 square feet of residential housing the former owners had planned on, the county bought it and built about 200,000 square feet of dirt trails. The wildlife appears to be indifferent to this change of plans. Be that as it may, the trails are some of the smoothest, most scenic middle-chainring riding you can find anywhere. Obviously, it’s easier than Government Trail. Ironically, I think it’s easier than the paved bike path.
The long and short of this is that I have many times this summer headed home from my office intending to ride the longer Government Trail and I end up on the shorter Droste Trails instead. Like I said, they are the junk food of my mountain-bike regimen — I can’t resist.
Last week, however, I helped myself to something more substantial. I got to the edge of town and turned the fork toward Tiehack.
Immediately I remembered how much I had forgotten about Government. There were more technical rocks to clear in the first 100 yards than there are on the entire massif of the Droste moraine. Let’s talk about roots. There are more slippery, protruding, pedal-grabbing roots on Government than there are rocks. Droste doesn’t have any roots. I don’t know what keeps the scrub oak in the ground there.
Government Trail actually made me nervous — not once but time and again. You grind the granny up Ego Hill and get past the big root on the steeps between Tiehack and Main Buttermilk, and then you have to contend with the spiderweb of slippery little ones in the thicket by Bear Trail. After that are the dreaded switchbacks before West Buttermilk before Rock Garden before the first rock bridge stream crossing before the second rock bridge stream crossing before the little dip stream crossing before the … you get the picture. It’s nonstop worrying about skin rearrangement and snapping clavicles. Mind the clearance of your top tube! There are a million ways to lose your love life.
Obviously, Government Trail doesn’t have to be this difficult. A rider could simply dismount at every scary obstacle and pulse red-lining uphill. But you show me any self-respecting mountain biker who would stoop to doing that, and I’ll show you a road biker in mountain-biker Lycra. Of course, we’d have to sit around and wait awhile. Most of them have migrated to Droste.
Roger Marolt remembers when mountain biking wasn’t about keeping a steady cadence. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.