Cycling through a lingering fall

Scott Condon
In the Saddle
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times
The Aspen Times

I know a lot of people are salivating to get on the slopes, but this lingering fall has got me stuck in cycling season.

Could it be that Aspen Skiing Co. has guaranteed some additional dry weather with its decision to open early? Things have a way of working out like that.

Riding conditions have remained perfect in western Colorado and eastern Utah. I took an ego ride on my mountain bike Saturday — the kind of long but technically forgiving ride you need when your skills have deteriorated a bit from lack of time in the saddle. I parked at Rabbit Valley, right off Interstate 70, and headed out on a gentle, sweeping singletrack trail that began to climb as it approached the Colorado-Utah line. The short, steep uphill spurts were rarely overpowering but challenging enough to work up a sweat in ideal temperatures in the mid-50s. The snowcapped La Sal Mountains off in the distance, as well as the salmon-colored canyons, provided a great way to keep my mind occupied.

I didn’t see another soul until I hooked into a rough section of the Kokopelli Trail and approached a sandy descent that leads to the Western Rim singletrack trail. Some Jeepers were soaking in the view under the clear blue sky. A handful of cyclists had completed the ride, and a couple of other riders were approaching.

After distancing myself from the other couple, I saw no one for nearly an hour on a singletrack trail that provides great views from a sandstone bench of the Colorado River corridor a few hundred feet below. I paused to watch a freight train chug by and gazed with envy at the ranch downstream and across the river. Somebody has the perfect secluded spread.

A branch of the trail leads cyclists back to the Kokopelli Trail and then to the original, rolling singletrack route in Rabbit Valley for a round-trip journey of about three hours.

I exchanged my mountain bike for a road bike the next day to partake in one of the sweetest road-bike rides in the state — the underappreciated Colorado National Monument. More awesome views, more pleasant temperatures, more uncrowded roads on another awesome ride. Here’s cheering to long falls.