The crowning glory of early season riding |

The crowning glory of early season riding

Scott Condon

The Prince Creek trail network outside Carbondale has been bearing a lot of the weight of eager mountain bikers this spring.

The trails dried out early, so bikers got a jump on their conditioning and pleasure. Some folks were riding into the Crown a month or so ago. I personally know too many of the state wildlife officers and have heard their pleas to leave the lands to the wildlife on the Crown at least through April 15. I’m not judging anyone else, but I just can’t turn the crank sooner than when those folks think it’s cool.

I was overjoyed that my self-imposed exile was up last weekend. A friend from Aspen drove down to my house in the midvalley. We rode the Rio Grande Trail through the spectacular Rock Bottom Ranch to Catherine section then into Carbondale before hooking into Prince Creek Road. The chilly morning air warmed to short-sleeve temperature by the time we reached the Prince Creek singletrack trails.

There already were a baker’s dozen vehicles in the parking area and more people rolling in by the minute. It’s cool that the trail network is diverse enough to attract people of all types. You see moms and dads introducing kids to the joys of cross-country mountain biking. There are fat people chugging up the hillsides and buffed racers of both genders proving their mettle. There are enough trails of varying intensity to provide something for everyone.

Despite the crowd on the Prince Creek side, people were few and far between on the backside. The sun ducked under the clouds for our moderate climb up a basalt-littered trail that hooks into a singletrack route back to El Jebel. That’s when we faced the most delightful of all conundrums: Do you go with the flow and scream down the long straightaways and roller coaster-ish twisty sections or do you ease up and enjoy the wildflowers? Some fat yellow flowers were already prolific and vibrant red Indian paintbrush was just emerging. They will only get better with the rains on Monday and Tuesday. Speed won out for us, but the flowers still brought smiles to our faces.

The Crown has been a great early season destination. The pressure on it to please mountain bikers will ease May 15 when Sky Mountain Park opens in the upper valley.