A late evening thunder storm rolled through the Yampa Valley last night, a common occurrence for this time of the year. The moisture is always a welcomed gift. It keeps our river flowing, nurtures our lush forests full of aspens and wild flowers, and allows our local farms to flourish. It is also an important component in keeping our trails in tip top condition. Precipitation calms down the dust and helps shape our trails. At times, the rain puts my normal route up Emerald Mountain on hold, and searching for a new path to ride, I am drawn to the Spring Creek trailhead. This popular local ride is located within the city limits of Steamboat Springs and takes minutes to get to from anywhere in town. Whether you need to get out for a quick trail run, a short dog walk or few hours in the saddle, this little treasure is for everyone.
The parking lot is quiet this morning and the song birds are a soundtrack to what surely will be a great ride. This out-and-back trail tends to dry out quicker than other routes and is usually rideable soon after a storm has passed.
As I make my way towards the upper pond, the sun starts to break through the clouds and the warmth feels rejuvenating. I pass my first rider of the morning and we exchange a quick hello. Continuing up the two track trail, I make a steep right at the elk sign which lands me on the classic singletrack this trail is known for. I immediately enter beautiful groves of grand aspen trees. The bright green leaves rustle in the slight morning breeze, while the sun continues to gain strength. The creek is up from last night's rain and the sound of the rushing water grows stronger as I continue to climb up the trail.
There are several creek crossings along the way and the bridges that ferry you over them give this ride its unique character. Halfway up the trail brings me to the crux of the ride, a steep fifty yard pitch full of rocks and small step-ups that challenges me every time I ride it. Feeling like I can't lose, I drop down a few gears and manage to clean this section for the first time this summer. The tacky soil allows me to maintain traction as I manage to keep both tires on the trail. This is a huge accomplishment for me. Normally I get stuck halfway and have to do a quick dismount.
After a few more steep switchbacks I approach the summit at Dry Lake Campground - the turnaround point for this ride. Here I am left with several options, I could make a right and continue to climb Forest Service Road 60 to the top of Buffalo Pass yielding a right onto the Wyoming Trail (#1101), eventually connecting with the Mountain View Trail (#1032) and leading me to the top of Mount Werner. Heading left would lead me down Buffalo Pass road and back into town. Going straight will take me to the Soda Creek Trail (#319), a quick out-and-back trip and would add a few more scenic miles onto my ride.
Taking a quick break at the summit, I power down a quick Honey Stinger Waffle and after a few sips of water, I opt to descend the route I just came up. There will be other days to explore the trails higher up, but for now, I shift into the big ring and within a moment's notice I'm hooting and hollering my way down the trail. The downhill is definitely the reward for my climb and the descent takes on a whole different dimension. The banked turns are a blast to carve and the bridges over the creek now become fun obstacles to catch air on. My goal is always to stay upright and to keep myself out of the ferns.
Arriving back at the trailhead a few drops of rain start to fall. Another beautiful ride is in the books and all before my first cup of coffee. We are definitely blessed with some amazing riding here in the Yampa Valley. You don't have to go far to enjoy our world class trails, some are even right out our backdoor.