October 8, 2017
Holy moley did this weekend’s riding redeem itself! I was feeling kinda down about my Barbara Whipple performance, and then BAM this opportunity presented itself and victory is mine.
We’re in Nathrop, a wide spot in the road between Buena Vista and Salida. Here for the Colorado High School Cycling League races, the event is held on McMurry Ranch, a private piece of land. This being my first experience here, I couldn’t find info about McMurry on the internet. My question was: Who are our benefactors and how did we get so lucky to be able to ride here?! According to the League director, the McMurry family has hosted mountain bike races on the property going back decades. That’s pretty cool considering you don’t immediately link ranchers with being all that friendly toward cyclists. Whatever the connection, my hats off to the family with deep gratitude for the chance to to ride their land.
I rode the 6.5 race course twice. The first time was during the open pre-ride on Saturday evening. There was a lot of traffic as everyone from varsity, JV, sophomore and freshman racers, family members plus volunteers took the hall pass to get on this closed property. I had so much fun that I rolled out of my warm sleeping bag at 7am Sunday to ride it again. 35 degree temperatures bit my fingers until the first ascent when my whole body warmed. The early bird got the worm; there were only 3 others riding, and Mark and I were unencumbered by kids (Elise and Haven were still warm in sleeping bags across the highway at the Chalk Creek Campground). Our speed was up, the dirt was grippier, and the ride was so. much. fun.
This is a perfect trail for knobby tires, an intermediate loop made in heaven. Starting from prairie land, the ride points north then west on a double track that slims down into singletrack. Serpentine switchbacks gave quick elevation gain. That was:
- good for climbers (me)
- sucky for racers – there’s no ideal place to pass and an anaerobic slog to start
- great for spectating a race as we started swinging cowbells low and kept running uphill dissecting the path until we lost sight of the kids for whom we were cheering
The singletrack at the top had straightaways that allowed for leisurely view gawking followed by loose downhills where you had to pay attention. The longest, most technical downhill was tricky due to dry shapeshifter dirt. Some kids hit it like it was an enduro race, jumping like grasshoppers down the descent. Others, like my Elise, didn’t fare as well. She got nervous with pre-ride traffic and manually bailed while scrubbing speed with the palms of her un-gloved hands. Ouchy. Down at lowest elevation the trail edged along a creek and a watering ditch. Thanks to the subsequent moisture, the path base changed to packed hero dirt, tree roots and grasses. One off-camber section had a no-fall consequence…if you slipped, you fell a few feet into the river. Prairie land with a muddy bog of questionable liquid origin finished off the loop. Compared to the Barbara Whipple escapade of Saturday morning, McMurry’s terrain seemed made for me.
On top of the plateau the views are amazing. Aspens were past peak but still plenty of gold leaves were visible. Snow was on the highest peaks, including Mt. Princeton and Mt. Antero. Down near the riverbed there was a solitary, almost glowing green fern-like bush. For such a windblown area, there were tiny slices of different parts of singletrack heaven.
Views: 360 degrees toward Salida, Buena Vista and Sawatch Range
Trail: Enough variation to make it interesting: loose dirt, hardpack gravel, grippy earth, grass
Exertion: Moderate non-technical climb to fast and flowy singletrack
Finish: Chalk Creek Campground is directly across the street. Pay extra for a riverside spot, buy local beer and whiskey and imbibe around a campfire
Takeaway: If you can get on this private property, do! It’s worth volunteering for the CO high school league to make it happen.