A Little Exploring

My original plan for the day was to just stay home and give these tired old legs some rest… Lol, in my case, the flesh is willing but the spirit isn’t, I’m  just not good at resting it would seem! So once again I decided to load up my backpack, get on my bike and see where the day would lead me. First off I noticed that I could still get down to Bronco Billy’s in time for the cheap breakfast, so down the hill I coasted for some French Toast while I pondered my next move.

I thought about seeing if I could ride clear to Victor but the sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor train whistle reminded me that I had yet to explore the abandoned mines on the mountainside visible from my bedroom window. There aren’t any obvious roads going up there and I have been wondering for almost a year now if I could get up there for some images. Well… today was the day as I began my journey by pedaling east through town towards the dirt road that leads up to the narrow gauge train tracks. I always figured that it was private property beyond the train tracks because there is a sign posted beyond there along the dirt trail. However as it turns out the sign is just a notice of the Cripple Creek mine reclamation project boundary, so the area is fair game.

Cripple Creek Train

The first hill was wicked and I was not able to pedal up it, but I didn’t mind pushing the old 21 speed for a few feet to the top. As I neared the top of the first ridge I could hear the train whistle getting louder and also saw the most beautiful view of the tracks that I have ever seen. The train tracks can be seen winding out of the forest against a backdrop of a magnificent valley with the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background. Only today you have to look very close to see the mountains, unfortunately it appears the Arkansas River Valley is filling with smoke from the distant fires in the southwest corner of the state. Took a few shots of the train and some abandoned buildings located in the vicinity before looking around to see if the trail would continue.

Abandoned Gold Mine

There did appear to be some sort of access road leading along the ridge toward the big mine so I thought I might give that a try on the bike. It was nice road for mountain biking, but it only went about a half a mile back into the woods before coming to an end at another mine reclamation sign. At that point I got off the bike to look around for a possible composition or maybe a foot trail, neither of which seemed to be available. There was a steep berm created for the reclamation project leading up to the top of the next ridge, not something that looked like it was wanting to be climbed but I was curious what kind of view might be possible from the summit. So I found a climbing stick for myself and headed up the steep hillside. Unfortunately the top was a false summit and proved to only be the bottom of another even worse climb that I was not in the mood to tackle. However there did appear to be a trail leading around to the south that looked well worth checking out but only ended up at the base of the big mine in view of the massive trucks hauling ore.

On the way back down the hillside I hoped I would spot a two pound gold nugget just laying out in the open… No such luck but I did find a giant rusty iron spike weighing about five pounds. Although I would have liked to add it to my collection of useless junk it was far to heavy for me to want to carry on my bike all the way back to town! It appears that gold and riches will have to wait for another day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangre_de_Cristo_Range

The ride back down was much easier than the ride up, although there was once place where the downhill on rocky gravel was so steep that I thought better of it and got off and walked. I have never forgotten the harsh lesson of an endo that I experienced on the White Ranch Trail system over 20 years ago! Riding a bike is something you never forget, so they say… but flying off a bike upside down onto a rocky mountain trail is something you never forget too!

So… calling the day a success, I got a little exercise that I really didn’t need or want and a few nice images of the failed mining endeavors attempted by my Cripple Creek predecessors for my website if you would like to take a look 🙂 Wall art on metal and acrylic is available as is more traditional framed and matted prints. Cool household and gift items are also available, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, yoga mats, blankets, beach towels and more! Just above the images on the site there is a button for galleries, which are how I divide my work up into categories if you would like to explore my site a little more thoroughly 😉

 

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Facing Fear

I have been wanting to ride my bike to the overlook near Victor along highway 67 for some time now… I started up the road a couple of weeks ago, but I have to admit… I chickened out. Not a big fan of cliffs and dropoffs and even less a fan of miners in their pickup trucks angry that they are on their way to work 😦

Victor Mining DistrictRode my bike down to breakfast this morning with the intention of contemplating the ride again, but still not too sure about it. After a nice egg sandwich and hash browns I buzzed over to the bank only to discover that it was not going to be open for another hour. From the bank I could see my nemesis, the highway winding around the mountain towards Victor. With an hour to kill I didn’t have much choice so I turned my headset towards Victor and started to pedal. Then I thought better of it and turned around, before getting mad at myself and turning around again, LOL. Well, I finally just headed down the highway, what could it hurt to try it out?

It has been a long time since I was riding regularly in Woodland, but after a half a mile or so it was old hat again, “Just like riding a bike” I guess 🙂 The hill really wasn’t that steep, small sprocket in the front and somewhere around the middle sprocket on the back had me gliding up the hill at about 10mph with no trouble. A few trucks roared past, but it was no trouble to just get on the shoulder for a minute well out of range of the disgruntled blue collar mayhem. It was probably only about a 20 minute ride, far quicker and easier than I had conjured it up to be in my mind 🙂

Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see from there on this day. Clouds and fog almost completely obscured the view of the Sangre de Cristos, and there was no wildlife in sight. No need at all to open my backpack and get out my big #Canon. But I did take a shot with my phone camera, if only to prove that I was there today 🙂 This picture is the beauty that can be seen from this overlook on the right day!

The ride back down to Cripple Creek was nothing like the terrorizing downhill plunge that I had envisaged, and was in fact kind of fun 🙂 So I guess FDR was right, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 🙂 Now I’m looking forward to riding all the way into Victor and up into the mining district where I can do a photo study of the historic abandoned structures with the greatest view of the Sangres of all in the background. Stay tuned!

Hard Ride

Well, that didn’t go as planned… in my mind was an enjoyable ride, maybe out to the overlook on 67 near Victor, some awesome pictures and a joyous ride back down the hill to town. The reality turned out otherwise 😦 Two years ago I was in great riding shape, but haven’t had a lot of time for myself or for exercise since then. I knew the hills in Cripple Creek are formidable, but in trying to ride them on my mountain bike, they went from formidable to simply wicked!

Fox and KitsThe morning started out fine… a nice ride down the hill to Bronco Billy’s for a cheese omelette. Breakfast was awesome :) Then I began the ride to Victor which lasted about three minutes before thinking better of that idea. It wasn’t so much the hill up there at that point as it was the gloom of the day. The main reason for riding to the overlook was to get pics of the Sangre, but it is just so dusty and gloomy that successful photography was just not going to happen.

So instead I decided on the dirt roads south of my house. Thought that might be a place to test out the old legs and see what is left after two years of much less beneficial physical struggle. The ride up the hill from Bronco Billy’s pretty much answered that question. I made it about halfway before I had to resort to standing on he pedals for more leverage… That is when I found that the old legs were already too tired to stand, nothing left to do but get off and walk.

But I was not about to give up until I at least did some riding on the dirt! I was encouraged by the first hill, steadily climbing the mountainside to another vista point I enjoy. Once there though, the hills once again became too steep for me to negotiate on wheels so I just turned around and headed for home. Very discouraging ride, but I think I’ll try to stick with it and see if the aging legs will bounce back and make it possible to do some pedaling around this area.

Didn’t get picture one today, but I did get one processed last night from the little fox family that I found a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t know, maybe I’ll head down the trail with Big Dog this evening and see if there might be a nice sunset to photograph. Other than that, it looks like the end of the road for picture exploring for a while 😦

Summer Solstice

Summer is rolling along and the longest day of the year is already behind us. I don’t know why, but both the summer and winter solstice dates have a profound effect on me. Just knowing that the days are getting shorter, however imperceptible, adds a bit of melancholy to my spirit.

But there is still plenty of summer ahead to celebrate. Here in the Pikes Peak region we have plenty of outdoor activities to look forward to, including the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb car race usually run on the Fourth of July. Woodland Park has the summer vintage car show and the Farmers Markets ahead and a special treat coming this August.  The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is returning to the town this year for the start of Stage 5 of the tour.

The Stage 5 article is the next in my series of articles on the Examiner reporting on the summer’s schedule of activities, including bike races, trail runs, marathons and ultra marathons.

Now I hope to turn my attention to photographing and reporting on the events I have highlighted. I have been mountain biking up and down the pass in hopes of maintaining enough leg strength to get up the trails, highways and byways to get the best shots. Time will tell if I am successful.