Camel’s Back to Watchmen to Three bears and Back

Alright, long-time no report.  I apologize for not keeping up with this.

Yesterday I went out with a few guys who ride on Tuesday nights, and we had a great little ride.  Here’s the rundown:

Overview:

Starting out at Camel’s Back park, head up Red Cliffs trail (#39), take a right onto Sidewinder (#24), another right onto Fat Tire Traverse (#42), left on Curlew Connector (#6), right onto Watchmen and then Five Mile Gulch (#3 and #2), hit Rocky Canyon Road and take a right onto Three Bears (#26), left onto Shane’s Trail (#26A), and straight onto the Central Ridge Trail (#22), and out at the Military Reserve.  I continued on a short ways to the Military Res Connection (#23), and back to 8th St via the Kestral Trail (#39A).  In the end it was about a 17.25 mile ride, and it was a lot of fun.  Highly recommended.

This would be the ride you want if you’re feeling like doing a fair amount of climbing, with some really tough, short climbs thrown in, followed by a good length of fun downhill.  You’ll climb for the first half, some of which will be hard, some of which will be grueling, and then you’ll do a bit of up and down, and then you’ll go almost completely downhill for the remainder of the ride.  If you take it easy, you can do the whole ride without feeling taxed in the end.  If you take it hard, you can turn your lungs into a smoldering mess and your legs into melting Jello.

Run down:

Red Cliffs: This trail used to be a lot harder than it is when going in the uphill direction.  It used to be that you had a couple of real steep and rutted (but still climbable) hills that took a fair amount of gusto, but there is a new route that goes right around them.  Because of this, the trail is 10x easier, which is fine because there are quite a few hills on this ride.  1.2 Miles

Sidewinder: This is a fun little uphill section with a few flats and really short downhills.  It winds its way up to the junction of trail 42 and trail 4.  Trail 4 is a super fun downhill when it’s not too sandy.  I have never tried to climb it, and have only ever seen one person do it.  Having only ridden it in the downhill direction, I imagine it being about the worst thing in the world…but downhill impressions make poor uphill diagnoses, so I’ll have to give it a whirl sometime–maybe after a rain, so the dirt’s a little stiffer. Sidewinder is 1.3 miles, according to RTR.

Fat Tire Traverse: This trail I have ridden in both directions.  Starting from Sidewinder makes it mostly uphill, but it is a very easy uphill.  Coming from the other direction is fun, but not as fast as I thought it would be.  In the end, I’d probably say that I liked climbing it better than descending it, but I’ve been enjoying my uphills lately.  It’s not technical, and has a couple tight switchbacks that are no big deal.  It’s cut into the side of a pretty steep set of hills, so the view is fantastic, and it’s a lot of fun to be on.  1.26 miles

Trail 6: This trail can be intimidating.  It’s a multi-use trail that appears to see a lot of use by the ATVers, so it can get pretty loose (especially on the uphills).  It is a blast to ride down, but can be pretty dangerous for the unprepared or under skilled.  If you take this trail fast in the downhill direction and you’re not on your game, you can expect to crash, so be careful.  If you’ve ever ridden this trail downhill, and never up, then you’ll probably think that going up would be ridiculously hard.  All I can say is that you should give it a try.  It’s probably not as hard as you think, and it is a shorter way to get up to Watchmen than Three Bears (if you’re coming from the Mil Reserve).  That being said, it’s got two hills on it that are extremely difficult.  I have yet to be able to ride these without putting a foot down.  However, yesterday I did ride the whole length of the hills.  On the first one I lost my balance and ended up turned sideways with no way to go.  This happened, of course, about 10 feet from the top, so if I had maintained control for just a few more seconds, I would have ridden it clean.  The second hill is tougher because it’s a bit steeper and looser.  What I failed to notice is that there was a line of hard-pack on the very right side of the trail.  Naturally I decided to ride in the loose stuff in the middle and spun out about half way up.  For the last section, I put myself on the hard-pack and was able to ride the rest of the hill to the top.  Next time I hope to ride the whole trail clean.  The general consensus among the folks that I was riding with was that I was trying to hard.  They decided to treat the sections as a hike-a-bike and still had a great time. This section was probably just under 1.5 miles, not sure though.

Watchmen and Five Mile Gulch: This trail is a delight to ride.  It’s got a slight incline to it when you first start out, but it’s no big deal, and the views you get are just awesome.  This is another trail that’s cut into the side of the hills, so you get this real fun sense of exposure.  You can ride this trail decently fast, but you’ll have to watch out for those corners that have a high penalty for failure.  There are a couple left hand corners that if you don’t stay on trail, you’ll be on a rapid decent, rolling down the hill.  Kind of like this guy:  The trail isn’t as technical as the one in the video, but you could end up rolling like him just the same.  There are a couple little creek crossing that are really fun, and there’s a wicked fun decent after you finish your climbing on the west-facing hill (just before the trail 2 intersection).  When we rode it (8-3-10) there were some pretty tall weeds and grass along the sides, making for some blind corners.  This trail sees a fair amount of traffic from the opposite direction, so be real careful on this descent.  These two trails are probably just about 4 miles.

When you pop out on Rocky Canyon Rd, you’ll ride it downhill for a very short distance.  Look to your right and you’ll see a little gate with a trail snaking around the right side.  This is the start of Three Bears.

Three Bears: If you’ve been riding hard and your legs are getting tired, then the start of Three Bears is going to be tough.  You’ll start out climbing a decent grade that will get steep in two sections, then level back off to a simple climb.  If you’re tired, you’ll need to mentally prepare for a last little bit of hard pedaling.  But once you’re over these hills, everything else is a cake walk.  Three Bears going down is fun, and can be really fast.  Watch out for some rock sections, and keep your speed up on the short uphill bits, and you’ll have a rockin’ good time.  When you come to the intersection of Shane’s Trail, you can either continue straight for a shorter ride, or take the left for a little extra distance (not much, and not hard).

Shane’s Trail: This section of Shane’s is not tough in any way.  There was one really soft switchback that I went too fast into and ended up riding off the trail, but other than that, there were no surprises. The only place you might go wrong is at the first intersection you come to.  After starting Shane’s from Three Bears, you’ll go downhill, around a couple switchbacks, and then the trail will look like it continues straight, but there will be a hard right option, and this is what you want to take.  Straight will take you back out to Rocky Canyon Rd.  Shane’s will then meet back up with Three Bears.  It’s at this point that I usually take Bucktail Trail (20A) because it’s got some fun windy downhill, but we staid straight and connected with the Central Ridge Trail.

Central Ridge Trail: I’m going to be of little help to you on this one because it seems to me that there are lot’s of options for the CRT.  Basically, I think we just staid mostly straight, took the sharp right switchback at a wooden fence, and then turned left to stay on the southside of the creek, and then popped out at the parking area.  What I can tell you, is that this little section of wide downhill was a freaking treat!  There are tons of little water bars that you coming screaming down.  If you want to turn them into a series of small jumps (highly recommended) you can, if you want to keep your wheels on the ground, you can, but either way, it’s a nice little ending to the ride.  Head towards the road (which you’ll be able to see) and you won’t get lost.

Military Res Connection and Kestrel Trail: If you parked over at Camel’s Back, like I did, and don’t want to ride the road to get back, take a right turn on the military reserve road (heading NW) and follow it to just before the farmhouse where you’ll see a dirt drive way and a sign for trail #23.  This is a relatively short, uphill trail that’s got a couple steepish sections on it.  My maximum speed on the more flat uphill bits was about 10mph and my minimum speed was around 5.5, if that means anything.  You’ll climb to the top of this fun little hill (watch out for people flying down–it’s hard to see traffic on some corners), take a right on the dirt sidewalk, and then take a left onto the equally sidewalk-ish Kestrel Trail, to get you out.  Total miles will be about 1.5 for this section.

We rode this trail starting at about 6:40 and got back before sunset.  If you were going to ride this in the evening, I don’t think you could do much better for timing.  Riding back in the sunset was awesome, and the temperature was perfect.  If you plan on riding hard, wait a little longer.  We did not ride hard or fast except on the downhills, and we stopped a few times to let everyone re-group so we stuck together.

Overall, highly recommended!

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~ by cardwelc on August 4, 2010.

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