Finally! Three Bears to Watchmen!

Alright, I finally made it out.  As I said earlier, my goal right now is to put in some saddle time.  I’m not looking for speed or any specific training, just looking for miles.

Man it felt good to get out again.  I headed to the Military Reserve and started out by making my way to Shane’s Loop (26A) via Mountain Cove (22C) and Ridge Crest (20).  I followed Shane’s Loop up to the intersection of Three Bears (26).  At the intersection with Three Bears, I headed up and followed that back to Watchmen (3) and continued onto 5 Mile Gulch (2).  Five Mile Gulch dumped me out on Rocky Canyon Rd.  I used the connector trail (26) to get back to Three Bears and then followed that down back to Shane’s, and out on the Central Ridge Spur (22A) (sort of…more later).  The total miles for today was 16.93.

We’ve had a lot of rain recently so I was pretty worried about how muddy things might have gotten, but Holy Cow the trails were awesome!  There were several little mud puddles and a few long sections of wet, but all totaled there were only two spots were I felt compelled to walk (following Ridge to Rivers guidelines).  Here are a couple photos of the worst it got:

These pictures make it look pretty bad, but this is the worst of it.  Take a look at all the other pictures below for more stoke.

This is a loop that I’ve done many times before, but I just realized that I’ve never posted it.  So, here’s the rundown (some of this is copied from previous posts):

Starting Out: When I head to the Military Reserve, I usually drive past the dog park area and park a little further up the road.  If you follow the road straight it will curve to the right.  There will be a single speed bump just after this corner.  I usually park in the pullout right after that.  The trail thusly begins just at the North Eastern terminus of this pullout area (on the creek side).  Head in on the trail and take an immediate left.  This will put you on a trail that basically parallels the road.  Follow that straight until you reach a cement bridge that goes over the creek you’ve been riding by.  Turn right on the bridge and take an immediate right onto Ridge Crest (20–I’m pretty sure that’s the name of this trail).  Ridge Crest will meander up hill for a little ways until you come to a T intersection (There is a little intersection in the middle of Ridge Crest. If you turn left (downhill) it’ll head back to the road, so bear right (uphill)).  Turn left at the T and head to the corner of a fenced in area.  Turn left onto Shane’s Loop (26A) at the corner of this fence.

Shane’s Loop: This trail is a lot of fun.  It’s relatively flat and pretty flowy (especially coming back down).  There are some sections that are deceivingly up hill though.  You’ll be riding quickly and easily and then all of the sudden you’ll feel like someone increased the weight of gravity.  Still, this is a nice bit of trail to ride.  You will come to an intersection where there is a fence and a sign.  Turn left at the sign, and then turn immediately left after the fence.  (This is just my preference.  The fact is that you can go straight here and you’ll end up at the intersection of Shane’s and Three Bears, but I prefer this climb over the one you get going straight, and it’s a little bit shorter too.  That being said, at some point, you will definitely want to go straight to, because it is also fun.)  Shane’s loop will climb a series of hills from here.  They are not technical, but they are relatively steep.  There are a couple false summits, so if you think you’re nearing the top, don’t get your hopes too high.  As you’re climbing you’ll come to an intersection where you can go straight or turn right, stay right.  Keep climbing a little farther and you’ll end up at the intersection with Three Bears (26).

Three Bears: Three Bears is tough.  It’s a lot of climbing.  It’s actually almost 100% climbing except for a few quick downhill’s.  In fact, right off the bat you’ll be hit with the two most difficult climbs of this loop.  If you’re legs are tired after getting to this intersection, stop and take a breather, stretch, take in the view, and recoup a little, because you’ll need some endurance for what’s coming.  You’ll be able to see the first of the two hills from the intersection.  It isn’t far away and it doesn’t look too bad.  The bummer of this hill is at the [almost] top.  There is a little berm that increases the steepness of the hill dramatically and makes the last 50 feet pretty tough.  After this, you’ll get a nice level ride to the next obstacle.  This one will look a little more intimidating.  It immediately follows a downhill and is comprised of lot’s of rock.  It’s easily the most technical hill you’ll ride on this trip, and as far as I know, anywhere in the military reserve (Trail 5 may have some close seconds).  If you’re in a group, give the guy in front of you a good head start in case he falls, so there’s enough time for him to clear the trail and let you by.  Now, while the technical bit of this hill is mostly at the bottom 3/4s, the hardest part (for me anyway) will be the last 1/4, where the trail is no longer technical, but just plain steep.  I tend to use my third-from-easiest gear on the bottom 3/4s, and then switch to my easiest gear near the top 1/4.  Save some energy before you start to climb the corner, because you’ll need to keep those pedals spinning fast to get up the rest of the hill.

Once up the hill you’ll do some more ups and downs (mostly up), and you’ll eventually come to another intersection.  This is the connector trail that will take you to Rocky Canyon Rd, and the one you’ll be coming back in on.  So, stay straight and follow 26 a ways farther.  After a couple more pretty good hills, you’ll come to the intersection of Trail 5, and then just a little farther is Watchmen.  Turn right onto Watchmen.

Watchmen to 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).  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.  Watchmen will dump you out onto Rocky Canyon Rd.

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. Ride this trail up until you come to the aforementioned intersection, then reverse course.  If you’re tired when you hit Rocky Canyon Rd, this is another good spot to rest, because the beginning of the connector trail is no picnic.  After riding so much hill, the first two hills of the connector can be a challenge, so build some strength up if you think you’re at a deficit.  The thing that always happens to me, is that I’m on such an adrenaline high from the fun downhilling on Watchmen and Five Mile, that when I hit Rocky Canyon Rd I feel like I ought to just keep charging through.  So really take stock here and see how your legs are doing.  Otherwise, you might end up pushing your bike up the first hill or two of the connector.

The only change I made on the way back was, instead of turning right onto Ridge Crest, I stayed straight and hit the Central Ridge Spur that took me down to the creek and back towards my car.  Right now (4/1/11), this is not a good idea.  The second picture above is of this spur, and it’s not so much a trail, as it is a creek.  So, for the time being, just reverse course.

Trail Conditions: You’ll find most of your water on Watchmen.  There were some long sections of water on the downhill bits, but it’s over very rocky soil, so it appears most people have been riding it and doing so without producing noticeable damage.  Other than that, there are several mud puddles that you can either hop over or run through, and a couple long section where you ought to walk (as in the first picture above).

This was a great ride.  I was very happy that I was able to ride all the hills clean (without putting my foot down), which means I haven’t lost as much as I thought from last season.  The thing I really need to work on is my endurance.  I don’t think I could have gone any farther without bonking.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for another day of glorious riding!

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~ by cardwelc on April 1, 2011.

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