Thursday, March 26, 2015

Return to Pueblo Reservoir- Voodoo Loop and Canyon Trails

Last week I visited Pueblo Reservoir to mountain bike.  I had a great time riding the trails but only scratched the surface.  There are nearly 40 trails and more than 40 miles of riding.  I focused on more of the flowy cross country trails.  While I had fun on these trails, they are not overly technical.  There are quite a few more challenging trails that drop into the canyons in the trail system that offer more advanced riding on technical terrain.  There is also a longer cross country loop called Voodoo that I didn't get ride.  I decided to head back and ride some of the trails I missed.

The first mile of my ride retraced some trails I rode last week.  My goal was to start with a ride into the canyons.  The first trail into the canyons I hit was Freeride.  Freeride started with a steep drop from a trail called Rollercoaster.  Quickly the trail quickly narrowed into rocky terrain and then a nearly unrideable section that is spanned by wooden bridges.  There are a couple lines down the bridges to choose from but all are relatively steep with little room for error.  After clearing the bridges the trail continues a short distance over a fairly technical drop.  The excitement is short lived however as the trail quickly smooths as it leaves the technical stretch.  Freeride is only .3 miles long and quickly exits onto the lower part of Skull Canyon which is also fairly mellow by this point.

Dropping into Freeride
Bridges on a sketchy section of Freeride
A closer look at bridges, it's steeper than it looks
Freeride mellows out quickly
Then end of Skull Canyon brought me to South Shore.  I rode South Shore a short distance on a spur that followed immediately along the edge of the water.  A short stretch along the spur was actually flooded.  I took a detour on a short trail that I didn't ride before called Creekside.  At the end of Creekside I continued to Driftwood, which I rode last week.  From the end Driftwood I skipped Inner and Outer Limits and followed Pronghorn to the Voodoo Loop.

Riding a few feet from the water
Continuing along the water
Last week I attempted to ride the Voodoo Loop.  The loop is separated from the rest of the trails by an arm of the lake.  There are two trails that lead to the loop.  Early in the season both routes are accessible.  With snow melt and rising lake levels rising, the access trails to the loop are flooded.  The shorter approach is completely impassable due to water levels.  The lake is quite wide in the channel.  The other trail is less direct and ends at a narrow creek.  I turned around last time not aware exactly where the trail went.  After getting some details from other riders, I found out a short detour upstream allows you to cross the creek at a shallow spot.  I found the obvious crossing and was on my way.

A trailhead sign for Voodoo
Near the water crossing before the
start of the Voodoo Loop
The Voodoo Loop is the longest trail in the system.  According to the park map, the loop is 9 miles.  The trail winds through the prairie before reaching the shores of the lake.  The trail runs near the edge of the cliffs rising high above the lake.  At one point the trail was within 2 feet of the cliffs.  There are dips and climbs where the trail passes through washes along the way to break up the flat sections.  The trail is never too technical though.  Occasionally the trail passes through stands of juniper to break up the ride through prairie.

Riding through the prairie early on the loop
The singletrack appears to vanish into the lake
The trail is only a few feet from the cliffs at places
Heading into some Junipers
Nearing the end of the loop
Canyons across the water near the end of the loop
Voodoo had a similar feel to Inner and Outer Limits that I rode last week.  The scenery is consistent throughout with plenty of views of bluffs along the lake and mountains in the distance.  Voodoo is a worthwhile trail to ride.  The entire route is a fun ribbon of singletrack with good flow.  I was lucky enough to see some pronghorns grazing on the prairie while I was riding Voodoo.  At first I spooked a lone pronghorn.  It ran a little bit and joined a herd of about ten animals.  When they felt they were a safe distance they continued grazing before walking out of sight.

Male and female pronghorn
More pronghorn
The herd watching me from a safe distance
View riding away from Voodoo
After riding the Voodoo Loop, I was ready to explore more of the canyon trails.  The first trail I reached was Waterfall.  Waterfall dropped fairly steeply through a narrow canyon to Creekside.  Waterfall is one of the few technical trails on the west side of South Shore and the longest drop.

Looking back Waterfall at the steepest drop
Descending deeper in the canyon on the
tumbleweed lined trail
Leaving Waterfall on Creekside
After Waterfall, I was back in the main section of canyon trails.  I started with a ride up Stonehenge.  I climbed Stonehenge on a relatively easy trail.  Though somewhat technical, it didn't have any features that I couldn't clear as I climbed.  The most interesting feature on Stonehenge is the rockwork.  The trail passes a section of cairns built in interesting formations.  This rockwork is what gives Stonehenge its name.

Rocks on Stonehenge
Another formation on Stonehenge
Big area of rockwork on Stonehenge
Looking down the canyon on Stonehenge
My bike along a rock formation on Stonehenge
From the top of Stonehenge I headed to Rollercoaster and eventually descended my next canyon on Broken Hip.  Broken Hip started out steep but the crux of the trail is early.  After the crux, the trail continues downhill on fairly smooth singletrack before reaching South Shore.

View across the canyons
Another canyon view
Looking back at the steepest part of Broken Hip
I continued on South Shore toward the main trailhead.  I followed the same route as last week riding Conduit, The Duke, Rodeo, and Rodeo Ridge back to the Red Gate.  Rather than wrap up my ride however, I headed for one more canyon trail.  I descended Rock Canyon, which is one of the longest canyon trails.  Unlike the other canyon trails where the most technical section is near the beginning, Rock Canyon gets more technical as it descends.  In many places in the canyon, there are numerous lines to follow.  Compared to the other canyons that I rode, Rock Canyon seemed to have the longest stretch of technical riding.

Rock Canyon
Continuing in Rock Canyon
Rock Canyon ends at South Shore.  From South Shore I followed the windy singletrack of Cuatro Sinko back to the Red Gate.  By the time wrapped up the ride, I covered 30 miles in about 3 hours.  At least half of the riding was on trails that I didn't ride before.  Again, it was an enjoyable day mountain biking at Pueblo Reservoir.  For mountain bikers looking for off season riding while the higher elevations are still too messy to ride, Pueblo Reservoir is worth checking out.

Click on the link to see the map of trails Trail Map

To see more photos of the trails and scenery as well as descriptions of other trails you can see my previous blog post by clicking on the following link.  Mountain Biking Pueblo Reservoir

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mountain Biking at Pueblo Reservoir

After nearly 15 years, I finally put my Trek 8000 out to pasture.  Since I moved to Colorado, I am close to an abundance of great mountain biking options and I am riding more than I have in years.  My Trek was getting tired and I was finally ready to pull the trigger and get a new ride.  I found a direct order company called Airborne Bicycles that offered well equipped bikes for far less cost than a local bike shop could offer.  A sale price at the end of the year sealed the deal and by late January I bought my first new mountain bike since 2000.

Since I live over 7000 feet in elevation, a lot of the trails have been snowy or muddy.  A warm spell in February allowed me to finally do a couple rides.  These rides were mostly on dirt roads just to get a few miles in on the new bike.  I had plans of traveling to do some more serious riding but other plans got in the way.

One of the popular winter riding destinations not too far from home is Pueblo Reservoir.  There are more than 40 miles of singletrack riding close to the shores of the lake.  Much of the winter the Pueblo area stays clear of snow.  Just as I was ready to take a trip to Pueblo, the area was hit with a few storms and cold spells that made the area unrideable.  The past week the weather warmed up to the mid 80s in the Pueblo area and the trails dried.

My original plan this week was to climb a 14er, but my partner for the hike had a last minute plan change.  With the warm weather I shifted my focus from hiking to mountain biking.  The trip almost didn't happen though.  I was set for a ride Tuesday but a quick weather change brought showers and a nearly 30 degree temperature change from the previous day so I bailed on my ride.  I was supposed to work Wednesday but the job was postponed so I got another free day to get in my ride.

The reservoir has a couple of trailheads to choose from.  Since the bulk of my riding focused on loops at the west end of the system, I started at the Red Gate trailhead.  Since this was my first ride on the bike and my serious ride on a 29er, I was looking for a flowy ride that wasn't too technical to get a feel for the bike on actual trails.

My ride started on a trail called Cuatro Sinko.  This was a smooth and flowy singletrack that generally went downhill through a mostly grassy area.  After a couple of turns I found myself on Driftwood.  Like its name implies, there are piles of old wood that apparently were dumped there from the time the reservoir was created.  Driftwood was windier than Cuatro Sinko and traveled through and around the wood.  The trail brought me to the bluffs above the lake. The start of the riding was a bit chilly as the temperature was still in the 30s.
The first view of part of the lake
An early look at the bluffs along the lake
A canyon along the trail
Riding high above the lake
Looking toward some canyons
Rock formation above South Shore
From Driftwood, I followed Inner Limits and Outer Limits.  These trails are similar in nature with more windy and flowy singletrack that rides high above the lake shore.  The scenery was nice with numerous views of canyons, bluffs, and distant mountains as it weaved through the grass with sections of desert vegetation along the way.  I followed these two trails for nearly 10 miles.  At the end of Outer Limits I started to ride the Voodoo Loop.  My ride on the Voodoo Loop was cut short however as both directions of the trail appeared to dead end at a flooded arm of the lake.  Rather than waste time trying to find the trail, I headed back toward my starting point via a lazy singletrack called Route 96, that roughly parallels the actual road Route 96.  There were plenty of other trails to explore.

Buttes from Inner Limits
The buttes from another angle
The trail riding toward the lake
The trails rode on the bluffs along the lake for miles
Looking across the lake
The Wet Mtns in the distance looking over an
arm of the lake on Outer Limits
Long straight away in the prairie
along Outer Limits
Since Voodoo was a bust I decided add a loop close to my trailhead.  This loop started on a trail called South Shore.  South Shore followed an arm of the lake as it headed toward the main trailhead by the campground.  South Shore was only 2 miles long but offered some decent short but steep climbs and descents.  The scenery along South Shore was quite interesting as I rode toward some desert rock formations.

Near the beginning of South Shore
Tree cholla along South Shore
South Shore winding ahead
Rock formations
More interesting rock formations in the
distance along South Shore
Close up of the rock formation
From the campground I headed toward my trailhead via Conduit, The Duke, Rodeo, and Rodeo Ridge.  This section of the ride offered the most desert scenery with plenty of cacti including tree cholla, prickly pear, and a few other types of cacti.  Rodeo, although short had the most varied terrain in this section as the trail climbed through a small canyon with a little more technical terrain than the other trails I rode.

Tree Cholla along The Duke
I rode just over 24 miles with 100% of the riding on singletrack.  Most of the trails I rode had good flow and few technical sections with generally fast conditions, just the kind of ride I was looking for on my first real ride on the new bike.  Now that I have feel for the bike I plan on hitting some more technical rides.  I hope to visit this area again before it gets too hot and ride some of the more technical canyon trails that I passed on this time.

By the time I finished riding it had warmed to the low 60s, even though it wasn't too sunny.  Just two days prior this area saw temps in the mid 80s.  I would never consider riding here in the summer.  It is usually quite hot in Pueblo and there is no shade.

Generally I heard good reviews on the riding at Pueblo Reservoir before I rode it myself.  I enjoyed the riding.  While the area lacks big mountain terrain, it does offer a lot of trails and some variety. One thing it had plenty of was singletrack, with pretty much every trail a narrow ribbon through the prairie/desert. I wasn't expecting much in scenery but the area is interesting.  It offered a mix of high prairie/desert terrain with canyons, bluffs, and rock features.  And of course, there are plenty of views of the lake, one of Colorado's largest bodies of water.  In the distance Pikes Peak seemed fairly close.  The Wet Mountains still held some snow on the summits and to the south the Spanish Peaks towered over the low terrain to the south.

Pikes Peak
Greenhorn Mtn in the Wet Mountain Range in the
distance with a snowy cap
Close up of interesting rock formations
After finally riding a real ride on my new bike, I am impressed.  This was my first extended ride on a 29er and disc brakes.  It was also my first time riding a 2x10 drivetrain.  Everything on the bike felt so much better than my venerable Trek.  I look forward to many miles and new trails this riding season.

My new Airborne Goblin along South Shore

Click on link for a trail map of the area.  Pueblo Reservoir Map