Since I have been biking so much, I was ready to hit the trails by foot again and do some hiking. Puma was busy for several days, so I set my sights on an outing to visit some new peaks in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Range. I basically live on the downslope of the Sangres. I woke up Sunday morning ready to hike, but I was greeted with rain and the summits completely hidden in the clouds. I was ready the next two morning to hike but both days saw the Sangres shrouded in clouds early in the morning. Although the mountains were not giving me ideal conditions, the lower elevations were fair and I managed to get in a mountain bike ride just a few minutes from home.
Tuesday, I woke up early again, ready to hike. Once again, the mountains were obscured. A few hours later, the visibility improved but it was too late to hike to my original destination. I wanted to travel in some alpine terrain. With a good part of my morning lost I decided to go mountain biking again.
At the last minute, I decided to head to the North Fork of the South Arkansas River. Although I never ridden bike here before, I had cross country skied in the area. It isn't too far from home and the route ends in a beautiful alpine basin, just above treeline.
My ride started at the Angel of Shavano trailhead. at 9200'. FS Road 240 travels along the river, a small creek at this point, to its headwaters above treeline at Billings Lake. I had never been on this road when it was free of snow, so I didn't know entirely what to expect. I did know that high clearance vehicles can travel the distance however. I also knew that I could make it to Billings Lake on skis, so I knew it wasn't too steep. The jeep road travels eight miles and gradually climbs about 2800' to Billings Lake.
|A typical section of rocky road|
|Lingering color on the aspens|
|Early view of alpine terrain|
|Peaks in the distance near Billings Lake|
|Rocky terrain above the North Fork|
|Lingering snow from the previous night|
|Getting closer to treeline|
|View close to treeline|
|Approaching the Billings Lake basin with|
Pomeroy Mtn as a backdrop
|Entering the basin|
|I had good views but the skies were ominous|
|Looking across the basin toward 13,000' Sewanee Peak and neighbors|
|Close up of a nameless 13,000' peak|
|The road as it passes above Billings Lake|
|Mine entrance along road|
|Pride of the West Tunnel|
|The keystone at the tunnel entrance|
|Close up of the tunnel|
|Old shack near the mine site|
|View over the basin along the road|
|View over Billings Lake, the two pointy peaks in the|
distance I believe are 13ers Taylor and Aetna
|Another view across basin|
After taking a few minutes to soak in the scenery, I looked forward to my 8 mile descent. On the upper reaches of the descent, it is hard to pay attention to the road with the great views of the peaks around you. The downhill was a little tough on a hardtail cross country bike. 2800 feet of rocky downhill is tiring. This is one of the times I wish I had a full suspension bike. It took me well over 2 hours to finish the entire ride. Even with an 8 mile downhill, the travel was slow going.
|The view as I began descent|
|The view in front of me|
|The views continued as I got lower|
|I had to pay attention to the rocky road and not|
focus on the mountains
|More leaf color as I got closer to the trailhead|
While I'm glad that I took this ride, I wouldn't say it was my favorite. I enjoyed this route more when I traveled it on skis. The entire route is on jeep road with no singletrack riding. I have ridden plenty of long uphills, but thisone is definitely a grind. What the ride lacks in awesome terrain, it makes up for with scenery. For those traveling on a full suspension, all mountain bike, I'm sure the downhill would be worth the ride too. I probably don't see myself revisiting the area anytime too soon on bike. I'm sure I'll revisit the area in winter on skis however as the area is even more stunning covered in snow.
Clicking the link below will take you to my blog post of my winter cross country ski outing to this area and it's interesting to see the difference when the route and surrounding mountains are snow covered.
Cross Country Skiing the North Fork of the South Arkansas River
|My bike enjoying the view|