Friday, May 25, 2012

Lost in the woods

047  I hope that some of you have been reading my Mountain Biking page to hear about how my year of biking is going if not please click on the link or the one above this post.  I have a great tale to share with you about my last trip.  I had been looking forward to this trip for a couple of days.  My wife and kids were heading out of town so that meant I would have the whole day to myself.  I thought what better than a long ride and then home alone.  If no one knew this before I am a solitary person to a point.  I like to be alone for a time but then get lonely pretty quick.  I don’t often go on long rides when my wife has to stay home alone with the all the kids.  I don’t really think that’s entirely far.  That’s her day job and she shouldn’t have to have to put up with them all weekend as well.  That meaning getting the chance to get out for a day without worrying about her is great.  I had planned on going to Centennial Cone for my ride.  I had planned it out because at this time Highway 6 up the parking lot is closed during the week and on the weekends mountain biking is only allowed on even dates. 

I was ready to go but for one little problem.  I checked the county open space website one more time before leaving.  I had missed an important notice.  The Elk Range Trail would be closed until mid-June.  That meant half of the loop would not be accessible.  I didn’t really want to do half the trail the turn around and come back.  So I needed to pick another trail.  I have had it my mind to try out a new area to me called Indian Creek Campground.  The trail I wanted to ride was called Indian Creek trail #800.  I had read various descriptions of the trail.  Some said it was moderate to advance and some sites called it easy to moderate.  I had hiked the trail last year with my family.  I didn’t think based on that experience it wouldn’t be to hard a trail.  I packed my pack with water, food, go goo's, and some survival and first aid supplies.  I am not one to be under prepared but I did forget one important detail.  I didn’t have a good map of the area that will come up later.

050  I got to the trail head about 11:30.  I unloaded and meet a fellow biker who was getting ready for a “thirty mile” day.  He and I talked about 29er bikes and the best route.  He recommended going up the trail to a fire road then riding it till it ended turning into a single track back to the trail head.  I thought this sounded like a good ride for me.  He left before me and was gone even before I could clip into my pedals.  The start of the trail was fine.  I had to go down to the granny gear but I have learned not to sweat it since I am not Lance Armstrong.  I am all about getting up the trail in my own time not someone else’s.  I would describe this part of the trail as moderate.  I would huff and puff up a rise this coast down to another rise.  I rode about half an hour before stopping for a lunch break.  There is nothing like peanut butter and honey on the trail side. 

I rode about another half hour until I reached the fire road I had been told about.  I meet a nice couple on the road who had hiked in from Roxborough State Park.  We talked about bikes and animals.  They told me they had seen a bear closer to the state park.  I thanked them for that info.  I then headed down the fire road.  It was a nice ride.  I was on the fire road for about an hour when I got the feeling I was not going in the right direction.  I was going north when I knew I needed to go south to get back to the trailhead.  I finally decided to turn around.  I stopped and pulled out my iPhone.  I used one of my apps to get a fix on my position.  Now remember I had no map.  I looked at the app map and thought I saw a way back the trail head behind me on the fire road.  I put away the phone and headed back.  I reached the junction with a trail whose name I forgot.  I thought it was Saw Gulch or Sawmill Gulch.  The direction of the trail was going right way or so I thought.  I headed down the trail and was immediately stopped by a tree down in the trail.  This seemed odd to me as I had seen several downed trees on the Indian Creek trail #800 but they had all been cut up to clear the trail.  I thought maybe this tree was a recent fall.  It’s too bad I didn’t pack my hatchet or saw I could have clear a least the trail.  Instead I carried my bike over it and continued. 

As the trail continued down into a valley I began to notice troubling signs.  I had observed on the main trail many fresh tire marks from the last day or two.  I also observed footprints and hoof prints from horses.  On this new trail I didn’t see any fresh tire marks and no foot prints.  I saw an occasional hoof print and horse dun.  But they appeared old maybe a month or more.  I also noticed the trail seemed over grown the further down I traveled.  This worried me the most.  I have been hiking and camping since I was little.  I know what a trail that is well traveled looks like.  I even know what game trails look like when they are well traveled.  A well traveled trail means it goes somewhere.  People and animals use the trail regularly.  When a trail gets over grown that’s a sure sign not many have traveled this way recently.  That means it probably is not going to take you where you want to go.  I thought it would take be back south but the valley seemed to curve northwest instead of south.
I soon hit another fallen tree then another.  I think there was more than four fallen trees on the trail.  I should have turned around.  I should have known that more than one downed tree was a bad sign.  But I thought the trail would eventually meet up with trailhead so I continued on.  I tried to get my position with my IPhone again but in the valley I had no signal not even basic cell service.  I rode on.  Farther down the trail the creek that the trail was following became part of the trail.  I was riding and sometimes walking my bike through thick mud.  I continued on.  I eventually met up with some hikers who told me that I needed to take my next left to get back to the trailhead.  I found to junctions but they seemed to go the wrong direction so I continued down the valley.  I was turned around at this point and didn’t know it.  what I thought was west was really north.  I had a compass but didn’t pull it out.  I should have.  I eventually realized my mistake and turned around.  I got back to the junction I should have taken.  I had no energy at this point.  I walked then hiked then walked my bike up the slope.  I had to stop several times to rest. 

I hiked out of the valley slowly.  I was more than an hour late at this point.  I didn’t know if I was going the right way as the trail kept winding this way and that.  Again, I didn’t have a map of the area and I didn’t look at my compass.  Stupid moves on my part but I was sure the trailhead was just over the next rise.  I eventually meet more bikers which was encouraging.  They told me which way to get to the Colorado trail or back to Roxborough State Park.  Not places I wanted to go but I was reasonable sure I could find my way if I got to one of those places.  I had to stop more than twice with painful muscle cramps in my thighs.  Riding was out of the question at this time.  I wasn’t even able to hike my bike I was just pushing it up the hill with me.  I finally made it back to the trail and walked the last mile to the trailhead.  I was two and half hours late but I was alive and still had my bike.  I learned  a lot about the little voice inside me that knew I was getting myself lost.  I also learned that I am not as prepared as I thought in this area.  Still it was fun to be out in nature even if I was lost.

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