Arkansas Hills - goldmine of fun

One last weekend escape before the season winds down and the snow starts flying. This time, a close escape to the town of Salida and the new single track adventures in the hills. Nick had ridden some of the trails to the east of Salida on S Mountain and of course, he'd also ridden Monarch Crest a few times. He'd been wanting to stop and ride more on S Mountain since the MSC race in 2011. Add in the fact that I have never ridden out there and it sounded like the perfect opportunity. So it was time to hit some Colorado classics - Monarch Crest with friends on Saturday and Rainbow trail on Sunday. With those big plans, Friday was an easy day on S Mountain in the Arkansas Hills Trail System.
View from the trail head - looking west at the Divide

We parked at the main trail head about halfway up Spiral Drive. Single track, right away! After a short but fun descent, we headed up the road to the start of North Backbone trail. Nick wanted to ride the course plus do some exploring. But the main goal was to have fun. Which was really easy kn North Backbone. Punchy little climbs, rock slabs and rock gardens, all with great flow as we meandered along the ridge line above Salida. The trail wandered between granite outcroppings and pinon pines, tracing a ribbon of single track on the mountain side. I wasn't as smooth as I wanted - I had a bad case of the twitchies! Normally, I don't have any problems switching between bikes, but this time I was. That's what I get for not riding the little bike as much! I haven't ridden the Era much since the Breck 100. I was over steering a lot at the start of the ride, but got a little smoother by the time we exited North Backbone.

Nick riding on North Backbone Trail
Dodging rocks and trees on North Backbone
Photo - Nick Thelen
Which was a good thing, because the road climb was taking us to Unkle Nazty. And when Nick eagerly declared "every race should have some Unkle Nazty" I knew it was gonna be hard but fun. Some big rocks, some scary drops and some sections of make your own fun. Even with my Era, I still walked a few sections. Nick did have me ride one section where I chickened out over again. It wasn't as bad as it looked, but still scary and worthy of talking aloud. Another drop I walked after two tries. I just wasn't feeling that confident -no way, not riding that. But too soon, we were done, meandering back down the mountain side towards the river. Just one short climb and we were back at the camper. With a taste of S Mountain as an appetizer, I was hungry for the big ride Saturday.


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