Following the Turkeys, er Rainbow!

After the fun ride on Saturday, it was time for some fun pain on Sunday. With map in hand and a good plan of where we were heading, Nick and I left for another day of new singletrack. We had a big loop planned - ride up Bear Creek road to the Rainbow trail, take Rainbow trail all the way across to Ct rd 124, drop down to Little Rainbow and ride Little Rainbow all the way back. A nice long ride with very little black top and not that much road. At least that was the plan...

Working on my tan lines on Rainbow trail
After less then a mile on Hy 50, we turned off onto dirt. Bear Creek road climbed up thru private property to the San Isabel National forest. We knew it was going to be a long climb, but it was pretty steady. We kept crisscrossing the creek, riding along open meadows and through forests. In one of the meadows, there was a large flock of turkeys, foraging in the tall grass. Nick couldn't get them to come any closer, so we kept riding. Up and up and up... Across a cattle guard and the road went from nice and smooth to rocky fwd. We still had a few more miles left of climbing to get to the trail head too. Just after crossing the cattle guard, another flock of turkeys ran across the road. A few little ones, but mostly big birds. I wonder when turkey season is - we saw a lot of hunters this trip. No more wildlife sightings as we continued climbing, crossing a few creeks and heading deeper into the mountains.
Nick powering up one of the climbs on Rainbow Trail
Then finally, the trailhead. We stopped for a few minutes, then headed west on Rainbow trail. Very smooth, rolling and fun. Much like the section on the west side of 285, but trending up instead of down. And now that we were on single track, it was time to work hard. Nick attacked all the punchy little climbs, turning the six miles between Bear Creek Road and the Methodist mountain trail head into a mini interval session. I of course, was silly enough to try to keep up. I'd fall off the pace a little on the climbs, bring him back on the descents, then hold on until the next climb. Except for the short stop to take some pictures, we were riding hard. It was a good trail for that kind of ride - not too many rocky sections to slow down through and mostly steady but short climbs.

Getting tired - the punchy climbs were fun, but a lot of work!
At Methodist Mountain, we stopped to look at the map. We wanted to continue on Rainbow Trail for a few more miles, then take a small county road down to the start of Little Rainbow. A short road descent, then back on Rainbow. This section of trail was a lot harder. The climbs got steeper and the trail was much looser. It was pretty clear that most riders take the Methodist Mountain road down. But being out there on single track, all alone was so much fun. Chasing Nick, working hard, having a grand time. We did have to walk a few sections - it was a little rutted from the motorbikes, really loose and once you were off, it was done. Got some practice in pushing the bike, that's for sure. We passed one road that was marked for hikers and bikes only. Paused for a little, wondering if that was the road we wanted to take down to Little Rainbow. Decided it wasn't and kept riding. I was calculating how far we'd ridden on trail when Nick suddenly stopped. Maybe he did want to take that road... After I started asking him a question, I saw the flock. A huge flock of turkeys, with several chicks, were pecking around right in the middle of the trail! Once they saw us, they started running up the trail. I got my phone out to take a picture, but with Nick in front, it didn't come out at all. The camera was in Nick's backpack and by the time he pulled it out, the flock was already vanishing into the bushes and trees. Oh well.

Look closely - there's a flock of turkeys running off the trail in the middle of the picture
After another mile or so of riding, we came to a second road intersection. We decided to drop down there - based on the map and the topography, if we didn't take that road, we'd be riding until 285! So down we went, keeping our eyes peeled for a small trail heading off to the right. That would be Little Rainbow, the single track alternative to a few miles on road, according to the map. Well, about halfway down the road, there was a large cairn with a well traveled and flagged foot path. Could that be the trail? But there were no bike tracks at all - just a lot of hiking boot tracks. We rode out for a few minutes, following the pink Absolute Bikes flagging. But it just didn't seem like a trail people were riding. So we turned around and got back on the road. No long ride is worth going on without getting a little lost!

As we continued down the jeep road, we passed right through a Civilian Conservation Corps campsite with a few cars, lots of water jugs and some tents. Huh - might that be the source of the hiking boot prints on the trail? The CCC is pretty active in trail building in other areas.... But we didn't turn around. Kept going down the road until it went through a private property easement, then popped out onto the main (read maintained) road. Well, that looked like the same configuration as on the map. Heading east, we soon found the trail head for Little Rainbow. But not the one we had been looking for. Oh well. Little Rainbow was fun - really flowy and easy. Which was a good thing, I was getting tired! After riding all the way to the eastern trail head, we had about a mile left on Hy 50 to get back to the camper. A fun loop that I'd love to do again - maybe then we can find the section of Little Rainbow we'd been hunting for!

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