Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Apr 27, 2015

Road Riding

Sorta, kinda, maybe road riding that is. With the cold front that blew in on the 16th, our plans for some camping and some fun in Salida were snowed out. All the trails were snowed in with heavy, dense cement spring snow. What to do, what to do.

Go for a road ride of course! Well, a road ride the Thelen way, which doesn't include skinny tires. In fact, there were nothing skinny about our tires for this adventure. After doing chores in the morning on Sunday, it was time to ride. The goal? Ride our fat bikes up Old Stage Road and then come home down Gold Camp Road. It was all roads, so it has to be a road ride, right? We didn't need to load down with our backpacks because of the frame bags on our bikes, but still made sure that we all the warm clothes we would usually carry. It was clear down in Colorado Springs, but clouds lingered on the mountains, lurking beyond the horizon. The weather could turn in a moment and we needed to be prepared.

Having never ridden up Old Stage before, we rode out at a comfortable but steady pace. The road was in good shape - all the snow plowed away and just a few mud puddles on the lower stretches. Up and up we climbed, further into the mountains and away from the city. We were getting some odd looks from the drivers plowing through the deepening mud, but kept going. Higher and higher, dodging deep, water filled potholes. The clouds descended to greet us as we ascended Hayman Hill in flurries of snow. It kept snowing as we approached the junction with Gold Camp Road. We didn't know what to expect on Gold Camp, but having come that far, there was no way we were going to just ride back down Old Stage. At the top, we both put on another layer, getting ready for what we hoped would be a fast and fun downhill on the snow-covered road.

There's a cabin down Gold Camp Road and the owners have a key to the gate. They'd driven in sometime earlier and we had packed in tracks to follow for a while. It was great riding - a few inches of fresh powder over the packed tracks and we were cruising. Things got a little harder if I got out of the track, but I didn't pay attention. And then - the tire tracks made a 25 point turn and we had a blank canvas of snow ahead of us. The road was slightly washed out and the edge was hard to see under the snow. No more packed tracks and easy cruising. All of a sudden, it was hard riding -  harder then riding up Old Stage! It hadn't gotten quite cold enough for a solid crust and we were punching through. I was able to ride a lot more then Nick, but it was tricky - having to float the front tire enough to compress the crust without cracking it. When I was off and pushing, I was post-holing up to my knees. The snow was that deep! It actually got harder as we got lower - the snow went from deep powder over a thin crust to wet snow with a thinner crust to finally just cement spring snow. It was a challenge of balance and even pedal strokes to keep the bike moving forward as we descended. But we didn't have to worry about cars!

Apr 2, 2015

Speaking Out Against Stables in Bear Creek Park...

In case anyone is still not aware, the Broadmoor has purchased a plot of land off Hercules Drive, adjacent to East Bear Creek Park. This plot of land is on the southern edge of the park, with the entrance in the middle of the large hill on Cresta. Currently, that plot of land is zoned residential as the original plan was to build several condo buildings there. However, the Broadmoor wants to run commercial horseback rides from that land, with the goal of providing the true "western experience" to their guests. As such, they want the land down-zoned to agriculture so that they can build stables for 20 or more horses.  The Broadmoor envisions twice daily rides through Bear Creek Regional Park and beyond, stating that they want to be able to take clients through the National Forest up into the Jones Park area. The El Paso County Parks has already agreed to provide the Broadmoor with a 20 year permit for the commercial enterprise.  With permit in hand, the next step is to convince the city to allow for the down-zoning. And after that? Look at the trail conditions in the Garden of the Gods where the guided horseback rides occur and imagine that throughout the entirety of Bear Creek Park, into Red Rock Canyon, the Palmer-16 Loop and trail 666. Imagine not being able to run, hike or ride in or through Bear Creek Park without encountering a string of poorly trained horses in the hands of unskilled riders on constantly degrading trail surfaces. We as park users and tax payers need to speak out and convey to the City and County that this is not an appropriate use of our regional park.

How? Be heard - email city planning, the county commissioners and the Broadmoor expressing our opinions. Here are the email addresses for the parties involved:

Mike Schultz - Colorado Springs City Planning;

Sallie Clark - El Paso County Commissioner, District 3 (where Bear Creek Park is located):

Tim Wolken - El Paso County Executive Director of Community Services (parks)

Terry McHale - Broadmoor liaison for building stables:

Tom Schmidt - Broadmoor Community liaison:

Here are some points to use and rephrase in any letter sent out. If you have any other points that would be helpful in letters, please leave them in the comments below so I can add them and others can utilize.

1) Allowing extensive commercial use of such popular and busy park is a safety risk for all users. The Bear Creek Regional Trail is a main thruway for hikers, runners, cyclists, and individual horse riders from Penrose Stables, and is heavily used through the day for both recreation and commuting. Adding unskilled riders, unfamiliar with horsemanship and poorly trained horses for commercial rides into an already populated and limited trail system will lead to increased user conflict and high potential for injury. The Broadmoor also envisions longer rides through other trail systems, including properties that have been purchased through the TOPS taxes and as such prohibit commercial uses.

 2) Allowing such extensive commercial use of our Regional Trails sends the message that the parks are for sale to the highest bidder. Bear Creek is already host to many events such as the CHSAA Cross Country State Championships, numerous other running events and cycling events . How will commercial trail rides that do not require special permitting affect other users who have paid for the appropriate permits and how will the county ensure that the Broadmoor respects those permits? A standing permit of this nature appears to violate the county's own guidelines for issuing commercial permits as stated through detracting from the enjoyment and interfering with the use of other, as well as interfering with the preservation of the park.

 3)Allowing this volume of horse traffic onto trail systems that are not designed for such use will lead to extensive and irreparable resource damage. The trails currently in use at the Garden of the Gods (which limits commercial rides to specific trails) are heavily damaged, with the natural soil degraded to deep sand which limits the ability of any other trail users to enjoy the trails safely. The amount of money that the Broadmoor will be "donating" to the county fund - $1500 per month - will not begin to pay for the repair and mitigation of damage caused by commercial horse use. There is also no guarantee that the money will be utilized for trail stewardship.
4)This  proposal will increased traffic on Cresta Drive, overburdening an already congested road that is the major entrance and exit from the Skyway area. There are three schools on Cresta between the Broadmoor and the proposed stable location. Cresta is frequently used by cyclists commuting and training as well and there are numerous blind intersections. The proposed stable location is situated on a hill, with a blind intersection just above. The number of horses proposed by the Broadmoor will lead to an increase in large truck traffic for hay deliveries, as well as trailers attempting to turn in and out of the driveway. Cresta at that location is not designed for heavy truck use, nor is there room for vehicles of that size to make turns safety without significant impact on traffic patterns.