A Map!! Let's go exploring...

Whoops...
Amber and I had a plan. It was a good plan - a chance to do some easier riding, get away from the Canon for a bit and generally ride something new. We'd pathalete from ProCycling up to the AFA, then do Falcon trail, make our way to Blodgett Peak and then meander through Ute to get back to the path for the return to Pro. A solid day of pedaling, some trails that I haven't ridden in a while and some new trails in Blodgett Peak. Since a lot of the ride was on path, I decided to ride my Fate - just change things up a little. I knew we'd be able to stop and get water if we wanted since we weren't really heading off the grid, but for some reason I still decided to nearly fill the bladder in my Osprey. I also tossed the spot tracker into the pack, just because. Not sure why, but...

The first part of the plan when as anticipated. Some nice flattish pedaling up to Ice Lake, then the cut off to the Falcon Trail. We jumped on the trail at the Fire Station, meandered through the meadow, practiced the rocks a little and then reached a kiosk. With a map... Now, according to plan, we'd stay on the Falcon Trail for the Stanley Canyon Climb, make our loop and get back on the Santa Fe. But. There was a loop that looked intriguing. How much of it would be trail vs road I didn't know. How much riding vs hiking was another question. But. If all else failed, we could always turn around and come back down and finish out the Falcon loop right?
The map. You are here. And going exploring sounds like an even better plan!
So off we went into the unknown. At first, there were copious trail signs marking the 713 as we climbed higher and higher. We looped around the Tesla hydroplant, then dropped down to the creek. A fence blocked the road, with the trail peeling off to the right. Up and loose. It would be HAB for sure. Amber was game, so up we went. The trail signs diminished, but the road (ish) was pretty easy to follow. There were cairns and markers to keep us going. It was a combo of hiking and riding most of the way, with the trail fairly narrow in places.
When presented with a choice between a road and a goat trail, we followed the arrow. Goat trail!
We reached what felt like a high point and weighed the options. Keep going or turn around. The gated road was just below us, but there had been enough of a gap to squeeze through. If we wanted, we could bushwack down to the road and bail without an issue. So up we went, following the narrow trail along the end of the mountain. Eventually, the cairns pointed us down to the road, with the trail petering out along a rocky cliff. On the road, we of course decided to keep climbing. Why not? We'd gotten that far already - might as well keep forging ahead. Teammates and riding partners are always up for challenge and adventure!
There is a trail there somewhere! And a road...
We rode past the containment pond put in place after the Waldo Canyon Fire, climbing higher and higher. We saw a sign indicating trail 713 peeling off to the right - but I never saw the trail... Finally, we reached a reservoir. We checked the photo I'd taken of the map. Yup, right where we wanted to be. Time for some real gravel grinding... The road was really well maintained, so the riding was pretty easy - but steep. We were among the scrags and burnt trunks left behind by the Waldo Canyon Fire, the dead trees a contrast between the small stands of evergreens remaining and the new growth among the ashes.
Whoops! There was no signs telling us not to get on the road at the bottom!

Rampart Reservoir hidden among the scrags.  

Pikes Peak!
And then between the trees, we saw Rampart. We were that high - having climbed up to the top of the Rampart Range. Seeing Rampart Res was surprising though, having not anticipated actually getting up there. That meant the next sight would be Pikes Peak, standing tall among the angry looking clouds. It also meant that we really only had one way back to town. Finish the gravel grinding out to Rampart Range Road and then descend down to the Garden of the Gods. At least we thought it would be all descending down to the Garden - oh no. There was still plenty of climbing left to be done before we stared down at the city. As for that descent? While it wasn't blazing down single track, it was still fun. It took us over 30 minutes to drop from the highest point down to the Garden - and that was with only three cars on the road!

Once we got back to Pro, Amber described the ride quite well. We pathaleted, we Falconed for a bit, then hiked our bikes up a canyon, gravel grinded even higher and bombed down back to the city!

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