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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

3 Posts tagged with the devil's_backbone tag

Yesterday I went for a shortie mountain bike ride at Devil’s Backbone Open Space. Heading north, within the first mile of trail, I spot a saddled horse in the trail, eating grass. My first assumptions were that the rider was thrown off or they got off for an emergency pit stop in the bushes. I looked around and couldn’t see a rider.


As I approached the horse, I could see a horse and rider ahead on the trail about 200 yards or so. The rider was calling to the horse without a rider. As I got near the riderless horse I could see it was a young filly wearing only a halter and not a bridle. This means that more than likely no one was riding the horse – unless the rider ahead was leading the horse and its rider.


Keep in mind this is one of the busiest trails in the county– if not the busiest trail.


The woman ahead is shouting to me that the horse is very friendly and I shouldn’t be worried at all about passing the young filly. Know that I’ve had horses in my past and I know that they can easily get spooked. This can mean kicking, rearing up or bolting away on a full run. My main concern at this point was to not spook the filly and send it though a nearby barbed wire fence.


As I got closer to the woman, she explained to me that this was the filly’s first day with a saddle on. She was trying to teach the filly to wear a saddle and to follow her on the other horse.


Having been a horse owner, I couldn’t understand why someone would put the filly and other trail users at such risk. What a stupid training plan for the horse. My mind was spinning.


I knew it was against trail rules to have dogs off leash; but is it against rules to have a horse off lead (the horse term for a leash)?


The owner kept explaining to me how gentle all her horses are and this is not a problem and the filly would just love it if I were to stop and spend time petting her. I told her “no thanks” and moved on.


Knowing I would encounter them again on my way back, in about 10 minutes, I was deciding how to deal with the situation – if at all.


On my way back, I could see that the rider made it to the bottom of one of the steep hills (I'm descending, she's climbin), while the filly lagged behind some 150 yards. As I made my way between the two, I could see two sets of hikers coming toward the back side of the filly. About eight people total. At this point the filly is blocking the trail in front of them.


I decided to ask the rider if she actually had a lead for the horse. She told me she did. I told her I have owned horses and in my opinion, her horse needed to be on a lead for the safety of the horse and the other trail users. This was no place to do the type of training she was trying to do.


Meanwhile the woman instructed hikers to go ahead and pass behind the filly as it would be no problem at all. I could tell these people knew nothing about horses the way they passed behind the filly. Both horses are now getting a little nervous with hikers closing in on them and me in the middle between the two horses. This was a situation with huge risk.


In between justifying her actions, the woman agreed it was a poor decision to have the horse off lead for the first time on this trail. She put the horse on a lead and everyone went safely on their way.


As it turns out, all “pets” must be on  a leash at Devil’s Backbone.


I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see this woman again.

655 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: horse, devil's_backbone, off_lead

Yesterday’s mountain bike ride on the trails west of Loveland and Fort Collins, Colorado is a good example of why I maintain a certain level of fitness. I stay fit so that with minimal notice I can go out and participate in an adventure.


A few weeks ago, I had a chance to ride with a new woman, Andrea Gregory. She’s been a great inspiration for me, her technical skills are much better than mine. Her favorite trail in the area is Mill Creek (Horsetooth Mountain Open Space in Larimer County). Locals know that descending this trail involves steep, rocky and loose sections. There are tight corners, exposed roots and of course several obligatory trees near the trail to catch your handlebars if you’re not paying attention. She descends the trail with ease and rides most of it.


Andrea had this idea to do a ride she called The Whole Enchilada. Unfortunately, our calendars wouldn’t mesh and she did the Whole Enchilada ride with her husband, Joe, last Thursday.


I wanted the Enchilada. I dropped a note to my Sunday ride list and asked if I could rally some interest in a route similar to The Whole Enchilada, and luckily there were takers! We did The Big Ride.


The summary:

Ride distance: 42 miles

Out time (riding, hike-a-bike, mechanicals, refueling, regrouping, chatting with trail buds):       7:15

Moving time (I believe this includes ride time plus hike-a-bike, bike barely moving and stop time under 1 minute):       5:16

Time (I believe this is ride time):      4:53

Elevation gain:   5712 feet


You can find a map and ride details here.


I would describe the pace, when we were rolling, as steady and mostly conversational. This was great. Garmin Connect link above doesn’t show grade percentages or heart rate summary data, so I'll add attachments. I’m attaching two pdf screen shots from Garmin Training Center that show just over four hours of the ride was aerobic (Zones 1and 2). Don’t take “aerobic” and “mostly conversational” to mean an easy ride. It wasn’t.


It’s the technical sections, steep climbs and steep descents that make the ride tough. It’s difficult to describe Devil’s Backbone, which is the first technical trail in the ride. I’ll have to get some photos or video – but as everyone knows, those never do justice to a trail. In short, a good percentage of it is rocky. Continuous rocks, off-camber rocks and rocks on climbs. Unrelenting rocks.


In addition to rocky sections, The Big Ride route has climbs. Tough climbs. In the first attachment, The Big Ride, you’ll see a 40% grade on one of the climbs. This anomaly is when I decided to conquer a section of trail with a do-over. I picked up the front end of the bike and swung it around to go backand try again. So, this isn't a real trail number. The Big Ride 2 attachment, shows second grade over 30% and is also false. It's from a hike-a-bike out of Coyote Ridge, again I picked up my bike.


The remaining 10 pieces of the ride data showing grades right around 20% or more on the climbs, are indeed riding sections. Locals that have climbed Devil’s Backbone, Indian Summer, Blue Sky to Coyote Ridge, the service road at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and the Towers Road can probably identify those sections right now in their noggin-memory-bank.


As for the hair-raising descents well over 20% and some over 30% - yes I believe those numbers to be true. These are scare-my-pants-off sections that many of the riders in the group descended skillfully. That doesn’t mean bombing downhill hell for leather; it means deftly dancing down the mountain.


I was nowhere close to deft. I walked some of the steepest, loosest descents. I will be deft on this trail. I will develop more skills. I dream of deftness.


Barb Schultz, absolutely a skillful rider, is someone I’ve seen often on the trails but have not ridden with until yesterday. She did the entire The Big Ride loop with me - and - did the loop last summer. She regularly does big, and bigger rides. She’s one of those endurance machines – and– has the technical skills to boot. She’s one more inspiration to bolster my technical skills.


In summary, I’m rich. I have tremendous fortune in great trails to ride, a buffet of excellent riders to learn from, a several excellent riders that love adventures, good health and decent fitness right now.


Rich, I tell you, rich.

1,135 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: colorado, loveland, devil's_backbone, fort_collins, mill_creek, horsetooth_mountain_open_space, larimer_county, mountain_bike_ride, coyote_ridge, blue_sky, herrington, indian_summer, lohry_state_park

On Thursday, Meeka came into the office and with her body (paw on the chair), soft whine and eyes said, “Isn’t it time to go trail running, pleeeeeease?”


Yes, it is. Let’s go before it gets too hot.


Colorado has gone from cool weather, rain and snow to highs in the 80s and 90s.


The upside to this small window of transition, before the heat burns everything to a brown crisp, is that the hills are blooming. The Thursday run was easy and the training plan called for taking plenty of photos.


I admit I don’t know if the blooms are flowers or noxious weeds, but they did make the run more beautiful than normal.


Enjoy your holiday weekend ~



Devil's Backbone rock formation with Longs Peak and Mount Meeker in the far background.





1,090 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: devil's_backbone, meeka, rhodesian_ridgeback