Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bobcat Ridge, a Good Save

I was in search of some vertical feet, wilderness and maybe a big animal sighting today, but was scuppered by poor preparation.

The plan was to head out to Lookout Mountain and do a loop that took in Lookout and Crystal Mountain for somewhere close to 19 miles and 5,000 feet of vertical. I was up in good time and out the door before seven, but as soon as I got in the car I knew things might not go as planned.

We had been down to Longmont the night before to see a friend of Felix sing in her band, 'Girls on Top,' at an old opera house in the downtown area. As we were getting close to home on the way back, the fuel light came on but I couldn't be bothered to fill up. Getting into the car this morning, I remembered the fuel situation but decided not to drive into town to fill up as I knew the banana was still good for 50-60 miles.

So I took off to Masonville and Stove Prairie Road in search of the turn for 44H, a.k.a Buckhorn Road. The turn came much later than I had anticipated and the fuel gauge was already registering 'E' after 15 miles or so. I pushed on.

Heading west on 44H, it was a steady dirt climb and I had my eyes peeled for Forest Road 129, which was to be my run starting point. After ten miles and no FR129 I was becoming increasingly preoccupied with the thought of being stranded out in the boonies with a gas-less rig.

I finally got to the Buckhorn Ranger Station and was excited to see the valley open up to offer a view of what I presumed was Lookout Mountain; however, the route marker by the ranger station said 133 not 129. My map made no mention of route 133, so I still had no point of reference, except the mountain, which should have been to my southeast not southwest if I was at FR129. This meant I had overshot, even though I never passed FR129. Hmm.

Lookout Mountain ... I Think!

In the dead of winter, it was predictable enough that there would be no ranger home, so I scouted around for a trailhead/forest road leading south to the mountain, but no joy. I essentially gave up the ghost there and then, and was so preoccupied with whether or not I had enough fuel to get my car home that the run had become a secondary concern.

I backed out, put the car in neutral and coasted most of the 11 miles back down the valley to Stove Prairie, passing Ballard Road (a very beat-up forest road) on the way. Of course, I found out later that Ballard Road is known numerically as FR129 - oh well!

Determined not to waste my morning, I decided to stop at Bobcat Ridge on the way home and get my miles in there. Turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

For the first few miles of the run at Bobcat, I was in a foul mood and about as not into a run as I have ever been. I wanted solitude, and Bobcat, being a very popular hiking, biking and riding trail system, was not the place. Anyway, once off the manicured valley section of the trail system, I got onto a rugged jeep track which headed straight uphill. With the climb, I started to get some of my mojo back and began enjoying my morning. At the top of Power Line Road, after about 1,500 feet of climbing, there are some nice mountain views.

Mountain Views at the End of the Road
Looking East to Milner Mountain. (We live on the back side of Milner)

Some Burn at the Top of Power Line

I headed back down the D.R. Trail, which meanders in and out of Roosevelt National Forest, back to the low valley trails and headed south to Ginny Trail. This is a great trail that ascends back up to the ridgeline through a massive swath of burned pine from a big fire a few years back. The trail itself is pretty gnarly and very curvacious, with a ton of loose rock. The incline is never too severe, but is steady all the way to the top for about 1,700 feet of climbing over 4- 5 miles. It levels out for a mile or two through a scenic area known as Mahoney Park, before reconnecting with Power Line/D.R. I dropped back down Power Line and back to the car for approx 16 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing.

Mahoney Park

Trail on the Lower Valley Loop

Bobcat turned out to be a good save for what otherwise would have been a wasted morning. I got into the car and nudged the gas pedal very lightly for the five-mile drive home.

Runnin' on Fumes


  1. Hey Nick,
    I recently discovered Bobcat Ridge as well...and did the same route you did, but in reverse. Love the Ginny trail (especially since it's my wife's name!). Kyle

  2. Nice save on the run! That's what I love about it; it's so versatile. You're a madman driving around with fuel that low.

  3. Kyle - Reading the literature from Bobcat, apparently the Ginny Trail was named after the wife of the guy that Fort Collins bought the space from.

    Tim - Yeah, pretty stupid really, but the nearest gas station to us is a good 8 miles in the opposite direction, and I really thought the TH was much closer. When do you take off for Moab? You should take a stab at top 5.