Spoke Talk: Riding into fall
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
I can smell it in the air and feel the chill in the mornings. Winter is coming. I am starting to dream about fluffy white flakes coming down. I have replaced thoughts of longing for a new bike with desire for new boots, skis, snowboards, etc. But it’s not over, yet.
Amazing fall riding is right outside my door. The mudroom has been torn apart, and the arm and knee warmers have been found. I’m so ready.
Fall riding is an amazing gift. In a place where summer is fleeting, the fall seems to last longer than expected (most years) — and be sweeter than imagined. What makes it so great? The obvious answer is the trees, so golden and beautiful. And yet fall riding is so much more than that.
After a summer of riding, we are all finally feeling fit — climbing to the top of a mountain is no longer a big chore. The trails that were starting to get dusty are back to being packed and maybe even tacky. The trails we waited to melt out and be clear of downed trees are now riding perfectly. The temperatures are cooler and lovely. As the leaves start to fall, it’s like following the yellow brick road. We are free of children as they’re back in school. The majority of tourist crowds have died down for the season. It is perfection.
Where do I like to ride in the fall? Any of our trails that lead you through large stands of aspens, which really is almost all of them.
As the name implies, Flash of Gold is as beautiful as it gets. Higher in elevation than town, it stays cool as you wind your way forever through golden aspens with occasional views of the entire valley. Another personal favorite in the fall is Pioneer to Sunshine at Steamboat Resort.
It’s nice to be up on the resort and feel the change coming, knowing your next trip through that golden aspen forest might be all white. Emerald Mountain has some beautiful color and tends to be warmer for those who still want to believe it’s summer. Watch out, just because it’s slightly lower in elevation doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the driest after a storm — that Emerald dirt can hold some serious water. Don’t forget that getting out on a gravel bike (or road bike) is just as nice in fall for all the same reasons. You can’t go wrong with a school house or an airport loop.
As you prep your pack for the next fall ride, remember your headlamp; nightfall will surprise you after a season of lengthy sunsets, and being benighted in the backcountry without a light is a less-than-pleasurable experience. Pack an extra layer (preferably one that would also protect you in an impromptu autumnal squall) for the creeping cold, and remember that bright colors will serve you well to alert hunters of your human-ness; hunting season has begun. Orange is preferred, but any and all neon is also recommended.
Anywhere you choose to ride in the fall, you won’t be sorry, as beautiful color awaits you at every turn. Get out there. Before you know it, the snow will be flying.
Jessica Lobeck is a member of Routt County Riders.
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State of Colorado Water Commissioner Scott Hummer, whose position administers water rights in south Routt County, said longtime ranching families fear this is the worst year for water availability in their lifetimes.