This morning I left C.B. and climbed Gothic Road to Schofield Pass. Amazingly, I ran into two of my neighbors from Boulder at the Snodgrass trailhead just a few miles outside of town. Small world!
Here are some pics of the ride up to Schofield Pass.
Heading for Schofield Pass
One of many parking areas, all crowded
The 401 trailhead was a mob scene of other riders.
Schofield Pass and the 401 trailhead
From this point I was the only mountain biker I saw for the next day and a half, but there were plenty of SUVs, ATVs, and dirt bikers. Shortly after the pass you enter a rather open area called Schofield Park that is really beautiful.
There is a trail here that leads up the backside of the Maroon Bells, and there were about 50 SUVs parked at the trailhead. There are even a few private cabins up here. Gorgeous spot, but I’m sure summer-only.
Cabin in Schofield Park
At the west end of Schofield Park you come to the first sign that really sounds like it means business. All the signs up to this point say things like “high clearance recommended” but this one is much more direct that you had better know what you are doing to go past this point.
Beginning of descent to Marble
This is the end of the line for most SUVs (the ones driven by sane people); only ATVs, dirt bikers, hikers, and yours truly dare to tread here. Immediately the road turns to rock and there is a creek crossing. Once again I love my Keens cycling shoes as I simply took off my socks and put the shoes back on to walk through the water.
I figured I’d go sockless for awhile and sure enough, not long after I came to an even deeper crossing that required carrying the bike to keep the drive train out of the water.
Then I reached an area they call the Devil’s Punchbowl. I believe it gets its name from the series of pools that the river cascades down. The river is in a narrow gorge and drops quite quickly here. There is a trail on the left side about 7-8 feet wide which was probably dynamited out of the rock face. Here’s a view from the bottom (which I haven’t gotten to yet) that gives you the idea; the trail is on the upper right.
Looking back up – trail is on upper right
Here’s what it looks like from the top looking down:
At this point there were no more SUVs and my only company was ATVs and an occasional dirt bike. I saw this guy almost roll his ATV right in front of me! His front right wheel lifted off the ground and he had to post his left leg to keep from rolling down that slide on his left!
Now let me try to describe the trail surface. From the photos it looks like random loose rock, but in fact the surface of the trail is mostly immobile bedrock that is part of the mountain to the left. The face of the mountain is of course made of layers (they are visible behind the ATV rider), and these layers have been thrust upward to make the mountain. So imagine a stack of books that are offset slightly to create a sort of staircase. Now tilt the stack so that the edges of the stairs are fairly level — that sawtooth profile is what the trail surface is like. Now imagine the sawtooth is set at a 45 degree angle to your direction of travel. Last, but not least, put it on a 15% downgrade, which, combined with the 45-degree angle of the sawtooth, makes it extremely easy to catch the front wheel and high-side over the handlebars! On a surface like this, falling is simply not an option — the best you could hope for would be some broken bones on the edges of the sawtooth rocks; the worst would be what almost happened to the guy in the photo above. So, I walked down it.
At the bottom of this descent there was a “bridge” across the creek (a slab of steel reinforced concrete that they dropped there) and then the trail starts to go back up, and then down again. Here’s a shot looking back. This gives you an idea of the narrowness and steepness of the trail as well as the incredible scenery. Keep in mind that this section of the trail is much smoother than the Punchbowl.
Below Devils Punchbowl still some snow
So except for the occasional rockslide, from this point it’s mostly rideable — downhill — but I doubt I could ride up very much of it. So I’m starting to have second thoughts about doing this in the reverse direction tomorrow!
Eventually I reached the town of Crystal, where there are a few homes and a gift shop. I learned that living in Crystal is summer-only. A bit later I found out why: even though it’s only 5 miles from Marble to Crystal, it takes an hour to drive it.
I passed the famous Crystal Mill and took the same picture everyone else does.
Anyway, the”road”from Crystal to Marble it’s unbelievably rocky. I passed an SUV right after leaving town and even though I made several stops to take pictures, remove clothing (it was really warning up), etc, he still never caught me.
The last mile or two is smoother but so steep that I had to stop 3 times to let my brakes cool down. The rotors were sizzling hot.
Right after passing Beaver Lake, which was mobbed with paddle boards and canoes, I saw my B&B on the hill above the lake.
Beaver Lake Retreat
It was only 2:30 and I was hungry, so I rode into town to go to the BBQ joint. It was packed even in the middle of the afternoon. Of course, there are no other restaurants for 20+ miles! Tip: do not get the ribs, they are scrawny. Then I stopped across the street at the tourist office (which they call the Marble Hub) to get an ice cream bar..
I rode up to the B&B, which was deserted.
Looking down at Beaver Lake from the Retreat
Shortly after I arrived, the owner, Vince, drive up. He is an interesting character. PhD in psychology, and he mainly rents out the entire place to a group for workshops. He got his degree back in the 70s I think, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously:
Anyway, I have the entire place to myself tonight, because Vince is going back to his house in Aspen (rough life, right?) There’s not much to do here, but there is a piano and a hot tub, both of which I intend to make use of.
Vince gave me a ride back to town on his way out, so I’m back at the BBQ joint. I ordered a la carte, a half pound of brisket and a half pound of sausage. (I’m planning to have the sausage for breakfast.) The brisket is average, it’s moist but only average flavor, however the sausage is outstanding. They get it from a local farm near here, so I guess I won’t be seeing it at the grocery store ant time soon. Also, the “skillet corn” side dish is the bomb. Definitely recommended if you ever eat here.