Last weekend, while looking for something else, I stumbled onto a trailhead. It was new to me. In 25 years of living within a few hours of this spot, I've probably driven or ridden past it 50 times. Maybe more.
With only 90 minutes til sunset I knew I wouldn't get far, but that seemed all the more reason to grab the bike and go. In the interest of saving time I forewent the chamois, just slipped on shoes and helmet and started climbing.
It was steep. I like steep climbs, and my bike is geared for them. Still, I walked a fair bit up this trail. Walking allowed me to catch breath while noting the various states of change of ground cover, scrub oak, cottonwood, dogwood, box elder, and aspen.
The tread was skinny and seemed little used. The forest was quiet, serene. That omnipresent kind of quiet that makes you speak in a whisper, even if only to yourself. It felt not unlike a cathedral. I felt not unlike a believer.
75% of the climb was done in this gear, begging it. The other 25% was walking next to the bike.
The forest was mature enough to have a canopy but not so old that undergrowth couldn't thrive. My inner aesthete kept returning to the word "balanced".
I'm not particularly good at them, but I love switchback challenges. Several were so steep, and so tight, that I could only negotiate them while walking behind the bike, rolling it along on the back wheel. I can nose-pivot the bike when needed, but I lack the commitment to do it when it's this steep.
Eventually the pull of new trail was overridden by fading light, creeping cold, and my lack of lumens or layers to adapt. I flipped it and enjoyed the sound of plump low-pressure tires gliding over duff and organic soil while hyperaware of every noise I didn't make. Lots of bears in these parts, even if none showed themselves on this night.
Had someone prepped me for how uniquely enjoyable this trail was going to be I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it nearly as much. For that very reason I'll only share that it was somewhere within the Uncompahgre drainage. Happy hunting.