Christa and I had a mini “work from home” holiday last week. As Christa’s dad was getting a new spine put in, and therefore was forbidden from doing pretty much everything, we stayed up in Edwards to be house servants for a week. Among the standard cooking, a little bit of cleaning, and plenty of researching the paper I’m about to starting writing (“How to regulate new drugs for the treatment of depression”), I managed to squeeze in a lot of bike riding.
Our week was one too early – the Elk Rut, the annual calving for the herds that live in the White River national forest about the Eagle Valley, meant that most of the trails up into the hills were closed until the 15th of June. After one oblivious ride up Meadow Mountain, to be greeted with a sign at the top stating we couldn’t go any further, I then had to search carefully to find some more singletrack to ride.
Berry Creek is situated on the north side of the valley, on the other side of the highway from Edwards. From the road, the first roll of hills gives the impression of a dry, sagebrush covered mountain. Riding up the dirt road next to the creek reveals some big old Cottonwoods, and then a couple of switchbacks on the undulating sandy road brings you eye level with the Aspen Groves that extend in the finger like valleys to the top of Red and White Mountain another 1000 feet above.
Whoever built the dirt roads heading towards the top of the hill, didn’t do so with mountain bikes in mind. The impatient straight lines of dirt cutting tangentally to the contour lines suggest that these roads were built when mules did the heavy lifting. Now, they strain at the muscles of the Mountain Biker, in an unrelenting couple of miles straight up. The toil is worth it, though. As you put your lungs back in their slots, the view south opens up in front of you. Now, Arrowhead ski area can be seen carved out of the trees. The wide runs turning green as mud season ends and the wild flowers begin. The distance is framed by the New York Mountains, a short chain in the Holy Cross Wilderness that forms a barrier to the Eagle Valley from the South.
And finally, after the work, and the view, comes the reward. Slotted neatly between the uniform trunks of symmetrical Aspen trees, a trail dives down into the valley. The leaf litter forming the bed of the trail belies the seasons; few people have taken this path since the snow disappeared just a month ago. The ride is prolonged by imagination alone. Loosing vertical feet so many times faster than they were gained means your brain strives to find each detail in the trees and the tall grass rubbing against your tyres.
It’s over really quickly. Back into the sagebrush hills that will take you back to the valley below. The proximity of amazing trails is, I think, pretty unknown. I don’t know whether the Edwards locals will be very happy that I’m shouting about their trails. Everyone likes their local secrets. But Edwards has some great short rides that complement the excellent trails further down the valley in Eagle, and the high country that will open up at the snow melt allows it to do so.
Thank you, Elk, for keeping the high country to yourself and making me search a little harder the gems on my (temporary) doorstep.