Monday, October 5, 2009

Places unknown

Ever get to feeling like a caged animal wearing a rut in the ground from pacing the same steps over and over? Of course you have. And the best way to quell that? Take a different path.

Well I did that literally and it was exactly what I needed.

I have lived in or around Denver since 92 and have ridden a fair amount of the bike paths and routes. All of which seem to conveniently end up at cafes but that's beside the point. After my usual ride in to work on my usual route, I decided to scout the trail maps for an alternate route home. Well, I found that route, but also discovered an entire network of trails I never even realized existed. I took the alternate route home and had a wonderful ride despite the damaging winds we were having. Somehow the trees, and buildings were situated so that the brunt of the gusts were diminished.

Now armed with some new found knowledge and having the next day free to ride, I was on a mission to go explore. Some of this new route was along the "Highline Canal Trail" which I have ridden most of from my house south-west, but have not been on it heading north-east. That said, the highline is fairly consistent so I knew what to expect, but was very excited for the portion of the ride along the "Sand Creek Greenway" trail. This has been described as a multi surface trail that often meanders between packed gravel and rougher single-track. Mountain bikes are "recommended". Excellent. The Bleriot should do just fine. It seemed as though I could basically take it from its eastern all the way to its western terminusses, and hook up with the "Platte River Trail" southbound and once it connected with the Cherry Creek trail I would be back on familiar ground.

Well, due to some construction, wrong turns, and poorly marked trail sections, I actually rode about 10 more miles, but had none of that occurred this is the route:

Started from home, rode counter clockwise ending at Kaladi Brothers.

This was my first attempt to access the Sand Creek trail at Airport Road. Oh, just be problem.

ZING! Try again.

Some backtracking and I was able to jump on at Chambers.

Went through the "Bluffs Nature Center" that is located in the area of the old Stapleton Airport. Never knew this existed.

Farther north west the trail runs directly below the iconic Sapp Brothers truck stop sign. Seen it a hundred times from the freeway, had no idea a trail went right past it.

Continuing west takes you literally right by the Commerce City refineries, under train tracks, and through airplane graveyards. This doesn't sound very enticing, but I was absolutely in awe of how nice the trail was and how scenic. Plenty of tress and color changing to see, open space, picnic areas...crazy.

This is the confluence of the Sand Creek and Platte River at the western terminus of the trail and my southbound turning point.

One of the several pull offs along the trail with benches and tables. What's odd is, along this part of the trail there are few entry points for some ways and very little if any residential population. It's mostly commercial and industrial. I realize I was riding mid day on a Wednesday, but I did not pass one single person the entire time I was on the Sand Creek portion of trail.

All said I put in just short of 50 miles. The weather was cool and a bit windy but I enjoyed a nice packed lunch trail side, and finished up at Kaladi's to warm up on coffee. It feels really strange to "explore" what has been my back yard for years and find a world I never knew was there. I have taken this same type of ride countless times but always headed south into a much more developed area of town. This was a huge departure in scenery and feel but could not have been more welcome.