Prairie Mountain Traverse

Here is another ride on Prairie Mountain, one to which The Logging Road Cyclist is particularly attached, for historical reasons. On one of his first serious cyclocross explorations, many years ago, TLRC thought to launch himself up Tobe Creek Road (cf. Prairie Mtn Loop), to Prairie Peak, and then descend into Lobster Creek, thus traversing Prairie. This was in the pre-cartographic era, that dewy time when TLRC was sure he could just head on out and get where he wanted to by “gut” or “instinct”. This cured him of that notion. After topping out, TLRC headed off to the southeast (or so he thought), so to curve around and drop straight into Lobster, the biggest drainage down there, which would suck him in like  a catcher’s mitt and lead him to the pavement and thus back to the start and truck. Well, TLRC hit pavement alright, after dropping a couple of thousand feet off the backside of Prairie into Congdon Creek (another big and unknown ridge away from Lobster) , and heading in the general direction of Triangle Lake. This was late on an Autumn day (a nice one!), but evening was looming, and there was a loooong climb to make to recover from this, most of which TLRC spent wondering how the Long Suffering Girlfriend would react to a polite request for a ride from Horton, over the Peak to get TLRC’s car and home, all on a Saturday night when there were other Plans in the offing….

Thus maps and other stuff made their way into the list of TLRC must-haves. And a thirst to figure out the roads in this area, leading finally to a direct way down into Lobster Creek, and this nice (or mostly nice) ride.

The plan for this ride was to assault Prairie directly via Prairie Mtn Road, the shortest (steepest) way up, and then head down the pleasant route off the other side. TLRC had a new companion for this ride, C. and did not want to embarrass himself by maybe getting bewildered finding his way off the back (it had been a few years since TLRC had been down this particular route).  Having felt the sharp teeth of Hubris before, TLRC dug out the maps, and discovered to his dismay that the route did not exist on Google Earth, was obscure on his faithful BLM maps and apparently vague in his mind, although by closing his eyes and making pedaling motions, TLRC was able clearly to visualize the critical junctures. Fortunately TOPO! had it all as if etched in stone, and that was what got printed out and stuffed in the Baggie sandwich bag for the ride.

And a steep little junket it is! It’s a nearly continuous climb of almost 3000′ in the first 6 1/2 miles. About 4 of that are covered with a loose layer of heavy, uncompacted rock  that makes for very difficult riding indeed:

Bad loose rock on Prairie Mtn Road.

TLRC would, from time to time, glance down at his tiny 35 tires skittering around, and then over with envy at C.’s huge fat 2.1’s. Maybe it’s time for that El Mariachi, he thought.  If you are a recovering Catholic, and never thought those fake sorts of penances they gave you for all your made up sins as a kid weren’t sufficient to really set you free, TLRC recommends riding up and down this a few times, and “offering if up for grace” as the nuns used to say. Seems like a pretty cheap way to avoid Purgatory and go straight to heaven to TLRC, but then, he is not really all that great a theologian.

Rather than being Memorial Day Weekend, as it was, it might as well have been in the middle of November. The summit was windy, foggy and cold. Lots of big puddles to ride through and a teeny weeny patch of snow was spotted at one point. TLRC felt badly about luring C. up here with promises of unbeatable views, but then this always happens…

But the ride down was fun, as advertised, and without incident, mechanical, rideable or navigational: TLRC hit all the turns like he’d seen them yesterday, but still remembered Hubris’ bite, especially when at some point after going downhill for a long, long way, C. turned to TLRC and said: “I’m glad you know where this bottoms out.”, and TLRC thought “I hope you’re right!”.