Sunday I was due for “a trip to the doctor.” Gunnison Valley locals like to say this trail is called Doctor Park because it’s a cure for what ails you. Last week’s rain had left me antsy to get some quality hours in on my bike. This 20 mile loop was just the prescription I needed.
We started by parking in one of the lots near the North Bank Campground up the Taylor Canyon. Then it was a pretty easy spin of 10 miles (give or take) to the Spring Creek crossing. Normally the road can be dusty and plagued by washboard. Not this year, or at least not yet. The wild roses are in bloom all along the road right now, too. Go ride it now while it’s this good!
The creek is currently about knee deep, so it was an easy cross to the other side for a snack break before we started up the steep part of the climb. The next two miles of climbing is marked by intermediate to quite difficult double track climbing. My Strava shows my pace drop off from 10+ mph to somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 mph. But it’s only about two miles before you’ll reach the dark timber and the singletrack.
Then we had a choice. Take the normal Doctor’s route, or try Doctor Park Bonus. Tom had heard that the Bonus was pretty, so we gave it a go. When it forked off to the left, we took the Bonus and climbed singletrack up into a meadow before contouring around through some of the prettiest fields of flowers I’ve ever seen. My favorites, the mariposa lilies, are out in force right now.
Then we rode some fun up and down through the dark timber. At one point, I got to practice my manual (learned during my bike clinic) to get up a 6-inch step-up onto a root. It’s always fun to put newly acquired skills to use on the trail.
The bonus dropped us off right at the top of the normal downhill after adding an extra 2 miles of fun riding to the day. We were 14 miles in and I could definitely feel those miles. I was ready to start going down, or at least to stop climbing. Unlike Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman’s, on Doctor’s you do all of your up at once and then all of your down.
Luckily, the downhill was marked by absolutely perfect hero dirt. The first little bit of downhill is smooth and relatively flat before you descend through the trees on a few switchbacks. Then there’s a steep rock garden with the only loose dirt we saw that day. Foolishly, we paused at the top so I could take a little rest. I then spent the first half of the rock garden trying, and failing, to clip in and get enough speed to roll over the boulders. Luckily, about halfway down I found a stretch long enough for me to clip in and get rolling fast enough to start to flow over the boulders. My advice is to just roll on in and keep your speed up.
Then, it was over and we were into the “forest moon of Endor” section. For anyone who has seen Star Wars, this section of trail is just like being on a hoverbike zooming through trees. It has just enough roots to be interesting, and you’ll absolutely fly. Mountain biking doesn’t get much better than this.
Then it’s a 50 foot climb up through the trees before an even better, faster downhill. I didn’t touch my brakes once on the next section. It’s just a perfect, smooth pitch. I even caught air on a couple of little jumps.
The final half mile of downhill has everything that scares me on my bike: exposure, switchbacks, and off-camber rocks and cinder blocks that make it feel like you’ll fall off the world if you make a mistake. The first time I tried to ride the switchbacks this year (on an early season out and back) did not go well. I bashed my knee on a rock on one of the first ones and couldn’t recover mentally. But right now, again because of the recent rain, the switchbacks are actually riding great. The dirt is grippy and the trail is in really good shape. I didn’t quite make them all, but I got most of them.
While we were out there, we identified at least 11 individual wildflower species in bloom. We also rode 21 miles and climbed 3,058 feet– a practically perfect Sunday.
If you’ve been feeling a little under the weather, I recommend a trip to the Gunnison Valley to see the Doctor. It’ll put you in a much healthier frame of mind.