The 45th(ish) mountain biking season in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley officially kicked off at 4 PM on April 6th with the opening of Hartman Rocks. It’s only open north of the power lines, but this includes the Growler course. Those of you coming out to race can start getting some practice on the actual course. We couldn’t be more excited to have our Hartman’s playground back.
I’ve been nursing an injury the last few months. I’m waiting on an X-ray to confirm my 2 fractured vertebrae (or maybe just one) and 3 fractured ribs have healed so I can get back on singletrack. Even knowing that I’m not ready to go yet, I find myself thinking about mountain biking almost non-stop.
I literally can’t stay away from checking the Lower Cement Creek Singletrack. About two weeks ago, I was walking the dog and tried to take him on the trail. It was snowpacked and we got turned back to the road immediately. On Monday, it was mostly dry and I saw my first wildflowers of the season. I had to go back the next afternoon and even more flowers were out. It’s coming. Some folks have already been out, and I can see evidence of their tracks as ruts and imprints in the dirt.
Now that I know Hartman’s is ready to go, there is more urgency to schedule that Xray and replace the gear that’s worn out from last season. I need a new helmet (a byproduct of the same crash that broke my back) so I’m spending hours on the internet obsessively reading reviews. I have a running mental checklist of the things that I need that is always humming in the back of my mind. Along with it I’m mentally plotting what new loops I want to go for this year and calculating the fitness level I’ll need to get to ride those long trails.
We all do this at the start of every bike season. It’s like an itch you can’t quite scratch until your tires hit the dirt.
Guidelines for Early Season Mountain Biking
Now that the option is there to get that fix for biking, it’s really important not to let the compulsion to ride everything take over.
The Hartman’s closure of everything south of the Powerlines serves an important purpose: it protects valuable (and limited) sage grouse habitat during the mating season. Full guidelines for sage grouse mating season can be found on the Gunnison Trails website, but key information to keep in mind includes:
- Don’t head to sage grouse territory before 9 AM until after May 15th. This includes literally anywhere you can touch the sagebrush. Early risers should stick to roads. Better yet, sleep in and go to the W Cafe on Main Street for brunch, then take advantage of the long afternoons and ride later in the day.
- Know and honor seasonal road and trail closures. Find the closure list on the Gunnison County Website.
- Leash your dogs in sage country. This probably means not riding singletrack with your dog because riding with a leashed dog is a good way to end up with a broken back (not how I did it, but I can imagine it happening).
On top of the sage grouse guidelines, we also ask that you be careful with our trails in early season. Ruts and braiding that can happen easily on wet or snowy trails can create a lot of work for trail crew volunteers later in the summer. We’d rather have them building new trail than repairing ruts from overzealous spring riders.
But, the best guideline we’ve got is to get out and start putting the miles in. Summer is coming and, with it, the opportunity to ride some of the best trails on the planet. We’ll see you out there.