Sunday, December 4, 2011

Northern passage

Last Wednesday was scheduled to be the last warm day for a while, and the men in brown (UPS) just delivered a new cycling kit. I took this as a good time to scout for a new northern passage.

I've frequented the gravel North of the Boulder Reservoir and tried to find some routes pushing North of the Ute highway without luck. My ultimate goal is to find a gravel route that will take me all the way to Estes Park or Fort Collins. A few weeks ago this led to several dead ends outside Lyons as I ran into various private road signs. Some of these even had icons explicitly stating no bikes. I admit those signs made me a bit sad. It appeared that the most beautiful gravel was all verboten. That route was somewhat of the beginning of this blog.

I returned to consult the oracle (Google, maps in this case) to see if I could find a route East of Longmont. I found what appeared to be a mostly unpaved route that led all the way to Loveland remaining on either muti-use path or gravel farm road. The route takes the entire LoBo trail from Gunbarrel to the far East side of Longmont, then a nearly straight line North on road 3 1/2 and road 5. The full route is 35m one way, so I went as far as I could (just outside Mead in this case).

The Niwot Loop portion of LoBo in Winter garb. 

The Lobo trail starts less than a mile from my door and is a great gravel option to the high speed, high traffic on the diagonal (is that really an option?). The first eight miles or so are pleasant gravel. There are, however, may little paths that diverge as you near Niwot and the path name changes several times.  Fortunately most of these paths are on Google Maps and appear if you select the bicycling option. If you have a smart phone this is a real help. My Garmin doesn't have maps so I relied on my phone when I needed to reroute (there was path construction at one point) or just figure out where I was.

After about 8 miles the path becomes paved and stayed that way until the end at Sandstone Ranch Community Park. There are a couple different dirt options for getting through the park, but all are brief. Crossing the park brings you to 119 and from there farm roads. The route I chose took CO Rd 3 1/2 to CO Rd 5. The latter has various segments paved and unpaved. Fair warning though, Rd 5 is also home to a manure operation. I was lucky enough to catch them flinging their shit on an adjacent field like angry monkeys. The rest of the route to Highland Lake, where I had to turn around, was mild but pleasant. Highland was actually a bit more interesting than expected as there's a small cluster of houses there including an historic church and a tiny cemetery. Sadly my Camera didn't arrive till later that day so no pics.

View Northern Passage on Strava

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