The Horrors of Biking Bear Creek (Literally)

Last month, I finally kicked my 10+-year-old mountain bike to the curb (or rather, Craigslist) and purchased the coolest new trend in mountain bikes: a 29er. I don’t know what it is about those 29-inch wheels but I feel invincible on my bike.

Problematic when you are indisputably mortal.

During the overheated summer months, I would hike or bike at dawn out of sheer survival.  With the glorious drop in temperatures, I’ve been reconfiguring my day and it has forced me to become more disciplined. Now, I dangle my playtime in the mountains as a motivator for meeting deadlines.

On Monday, I cranked out my Denver Post column and Travel Mamas article (both a week before deadline, ThankYouVeryMuch) as well as put the finishing touches on my PowerPoint presentation for the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference I’m speaking at this week in Steamboat Springs (more on that later).

I rewarded myself for my productive morning with a two-hour ride. A few weeks ago, I took my road bike for a 30-mile ride from Morrison to Denver along the Bear Creek Trail. I’d noticed a dirt trail “Stone House”and resolved to bring my new 29er back to attempt it. Monday was that day.

The first part of the ride through Bear Creek Lake Park was a bluebird-flaxen roller-coaster ride.

I had summited and descended a steep hill when I came upon the start of the Stone House Trail with a rather unwelcome sign:

Three river crossings? A wise person would have turned back but not me. I was on my 29er! I could do it! I was delusional! And those river crossings were referring to Bear Creek. How daunting could a little ‘ol creek be? Turns out, plenty.

I was quickly grounded when I reached my first river crossing which was, indeed a river. I calculated the water to be between 1.5-2 feet deep. I looked upstream and saw a more shallow crossing with an obstacle course of rocks and a fallen log. I dismounted and slogged my bike through the water as I skipped from rock-to-rock.

River crossing No. 1: Tackled.

What I didn’t have the foresight to anticipate: River crossing No. 2 and the fact I was now trapped between them. As I approached the second one, there were no shallow areas so I picked up speed, surged into the water and despite the fact I was slipping, slipping, slipping, my 29er’s wheels forged on.

Until about three-quarters of the way across when those slippery rocks proved uncrossable. You know those movies that use slow motion for dramatic effect? Thus describes what happened next. I started slipping, I set my foot down to stabilize myself as water shot up my leg. Before I knew it, I completely lost my balance and fell, right-side first into the drink.

That part was fast-motion.

I slogged my way to shore, ringed myself out and dragged myself to river crossing No. 3.

There were no obstacle or traversing attempts. I simply dismounted and walked straight through, cursing the city of Lakewood for being too lazy to build bridges. Following that third crossing, the dirt trail reconnected with the paved one but I was determined! I was going to stay on my dirt path all the way to the Stone House!

Then came the thorn bush.

I took the paved trail back.

I later limped into the house, bellowed to Jamie, “I FELL INTO THE RIVER!” for which he raced up to hear me download the day’s events. I went into the kitchen for a snack and saw the note I’d hastily left him to know where I’d gone:

I didn’t write, “Biking AT Bear Creek” or “Biking Bear Creek trail.” Just simply “Biking Bear Creek.” It was rueful foreshadowing for would I would literally do that day.

And make me realize semantics are everything.

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