Every memorial day I try and do a century. I missed last year for some reason and this year I didn't do a century, but I feel like I did. The Apache Trail is marked as a highway on the map but don't be fooled. It may be paved for a few miles out of Tortilla Flat, and the first bit below Roosevelt dam but the interior is 22 miles of potholed, steep graded dirt road. That being said there are few roads in the state that are as scenic as the Trail. Yes, the scenery was epic, the weather was epic, and the climbing was epic.
I decided to drive to the end of the pavement rather than starting in Tortilla Flat as I was running a little behind. As it was I didn't get the bike off the car until 5:40. The sun was just getting ready to rise from the predawn twighlight. I had a mile or so to fine tune my setup before I would descend Fish Creek Hill. I had my new bike computer which measures Altitude and also had my GPS on board just for kicks (I will be using it next week for navigation so I thought it good to test the whole system out today).
Fish Creek Hill is a real piece of work. It is one and a half miles of severe elevation change. It climbs 1000' over its course evaluating to roughly a 15% grade. I will write more about Fish Creek Hill later though since going down is not so bad. At this time in the morning there was no one on the hill and descending was a bit bumpy but nice. I kept wondering if I was going to melt my brakes again like I did many years ago coming down Mt. Elden. I was discovering one of the major differences between paved road riding and dirt road riding was the speed of descending. On a hilly paved route you can at least make up time in speedy descents. On dirt you have to control the descent so you don't eat it. Coming down this particular hill I don't think I ever got over 16 mph just due to the nature of the road and the turns in the road.
I had not been down the Apache Trail in a long time and had forgotten the beauty of Fish Creek. The cliff walls are so tall down in here that it gives one the distinct feeling of being in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Last time I was down here Fish Creek was not flowing but today it was. Large cottonwoods filled the canyon bottom and the wonderful smell of the riparian vegetation filled the air.
I got a little optimistic getting to the marina turnoff fairly quickly and thought how easy the rest of the road would be. It was a foolish thought really because after the Marina turnoff the outbound climbing really gets going. Incidentally, I was always of the opinion that the trail steadily climbed up to Roosevelt but the fact is that the end of the pavement where I parked is actually higher than Lake Roosevelt by 5-600 feet. So the majority of the climbing was actually to be realized on the way back.
Between the marina turnoff and Roosevelt lake there are around five hills. These hills have the peculiar attribute of not one of them being under an 8% grade. In fact most of them hit 10-12% in multiple places. I should have looked at the elevation profile a little closer. It was beautiful country, it is just that the road didn't do a whole lot of going back into the canyons it crossed to even out the grades. In all fairness though most of these canyons had steep walls and the places the road could fit into just happened to be that steep. Needless to say I got a good workout.
Every hill seemed to give way to another one that was bigger than the one before. I would work up a good sweat mashing the granny gear of my MTB up one side and cool off carefully descending the other side only to launch right into another one as soon as I had crossed the bottom. This was rugged country and the last stretch of the road actually hugs the cliff just above the river/lake before climbing up to the Dam. This section was still in the shade when I got there. It was around this time that traffic started to pickup too.
Getting to the top was an awesome feeling but I would soon discover that the store I was going to buy food and water at was out of business. I went down towards the marina but it's store was out on the water and it wasn't open yet. The visitor's center was my next idea but it was closed and the drinking fountain locked up. I ended up going over to the Sheriff's station down the road on the way back to the Dam.
I didn't stage this picture at all.
On the way back I took a few pictures which I probably shouldn't have as I would be getting back late. Still, I doubt I will be up this way again anytime soon with my bike so perhaps it wasn't that bad. After the permanent next week I am going to go back to training on the roadbike full time.
Ah, Margo, how do you interpret this dam? Well, Trevor, I think this dam is a metaphor, it is the fierce resistance to the forces of nature which buffet us all day to day, "Stand your ground" it says. Hmmm, well, I disagree Margo, I think it is more of a political statement, it is the icy space between the liberals and conservatives, and the water represents progress which has been brought to a halt by the immovable positions they each adopt respectively. But then again, perhaps we are over interpreting this......