Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Soapstone Prairie Natural Habitat

One of the challenges with my new barn is location. Not that the location is bad, but that it is one the opposite side of our metro area than where I have been boarding, which means trails that used to be 30 minutes away are now over an hour away. More, if there is traffic. Some of those trails I really love and will continue riding (Chatfield, East-West, Buffalo Creek, Indian Creek) but it also means that I need to find trails on my side of the metro area that are just as fun to ride. This has the added benefit of providing my adventure boy with new vistas to explore (he loves that) and new country for me to peruse.

Sunday, J and I headed to a nature preserve called Soapstone Prairie. It is nestled at the edge of the hills just south of the Wyoming/Colorado boarder (you can ride into Wyoming from these trails) and sits just east of Red Mountain Open Space. It is rolling prairie with well-maintained trails, that houses one of the oldest Folsom archaeological sites in the US, and some Clovis sites as well (which I find so cool). It is also the home of a small herd of pure bison (without brucellosis) who are calving on this land for the first time this spring. I've been fascinated since I first heard of the space (maintained by Fort Collins) and have been itching to go there. I had scoped out the exit on Thursday when we were driving North to Vedauwoo for a three day camping adventure, so I knew where we needed to go.

Ashke whinnied and whinnied when he saw me on Sunday morning (the heart does grow fonder) and was very excited to hop on the trailer. He is now walking on the trailer without me having to back him up and try again (our process) and all it took was patience and time. Once on, we headed north.

The ride took about an hour and a half, which is about the same length of time it takes to drive to Chatfield, although there was no traffic coming or going. It always feels longer the first time you go somewhere new, in part due to the unknown. Going back it should feel shorter.

As we got close, Ashke got very fidgety, which is not like him. Typically, he is stalwart in the trailer. J said he was shifting a lot. We were assuming it was the dirt road that we had to take (for like ever) to get to the trailhead.

It appeared darker in person. And we did not bring any rain gear.
The lightning was pretty intense, right up until we got there.

There were several windmills with cisterns underneath them for the cattle to drink from.
This would be the only water on this ride.

I see clouds like this and I think Mordor.

Ashke was very shifty at the trailer too. Not wanting to stand still. I thought maybe he was anxious to get going, and then I twigged to what was really going on. Once he was saddled, I walked him over to the grass where he peed, and peed and peed. That was why he wasn't standing still in the trailer. He was holding it in until I could get him on grass.

It was a nice trailhead with a mounting block built in.

I really need to teach him to swing his butt over next to the block.

  Start of the Cheyenne Rim Trail that runs basically due north for 12 miles into Wyoming and connects to Red Mountain.

Most of the trail was decent footing, although there were spots with intense rock.
We walked the rocky spots since the gaiters on the Gloves are toast. Again.

Zero trees. Not for the agoraphobic.

Some kind of current or chokecherry bushes were the largest plants around.

And some sage.
It would have been a brutal ride in the heat. We were riding in low 80's with intermittent cloud cover.

Happy ears.

J mostly led on the day. It would be easy for Ashke and I to leave her in the dust going uphill.

This is a Not Trail sign. In the grass, because grass is all there is.

It looked like a gradual rise along a fairly flat road, but in reality, it was all uphill.

Looking south from one of our rest breaks.

J trying to catch her breath.
The slight breeze was nice.

There were several "water" crossings, without water.
It would not be a pretty place to get caught in a flash flood.

Cows. The bison are on the other side of the Open Space.

We kept moving around the sides of these slight hills.

And up. A lot of up.

This is looking back toward the parking area, which you can't really see, but gives you and idea of how high we had climbed.

We came down the high ridge to another arroyo, filled with a huge wash out from a flash flood and a ton of chokecherry bushes.

This was the point at which I had explosive diarrhea, which is not fun when all you have for cover is some short bushes and grass instead of toilet paper. I have no idea why it suddenly happened, but it was enough for us to turn back toward the trailer. We had gone exactly five miles out. It's just as well we turned around, since I barely made it back to the portojohn before having another bout of the gripe. 

There was a cistern with a windmill set off the trail for the cattle to drink from.
I rode Ashke down to see if he would drink, but the sound of the windmill was too much for him.

We averaged just under 4 miles an hour. I had the Garmin Vivo watch we got T to track him runs, that I am now using when we ride. His walk over a lot of the terrain was at a 4.3 mph pace.

I mostly let him pick his rate of speed, only insisting on a walk when the trail was really rough.

He was "ears forward, tail up" for the ride.

According to the brochure, those white cliffs in the distance are the Folsom and Clovis sites.

Ashke could have kept going. Ten miles isn't really enough to get him more than warmed up. It was good that we turned around though, since my bowels were wrecking havoc on me. Well, that and the fact that what I thought was a loop we could ride, was actually an out and back ride, since the Canyon Trail is closed to horses. There are loops on the east side of the Space, with a 10 mile loop and a 17 mile loop that is open to horses and bikes. Once we've explored those, we could always split up, with J and perhaps Tia riding north through the area closed to horses, to take the Canyon trail to where it meets with the Cheyenne Rim Trail. I could, with K, ride the Cheyenne Rim Trail out to where it meets Canyon, and then we could ride back together. That would make my ride 24 miles and J's about 22. 

Unfortunately, it will have to wait until fall. The temps are moving into the mid to upper 90's this week and are going to stay there for the next ten days at least. We were really lucky last year to have not so hot temps (upper 80's with few days in the 90's) but this year is going to be different. The temps on Saturday are supposed to break 100. I will plan on riding very early in the morning or late in the evening, at the barn, where I can rinse him afterwards and give him a cool mash to help keep him hydrated. I have moved past the need to ride trails in the blazing heat. And the lack of open water to hydrate him makes it even harder to consider.

It was a great ride and a wonderful Sunday.


  1. I have to figure out a logistical way to transport Gem out there and ride with you. I am drooling over your trails! I feel you on the long drive though. It adds so much time to the day just in hauling out.

    1. It would be a long drive, but I know you could do it!!!

  2. What a GORGEOUS park!!! I can see how it would be out of the question on a hot day but WOW those views! So happy you could have fun. Except for the GI stuff. That is NO fun at all!

    1. It is very pretty. I want to also ride at Red Mountain and the other side of the park, but it will have to wait. Supposed to be 100 on Saturday.