Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pugsley Romping The Vegas Snow Trail

The single-track trail was blanketed with snow, so I trusted hikers' steps that had flatted the snow and guided my fattie front tire across the evergreen-covered face of Mount Charleston.

When you're biking a single-speed steel Surly Pugsley, you have faith in the integrity of a narrow trail and the brakes that you squeeze for literal dear life.

But the thrill of moving at speed faster than a run with alpine scenes unfolding in front of you is just too tempting to ignore. So I'm biking surely and defensively at the same time to make sure the sloping cross angle of the trail doesn't put on a slippery slope down the side of a snowy mountain.

It's the Bristlecone Trail, a popular mountain trail near the Lee Canyon ski center that draws hundreds of hikers during the summer months to escape the Las Vegas valley's infamous triple-digit temperatures.

But on this day, I met a grand total of seven people -- three groups. It was mostly serene at 9,000 feet.

# # #

I parked at the Lower Bristlecone Trail parking lot and made sure my five layers fit well. I had two long-sleeve shirts, a bike jersey, a nylon vest and a windbreaker for the 32-degree, sunny weather.

The first 3 1/2 miles on the trail is a wide fire road that goes uphill the entire way, winding its way like a lariat rope until the trail narrows drastically to the width of a single track.

When the trail is exposed to the sun, there's no snow. But when cloaked in shadows from trees and the mountain, the trail is covered in the white stuff. It's soft and about four inches deep.

The trail plateaus off around 9,400 feet and it's moving slightly up and also down for about a half-mile or so.

At some sections I have no choice but to hop off the bike seat and carefully negotiate the narrow trail but the cross angle is sloping downward and there's no edge for my tire to gain traction.

But then I leave the ledge-like trail, and the narrow swath begins to meander its way downhill between trees and among them, too.

# # #

It's a 50-minute drive to reach the trail parking lot and another 45 minutes of biking on the wide section of the trail before I can enjoy the final one mile drop that's like a bobsleigh track through the woods for an exhilarating straight-away to the Upper Bristlecone Trail.

It was all worth it.

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