Challenges on the Castle County Trail System

Thursday , November 02, 2017 - 5:00 AM

LYNN R. BLAMIRES, special to the Standard-Examiner

A ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the Castle Country Trail System in 2015. Offering more than 250 miles of trail covering an area around Helper and Price, this trail features railroad history, Indian history and wildlife. The map gives GPS coordinates and pictures of several interesting sites.

Because much of this trail is situated in lower elevations, we chose to ride it on a cool fall day. Our friends, Larry and Mary Urry, had a new Yamaha YXZ 1000 that they wanted to field test.

We planned to stage just north and east of Price, where Joan Powell, the mayor of Wellington, had suggested. She laid out a track that would take us east on a loop to Nine Mile Canyon and the popular Indian rock art featured there.

The day was on the cool side, but sunny and clear as we headed out on Deadman Creek Road. Turning onto Cardinal Wash Road, we turned east onto No Man Road. I love these names. They are much more colorful than trail numbers.

We were supposed to be on trail No. 0, but we missed a trail sign somewhere. Coming to the Airport Road, we turned south and picked up our trail again as we turned east on the Pipe Road. With few exceptions, these trails are fast and smooth.

Turning onto Antelope Road, we climbed several steep and rocky trails. Mary was at the wheel and was fearless in negotiating these parts. After we came out on top of one of these, we stopped to wait for them. Pulling up beside us, Larry said, “I had no idea this machine could do that.”

Crossing East Coal Road, we continued east on the Hadden Bench. Crossing Soldier Creek, we picked up the Cat Canyon Trail and came to a stop at Pace Creek.

The crossing looked ominous. I could tell because my wife got out of our Kawasaki Teryx 4 wanting nothing to do with it. If I was going to cross it, I would have to do it four times – once to see if it was possible, again to come back and pick up my wife, once more to continue the ride, and a final time to make it back to the truck.

The water was murky so I could not see the bottom and the crossing was about 30 feet across. Approaching the edge, I put the transmission in low range and locked the differential so that I would have all wheels pulling in the process of making the crossing in case the bottom was not solid.

No sooner had I entered the water when the nose of my Kawasaki dipped down sharply and the water came up over my ankles. That was enough for me. Being grateful for a locked four-wheel drive system, I was able to easily back out.

Not being able to find a way around this crossing, we turned back. Finding a section of the trail that passed through a patch of junipers, we stopped for lunch. The day had warmed up and the sunshine felt good.

Reaching East Coal Creek Road, we decided to try to make a loop of our trail instead of just backtracking to the truck. Turning north, we soon realized that these trails were not on the map. Each one we followed took us to an oil pump.

When I was a kid, we called these pumps “grasshoppers” because of the way they looked as the head bobbed up and down in the pumping process. The counterweights that turned at the back of the pump reminded me of a grasshoppers rear legs. After visiting three of these well heads unintentionally, we picked up the Airport Road and found our turn-off.

Passing through Deadman Canyon, we made it back to the truck finishing a ride of 57 miles. This trail is good for extending the riding season because at these lower elevations it is warmer in the spring and fall.

After finishing this ride, Larry was pleased with his new machine. He had a better feel for what it could do. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and find a way around Pace Creek.

You can write to Lynn Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

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