The Montane Traverse is never as easy as I want it to be. Or rather, it’s an easy trail, except when it’s not. The easy parts are pretty easy and the hard parts can actually be kinda hard. The problem is that there’s nothing in between. That and, also, I usually forget about the hard parts until I’m just about to ride them.
Part of this dichotomy comes from the trail design. The Montane Traverse was built as a compromise between cyclists and golfers. The golfers got a golf course, built on top of Soul Brother, one of the most popular trails at the time. In return, the cyclists got a new trail built around the golf course. The fact that this new trail occasionally picks up a piece, here and there, of the older, and better, trail always serves as a reminder of another time. The Montane Traverse gets more and more interesting the further you get from the golf course. The easy parts: wherever you find those, you find the golf course. The hard parts: those are there to get you around the golf course.
The other cause of this easy/hard dichotomy is my mental state whenever I decide to ride the Montane Traverse. Tired from many days of riding? Ride the Montane Traverse, it’s easy. Hung-over? Montane Traverse isn’t hard, at least you’re getting out and pedaling. A little buzzed from drinking too many beers at the shop? Montane Traverse is the ride for you. For some reason, whenever I think of the Montane Traverse, I seem to believe that it’s an easy trail. I have, of course, totally forgotten the hard parts. I do this every time.
The first of the hard parts comes right at the beginning. Or rather, it did. After the flood, I can’t say how much of this part is still around. But in happier times a leisurely ride up Cougar Creek to the trail head suddenly turns into a steep and long climb the second you get on it. Usually it’s about two thirds up is when I start thinking that this climb is too long. Excessively long.
Then it gets easy. Fun, but still relatively easy as you wind your way closer and closer to the golf course. It’s while you’re circumnavigating the golf course that the second hard part comes. Another steep and long climb. Excessively long. I always under-estimate this climb. I always remember it as shorter than it really is. This part of the trail was designed to get up and over the golf course, moving you closer the older trail network. And it’s a grind, even more so when you’re tired, or hung-over, or just not feeling great. To add insult to injury, occasionally literally, all of this is in full sight of the golf course. The, admittedly rare, taunts from some chubby guy in a golf cart can make this climb worse.
After cresting the climb, an excessively long climb I might add, the Montane Traverse gets easy again. But, the smooth, rolling, singletrack soon gives way to more technical terrain as you press on ahead. For a shorter ride, you can continue to skirt the edges of the golf course. This stays easy and fun until a third hard part. A technical descent, steep and covered in loose dirt and gravel. Once again, this is all within sight of the golf course. Nothing stokes the ego more than cartwheeling down the hill only to land face first in front of a group waiting to tee off. Good times.
I don’t know why I think the Montane Traverse is just an easy trail. It’s not. It’s both easy and hard. I just wish I would remember the hard parts before I find myself half-way through an “easy” ride. Again.