Ready to ride. Also, brrrrrr
We got up around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, driving out and getting onto the trail at Echo Reservoir around 7 a.m. The sun was just coming up and it was a chilly 40 F. A couple of osprey, one with a fish clutched in its talons, circled above us; on the trail, desert cottontail rabbits bolted for cover; and a little further on, from down on the shore of the reservoir, two mule deer bucks stared at us. In less than two miles my fingers were so cold that I couldn't move them, despite having taken precautions to wear my long fingered bike gloves. We stopped for a few minutes and then continued on, wishing the sun would come up just a little faster.
Sunrise on Echo Reservoir
This rail trail runs from Echo Reservoir, along the Weber River through the farming valley communities of Coalville and Wanship, then up the canyon (below I-80) alongside Silver Creek past Tolgate Canyon, to finish up in Park City. The Union Pacific Railroad built the railway in 1880 to transport silver and coal, but abandoned the line in 1989. The converted dirt and cinder double track rail trail was opened in 1992 as the first non-motorized rail trail in Utah.
Halfway up the "steep" section
Because it is an old railroad line, the grade is very gentle (trains don't do steep) and with few curves. It is, however, about twenty-six miles long and since we were doing it as an out-and-back, I was a little concerned about the distance. H had a plan for me, however, with regular stops to stretch and eat a little (half a Payday candy bar every five miles on the way out), and lots of hydration. With my bonk on the hike last weekend, keeping my energy up was going to be important for this distance. We also planned to get into Park City in time to get something to eat at Squatter's - and Utah beer totally counts as hydration.
After the sun came up, we could see the surrounding farm country. We had the trail nearly to ourselves: seeing just a few walkers and cyclists near the Coalville and Wanship trail heads, and then a few more around mile 18, in the middle of the "climb" from the valley to the outskirts of Park City. It was a gorgeous morning and we made good time, the even double track allowing us to ride next to each other and talk for the duration. The closer we got to Park City, the more recreationers we saw, and it felt busy when we got to the paved part of the trail towards the end.
Beer - it's what's for breakfast
We had made such good time (3.5 hours for 26+ miles) that we were fifteen minutes ahead of our planned arrival at Squatter's - and worse luck, an HOUR before they were allowed to serve beer. We made the most of it, however, getting seats in the bar and absolutely devouring our breakfasts. We'd never had breakfast at Squatter's and the menu was terrific: Since I try to avoid egg/cheese during warm weather exertions, I went with a side of bacon to go with some "Utah scones," which are fluffy bites of fried dough, served with warm jam. H had a fabulous looking omelette with ham, bacon, sausage, cheese and two kinds of peppers. The joint was hopping and it took a while for our breakfasts to come out of the kitchen. We were fine with that because that meant we could drag our feet just a bit and get a couple of Full Suspensions as soon as they were available. It was the right thing to do. As H remarked, not many people would ride 27 miles before 10:30 a.m. for beer and breakfast - but we did.
Huge golden eagle
Thus sustained, we got back on our bikes and retraced our route, this time much faster because it was noticeably downhill from Park City. Before we knew it, we'd gone six miles, and then ten, and then out of the canyon and entering Wanship. Our pace slowed a little there because the trail flattened out, plus we stopped to take photos of the scenery, wildlife (golden eagle, kingfishers, killdeer) and farm life (alpacas, cows, horses, goats and sheep).
The Tiny Ass Ranch
I had one candy bar left so we also stopped for snack/stretch breaks at mile 10 and mile 18. By the time we got to the far side of Coalville, with only a few miles left, I was starting to feel it. My neck and shoulders were tight from leaning on my handlebars all day; my sit bones were getting sore; and I was feeling some fatigue in my legs. The very last bit around the shore of the reservoir was just slightly uphill too - normally, it wouldn't have been a problem but after 52 miles, I was feeling it.
But we made it, getting back to the truck after 54.39 miles in six hours (5:10 of riding and 50 minutes of resting/taking photos) (not including our brunch stop). This was by far the longest ride I've ever done, certainly on a MTB and probably ever. It felt great to have a beer, looking out over the reservoir. It felt even better to have accomplished that ride. It wasn't technical but it was long and I'm so glad we did it.
P.S. I crashed hard that night and went to bed before 8 p.m., well before the sun went down.
Bridge at the trail's terminus