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FR500 Red Dirt Park - Hog Park Reservoir

North of the Mount Circle area, the Continental Divide Trail is deemed unwild enough, so that bicyclists are also permitted to visit the area along the Continental Divide Trail with their favorite mode of transportation. So - what the heck - even if it is just a ride through the forest, and a rocky one at that - it is a Continental Divide Crossing - I thought - and those are special. As it turned out, I was right, but only indirectly. The fact that this road crosses the Continental Divide Trail was the reason, that this turned out to be an interesting ride.

1.(mile00.0,8550ft)START-END SOUTH: jct FR509 - FR550 - FR409 in Little Red Park
2.(mile03.7,8640ft)FR75 exits Big Red Park after crossing Middle Fork of Little Snake River
3.(mile07.0,9470ft)Continetal Divide Trail joins road from south/east
4.(mile10.8,9770ft) TOP: high
5.(mile12.7,9120ft)CD Trail and profile separate, at end of steep, rocky section
6.(mile16.7,8430ft)START-END NORTH: low point on road, immediately before reaching Hog Park Reservoir


From East.
Even the starting point of the profile is a fairly remote place - Red Dirt Park. There is a little one and a big one. The profile starts in Big Red Dirt Park, located east of the Hahn's Peak area and the town of Columbine. At least the sign implies that it's a town. Really it's a restored general store and cabins for rent.

Red Dirt Park is in the Park Range, and turning off from FR550 onto FR500 it finally dawns on where this name comes from. I first thought "North Park" had something to do with why the Park Range is called Park Range. But cycling around this exquisite natural lawn the size of crater, anchored on one side by the rounded off triangle of Hahn's Peak, it dawns on me. Never mind North Park. Look at all these parks. This range itself has the parks. The fact that it is also located next to the very large North Park is secondary.

A few campers are scattered at strategic edges of Big Red Dirt Park, and even these haphazard vehicles appear to add to the scenic punctuation of this place. As FS500 turns left to leave this great park of little parks behind, it quickly deteriorates into a steep climb, with many ruts but very few rocks. It winds its way up into a maze of what used to be evergreen covered hills, and are now a skeleton of branches left over by the pine beetle. Surprisingly there are even a few decent views, where you can peek between the branches on make out the Elkhead Range and Hahn's Peak.

The weather deteriorates again and I wonder if another wet ride through endless forest is really worth all that getting wet. Meanwhile the trail seems to crest between puddles on a broad ridge. I look for a Continental Divide Crossing Trail sign, but don't see any. The only people I saw since Red Dirt Park were two motorcyclists.

And then there was also a girl sitting under a tree holding an umbrella. So actually FR500 had been following the Continental Divide Trail since somewhere near that park of little parks, Shera told me, and she had to know, because she had been walking on it. Actually she had been on the CD trail since Mexico... "and this umbrella is the best thing I brought" she told me, sheltering under a tree from the rain, that was about to break loose in earnest. Mary Poppins with her umbrellas, flying over the rooftops with her umbrellas would not have surprised me more, and did not look half as enchanting.

We walked a short distance together, owing to the fact that I was somewhat lost due to my outdated maps. Her phone apps on the other hand were completely up to date. "This is the first time I am hiking with technology" she told me. I write with it . I communicate with it . I take pictures with it and I navigate with it." As it turned out this was a hike with the most hikingest person I will probably ever know. She had walked the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, Colorado Trail, Arizona Trail, and I forgot the rest, all in their entirety - by herself. This was the last and hardest of the American long distance trails, she told me. Her memories of climbing over Gray's Peak and skiing a distance at Cumbres Pass were still fresh, and it showed in her face. Her next time away from the trail is an outdoor equipment fair, where she will work for her sponsors. And of course she has a blog and even is a professional writer (among other things) Sherahikes.wordpress.com. -

The road summits in forest without views, in between stories, after a short steep rocky section.

From South.

(descirbed downwards) The extremely rocky part of FR500 finally comes to an abrupt end after it descends to a junction with a closed road. Here the CD Trail TR1101 also deviates to the left. The intersection is well signed. The abandoned road now becomes a fast biking route. The date of abandonment seems to be fairly recent (as of July 2015). There are a few trees across the road, but the surface is perfect. A single rocky outcrop, somewhere to the east is just barely a good enough as landmark, to confirm the fact that the road twists and turns over hundreds of degrees, but generally heads north. The last descend leads into Hog Park - yet another oval shaped lawn, heaven for sheep and cows, great for people too, ringed by scrubby forest that recedes into endless waves of hills.

Dayride with this point as highest summit:


(< FR700 Chimney Rock Rd s(u) | CR62 Steamboat Lake(sh) >)
FR500 Red Dirt Park - Hog Park , FR550 Hog Park - Red Dirt Park : FR488 south of Columbine > CR129 north > Columbine Pass > FR500 east > Little Red Dirt Park > Big Red Dirt Park > FR500 Red Dirt Park - Hog Park reservoir s(u) > Hog Park > FR550 east > FR550 Hog Park - Red Dirt Park s(u) > FR500 west > Columbine Pass(shp) > back to starting point: 50.7miles with 5170ft of climbing in 6:15hrs (Garmin etrex30 m5:15.6.9)

not just another Continental Divide traveler