March 28, 2014
See http://www.mtbepicrides.com/2014/03/barton-creek-austin-texas.html for links and such
With a 34/15, I was geared great for much the river valley trails and made most of one of the big offshoot climbs, before the first underpass. The Hill of Life, was another story altogether, I be back with gears, cause one gear that makes that climb, maybe doable, would be painfully slow on some of the trails along the creek. There are lots of rock gardens and features to work your technical skills, a few would have benefited from a lower gear too! There are two entries on Single Tracks that kind of overlap, Barton Creek Greenbelt and Barton Creek Wilderness. From the topo maps they look like slightly different versions of the same trails. Distance and descriptions vary quite a bit though. My best take on that is that the Greenbelt encompasses the main trail along the creek and the Hill of Life and the Wilderness trails are the unmarked trails across the creek from the main trail head in Zilker park. A nice warm up would be to go east toward the river/lake, cross the first bridge and head west up to the road, around the construction and access the unmarked trails, just up the road a bit. Take them to the karin and go right across the creek, back to the main side. It looked like the trail may continue on the unmarked side, but I was uncomfortable riding through what looked like someones property, no signs, just a patio and a landscaped walkway. Even on the main side there are many offshoots, some come back to the trail, some dead end and others go back down into the creek. Some reviews on both entries mention the Hill of Life, but I do not think that you could get there in the 4 miles listed for the Wilderness, but the topo map includes it, but seems to miss the unmarked trails across the creek from the TH.
This is the first time since I started running the Knard/Blunt 35, that I got to descend big rocks and drops, maybe since Pisgah even! Now while I was not descending like a I was on a downhill rig, I felt in more control and I did not feel like I was going to be bounce of the bike, like at Farlow Gap! While not quite as intense and gnarly as Farlow, descending the Hill of Life and other sections of Barton were a good test.
I love the technical aspect of these trail and the first real climbing in quite a while. They can get pretty busy at peak times, so plan accordingly. Zilker park has a lot of other activities, such as canoe and kayak rentals, swimming holes, playground a kids train and a garden. Zilker also gets you access to the Town Lake bike path, which was even busier, due to its tame wide and flat crushed stone surface.
Ironically, at first these trails reminded me of other river valley riding that I did way back when in the Minnesota and Mississippi river valleys in Minnesota. Just throw in lots of rock gardens from my more recent home town trails in northern New Jersey and a couple big climbs. It was "ironic" cause part way along as I was about to take another dead end, a rider comes by and I tag along. His name was Tim and he also was borne and raised in Minnesota. He left when for texas when he was 21. Small world for sure.
a more manicured Pisgah NC, Oak Mountain, Alabama