Bluff Creek Ranch

Bluff Creek RanchI went on another mountain biking excursion this past weekend. I originally intended to swing by Rocky Hill Ranch but could not get a hold of anyone to make reservations so I opted to visit Bluff Creek Ranch nearby. I had read on on austinbike.com and MTBR that the trails there were very quick and enjoyable. I asked my father if he would be interested in coming along so he could hike and snap some pictures.

We left San Antonio around 9AM on Saturday and arrived in Warda, around noon. I was very surprised at how laid back the place was. When we arrived there were several cars at the owners house where you register for camping/biking etc. The rates weren’t too shabby. A campsite was $10 a night and included unlimited use of the ranches 7+ miles of trails. Firewood $7 and Ice 1$ per pale. They also sell organic, homegrown, beef and steaks (which we vowed to try the next time out). The campsites at BCR were remote, private, tucked away in the pines near a small lake. The unlimited supply of firewood also made camping enjoyable. in the end, I would go back to BCR just for the camping alone.

We had been there about an hour when I decided to give the 7 mile loop a go. Navigation was fairly easy, just keep the pink markers on your left. After about 10 minutes I caught up with a group of 7 or so riders and decided to wait back for a few minutes so I would not be stuck behind them. The next portion of trail consisted of scores of bermy switchback. The sandy loam that is prevalent in the piny areas of Texas kept me honest enough as there were a few occasions where my back-end slid a bit. After another 5 minutes of riding I came across the same group of riders and decided I would attempt to overtake them. One by one they moved aside and let me by. By the time I got to the front I noticed that two of their stronger riders we giving me a chase. I went all out for about 10 minutes or so in a point of increasing our separation. In all honesty I was a little nervous of possibly gassing out midway through the ride since I did not know what to expect. Eventually I could no longer see or hear them behind me. I came up on “Gas Pass” and locked what remained of my rear brake. The back end of the trail was very fun and included quick ascents and descents. In hindsight it was significantly more demanding than I anticipated. On two occasions I came off my bike during climbs, one of which I never successfully made it up. Around 48 minutes later I arrived at our campsite thrilled but exhausted. The back end of the trail has several table top jumps but I simply did not carry enough momentum as I approached them to clear any of them. I was a bit bummed that I could not take my phone with me to capture the ride via SportyPal since it was practically dead (dad’s truck did not have a charger). I opted to take it on my final ride instead.

After resting for a while I showed my dad around the back portion of the trail. He was game for taking pictures as I attempted again and again in vain to clear the tabletops. For some reason I was feeling a bit sheepish and for the most part was not even lifting up on the bike. It was starting to get dark so we went back to the campsite and set everything up. As some point of time I spoke with the owner about the work he had done on the trails and about the level of riders that race out there. The prior week he had 539 contestants ranging form beginners to experts riding the course. I asked him about the times in order to get figure out where I would fit in. He informed me that some of the faster pros could finished the 7.5 miles in little under 30 minutes. The intermediate class usually finished in the high 30’s and low 40’s. The beginners anywhere in the 40’s or 50’s. I had pretty much peddled my ass of the first round and I am almost positive I finished around 42 minutes, putting me at the back of the intermediate pack at best. I instantly had motivation for the ride the following morning.

I had one of the best nights of sleep I have ever had camping. The temperature was nice and the sound of the wind sweeping through the pine trees put me right to sleep. When I awoke in the morning I felt refreshed and ready to go. We starting packing everything up and I used the opportunity to stretch and warm up while listening to my Ipod. I decided it was time to head out around 10AM, and for the first time ever opted to take my music with me. I was a bit more reserved toward the beginning of the trail this time around. I did not want to burn out toward the end like I did the first ride. I also opted to hike-a-bike 3 portions in an attempt to sacrifice a little time for energy down the road. Midway through the ride I came up on a legit 6-foot-horned longhorn. Thankfully I scared him as much as he scared me. As I peddled away he actually contemplated rushing or bluffing. That was an interesting situation I tell you.

I had a little bit more energy toward the end of the loop than I did the previous day. I fumbled with my riding gloves in order to turn off SportyPal (all the while losing another 30 seconds). In hind site I should have attempted to climb every ascent sans the carpeted one which I cannot honestly see making it up on my Cake. My final ride result are here. I finally found some of the limitations to my Android GPS capabilities. Since many of the switchbacks were tight and practically overlapping, the final SportyPal distance read about 6.5 miles, instead of the actual 7.5 I will take the owners word on that one 99.99% of the time. After all he lives there and built and has ridden the course for the last 20 years or so. This also lowered my average speed. I noticed I was above 10mph the majority of the ride, yet finished in the mid 8’s.

BCR has to be one of my all-time favorite rides. It doesn’t zap you so much that you swear off riding all together for weeks as is the case with Mt. Laguna and Flat Rock Ranch. I could have ridden it 3-4 times comfortably in the day I was there. The speed of the course is a welcome change from the rock garden friendly, hill country rides. I really want to ride every trail worth riding within a couple of hours of my house, but BCR is going to make that hard. I have already vowed to take Alan there the first week of April, Pickle sometime in the Spring, and Laura any time we can. In all honesty I cannot think of many things I would improve except for a couple of teeter totters in place of cattle guards. I talked my father into swinging by Rocky Hill Ranch on the way home, so I would know where it was and what it was all about. The riders there looked very competitive, and I now understand how so many people bitch about “Fat Chuck’s Demise”. The hills out there are much larger than I expected. Maybe that will be my next destination. Who knows?

Below are my GPS exports:
Bluff Creek Ranch .kmz
Bluff Creek Ranch .gpx

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