On a chilly March morning, I pointed my bike West and set out from my house to explore a route that I drew out between Golden and Bear Creek Lake Park in Denver.
I had a loop planned out to connect the Ralston Creek Trail and the Bear Creek Trail, but there was a big section south of Golden that was unknown to me. It took a certain amount of courage to head out knowing that 20 miles in I would hit things that were a big unknown.
Living with anxiety, I have often felt like life was a big hallway filled with doors that I am afraid to open. There’s a sense of self-consciousness, a fear that I’ll go somewhere I’m not meant to be and people will shame me for not knowing my place. A fear of opening a door to find people looking back at me with “You’re not supposed to be here,” written on their face.
I started out my ride on the Ralston Creek Trail, a pleasant ride through Arvada that takes you out of the city and up on a rise for views of the Golden area and Denver. I was familiar with the route from riding it once in the summer.
At the end of the Ralston Creek Trail, however, the trail turns into dirt two track for a few miles, and then you have to choose a road to connect you to Golden. At this point, I faced some uncertainty.
On the one hand, riding on the dirt trail brought me concern about getting a flat many miles out from home. Connecting to the road would also bring me to the first time I would ride my bike on a road by myself.
I had already ridden several roads with my friend from Boulder, but doing it by myself felt a little different. Somehow when I had an experienced person leading the way, I felt like the road was vetted.
My anxiety was nagging me as I pedaled my way along the dirt trail to 53rd St. I was looking around for other road bikes, but I only saw people on mountain bikes. “Maybe I shouldn’t be here,” said the voice in my head.
I pushed through my doubt, referencing Strava to allay my incessant nagging fear that I passed the road I was going to turn off on.
As it turned out, the route wasn’t hard to find, and I turned left onto 53rd then right onto Easley Rd. Easley road is beautiful, making for quite a pleasant ride as you follow it to where it reaches the Golden Freeway and gives you access to the Clear Creek Trail.
I even saw other road bikers on Easley, which made me feel better.
My next dance with uncertainty came after I navigated through Golden and got onto the US-6 bike path. The path is mostly easy to follow, even as it challenges you with a pretty decent climb.
The reward for the climb is an absolutely beatific moment when you descend as you’re offered a stunning view of a gorgeous valley in southwest Denver.
Right around where US-6 intersects C470, you have to follow a little leg of trail south and then get in the left turn lane on the road to get onto Rooney Rd.
I took me a moment to summon my courage to ride into the road and get in the left turn lane. It’s a moderately busy area at the intersection of two highways. Finally, after going the wrong way and doubling back, I got out there and turned onto Rooney Rd.
Once I was on Rooney Rd., it wasn’t really anything worse than what I’d ridden on before. There was a decent shoulder, and there were other riders so I felt like drivers would be prepared to see a bike on the road.
It was actually really gorgeous, and I felt amazing exploring what I had planned out on a navigation app.
From there, I periodically kept my eyes on my navigation app until I hit the C470 connector. I was worried about missing it, but it wasn’t hard to find. I actually hadn’t been sure from the map if it was a road or a trail.
I like to remind myself how much uncertainty I had about the route before I went out because, having anxiety, facing uncertainty is one of my greatest challenges. So I’m as proud of going out into the unknown as I am of knocking out miles.
There was a bit more uncertainty on the last leg of this part of the route that connects to Bear Creek Lake Park. It was pretty typical stuff for exploring a new route, just checking the navigation where trails split off and all that.
I can’t recommend the ride through Bear Creek Lake Park and down the Fox Hollow Golf course enough. The Park is simply beautiful. And the Fox Hollow Golf course is one of the most amazing courses I’ve ever seen. I feel honored to be able to ride through it!
The Bear Creek Trail in general is quite lovely to ride. I was pretty familiar with it, so for me the rest of the trip was a little more routine.
By the time I got to Denver, I was tired enough to be at a point where I was mostly focused on getting home. My trip ended up around 68 miles.
The most important part to me was that I set out knowing I would hit unknown stuff over 20 miles from my home. This experience helped give me the confidence to draw routes in places I hadn’t even been to and get out and try them. Which is exactly what I did on the vacation I just returned from. It was full of firsts for me!
Dealing with the unknown and expanding what I think of as being possible are the challenges that I find rewarding. To me, there’s nothing like that “I can’t believe I’m here!” feeling.
I’m truly grateful for this experience. I will always be human and have my ups and downs. But I’m looking forward to more growth moments.