The Elbow lake area is quite underappreciated as a mountain biking destination. I did the climb up to the lake in under 10minutes. After rolling around the lake there is 5km of rocky doubletrack offering opportunities for interesting line selection, and scenic alpine riding and of course even more options for exploring in the Elbow and Sheep trails.
After turning onto the smooth Sheep trail, the riding became easier up and over Sheep Pass but as expected the floods of 2013 had wiped out much of the trail up to and including the Rickert's Pass trail junction. Of course the status of the riding through this section is in dispute as it passes through a historical private ownership region. I made sure to carefully tiptoe my way through the many dismounts, creek crossings, climbing up and down banks, and walking along through the creek! The progress of my blue GPS dot on Trailforks was painfully slow, but I eventually arrived at a coal pile where according to the GPS track, it was time to find the Rickert's Pass trail. Before the floods, the trail was such a rip that people would ride right past the junction!
I started to hike up Rickerts Creek, and picked up a trail on the Left side of the creek, put my head down and pushed my bike up the trail. Unfortunately (or fortunately...) I was led to a dead end. Trailforks showed my blue dot well off route, so I started to bushwack towards the trail, making painfully slow progress, and having to cross the steep gully of Rickert's Creek. A silly mistake that would have been obvious had I brought or had a photo of my topo map.
Eventually I picked up the trail but at that point, I just wanted to be over and done with. I had to refuel before reaching the pass and only really stopped at the pass for 3 pictures before heading down the trail.
The Mist Creek descent was awesome. It is approximately 10km long and drop down to the valley bottom is in great shape, especially compared to Cox Hill. As the trail traveled along the valley bottom, there was very minimal horse and flood damage and the slight rolling hills were easy on my fatigued legs. After the junction with the old exploration road that heads up to Mist Ridge, the water-bar-turned-jumps brought a bit of a smile out of me before arriving back at the trailhead to my patiently waiting girlfriend.
Well the fire is stoked, and I've been eyeing up more rides in Kananaskis. While the dry conditions have brought the fire danger to extreme levels, even the most poorly drained trails are drying up and it is time to get after it. The classics of the Elbow valley, the lesser known gems in the Sheep, and the adventures in the Highwood area are calling.