Great Plains Wondering: Warm-up ride explores the Gyp Hills

Brandon Case
Pratt Tribune
A Pratt bicyclist stops to chat with a Barber County farmer hauling hay along one of the roads that will challenge Open Range Gravel Race riders this weekend in Pratt and Barber counties.

The public roads of the Gypsum Hills provide a perfect escape from the noise and busyness of city life and also offer a twisting, turning journey filled with beautiful vistas.

It had been quite a few months since my friend Dan McAnarney and I had enjoyed the hills together. A recent Saturday provided just the right weather to do so, also serving as a warm up for the Open Range Gravel Tour happening later this month.

If you ride or drive in the Red Hills, there are plenty of roads to explore and, as the name implies, multiple opportunities to roller coast up and down, in some cases climbing skyward on a fairly steep grade.

While we didn’t see any other cyclists on this trip, we experienced much more traffic than usual. In fact, we were passed seven times (once by a Barber County Sheriff’s vehicle), which is a pretty busy day for the Gypsum Hills, considering we were only there a little over four hours. One pickup truck hauling a trailer passed us twice. Its occupants, a husband, wife, and their large dog, live just off the road, Union Chapel, where our journey began. The couple stopped to visit briefly.

Besides our human encounter, we saw a lot of avian life on the ride and a coyote, which we stood and watched as it made a beeline away from us down a red dirt path in the valley.

All in all, it was an idyllic Red Hills ride, full of photo opportunities and much cycling fun. Next time we hope that a larger contingent of local cyclists will be able to join us in creating some good two-wheeled memories.

In the meantime, Pratt will soon be filled with cyclists and bicycles of all types and sizes as the Open Range event happens on the last weekend in April.