I just got back from a 10-day jaunt where I did some riding in Utah and Colorado. I meet up with some old friends, made some new ones and rode some bucket list quality trails that are already on my Top … list. Riding in the aspens during the brief window that they are turning has been on my list for a long time. So when a slow-down in my work schedule along with a tip-off on the aspens turning coincided I pulled the trigger. I packed my truck with camping gear, two bikes, fly-fishing gear, every map and guide book of the regions I owned along with a cooler full of enough San Diego microbrew cans, bottles and growlers to keep half a dozen people chilling for a week . After stuffing my laptop and GPS with tracks and waypoints I headed out. I had some general ideas but my schedule was not set more than 2 days out and it was all subject to change. This was going to be a very loosey goosey vacation. Just have a great time, see beautiful country and ride good stuff. This trip really did turn out to be something I am going to be talking about for years to come. I have many gigabytes of photos to sort through and hopefully I can gather up the right words to articulate in a meaningful way just what a life enriching experience each one these places were. For now here is a quick recap of what my on-the-fly itinerary turned out to be.
Day 1: I did a full day of driving to the San Rafael Swell in the eastern part of Utah where I setup camp in a area known as “The Wedge” on the edge of The Little Grand Canyon.
On Day 2, I did a dawn patrol ride along the Good Water Canyon Rim Trail where I enjoyed some great scenery and some high quality on the edge singletrack. Afterwards I broke camp and did another sizable drive to Winter Park, CO to met up with my old friends Kevin and JD and met Greg and Barb. I would be crashing at Greg’s house for the next two nights.
Greg owns a trail design and construction business and the next day I was treated to some of the local goods that he played a major part in bringing to life. This was also my welcome to high-country Colorado riding day and boy was the top elevation of around 11,000 feet a wake up call to my sea-level lungs. The aspens were awesome!
On Day Four we did a point to point ride from the Vail Pass Summit to Minturn on the Bowman Shortcut trail and the Two Elks trail. Oh my what a great trail and with some good technical riding. This trail really made you use pretty much your entire range of on-the-ground technical skillsets. I was blown away by the beauty of this ride. We enjoyed some tasty post-ride grub and beers in Minturn.
Afterwards we heading back up to Vail Pass summit and then further up a forest service roads to Shrine Pass where my and Kevin’s truck were at. When we got there I noticed there was a fire ring already setup not far from my truck. The views were great so I did not even move the truck. I pulled up out the gear and setup camp for the evening at 11,100 feet. The rest of the trip would follow this same kind of short-tem decision making.
On Day Five, I traveled south and rode the trails around Twin Lakes. Part of the loop I did was also the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. After the ride, and a review of the weather forecast, I continued south and camped near Poncha Springs.
On Day Six, I grabbed a shuttle out of Poncha Springs and did the Monarch Crest Trail along with Silver Creek and the Rainbow trails. An IMBA Epic, this ride was 32.5 miles long with 2,200 feet of climbing and 6,600 feet of descent with the highest elevation being above treeline flirting with 12,000 feet. The numbers are meaningless in comparison to the experience.
On Day Seven I took a rest day by fly-fishing in Salida on the Arkansas River. It had been about 14 years since I last fly-fished for trout. I should have checked my wading boots a little better before the trip because about 3/4th of a mile down the river the soles disintegrated loose from the uppers and floated away down the river. This made for both a comical and gingerly return back to my truck. I am reminded that it is called fishing and not catching so their was no trout dinner for me. It was still a great morning of standing in a river waving a stick. That afternoon I enjoyed a beautiful drive to Crested Butte and setup camp.
On Day Eight, I rode the 401 trail loop starting right from camp. This is a mountain bike classic trail and it did not disappoint. The fall colors were majestic and I have already put a return trip on the list to ride this trail again in the summer when the hillsides are covered with wildflowers.
On Day Nine, I rode the Doctor Park trail. Awesomeness was the prescription of the day. The long middle section of the descent of this ride through the turning aspens is one of the best bits of flowing single track bliss I have experienced. A handful of the folks from Team B.O.B (Babes on Bikes) and I think of subgroup of the Shreddin Betties that I had met on the 401 trail the day before were also doing this trail. Turns out some of them were friends with Barb, Greg and Kevin so we swapped some stories over beers at the lower trailhead for a while. Good times. The afternoon/evening of day nine was going to be a drive to Flagstaff or Show Low Arizona but I did not account for the mountain pass driving and construction so I only made to Cortez. On the morning of Day 10, I thought about riding Phil’s World there in Cortez but opted to knock out the drive. I am going to make a separate trip at some point for the Cortez and Durango experience. One thing that was interesting that morning on deciding to ride or drive, I realized that I was completely satisfied with this trip. My MTB soul cup was full, life was good and it was time to head home.