Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Soda Creek Revisited

September 20th shall henceforth be known as 'Better than Hiking Day'. We set out to ride Soda Creek trail together – rode up Tiger Road, Horseman Gulch, Soda Creek, then took the bus back to Frisco. Messed around taking lots of photos and had a generally good time.

In the afternoon we drove up to Breckenridge, had a wander around, then I went and rode a bit of the colorado trail that I'd missed yesterday. To be honest, I think the accidental ride to Keystone was better, but it was good to check it out, because now I know.

More Colorado Trail

I rode out to do another bit of the Colorado trail while Sue headed for the more modest Flume Trails just north of Breckenridge. After a painful amount of climbing (there has been a pattern emerging here...) there was some very cool riding down some switchbacks, all quite alpine-esque I thought. After a while I began to get a bit concerned that the regular Colorado Trail waymarkers had disappeared. Having given the map to Sue I was relying on the guidebook to find my way around, now that I wasn't sure where I was the guidebook wasn't a lot of help. Sure enough, I ended up in Keystone – I'd descended into exactly the wrong valley. Oh well, it was a fun ride.

I then enjoyed a hot hour first trying to escape from the Keystone Ranch Golf retreat – all fenced in only one road in and out, no signposts. Ended up riding into silverthorne as I couldn't find a bus stop anywhere near Keystone. Eventually got back to the RV at Gold Run, very thirsty.

Meanwhile, sue had been having a great time on the flume trails and at 40 years + 1 day old experienced an epiphany – that riding bikes is more fun than hiking. So the plans to slog up Quandary (one of the 14er peaks) where shelved in order to spend our last two days in colorado squeezing as much fun as possible out of the trails.

Late in the afternoon we drove up Boreas Pass road and rode the Baker's Tank Loop, which was a nice way to spend an hour or so.

Went out for a day late birthday Mexican, Burrito del Mar and Margarita Gold – we need more Mexicans in our life.

Sue's birthday hike

That was a cold night, the ground was frosted and Sue was cold – happy 40th :)

We took the free bus to Wildernest and hiked forever up to Eccles Pass (it took about 2 ½ hours actually, but we nearly turned back, convinced we were still miles from the pass, but just in time we realized that the top was within reach, so we could complete our linear walk back to Frisco. At over 12000', above the tree line the scenery was (literally) breathtaking.

Stayed at the most expensive RV park ever (Tiger RV resort near Breckenridge) because we needed to winterize the RV before more freezing temperatures. Felt totally ripped off until we discovered there was a pool and a hottub on site. Except they were both closed for maintenance and the WiFi wasn't working so we felt bitter and ripped-off again Ho hum.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Frisco, Monday 17th - another almost rest day

It rained hard during the night and was raining it's arse off in the morning. No riding today, so we went shopping instead, we deserved it after all. It brightened up by lunchtime so I went for a run and Sue went for a walk. I bumped into her shortly after setting off by which time she'd already acquired a dog, a long haired black retriever. I offered to take the dog off her hands and he gladly followed me, outpacing me all the way even with a few swims thrown in for good measure. I decided to name him “Boy” and he seemed happy with that. All good fun, but I couldn't take him back to the RV so I headed into town intending to find a friendly Police station or something, but before that happened Boy had wandered into a Coffee Shop, behind the counter and into the kitchen. The owner didn't seem fazed and said she'd call Animal Control to get him collected.

We parked up just out of Frisco at the end of the peninsula trail and spent the night there.

Monarch Crest Trail

Monarch Crest had been billed as The Best Ride in Colorado by more than one person, so it was something that had to be done. Starting from Monarch pass you have a steady climb for about 5 miles up to 12000', before descending to Marshall Pass and a bit of climbing and contouring, followed by an almighty descent to Silver Creek. It didn't disappoint. On the shuttle with me was a group of 7 women from the Winter park area, a couple of guys and one old geezer. I kind of rode out with people for the first few miles, but after 5 miles or so at the shelter (Green Creek?) I decided to head on to Marshall Pass to get to the toilet first. I stopped to pee on the way, stopped again to check the map, slowed down when startled some deer, did the business at Marshall Pass, ate a banana and wondered when my colleagues were going to show up. I soon got bored of waiting for strangers and decided to press on. Wished I'd packed my iPod.

The descent to Silver Creek was of the yahoo variety – fast as you like and not too technical. Lower down it got a bit bouldery, then a bit loose, then there was the loose boulder section, then the drop, then the sketchtastic super loose stuff and before you could say “actaully my arms are starting to hurt a bit” I was at the bottom. Well, not exactly the bottom – there was still another 10 miles of undulating singletrack to enjoy. I got passed by a couple from Crested Butte about 3 miles from the end who had passed my shuttle bus friends much earlier, before Marshall Pass, not moving – I was glad I hadn't waited ;)

The Rainbow Trail singletrack spat me out on route 285(?) - 5 miles of downhill back to Poncha Springs. I assumed an aero-tuck and averaged 33mph back to the RV.

We then hit Walmart which was when the storm hit – it rained hard, making me really glad that I wasn't still on the mountain. With the food cupboard restocked we headed north to our next appointment – Mount Princetown hot springs. The only way to recover from riding Monarch Crest – OFFICIAL.

Then we drove north through South Park and Breckenridge and parked up in a car park off Tiger Road ready to hit the trails in the morning.

Rest day (almost) Saturday 15th

Overslept and felt too tired to ride Dead Man's Gulch as I'd planned so just did a short ride up Walrod's Trail instead, which was short and sweet with some lovely switchbacks on the way down. The whole ride took less than an hour. Sue decided to walk the same route so I had time to kill when I got back, so I took the bikes down to the creek to give them a clean.

We said goodbye to Crested Butte around lunchtime and set the controls for Poncha Springs near Salida. I booked myself a place on the next mornings shuttle bus to Monarch Pass and we stayed the night at the Heart of The Rockies RV resort, which was acceptable.

Crested Butte

Drove up to Mount Crested Butte first thing in the morning and set off to ride Upper Loop, which was fun. Sue took the easier descent down Whetstone Vista while I did the Upper Upper Trail, which was just some brutal climbs followed by a forgettable descent, Sue's route sounded much better – there you go. We then headed out to do Strand Hill which had been recommended by several people. It started with a fierce climb up a rough jeep track, but it was all doable, I was coping fine with the steady climbs where you just sit and spin, but as soon as things got steep and you needed to put some power into it I was gasping for breath and pushing – that's altitude (at least that's my excuse).

We split again, Sue opting for the easier Strand Hill Bonus Trail, while I did the Strand Hill Standard. It was a hoot. By the time we got back to the RV we'dd been out for about 6 hours and were feeling beat. Created Butte doesn't do RV parks or camp grounds but we found a great dispersed (free) campsite down Cement Creek road and stayed there for a night of thunder storms.

Sea Kayaks, but no sea.

Sea kayaking on blue Mesa reservoir. It was calm as a millpond for the first 3 hours but when the wind picked up it created a bit of a swell to spice things up. The kayaks a had rudders, which I'd never used before – essentially you control the rudder with your feet and steering becomes trivial. That said, I'm not a fan of them for these reasons:

  1. they work great in calm water, less well in a swell because the rudder ends up out of the water too much, where it is useless.

  2. The paddling technique I'd been taught involves starting the stroke in your legs, so you push against the foot rests and develop a kind of peddling action. This isn't possible when your footplates control the rudder because as soon as you push against them you change direction. Thus, you're forced to use a paddling style that i think is weaker and less efficient.

  3. It makes things dull, there's no technique to learn/practise/use/master.

  4. If your rudder breaks you're stuffed because you haven't learnt 'proper' technique.

So there it is, just say 'no way!' to rudders.

We headed up to Crested Butte after that and did an early evening ride up upper lower loop and back on lower loop and woods walk trail to finish up in town for beer and pizza at the Brick Oven. Had 2 lovely pints of New Belgium Mothership Wheat Beer and rode back up the track o the RV by the light of a headtorch, talking loudly to scare off the mountain lions that had been recently spotted in the area. It seems that Mountain Lions are wary of people who talk too loud – sensible creatures.

Hartman Rocks - Gunnison

Lazy start to the day, helped by the chill morning temperature, so it was about 11ish when we started riding at hartman rocks. Let me confirm, hartman most definitely rocks (sorry!). It would have been even better if we'd had any idea where we were going – me and Sue split up to do our own thing, she had the map, I had the guidebook, neither of us could work out where we were, nor could we determine where we'd been after studying the even more bewildering map at the trailhead. Nevertheless, we both found some peachy trails. There was sweet sandy singletrack, technical rock steps, slabs, sand, everything you need for choice desert riding. Recomended.

Had a BBQ featuring a ridiculously large steak.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Crater Lake

Slept badly, convinced that the temperature would drop below freezing and burst the water tanks in the RV. Sue slept badly, convinced that we were going to be eaten by bears. Still, he headed out at 7.30am to hike up to Crate lake at nearly 12000'. Altitude does weird things – walking uphill we were breathing really hard, but stop for 2 minutes and instantly you feel OK again. Fingers swell up too – Sue couldn't even clench a fist, but we didn't get altitude sickness, so that was alright.

Canoeing at Vallecito

We'd spent the night at the Vallecito resort, an RV park that seemed to be run by square dancing christians. When Sue went to pay the propritress said “hey Bill, this lady's from the UK and she's rented an RV with her husband and they're touring around, isn't that cool!”. So there you have it, square dancing christians think we're cool.

Hired a canadian canoe and went for a paddle on Vallecito reservoir which was fun, until we saw the rain clouds coming in. We made it back before the storm broke though and headed back through Durango to the Trimble hot springs - 50m swimming pool and 2 hot pools, all outdoors. Either I'm rubbish at swimming now or the altitude completely did me in.

headed of the road to camp off piste in the San Juan mountains by St Andrew's lake.

Colorado Trail - Durango

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The 470 mile long Colorado trail starts in Denver and finishes in Durango, I set out to ride the last 20 miles of it. Keen mathematicians will have gathered that this implies a 40 mile round trip, which is quiet a lot. I don't have the exact figures, but I'd estimate there was roughly a billion feet of ascent involved too. The first 3 hours were nearly continuous uphill on dirt road – all steady middle ring climbing, just for 3 hours solid. That was OK, I was on schedule when I hit the Colorado trail and was looking forward to 90 mins of glorious singletrack. For the first 30 mins it rocked, then it turned steeply uphill which blew. I was pushing for long periods and didn't really know where I was beyond being on the Colorado trail, in the trees, with the creek below me – which narrowed it down to a 15 mile stretch. When I thought I'd got to the top of the climb the trail started undulating, but by this time my legs had gone and was pushing every time the gradient went up. After forever it levelled out and i had a traversing super narrow trail to enjoy for so long that it started getting boring! Then it finally started descending. Relentlessly. I was nearly too worn out to enjoy it, but not quite :)

I think it was an hour of continuous craic. Possibly the hardest ride I've ever done, certainly one of the best. Epic.

Horse Gulch trails Durango

We rode into town and out the other side to the Horse Gulch trails where we split, Sue rode Meadow loop and other bits while I did Telegraph Road, most of Sidewinder (couldn't find the top of it despite an extensive search), a bit of Cowboy, Crites, Anasazi and half of Meadow. Damn fine trails. It didn't suck at all. Not massively technical, just tight, twisty, flowing REAL GOOD STUFF.

I was cooked by the end of it though (all 2 ½ hours of it).

We headed back into town in search of fluid which was provided by Carver's brew pub and their Lightner Creek Lager. Bought a camera (Yay!), dragged ourselves back to the RV and I finally managed to bully the laptop into looking for other wireless networks apart from our home one, which was clearly out of range.

Fruita to Durango

Got up with the sun and rode up Prime cut and down Kessel Run with Sue before breakfasting on eggy bread and beans – a pretty good start to the day.

Tried to buy a camera in walmart but they were shite. “Do you need any help sir?”

“Yes, do any of these compacts have an aperture priority mode?”

“Well, I'm not too sure about the technicalities, but I think you can adjust the ISO on some of them”.

It was hard to leave Fruita, but the cooler climate of the mountains did have it's own appeal, so we headed south for Durango, stopping briefly in Ouray (little Switzerland as it's known because the mountains around there are reminiscent of well, Switzerland) for huge and delicious ice creams.

Stopped at the United RV park on the edge of Durango.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Bookcliffs, Fruita (06/09/07)

The trails that everyone associates with Fruita. Went and did Prime Cut with Sue, then rode Joes ridge, which didn't quite live up to the hype. We were chilling out in the RV waiting for the sun to cool off when Troy, keith and Quentin from OTE showed up with a couple of guys from out of town. They offered us a shuttle run up to do Prime cut and then Kessel run. They hammered the trails and I was going all out to hang onto a wheel. Prime cut was loads more fun at full tilt, but Kessel run was just brilliant swooping, twisting trail. Sue did it twice she liked it so much.

After a couple of beers and a nap I summoned enough energy to set out to ride Zippetty Do Da. I went up Western Zip and down Q70 and up Coal Gulch Road to Frontside (not something I'd repeat). I was suffering on Frontside, it was undulating singletrack with brutal climbs that I was too exhausted to ride. But Zippety delivered. One of the best trails I've ridden anywhere.

I was happy and broken by the time I finished. A tough day enjoying myself. Camped at the trailhead. Discovered my camera had died :(

Kokopelli's Mack trails, Fruita (05/09/07)

Went out earlyish and did Steve's loop with Sue, a nice ride which ran along the edge of a bench with the colorado river way down below. At one point the trail is a few feet from a 300' drop – hello vertigo. The most scenic loop in Kokopellis? Probably. Sue took the shortcut back while I did handcuffs and Troy built. In general these trails are moderately technical, narrow singletrack with short bits of seriously difficult/impossible problems usually at the start and end of the loop as you descend to / climb out of a bench. I'd had 3 punctures in 24 hours and decided that my back tyre was for the bin, picked up a new one at OTE.

Went out on the Wednesday night OTE ride which was Troy built again but in the opposite direction to how I'd done it in the morning. It rocked again. As the light was fading there was lightening going off all over the place, but amazingly we only got rained on for about a minute. It was half light by the time we finished Troy Built, so it was quarter light as we came down the stupidly fast descent off Lions.

Rounded off the day with Shrimp Burrito and Margarita at Fiesta Guadalajara. Perfect.

18 hours and Mack Ridge (04/09/07)

Got up early again and were on the 18 Hours of Fruita trail by 7.30. More singletracky than I'd expected, lots of swoopy flowy loveliness and with the sun just coming up it was a delight to be there. Lots of rabbits, the odd Gofer and the briefest glimpse of some deer proved that we were at one with nature. We finished the 18 Hour course with over 16 hours to spare and retired to the RV for fresh coffee and brownies. We'd spotted some mad looking pedal boats – basically a bike mounted on a mini catarmaran, but the lakeside hire place was closed because it was a week day, so I didn't get to try them, shame.

Not wanting to dwell on the disappointment of the pedal boats we made off for the Kokopelli Trailhead to do Mack Ridge. Fixed a puncture before setting off so it was about 11am when we started turning the pedals and we realised that in Fruita at this time of year it gets pretty hot by 11am, very different to Frisco – but we had lost about 5000' altitude, so it shouldn't have been a surprise. To get to Mack Ridge you have to climb – it's a ridge, see? The clue is in the name. It was quite tough actually, the annoying kind of track that's not steep enough to excuse getting off and pushing, but loose enough and long enough to demoralize. Sue was feeling less than 100% and decided to turn back when the levelled out bit turned upwards again. It was probably just as well she did given what came next. The climb up to the ridge was on rough and loose doubletrack but when you reach the ridge the views are stunning – the massive Colorado river runs a squllion feet below you and there's just this view that I can't put into words, I thought about taking a picture but it wouldn't have captured it - I'd have need a trick camera with wide angle lense and being there 4 hours earlier would have helped too, but trust me, it's a spectacular scene.

Enough of that – the descent starts right away and it quickly leads you into some spicy rock steps that were borderline crash territory for me. Then I was treated to some quality rocky singletrack that had a couple of silly technical moments that I just walked down, but most of it was a total hoot.

I was back 'home' by 12.30 and only the sun stopped me going out for another loop. We'd decided that Highline campsite was too far from everywhere to be of much use to us so we booked in at the Colorado River State Park in Fruita which offered the luxuries of water and electric hook up for the RV. Did the first 'dump' of the grey and black water tanks (grey water come from the sinks, black is worse). A typically chatty american pulled up alongside as we were reading the manual to see what we were supposed to do; “ah! The great leveller! It don't matter how fancy a rig you got, we all end up here doing the same thing, no getting away from it!” Of course everyone loves us because we're from the UK and everyone's got a grandfather from Scotland.

Peaks Trail, Frisco (03/09/07)

This place is cool. Why? Well, one of the reasons is the free shuttle buses that operate between places. Both me and Sue had slept intermittently again, but had managed a lie – in until nearly 7am. We drove the RV into Frisco where she caught the free shuttle to Silverthorne and I took the bus to Breckenridge – with my bike on the bike-rack. A free bus that takes bikes – I like.

Another reason I like this place is that when some guy hears you're from the UK he doesn't go “Oh, Manchester United, Liverpool...”, no, he says “Steve Peat's an awesome rider man!”. But I digress. The bus ride saved me an hour or so of tarmac climbing and at 9000 and something foot elevation I think avoiding unnecessary climbs is a good thing. Still, there was still a 30 minute climb out of Breck to the start of peaks Trail which sort of contours along about 1000ft below the ridgeline of the 10 Peaks. It's very good. No big climbs but lots of short technical ups. It has rocks roots trees in just the right configuration. The first 6 miles from Breck undulate nicely, to be honest the altitude makes the climbs tougher than they look, a short pull leaves you out of breath and even though i wasn't ragging it i could feel a lactic burn starting in my legs, I guess that's oxygen deficiency for you.

The last 3.5 miles seem to be entirely downhill. You read that right. A very big blast. I got a bit too close to a tree at one point which unerved me a bit when I tried to imagine how many pieces my shoulder would have broken into if I'd hit a tree at warp speed. Eventually i was spat out onto a double track that looked like it was the end of the fun, but directly opposite was a sign for Rainbow Lake trail. I'd never heard of it so i asked the dog walkers who'd just come along it where it went and was assured that it would be a fun return to town. They weren't wrong. A wide and unremarkable track took me past Rainbow lake then headed back into the trees. After a while I spotted a bit of singletrack diving off to the right, so I followed it – fanbleedintastic. Super tight, twisty, rocky, rooty, like the old Innerleithen downhill trails, but better because it's Colorado and its sunny! The icing on the cake.

Sue had been feeling ropey again so did the shops at Silverthorne. After lunch in safeway's car park we hit the I70 and didn't stop until we reached Highline state reservoir, Fruita, site of the 18 hours of Fruita event.

Frisco (02/09/07)

We drove the RV down to Frisco – no great distance but we were very aware that at 9000ft and with no acclimatisation we were likely to be feeble UK bikers. Looking for an easy warm up ride we stumbled on the Shoreline trail that was lovely buff singletrack around the peninsula. We hadn't heard anything about this trail, it was just a line on the map, but it was great.

After that I bought some cleats that actually fitted the pedals on my Dawg. Not wanting to over do it on our first day we went shopping in Silverthorne, but I only came away with a $20 pair of lycra shorts. Sue was feeling pretty ropey by now so we headed back to the campground. I was dead sympathetic and took off on my bike again, popped over the hill and picked up Soda Creek trail – another gem. Colorado doesn't do duff trails. In fact all buff, no duff could be there tagline. Maybe.

Denver - Dillon Reservoir (01/09/07)

Woke up at 3.30. got up about 5am and had a shave. Managed to make enough noise to convince Sue that she might as well get up too, she wasn't sleeping anyway. By 6.30 we were in the pool, then we moved next door to the jacuzzi. Jet lag never felt so good.

We dumped our stuff at the RV rental place and took a bus into town to go shopping at REI – the outdoor megastore. Bad idea – I spent a ton of money. Minor mishap getting the bus back, we naively assumed that if the 31 bus took us from 98th to Spere Avenue then to get back to 98th we just needed to pick up the 31 going back the other way. Not that easy though is it? Still, we had a nice tour of residential Denver.

The RV was bigger than the one we booked, which was nice and they got a bike rack for us too. First priority was to buy food – the Eggs Benedict I'd had for breakfast were great, but that was 8 hours ago. So the first meal in our new home was in Safeway's car park – classy.

We hit the I70 and headed west and in just over an hour we were rolling into Lowry campground above Dillon Reservoir – lovely spot. I built the bikes, Sue sorted the unpacking and made dinner and that was that.