Monday, August 04, 2014

San Juan Day 4

Coffee was on the brain when we woke up. We rode into town for some groceries at the market along with some fresh, hot coffee...mmmmmm.

We also had planned to do the something a little out of the ordinary for bikepackers....

ride a free gondola to the top of a mountain. What?! Yeah, I know, it sounds crazy but I figured it is there, why not use it.

After getting to the summit of the free gondola, we took Prospect Trail down, back to the the south side of Telluride to ride the Galloping Goose Trail.

The Galloping Goose is one of the first rails to trails system that developed in the 80s. It has a typical railroad grade after you ride the singletrack.

As usual, the "typical" trail did not disappoint us with views. Besides a few families, we had the entire trail to ourselves. In fact, we only saw a handful of cyclists all day on both the Galloping Goose and later the East Fork.

We rode on the shores of Trout Lake where we filled up on some water.

Aaron's new method of filtering water is the squeeze method, from Sawyer. Great idea, at least as long as you don't puncture the bag that you have to squeeze.

Before hitting the highway, we had a quick lunch on the Galloping Goose. Aaron made some fancy ramen noodles while I snacked on some fruit. He counted up his calories while we were sitting there and decided that he might have gone a little sparingly at the market that morning. I had three mountain house dinners and plenty of snacks to make the proposed 2-night trip back to Durango.

The new plan, we decided, would be to push it back in two days.

East Fork Trail with Lizard Head in the background

There was some construction on the highway near Lizard Head; in fact, there was a shuttle car that we timed perfectly!

We turned onto East Fork. Western Spirits says that "discretionary riders will walk some short sections." Short sections is right, but I was surprised how much we ended up walking toward the end of this trail. I'd like to think it was because of the trail conditions.

Buff singletrack anyone?

It's hard NOT to stop and smell the flowers

We started pushing our bikes before the trail connected with the Colorado Trail.

The Colorado Trail
Once we got on the Colorado Trail, it was high country riding....Colorado is the place to be this time of year, arguably one of the most incredible places I have been. In fact, tt was not until I was 19 that I ever visited Colorado, even later on in life before I got to *experience* this kind of Colorado. Needless to say, I like to savor my time up here above 11,000+ feet.

The amount of pictures from the DSLR camera prove it. Frequent stops, where possible, is the plan. Take a picture and continue. Although the pictures only hold a fraction of the what really transpired during the ride.

Deer enjoying a beautiful afternoon

We stopped and talked to one hiker (shown above) and he reminded us of the 22-mile stretch of trail that does not have water. I chuckled and thought that maybe I would have a dry tent in the morning if that was the case. Very few rain drops during the 5-night trip while we were sleeping, just dew at night.

We had been riding for about 8 hours when we got to Blackhawk. Aaron needed nearly bonked and had to stop for about 30 minutes to make some more food. I got a little worried and started to assume the worst (he also had blisters on his feet).

 It's sometimes hard riding with someone for several days, especially in the backwoods. Frankly, I thought Aaron was starting to crash and I started to really question his motive for stopping. Blisters and bonking sounded like a recipe for disaster.

These are not symptoms of immediate panic (although they could be) rather simply a mere discomfort that is common when bikepacking. Aaron knew what he was doing; clearly, I did not.

After eating and talking to the hiker (we sat for sometime, so the hiker that we had previously conversed with caught us), we continued our trip.

Not only was Aaron ready, he was crushing it the rest of the day

We loaded up on 120 ounces of water and pedaled until the sun started to set.

We took out the map at 6:30, thinking we were going to set up camp. More singletrack beckoned us.

We finally made camp at the beginning of Highline, but not before riding 12 hours. A big ride, seeing as we had only ridden about 7-10 hours on each of the previous days. Sleeping at 11,000+ feet, looking down into Hermosa and over at peaks we had crossed was a fitting place to camp that night.

It was dry that night. Clothes finally started to dry. For dinner, we ate some disgusting "healthy" freeze dried meal (it was not a Mountain House) that we had bought in Telluride. There is nothing worse than riding all day only to eat some bad food, healthy or not.

I almost fired up the stove and ate my spaghetti mountain house that I still had left. My eyes got the best of me and I opted for bed instead.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

San Juan Day 3

After waking up at a leisurely pace and cooking some oatmeal and coffee, we started up the road at around 8:00am on the Million Dollar Highway toward Ophir Pass.

Since it was early, very few cars passed us on our way to the pass.

We took a few pictures and rested at the top of the pass. We could see a slight increase in car/truck traffic from the top of the pass. There is something lacking when you get to a peak that is accessible to cars and trucks. Am I right?

The day before, the "most beautiful race on Earth" had its first race on Ophir Pass (Telluride 100). The course was still marked as we were riding up to Ophir Pass. Surprisingly, very few tire marks could be seen during the ascent to Ophir.

The route then dropped to the Oscar Pass Trail, but not before descending through some rocky sections.

Frankly, I had heard about the next section of trail from Mike Curiak and Lee Blackwell's trip several years ago. Lee commented by saying there were sections that were so steep that it was "a hike-a-bike." Although, they had gone down what we were going to be climbing up. Before the ride, I asked Scott and he recommended trying to find a new route.

Well, the "new route" option had presented itself earlier, but we decided to muster up our inner-HAB and just go for it.

The route goes up 3,000 feet in roughtly 2.5 miles.

Ophir Pass in the background

 Hike we did, blisters we got. In all, the views made the hike-a-bike go by quickly.

With rain and thunder in the background, Aaron and I were both ready to get to the top of the pass and began descending. Toward the top of Oscar Pass, the trail crossed a very large, steap snow drift that covered the trail. As few people traverse this trail, nobody had postholed through this area. Aaron started going across (in his non-HAB friendly shoes), slipped and almost lost balance. He was spooked and jittery. Not good.

Aaron quickly suggested that we climb up and over the snow drift. Frankly, that was impossible because of the sheer size of the snow and the steep sides that we dould have to climb. I told him that I would go first, postholing as I went so that he would have adequate steps to follow. I got across safely and began to coach him through the steps. I went back to grab his back to give him more balance. After several minutes, he got across.

Lesson of the day....HAB friendly shoes in the high country are a must.

We pushed on toward the top as the storm approached.

Taking a page from Day 2 (when the storm was coming as we neared a pass), we decided to do the opposite of outrunning a storm....enjoy the storm by sitting and making some coffee.

Looking down into the Ophir Valley

Coffee and Storms (a)brewing!

Where's Waldo?
This place is somewhere I would like to spend several days (if not weeks) getting to enjoy. Incredible. The instant coffee was pretty incredible too. 

Unfortunately, lightning in the background near Ophir Pass made us leave after resting for 30 minutes.

We turned left at Wasatch and begain to ride down into Telluride.

Green everywhere

Laughter, followed by gasps of excitement upon seeing the views combined with snow, wildflowers, jagged peaks, the colors....

Perhaps it is because I am a native-Tucsonan and live in a desert, but this place makes me smiles. It makes me want to come back and live here. Winter in Arizona, summers in Colorado....hmmmmmm. We descended down, stopping to talk to a few hikers. One commented, "I can't believe you are out here riding this" and another said that "Wasatch was named Best Trail in the US by Outside magazine several years ago,"

For now, I leave you quite a few pictures to enjoy and decided for yourself...

Brown Dog pizza and a camping spot down by the river again....I stopped by ACE hardware and bought a car visor to sleep on. It was not the same as the Big Aggie clearview pad, but the extra padding did help a little that night.

View from our camping spot, Bridal Veil

Met some new cyclists that were touring while we were there and even drank some local beer. More from day 4 and day 5 to come....


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