Zen On Dirt

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CDT Day 61 – Clark and into Wyoming!

Day 61

The big accomplishment for today: We made it to Wyoming. And a little beyond. And really, barely beyond, because once we hit the border, my legs decided that they wanted to be done for the day. After a 10 minute siesta on the side of the road, I coaxed another hour of riding out of them, which is good because we found camping water and a nice little campsite among living trees.

I can’t wait to get out of beetle kill territory.

And mosquito territory. If I had a nickel for every mosquito I’ve killed, I’d never have to work again.


We left our nice little campsite early enough to still be riding in jackets. The trail continued to be a beautiful little river trail, trending gently downwards through high vegetation. With trail like that, we could cover endless miles. We’d also be bored silly after about an hour.

We rejoined the GDMBR 11 miles shy of the Clark Store. The Clark Store is like a Bode’s, has everything, food is great, and you never want to leave. Unfortunately, when racing SoBo on the GDMBR, Steamboat is a mere 20 some odd miles away, so there’s really no reason to indulge in all that Clark has to offer. Plus, chances are, you’ve just come off a massive feeding at Brush Mountain Lodge.


Today, we did. Huevos rancheros for breakfast, some interneting time, the weekly call to my parents (my mom is on a mission to fatten Miss Maia up and has been treating her like the princess that she is, feeding her sausages and adding bacon fat or olive oil to her dog food. Old souls need to be treated with care, we decided.)

Then we walked out with $98 worth of groceries. Three days, two nights. I was a little skeptical that we’d have enough to get to Rawlins, but the hand cart was getting heavy!


When everything had found a home on our bikes or our bags, we headed up the road, now off the GDMBR. Aided by a tailwind, we made short work of the 9 miles up to the trailhead where we’d rejoin the CDT after detouring around the Zirkle Wilderness.


We’d been warned that the trail was open to motos and an overall moto’d out mess. I think our standards are getting lower because we thought it was fine. There were definitely some rubbled, steep climbs and descents, but for the most part, it was a lovely little trail. 1-track eventually turned to 2-track as it opened to ATV’s, and we spent the rest of the afternoon on the divide, climbing to every little high point available. Scott called them PUDs. Pointless up and downs. I called the small ones upsy daisies, the medium ones upsy doozies, and the hike-a-bike ones oofsy-doozies. There were a lot of each category, and while we were making decent time, we were both ready to be off the ATV road and onto an actual road. 20 miles of trail was just about perfect.


We descended down to the Wyoming state line, detouring around another Wilderness area, and since there wasn’t a sign signifying the change of state, we did a little happy dance to signify it instead.


We rolled along for a while, took a break to let me regroup, and then continued on until we found camp. The fire’s going. Mosquitos are getting killed. Dinner is eaten. Tomorrow, further into the unknown.

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CDT Day 60 – Steamboat town chores and Strawberry Hot Springs

I had a roommate back in college who was, well, let’s call her a hippy of sorts. She was into fire dancing, drum circles, and the clothing-optional hotsprings north of Steamboat, Strawberry hot springs. I’d been there during the daylight where clothing is required, and definitely wanted to go back.

Luckily, our route went right through it. Not just to it, but in one end, and out the trail on the other. There was no way we weren’t going to stop and soak.

But, we were also tired and Steamboat is definitely not a place to hurry out of.

We started our day at CreekSide for breakfast. Becky and Dan understand bike touring. Then know that towns are for eating, sleeping, and recovering, so they sent us to the cafe with the biggest portions in town. We almost made it in time to get the local’s special, but we couldn’t quite get out of bed in time.

Next stop was Orange Peel bikes. We arrived at the same time as a tandem touring the GDMBR, and a father and two sons from Ireland who were touring from Steamboat to Santa Fe via the GDMBR to Abiquiu and then over. We watched them unpack a huge box of brand new Revelate Gear. Seatbags, handlebar rolls, frame bags, the works. I’d be curious to hear how their trip went, they weren’t lacking in enthusiasm.


To keep a running tally of things we’re replacing (Scott thinks I should keep a photo gallery of equipment that I wear out):

I got new gloves, new grips, a new camelback nozzle, a new pair of socks (apparently when you hike a lot, the heels get worn out quick), and a new rear derailleur cable, as mine had frayed, again.

Scott got new grips, and had me sew a new hole in his gloves.

Back at the house, we installed all of our new goodies and then proceeded to hang out with Becky and Dan for the rest of the afternoon, through lunch and dinner, waiting for the temperature to drop (it was roasting out).

It finally cooled off enough to pedal and we pointed our bikes towards the hot springs. 10 miles later and a boat load of climbing, we found ourselves at the entrance. We’d been riding in the dark for the last half hour. Timing was…a bit off, but we weren’t fussed. Really, how scary could a clothing optional hot springs be?

The soaking was divine. Hot pools, cold pools, a million and a half stars in the sky. Not a light to be seen anywhere. I’m pretty sure we were one of the last ones out, drying off quickly, filling up on water, and continuing on our trip, out the back entrance of the springs.


Becky had told me that the trail started in a narrow valley but that things eventually opened up. Two miles of fairly blissful, smooth, slightly downhill trail later, we finally found a flat spot big enough for two bodies. We were sold.

Camp went up quick and we were out within minutes. Still warm from the hot springs, we slept quickly and deeply.

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CDT Day 59 – Road relief, and an adventure down Fish Creek Falls

We were hiking our bikes down Fish Creek Falls trail, a wild jumble of rocks and roots, switchbacking down the side of a cliff while overlooking a giant waterfall when Scott started getting a little bit grumpy about life.

“I should have done more research on this trail. We should have done the 600 foot climb to the top of Steamboat Mountain and been able to ride actual mountain bike trail down to town. This trail isn’t used by mountain bikes.”

I shrugged. Downhill hike-a-bike. Do it all the time.

But then I pointed out, if we hadn’t found ourselves on this rather adventurous trail (for bikes, seems pretty popular for hikers), it would have been a fairly routine day on the CDT. This way, we got to have an adventure! (We learned later that some people didn’t consider it any more technical than Oracle Ridge. I couldn’t comment, I walked down both. And Fish Creek is ridden somewhat regularly, but mostly on 6+ inch travel bikes.)

The day started out with me crawling out of my sleeping bag to find the fire roaring and breakfast almost ready. Yes, I have the best touring partner on the face of the planet. After eating, we had to tear our way away from the fire, food wasn’t getting any closer just standing there.


The trail started out promising, an old closed road that had grown into a singletrack. Except for the trees. Still in the midst of beetle kill, we lugged our bikes over 50+ trees before opting to take a straight line up the mountain short cut to get to a road that was still opened to motorized travel. I’ve never been so happy to see treeline. No tress = no trees on the ground.

We were also anxious to finally start making some miles after yesterdays low-milage day. With wide open roads, bikes finally became an advantage instead of a hinderance. We followed fresh footprints, knowing that we were closing in on Walker and Medic, who the Brits had told us were ahead of us.


Many miles later, the footprints almost became mocking. We’re cruising at a good pace, where are they?

We came across two section hikers first. They were disappointed that we weren’t day-riders. “Day riders always offer us pastries and other good snacks.” We had none of the above.

“We’re pretty low on food, we’re looking forward to making it to Steamboat,” we said.

“I’ve got way too much food,” one of the hikers said. “Want some?”


We rode away with a PowerBar, a CliffBar, and a LaraBar. Scott ate all but one bike of the PowerBar (I ate one bite and had to try my hardest not to spit it out), I ate the CliffBar, and we shared the LaraBar. They were much welcome calories…though the PowerBar…yuck. They haven’t gotten any better over the years.

10 miles of road later, we found Medic and Walker where the dirt road turned to pavement. They were looking at a 12.8 mile road walk (mostly highway and paved) to the top of Rabbit Ears Pass. They were jealous of the bikes, realizing that we’d be there in under two hours.

“But you hauled them up Peakview? Up all the shale? You carried them over all those downed trees?”

Bikes. You win some, you lose some.

They were one of the few groups that hadn’t flip flopped on the trail to avoid snow and were planning on hiking Wyoming without a single zero day. It was time to move, they said. I said we had the same plan. The moving part, not the no zero day part.


The pavement went quick. No navigation needed. No skills needed. Minimal effort needed, at least until we started climbing Rabbit Ears. We soon got on dirt paralleling the highway and reached Old Rabbit Ears Pass in no time. We’d snowbiked here two winters ago and had been talking about coming back in the summer ever since.

“This is where the shuttle ride GPX starts,” Scott said.

“How many miles is it to Steamboat?” I asked.

“You don’t want to know.”

I paused.

“I might need to readjust my expectations…how far is it?”

“32 miles.”

Oi vei.

We hoped for tree-free trail, but it was not to be. Some hikers told us that there were dozens of trees down along the trail. They weren’t lying. Still, beautiful, meandering trail. Pretty lakes. But the trees…I may have said something about not being to wait until the Great Basin where it would be flat and treeless for miles and miles.


Eventually, we dropped down Fish Creek Trail. While the GPX said to take a quick exit from the trail to Mountain View trail, which climbed up the backside of the resort and dropped down, we opted to stay on the trail, the most direct route directly into downtown Steamboat. It had been called a “technical classic” by a fellow bikepacker.

Technical, yes. Classic, maybe. Probably not the correct choice with bikepacking gear when you’re out of food and just want to make it to town.

But the waterfalls were beautiful!


And whenever we saw hikers coming up, we happened to actually be riding our bikes down.

Fish Creek Falls, ride it all the time!

Once in town, we sighed a sigh of relief. After a quick stop at Natural Grocers, we made our way to Becky and Dan’s place where chicken was marinating for the grill, potatoes were boiling for the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten, broccoli was steaming, and supplies for grill roasted s’more were waiting.

Riding trails is great. Hanging out in towns with friends is great. Touring is great.

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CDT Day 58 – Big peaks, mountain goats, tundra freeriding, and dodging thunderstorms

Tomorrow is going to be a hungry day. But that’s okay, because we have our tarp up, a fire going, dinner cooking, and it’s raining.

We’d gotten to the base of a surprise climb, as in “Surprise! You didn’t look at the map close enough and didn’t realize you had a 1,000 feet to climb and then four miles of traversing high on the divide before you really get to drop down for the day”. We were filling up on water and had determined that we’d need to fill up completely to be able to make dinner, breakfast, and make it to the next water source. I picked up my bag with 100 oz of water in it – Hey, it looks really grim and gray up on the divide, how about we call it early, go back to that beautiful camp site we saw 25 yards ago, and make a fire instead of climbing and getting stormed on up high?

Seemed brilliant to me. Unfortunately, it leaves us with about 40 miles to ride tomorrow on minimal food. But that’s an issue for tomorrow.


We woke up at first light and had our “mystery breakfast”, it was like eating horchata. I think it was cream of wheat based…but beyond that…yum. I wish I knew what was in it.

We were rolling by 6:45, knowing that we had a high peak to get over and then more exposed riding a few more miles down the road. Weather forecast was ok, but not super.


Riding trail soon turned into hike-a-bike trail. Chamois came off, music went in. I’d taken as much weight off of my bike as I could and put it in my pack to help with the 2,000 foot climb. It made a world of difference, not to say that the hike was easy, but it wasn’t as cumbersome as climbs have been with stuff on my bike. Live and learn.


We reached the summit fire lookout just shy of 10. We’d wanted to sleep up there last night, but we discovered why the maps say, “Not a suitable camping spot.” It was filled with bees, flies, and mosquitos. And high voltage equipment.


We did get to share the summit with a mountain goat. He watched us curiously as we gained the summit and then hung out with us as we waited for the Brits to catch up. We’d seen them gaining on us throughout the morning. We shared a summit snack as they told us a story of someone who’d been killed by a mountain goat at Olympia National Park. He’d charged the guy and severed his femural artery.


We gave him a wide berth as we made our way down from the summit along a broad, grassy, and somewhat rocky ridge. 1,000 feet down without trail, 80% ridable. Wheeeee!



I’m king of the mountain!
No. *I’m* king of the mountain!

The trail followed the divide, gaining most of the high points with minimal BS factor. Beautiful tundra riding. It then dropped down to the saddle by Haystack mountain and the trail turned Meh. Lots of trees down, lots of pointless climbs and descents.

I had to remind Scott (and myself) that if every trail was a contour trail, mountain biking would get boring real quick.


We had lunch at Troublesome Pass and headed up towards Poison Ridge, another long, exposed section. It was bluebird when we first regained treeline and we were loving life, powering up steeps and understanding why people did this trail as a day ride.

And then we looked up, and clouds were quickly gaining momentum. Bluebird one second, thunder the next. We still had 4+ miles of divide riding before we’d drop down from 11k. No bueno. We found the last clump of trees before a long, exposed traverse and hunkered down, willing to give the thunder 10 minutes to see what it did. What did it do? It started raining.

We pulled our tarp out and used our heads and tent poles, listening to the rain beat down around us and thunder clap above our heads.

It wouldn’t have been a true Colorado experience without at least one thunderstorm stop.


A break in the rain and thunder gave us a change to scurry across the traverse and back into the semi-wooded divide. Each time we left the trees, we scoped our next bail out incase the dark clouds started to grumble again. It was stressful, but soon it became apparent that we were going to make it out. High-five!

The descent was awesome. It was just unfortunate that Scott discovered that there was a climb that he’d overlooked following it.


We covered nearly 20 miles today in just over 10 hours with a lunch break and a thunder break. We haven’t seen the Brits, so we must have made okay time. We’re about 12 mile shy of where we wanted to be, but worst case scenario, if we make it to Rabbit Ears Pass tomorrow bonking and miserable, we can just coast down to Steamboat. But I think we’re going to be just fine – we have horchata breakfast, a 450 calorie bag of cashews, a package of poptarts, and single fig newton, a Luna bar, two tortillas, two single slices of cheese, a few bites of summer sausage, and a single Mento. Yeah. We’re golden.

(We also have two single serve packages of honey and two jam packages pilfered from a diner if things get dire)

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CDT Day 57 – Saving Tinkerbell, one climb at a time

Today is what I would call a winning day on the CDT. This was much welcomed because yesterday was, at best, a draw. Nah, that’s an exaggeration, but Caribou was definitely a trying experience.

It was hard to leave town, as it always is when we’ve found an awesome place to stay. All the hikers were taking a zero day, and I think that if we hadn’t taken 5 zero days in Winter Park, we would have too.

Instead, we packed up our stuff and bid the hostel goodbye, heading downtown to see the finish of the local 5K running race (we decided it would be a bad idea to try to run it), and got some breakfast burritos for brekkie and then stocked up on two nights and three days of food. We’d gotten some mystery breakfasts from the hiker box, a mystery dinner, some chocolate covered acai berries, and a bag of Gorp, so it was a relatively low bill at the grocery store. Winning at trail life.


We rolled out towards Supply Creek road and managed to get ourselves lost on a myriad of rural neighborhood roads. Many miles were backtracked and many hills were climbed and then descended. Eventually, we decided that a cut through that seemed to be in the National Park (but actually wasn’t) was legit for bikes and we took it over to where we wanted to go.

I’d love to say I was perky for the next 2,500 vertical feet of up, but I wasn’t. It’s hard to be perky with so much food on board. We haven’t carried this much since leaving Lake City, it’s been single day/night rations since then, which has been lovely. I readopted the trail name of BikeNotLight.


I whined my way to the top of the climb, the last couple of miles being fairly nice switchbacking trail. Otherwise, it was just a moderately steep dirt road, which didn’t exactly inspire me. Feel free to call me spoiled.

But then the fun started. Having gained Wolverine Ridge, we took the Wolverine By-Pass trail down. We kept our expectations appropriately low, even after the first mile was beautifully build, duffy, forested trail. It then turned steep and rowdy with roots, rocks. Some of the fall line trail had stayed in place and reminded me of the Nederland and Winter Park “secret” trails that I’d learned how to ride on. Some of the fall line was eroded, and still a wicked good time. I was loving every minute of it.

If you want a good 2,000 foot descent in norther CO, give this one a go. Seriously.


We cruised for a while on a dirt road down to the ATV trail to Illinois Pass. Now, as a mountain biker, I’m supposed to dislike motos and ATV’s, but this trail was well constructed with countless fun switchbacks on the way up. Sections were steep, but still ridable. I guess it helped that we were only at 10,000 feet and the air seemed like sea level. We got to a particularly steep section and I called back, “This one might not happen for me!”

“You just have to believe,” Scott said, “Don’t let Tinkerbell die!”

I cleared it, and the rest of the climb was Tinkerbell climbing. It’s amazing was fresh-ish legs, fresh rubber on the tires, and a bit of motivation can do.


After a late lunch, we turned onto Willow Creek Trail, back onto the CDT. It was still open to motos, and while there were whoop-dee mud puddles, there were zero downed trees. Love them or hate them, motos do a whole lot for trail maintenance. The whole trail had a fairly minimal amount of moto’d out BS.

We ran into the Brits at the last creek of the day. We hadn’t seen them since leaving Ghost Ranch back in central New Mexico. They were in good spirits, though mentioned that the 9 motos that they’d seen all day (Saturday in July) were annoying.

We left them and a mile later turned off the moto trail. We were happy to be off, and within a quarter mile, ran into our first deadfall. Love them or hate them…you have to appreciate motos on some trails.


It turned out to be a beautiful primitive trail that would have flowed amazingly if we didn’t have to get off every 500 yards to get over blowdown. C’est la vie. It traversed along a ridge with a giant rock fin and seemed straight out of Lord of the Rings.

We finally dropped down to highway 125 at Willow Creek Pass and started going up. The first big obstacle of tomorrow is Parkview Mountain, sitting at 12,200. We’re currently camped on a little knob at 10,400. In front of us, I can see the route up, it’s cross country, and looking to be about a 1,500 ordeal in osteoperosis prevention (hiking). Behind us, I can see Wolverine Ridge and even farther back, the summit of the iconic Longs Peak.


It’s not a bad place to be. No, not at all. Except for the mosquitos. I could do without those.

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CDT day 56 – HiLo, Caribou, and Baby Doe – WP to Grand Lake

We were sitting around in Winter Park planning the next few days of our trip the other day. We’d decided that we’d take a late departure from WP, spend the night out, and arrive in Grand Lake on Saturday night. We’d gone so far as to tell Mother Goose and Swan who we’d run into that that was our plan. Then Scott discovered that, as the crow flies, Grand Lake is only 35 miles from Winter Park. Surely we could cover that sort of distance on trail in a day.

We wanted to get to Grand Lake and spend the night there because we’d heard good things about the hostel perched up on a cliff.

So we changed our plans, made reservations for hostel bunk beds, and tried to finish up the last minute things that needed finishing up. And we prepared for a (somewhat) early start.


We rolled out of town at 9:30. This is impressive because we cleaned up the condo, packed our bikes, went to the post office, reassembled our bounce box and sent it off to my least favorite town in Wyoming, had breakfast at Rise and Shine, and bought a little more trail food from the Stop and Go. 9:30 was pretty good.

We rolled through the Rendez Vous/Idywild trails and onto Twisted Ankle. It’d been rerouted! I’d expected to have to push-a-bike up most of it, but fall line descents had been replaced by moderately graded switchbacks, silly upsy-daisies had been replaced by contouring trail. Professionally built trail, bermed corners and all.

$10 says they run the Winter Park BME Enduro from the trestles down. You heard it here first.


We rode FR129 north to High Lonesome. I hadn’t ridden the trail in years. The first time, I broke a frame in the middle of it and had to hike out and hitchhike back to Fraser. I remembered lots of roots and rocks. I remembered correctly.

It was a perfect bikepacking tech level. And we were perfectly ready for some smooth cruising after 6 miles of it. It’s a glorious little piece of CDT open to bikes, if mucky in places.


Next came the “unknown” part of our route, the 6 mile long Caribou trail. We had a GPX of someone riding it, but they’d described it as “bushwacky”. It started out a rocky, rollicking good time, but we’ve learned: Never judge a trail by its first mile.

As always seems to happen, things went south right about a mile in. The trail became faint. Where it existed, it wasn’t rideable. At one point in time, it climbed a hillside only to come back down a quarter mile later. We opted to bushwack across a bog with ankle deep water instead of fighting through the hillside boulder field.


And hour and a half in, Scott declared: This isn’t going to be the CDT bike route. The BS factor was starting to go through the roof.

And like magic, the trail turned good again. Why does it always have to do that?

We hooked up with Strawberry Creek trail, which we knew was going to be okay because my brother had ridden it…well, he rode it until he crashed his new 6″ travel trail bike on it and broke his collar bone. It went well and we celebrated with a cinnamon roll from Rise and Shine.


Then up Doe Creek, named not because of the deer population but after Lady Doe, who was a woman of questionable morals back in the 1800′s (?). She’d go on to marry the Silver King of Leadville, Tabor, and they’d go on wicked spending sprees, building opera houses in Denver and other buildings. They both died broke, but it sure sounds like they had quite a run at life.

The Doe trail had one climb, one descent, another descent that we rode in the wrong direction, and then a descent down to the lake. (I told Scott after the first climb that I didn’t believe there’d be any more climbing on the trail, and that if I stopped believing, Tinkerbell would die.)


We rode dirt then pavement back onto the highway and headed into Grand Lake. A loud paved ride with lots of traffic, but a good shoulder and amazing views.

Pizza was for dinner where we ran into Sailor, Alfredo, Friendly, and Maverick. Then onto the hostel on the hill. Seriously amaze-ball views. And quiet, which is amazing because it’s booked nearly full. Every time we think we’ve found the coolest place to stay on the CDT, we find something better.


Tomorrow, one more Wilderness detour then on the CDT all the way to Steamboat.

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CDT Photos! Buena Vista to Winter Park

We’ve been hanging in Winter Park for nearly a week now, catching up on work, going to the hot tub nearly every day, putting four new tires on the bikes, and all in all, being fairly to mostly lazy. It’s also rained nearly every day, last night we got hit by a major deluge at sunset, so we’ve been enjoying the roof over our heads immensely.

Tomorrow, we head to Grand Lake, then on to Steamboat, and then we bid CO goodbye for some unknown trail and exploration in WY.


Leaving BV, we ended up camping on a pullout of what we thought would be a deserted dirt road. What we didn’t realize was that we were on the road to Missouri Mt, a 14′er. The 5am crew passed by and woke us up. We fell in line with the cars headed up for a 7am start. And we got passed by a number of cars that had hoped for a 5am start but had slept through their alarm.


The Super-freak climbs. Seriously, the higher the trail is, and the steeper it is, the giddier he gets.


Cjell Mone – “I’m starting to understand the beauty of the 20 tooth chainring.”


Flower child.


It was a beautiful morning in Dillon, but we were ready to get on the trail. Civilization and food is fun for a while, but riding trails is even better.


So enduro.


Whoops. Now that’s embarrassing.


Covered pony parking while we stuffed our faces with sweet potato fries in Georgetown.


That’s Scott’s photo. A bikepacker. On the CDT. Apparently the CDTA thought mountain bikes on the trail were a good idea before they dissolved. The new CDTC doesn’t agree with them.


My parents brought Maia, aka Miss Wiggles up to Winter Park. At 15+ years young, she’s starting to look a little frail. I was worried until I watched her try to attack another dog and pull like a pup on our walk. She hasn’t changed an iota in the past 11 years.


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