(Pictures from Scott. I can’t believe I lasted this long without a camera!)
I remember looking at maps of Durango, way back when, and tracing out giant loops that I wanted to ride. The valleys around here are endless, and each one has a trail going down it, all linked together by my beloved Colorado Trail. When we first arrived in D-town, I figured I’d give my knee a week and I’d be back to normal strength. When I started paying to go to the Rec Center to swim…I knew things were going downhill fast and I started to imagine a summer in Durango without riding. It made me a little sick to my stomach, to be honest.
Being forced off the bike made me take a good long look at how much riding really meant to me. The answer that came back: A lot. (Caveat: If I were forced to live in a muddy place, I’d take up a different sport. I don’t do mud.)
As time passed, I started building up to bigger rides. First, half an hour in the morning, another half an hour in the evening. Then 45 minutes and 45 minutes. I got to know the Rim Trails really well. When I got up to an hour and a half both morning and evening with minimal pain, and the occasional three hour continuous ride, I made an executive decision: It was time to go bikepacking and start riding all the loops I’d imagined.
Sitting down by the river eating watermelon, we cooked up a short overnighter. Three hours the first day, three hours the second day. A ride that we’d normally day-ride without a second thought, but when six hour rides are still out of the question, bikepacking gear is awfully handy.
With minimal food in the house, we opted against going lightweight, knowing we’d only be carrying the food for three hours. Giant burritos from Zia for dinner. A tub of Noosa and granola for breakfast. Luxury bikepacking at it’s finest.
We made our way up to the top of Molas Pass to the start of the final segments of the Colorado Trail. During all three of my times on this piece of trail, I’ve been exhausted. During both my race runs, I arrived late in the afternoon, the first time with wickedly swollen feet, mind completely blown at everything that had happened for the past four days, the second time completely sleep deprived and hopped up on caffeine, not really sure what my name was or what I was doing. Both times I just wanted to stop and smell the flowers, admire the views, simply enjoy being up there.
With no place to be besides exactly where we were, I soaked it in. There really are very few places as spectacular as that trail.
We camped early. Wandered around exploring the high alpine meadows. Watched the setting sun reflect off the alpine lakes.
In the morning, we continued up. Up and over Rolling Pass, which I could now place a name with a location. We sat in the flowers like I’d never been able to before. I laughed at the creek crossing where I’d completely submerged myself after slipping on some rocks during CTR #2. I felt better about having to do a bunch of hike a bike during the race because the trail really is that hard. I pointed out where Jarral had passed me going Mach 7.
While we both would have loved to continue on the trail that held so many memories (and so many fun miles), we dropped down Cascade Creek instead, down towards the car. Another endless drainage, another beautiful trail. Durango mountain biking. I was finally doing it.
We celebrated with margaritas that night. It was a small(ish) ride by some standards, and knees definitely weren’t 100%, but it was a big step. If I could bikepack just a handful of miles on the CT, I was well on my way towards bigger and longer rides. And that made me happy.