Zen On Dirt

Little Elk Bermuda Triangle

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During our first week in Durango when we were ‘living’ up at the Hermosa campground (sleeping in the dirt, watching sunsets, shooting stars, and stick fire flames, LOVE!) Tim Lutz happened to drive into the campsite next to us, fairly late at night. In the morning, he told us of his tentative ride plans and took off down Hermosa Trail. 12 hours later, as it was starting to get dark, we started to wonder if we should get worried about him as there was no sign of his return. Just as we were starting to seriously ponder where he was, he emerged from the woods, wide-eyed, with stories of trying to find a trail, losing a trail, bushwhacking, climbing over ridges to get back to Hermosa, and water purifiers that didn’t work. That was our first introduction to Little Elk.

The other day, I texted Cat about getting some dinner. ‘Just got back from a big bike adventure. I’m starving’ came the reply. She also, had gotten epic’d on Little Elk.


I was intrigued. So two days later, after learning that Cat had the morning off and I had a much cherished ‘freebie day’ on the training plan, I sent the text: Little Elk tomorrow? River sitting this afternoon?

Scott did some preliminary preparation to increase our chances of success by doing a little Topofusion magic and drawing in what we saw of the trail from the satellite images. Some parts were…questionable. We had seven hours between our planned meeting at the trailhead and when Cat had to be back for work. What could possibly go wrong?


To summarize: We climbedclimbedclimbed. It pissed rain on us as we made our way along the ridge to Little Elk. We flew downhill until we got to the meadow where Cat had gotten lost. We found a trail. We lost a trail. We bushwhacked. following the general GPS track. We found the cabin and a clearly marked (and defined) trail and continued to fly downhill on one of the best descents I’ve ridden in D-town so far. Once at Hermosa Creek, we put Cat on the front and she drilled it back to the car with me holding on for dear life on each of the upsy-daisies. Six hours. Big adventure.

If you see this skull, you’ve gone the wrong way

As we were making our way down the bushwhack, it got me thinking: I have the best bike riding buddies, EVER! One of my first rides with Cat, we’d decided to go up to Scarp’s Ridge in CeeBee. I’d warned her that morning, looking at a map, ‘There’s going to be some hike-a-bike, is that okay?’ She looked at me like I was crazy. Cat is the goddess of hike-a-bike. And Scott…well, he thinks riding Oracle Ridge on the AZT route is ‘fun’. Fun if you thinking hiking a bike 3,000 feet down is a good time.

Ummm…not really sure where the trail goes from here. C’mon GPS Man, do your magic!

There’s not many people I would con into trying to solve the Little Elk mystery, knowing that there was a greater than 50% chance we’d get epic’d, but Cat and Scott didn’t even take extensive convincing. And when we found ourselves in wet brush, dragging our bikes down towards the shiny roof of the cabin that we could see in the drainage, I knew no one would even flinch. I’ve taken other friends on rides like that…and had them never ride with me again.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

I feel pretty stinkin’ lucky to have bike adventuring partners like these. Adventuring partners who are okay with the trail being sub-par as long as the adventure is good. Adventuring partners who are even more stoked when the adventure AND the trail is good, as it was in this case. I feel pretty lucky to be able to have the fitness, the happy joints, and the freedom to put together a ride like that, and really, in the end, be no worse for the wear aside from some tired legs for a couple of hours and some hunger that can be satiated with a Wahoo Fish Bowl from Zia.

Well, we found the trail. Eventually. Photo from Scott. 

We’re still not sure exactly where the trail goes. There are Strava files of one route, there’s local knowledge of another. We hit up portions of both and couldn’t follow either. I think in the end, we’ll just have to climb back up it and see where everything connects. But that’s an adventure for another day.


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