Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 46 – Secret awesome descents, wicked awesome trail

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I swore today that I would never whine about my bike or pack being too heavy this trip. (And trust me, I’ve whined enough to get Scott to carry our 8oz tarp at least four of the days we’ve been out there) Why? As we were flying down Hope Pass having the time of our lives, we passed a youth group from Wichita Springs, TX coming up. The kids couldn’t have been older than 13 and carried packed that were bigger than they were. Zero degree bags, piles and piles of stuff. Five steps forward. Rest and breathe. Five more steps. Wheeze. There was endless encouragement through the line. They were headed to near the top of the pass to camp for a few days and hopefully summit Mt. Hope. Tough MF’ers.

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Our morning was also spent hiking. We took a nice five mile road warmup to the ghost town of Winfield and started up the trail. The first 1/8 of a mile was lovely, flat, wide trail. Then it went straight up. Possibly the steepest trail we’ve encountered so far.

“It’s got to get better than this or we’re going to be at the top in no time,” I said. We had around 2,500 to gain in not many miles.

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Through the trees, it was actually pretty good hike-a-bike. Enough room for both hiker and bike, and being early in the morning, the energy was there to truck it.

Once at treeline, Scott found the energy to ride, super-freak that he is. I’ve witnessed the Scott climbing technique of rest, catch your breath, and push it up insanely steep grades at high elevation technique before. It’s impressive and matched my hiking speed nearly identically. We both opted for music to shepard us along and had our own little dance parties as we gained elevation.

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The top was windless, spectacular, and hard-won. We ate carrot cake to celebrate.

I didn’t have high expectations for the descent. The top few switchbacks had me walking, but as soon as we made it down to the lakes, the trail turned into one of the best kept secrets in CO. The Leadville 100 runners use it, but I bet it’s more fun on wheels than on foot, especially on the way down. Rocks! Roots!

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I didn’t want it to end, but I knew that I’d run out of brake pad eventually.

We toodled around Twin Lakes to the Twin Lakes Inn for lunch and much needed root beer floats.

Then it was back on the Colorado Trail proper. A hiker once commented when we told them that they were going to go off the official CT after Monarch that, “Oh great, so the trail’s going to go to shit again?”

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The sentiment isn’t exactly inaccurate and we enjoyed finely build CT trail for the next five miles to Half Moon Creek. It’s semi-contouring, fast, and just plain fun, cruising through giant aspen groves and affording huge views of the surroundings.

The only reason I was glad for it to end was a chafing issue that had arisen during the 3 hour hike in the morning. Hiking in chamois is bad news bears, and we’re low on chamois cream. D’oh.

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We cruised out on the road, reminiscing of my terrible Leadville 100 last year. The race that reset the trajectory of my life in a way…health is valuable. Appreciate it.

Cruising up the highway to town, we admired all that is Leadville, for better or worse. I’ve had mixed experiences with the town for sure.

We headed to the Leadville Hostel to find only dorm rooms available and a house full of people. Sold.

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The evening was spent talking. Lot’s of Leadville 100/50 racers here training and acclimating. A couple with three kids who are bike touring around the state. Their oldest…look about 10…can ride 35 miles a day on a good day. They take the time to throw rocks and go fishing throughout the day. Inspiring.

Tomorrow, a lazy morning and then headed over to Camp Hale to camp to hit the high passes in the morning before the storms start.

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