Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 50 – Georgetown to Winter Park – the high and beautiful way

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For many years, I’d wake up at 4:15 in the morning to go to swim practice. I like to think that these years taught me many things – discipline, dedication, time management, but I think that the most important skill it taught me was to be able to eat large amounts of food at all hours of the day, including first thing in the pre-dawn morning.

When the alarm went off in our Georgetown motel room at 5:30, I was able to down an entire breakfast burrito while Scott struggled to get half of his down. I would be full for the next several hours while Scott started snacking before we even left the pavement.

Legs felt better for both of us as we started rolling a hair after six. Something about a two hour nap and then nearly 10 hours of sleep that does a body good. That, and two square meals while in town.

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Our route took us west out of Georgetown and up the I-70 bikepath past Silverplume and to the Bakersville exit. After a brief glance at Torrey’s Peak, we were back on the newly paved CDT, paralleling the highway for a few more miles before crossing under and arriving at the Herman Gulch Trailhead.

“Where are all these people going?” Scott asked, surveying the crowded parking lot.

“There’s a lake up there and a peak.”

“There’s a peak?”

“Yeah. We’re going up it.”

It felt good to be the one knowing where we were going for once, even if it was only for a two day stretch of trail.

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We leapfrogged with hikers who all seemed okay with our snail pace up the rocks and roots and then speedy pace across the flat meadows. I had remembered the trail being wet and rooty. I had remembered correctly.

And for the record, for being as much of a rock monkey as he is, Scott can’t ride wet roots to save his life. The super-freak is human!

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As we reached treeline, the roots disappeared (go figure) and the trail became ridable. We hoofed/pedaled our way to the top of the ridge, getting passed by two runners carrying small packs. We were jealous of their speed and ease of movement.

To the top of Shallow Mountain we went, pushing and occasionally pedaling. The clouds had been building but didn’t feel threatening. Then our trail opened up. A beautiful ribbon of singletrack tracing the ridge as far as the eye could see. Now this is what we’d been waiting for.

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This would most likely be our last foray into the really high mountains and we enjoyed every last inch of the trail, arriving to Jones Pass to find the ever present snow plug blocking our way. It’s a popular early and late season ski spot for good reason…the snow doesn’t melt.

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We hoofed it around the field, finding a narrow place to cross it after determining that straight across would most likely end up in a slide to the bottom. I’d been worried about getting across the snow when we’d first decided to go this direction…but had hoped that there’d be a way across. A few weeks earlier it wouldn’t have happened.

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The road down to the base of Berthoud Pass was fast and steep and we were down in no time, staring at 16 miles of pavement to Winter Park. A nice shoulder made the climb over the pass tolerable and we stopped at the top to see Scott’s photo on the CDT sign.

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We also ran into Momento who was staring down the barrel of a long ridge walk in questionable weather. We gave him our spare Mountain House and a bag of Fritos and wished him luck.

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Our route out of there involved descending the highway to Mary Jane, riding a dirt road over to the Winter Park base area, getting crepes and milkshakes for lunch, and then riding local trails back to the condo. Sometimes Wilderness detours aren’t that bad…

We’re here for three or four days to rest and work, and most importantly to plan our route north. We’ve reached the end of our collective CO knowledge, which is both a good and a bad thing.

We’ve got new tires to put on, bikes to wash, and a hot tub to soak in.

Life on tour is pretty much awesome.

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