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.