Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 59 – Road relief, and an adventure down Fish Creek Falls

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We were hiking our bikes down Fish Creek Falls trail, a wild jumble of rocks and roots, switchbacking down the side of a cliff while overlooking a giant waterfall when Scott started getting a little bit grumpy about life.

“I should have done more research on this trail. We should have done the 600 foot climb to the top of Steamboat Mountain and been able to ride actual mountain bike trail down to town. This trail isn’t used by mountain bikes.”

I shrugged. Downhill hike-a-bike. Do it all the time.

But then I pointed out, if we hadn’t found ourselves on this rather adventurous trail (for bikes, seems pretty popular for hikers), it would have been a fairly routine day on the CDT. This way, we got to have an adventure! (We learned later that some people didn’t consider it any more technical than Oracle Ridge. I couldn’t comment, I walked down both. And Fish Creek is ridden somewhat regularly, but mostly on 6+ inch travel bikes.)

The day started out with me crawling out of my sleeping bag to find the fire roaring and breakfast almost ready. Yes, I have the best touring partner on the face of the planet. After eating, we had to tear our way away from the fire, food wasn’t getting any closer just standing there.

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The trail started out promising, an old closed road that had grown into a singletrack. Except for the trees. Still in the midst of beetle kill, we lugged our bikes over 50+ trees before opting to take a straight line up the mountain short cut to get to a road that was still opened to motorized travel. I’ve never been so happy to see treeline. No tress = no trees on the ground.

We were also anxious to finally start making some miles after yesterdays low-milage day. With wide open roads, bikes finally became an advantage instead of a hinderance. We followed fresh footprints, knowing that we were closing in on Walker and Medic, who the Brits had told us were ahead of us.

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Many miles later, the footprints almost became mocking. We’re cruising at a good pace, where are they?

We came across two section hikers first. They were disappointed that we weren’t day-riders. “Day riders always offer us pastries and other good snacks.” We had none of the above.

“We’re pretty low on food, we’re looking forward to making it to Steamboat,” we said.

“I’ve got way too much food,” one of the hikers said. “Want some?”

“Ummm…yeah!”

We rode away with a PowerBar, a CliffBar, and a LaraBar. Scott ate all but one bike of the PowerBar (I ate one bite and had to try my hardest not to spit it out), I ate the CliffBar, and we shared the LaraBar. They were much welcome calories…though the PowerBar…yuck. They haven’t gotten any better over the years.

10 miles of road later, we found Medic and Walker where the dirt road turned to pavement. They were looking at a 12.8 mile road walk (mostly highway and paved) to the top of Rabbit Ears Pass. They were jealous of the bikes, realizing that we’d be there in under two hours.

“But you hauled them up Peakview? Up all the shale? You carried them over all those downed trees?”

Bikes. You win some, you lose some.

They were one of the few groups that hadn’t flip flopped on the trail to avoid snow and were planning on hiking Wyoming without a single zero day. It was time to move, they said. I said we had the same plan. The moving part, not the no zero day part.

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The pavement went quick. No navigation needed. No skills needed. Minimal effort needed, at least until we started climbing Rabbit Ears. We soon got on dirt paralleling the highway and reached Old Rabbit Ears Pass in no time. We’d snowbiked here two winters ago and had been talking about coming back in the summer ever since.

“This is where the shuttle ride GPX starts,” Scott said.

“How many miles is it to Steamboat?” I asked.

“You don’t want to know.”

I paused.

“I might need to readjust my expectations…how far is it?”

“32 miles.”

Oi vei.

We hoped for tree-free trail, but it was not to be. Some hikers told us that there were dozens of trees down along the trail. They weren’t lying. Still, beautiful, meandering trail. Pretty lakes. But the trees…I may have said something about not being to wait until the Great Basin where it would be flat and treeless for miles and miles.

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Eventually, we dropped down Fish Creek Trail. While the GPX said to take a quick exit from the trail to Mountain View trail, which climbed up the backside of the resort and dropped down, we opted to stay on the trail, the most direct route directly into downtown Steamboat. It had been called a “technical classic” by a fellow bikepacker.

Technical, yes. Classic, maybe. Probably not the correct choice with bikepacking gear when you’re out of food and just want to make it to town.

But the waterfalls were beautiful!

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And whenever we saw hikers coming up, we happened to actually be riding our bikes down.

Fish Creek Falls, ride it all the time!

Once in town, we sighed a sigh of relief. After a quick stop at Natural Grocers, we made our way to Becky and Dan’s place where chicken was marinating for the grill, potatoes were boiling for the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten, broccoli was steaming, and supplies for grill roasted s’more were waiting.

Riding trails is great. Hanging out in towns with friends is great. Touring is great.

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