Zen On Dirt

Back to Colorado, back to the alpine


Back in Idaho, many weeks ago now, Scott and I woke up in our big tent groggy, tired. ‘It’s smokey’ I mumbled and rolled back over. The smoke which had invaded the state had only gotten worse, making the decision to skip town an easy one. We paid a visit to the Ketchum library (we’re becoming well-versed in libraries around the west) to computerize a little bit and pointed east.

First to a hot springs on the route.


Then onto Craters of the Moon National Monument where camping was relatively cheap and we knocked a few more dollars off of our annual Interagency Parks Pass. Camping in a lava field, that was cool.


I once made a case for having a kid because it would force us to slow down and do things like Interpretive Walks around parks instead of big, stupid stuff.


I’ve figured out that I don’t need a kid in order to walk in the Interpretive Paths. We dawdled, looking at all the really cook formations in the lava flow.


Then on to SLC, where it was still smokey. And on to Boulder, where it was still smokey. Might as well go to Winter Park, where it was, still, smokey. I had a series of ‘adulting’ things to do in Boulder over the next few weeks, so we settled into WP for a semi-extended stay. As in, we brought our box of food inside.

Inspired by the Long Ranger, we set out on a series of Bike-to-the-hike adventuritas. Neither of us were brimming with energy, but the call of the alpine was far to strong to resist. I used to be a die-hard I’ll-only-use-a-car-if-absolutely-needed commuter, but I’ve gotten softer over time. Still, it’s nice to leave the car parked as often as possible and ride from the doorstep.

First up was Byers Peak. With a semi-stormy forecast, we actually set an alarm and got going early.


Scott still doesn’t fully trust my navigating around the trails of WP, mostly because I navigate by experience. ‘We have to hook up the descent where Neven and I crashed into each other at high speed with the spot where I passed Amanda Carey during one of the WP XC races to the trail where Alison Powers smoked me in the last mile of another race.’ I know where I’m going, but I understand the skepticism.

I got us to the trailhead where we could ride an extra 1.8 miles before hitting Wilderness. Then onto hiking.


It was a straightforward ridge walk with one spot of using hands.


The smoke was still making breathing unpleasant and muting the views, but what can you do.


Back down, coast down the road, ride some trails, pedal to Fraser. Eat pizza. Ride home. Perfect.


Next up was Vasquez Peak which is rarely accessed from this side because of a nearly 4-mile road which is closed to engines, but open to bikes.


It was a stormless day to frolic above treeline. Just lovely.


With the weekend came the Big Mountain Enduro Finals. We’d seen Krista’s van parked up Vasquez Road during our Vasquez Peak ride, but we’d passed it at 10am, and Scott didn’t think she’d be awake yet, so we didn’t knock. J-Bake flew in from Tucson and we had ourselves a little Tucson reunion.


In the evening, after pre-riding and eating pizza, Krista insisted on showing J-Bake videos of the trails that he didn’t get a chance to pre-ride. Laughter was barely contained. Enduro is funny…and looks like a lot of fun too. There seems to be a good bit of beer involved, and J-Bake ate pizza for breakfast and dinner two days running, which is my type of living.


With the Enduro crew gone, I talked Scott into one of my terribly awesome ideas – Walk from Berthoud Pass to Rogers Pass/Rollins Pass road. ‘We’ll hitchhike down the pass and then pack up to Berthoud, it’s Labor Day, everyone and their mother is going to be up there!’

Scott was skeptical. As he should be. But really, I’ve never led him too far astray. Yet.

You can see the ridgeline in its entirety on the drive from Berthoud Pass down to WP, all above treeline, all gorgeous. All CDT, or CDT alternates. And I’d been itching to hike it since June when we decided the snow situation was still, well, snowy.

Up towards the top of MInes Peak.


Towards Flora.


To the top of Eva for a snack.


Up Perry, the prominent three-fingered hulk that looks down at the resort.


The the semi-exposed traverse over to James Peak.


There was some scrambling.


We met a trio of hikers at the top of James Peak. ‘Of course we can give you a ride down the pass. We’ll even give you a ride up to Berthoud. It’s only an extra six miles!’


Two of them were retired doctors making the most of their retirement and showing a new Colorado transplant the ropes of the Colorado mountains. It was nice to have company on the final four miles down…and it was even nicer to not have to worry about getting a ride. I’d hoped that with the number of hitchhikers I’ve picked up over the years, I’ve got some good hitchhiking karma built up.

We had one more adventure left in us before going on a mini Tour de Colorado.

Further feeding our obsession with riding and hiking sections of the CDT, we parked at the Henderson mine at the base of Jones Pass, rode up a little connector trail and then headed south on the CDT. It was ridable! High alpine rideable CDT. That’s like finding a three-eyed unicorn! Well, there was some hike-a-bike, but we were pleasantly surprised.


We donned running shoes for a quick-ish jaunt up Mt Nystrom, and then actually had to run/jog in our running shoes as the sun was threatening to set on the way back. I need to run more, I like running.


Then coasting back to the car.


Well, except for the hike-a-bike section.


Definitely chalk that section of trail up to ‘Who’d have thunk?’

I had one more adult errand to run in Boulder, so I drove Scott most of the way up Berthoud Pass (I’m not waiting in the construction zone, you can pedal from here) and pointed towards the front range. For not having left the house until well past 1pm, it was a pretty good little adventure.

More of Colorado called. There were things to do. People to see. Summer was ending!


2 thoughts on “Back to Colorado, back to the alpine

  1. Also, trying to do those interpretive hikes with kids can be a whole lot of seeing quick glimpses as they urge you to “come on!!!!” I always say I’m going to go back to some of those places in kid-less times so I can actually see the things I want to see in more depth.

  2. It’s always nice to meet new friends during hikes/rides. I guess more so when you get to hitchhike!

    Those are nice pictures, by the way, you have there! Especially that of the lava formation. It’s always a good time in Colorado.

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