Zen On Dirt

Special rides in special places

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Scott and I were riding in Salida last week revisiting a trail where I had knocked my teeth out a few years prior. ‘Who was on that ride?’ we asked. ‘What year was that?’

We ended up not being able to come to a consensus on it while we were riding. ‘We’ll check the blogs when we get back,’ we decided.

It was sort of a kick in the ass to try to get caught up here. Not necessarily because I have a great story to tell, and I do generally, when I’m caught up, try to tell a somewhat entertaining story, but because memories fade, blend, get distorted over time, and I want to have somewhat of a documentation of things that I got up to.

So where were we? Waking up in Salida.


In general, Scott’s a better morning sleeper than I am, so I often find myself up watching the sunrise while he snoozes. There’s something about the briefness of a sunrise and sunset, of the knowledge that no two will ever be alike, and that there’s no way to really hold on to it, that I love. Our first morning, and actually several mornings, held storms in the distance and provided a good excuse to not engage in any large adventures.

This was good because we were actually fairly tired from our exercise indulgences. Much time was spent at Cafe Dawn and the library, clicking away at keyboards.

We did get out to ride North Backbone and Cottonwood. It’s our one ‘must-do’ ride whenever we visit Salida.


We also visited friends at Absolute Bikes, got me a new big chainring, acquainted ourselves with Elevation Brewing complements of Tom, and in general, loitered around town.

We also made plans with Rachael and Jefe over in Gunnison. Dinner and a ride?

But first, it would have been sinful to drive over Monarch Pass without riding the Crest. We hadn’t ridden it all summer, and it seems sort of wrong to pass over a trail that people travel from all over the world to ride when you drive right by it.


But we didn’t want to shuttle it, and we didn’t want to do the standard ‘ride to Marshall pass and ride back’ day. ‘Let’s climb a mountain!’


Mt Ouray is the southern most big peak in the Sawatch Range. At 30 feet shy of 14k, it was originally surveyed and designated a 14er. Then when it was remeasured, it was demoted. Sort of like Pluto.


Either way, we’d been looking at it from our campsite all week, and it seemed like as good of an objective as any.


Ride out. Climb peak. Have a lunch date. Reverse steps 1 & 2.


Ridgelines. Endless ridgelines.


We made it back down with plenty of time to spare to drive down valley and into Gunni for dinner.


The next day, we took the Gunni locals on a ride in Crested Butte that neither of them had been on. We found this to be a terrible offense.

First step was to head up valley.


And then commence climbing.


And a little more.


And more.


The top! Well, the top of the easy part.


Then came the technical hike-a-bike.


What’s the point of all this climbing? This:


And this:


And this:


A long descent took us straight back to Teo Tamale for burritos. It really was nothing short of a perfect day. Since it was Vinotok weekend, a weekend that I made a point of exiting town for when I lived there, we weren’t too tempted to stick around for long. A frigid night of camping sealed the deal. Time to get out of the valley.

The plan was the Maroon Bells 4-pass Loop, so we headed to Aspen via the Crystal Hot Springs only to find every campground full. As we got farther and farther from Aspen over Indy Pass, our hopes sunk. We didn’t want to have to drive all the way back in the morning. There may have been some grumpies exchanged.

‘Screw it,’ we said. It was cold camping in Leadville. We were tired. Time to head back to Winter Park so that I could get to Boulder for a dentist appointment later in the week. Tent camping season may be done, or so we thought.


Luckily, the leaves in Winter Park weren’t done quite yet. Until the snow flew, we knew, we’d keep playing.


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