Zen On Dirt

Above Tree Line

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Alpine season in Colorado is ridiculously short if you’re not into spring skiing. If I were to ever get back into skiing, it would be for the spring steeps. For the ability to get high into the peaks and to the tops of mountains. Alas, spring steeps season happens to be almost exactly the same as Moab mountain biking season, and you don’t have to get up early in the morning to go riding in Moab, while the alarm clocks for alpine ski starts are painful, to say the least.

But eventually, the snow does melt, and it’s time to get high. And if you go before monsoon season, you don’t even have to get up early.

First up was a human-powered jaunt up Byers Peak with Elliot and Scott. Elliot and I worked as bike couriers together back in the bad old days before both he and I escaped the Front Range and the hustle and bustle of city life. The human-powered Byers has been on his list of stuff to do in Fraser, and I’ll take any opportunity to climb the peak that towers over the Fraser Valley.

We met on trails somewhere halfway. In a moment of techno-grouchiness that morning, I decided to take my single speed, a bike I truly and dearly love. Well, at least I loved it until halfway up the steep part of the climb to the trailhead where I had to sit down on the side of the road because I was ready to puke and pass out. This single speeding business…

Luckily, I felt a lot better once we got on foot and started climbing.

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I love the no-nonsense aspect of Byers. Straight up the ridge. Forget switchbacks, for the most part, just go up. And up. And up.

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I love watching the little houses in Fraser get smaller and smaller and smaller.

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I love it up here.

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Down, as is generally the case, was a lot easier than up. I was back to loving the single speed once we got back to the bikes. Mostly because I didn’t feel like puking.

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We finished the trip up at Elevations Pizza, because all good adventuritas end at pizza.

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I love that they put a bikerack at the Wilderness Boundary. 

Scott was leaving for a Boys Bikepacking Trip in Durango a few days later. Even with a threatening weather forecast, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use his drive as my own personal shuttle service. I dropped a car at the top of Berthoud Pass and drove with Scott to the Herman Gulch trailhead off if I-70 with the plan of running the CDT all the way back to Berthoud. I’d done most of the trail in bits and pieces, but never all in one go, and never the section connecting Jones Pass to Stanley Mountain.

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I had a few bailouts if the weather turned to shit. One of them being turning back around to where Scott had dropped me off and hitchhiking back. When the hail started coming down 20 minutes in, I seriously considered it. Was this a good idea?

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The sky turned blue soon after and I made haste to gain the divide proper, where I’d stay for the next many hours. When the skies were clear, I’d stop and take pictures.

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Then a storm would chase me to my next bailout point, causing me to hurry, then clear just as I got there, encouraging me to go on.

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Rinse and repeat. Storm about to hit. Bluebird at a bailout. Storm about to hit. Bluebird at bailout.

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Even the final traverse to the top of Russel Peak was threatened by major storms down in the valley. I had several conversations with myself:

Me: Run, Ez, run. You’re going to get soaked.

Me: But I’m too tired to run!

Me: Suit yourself. You’ve dodged storms all day, but if you don’t run, your luck is going to run out.

And so I ran, making short work of the switchbacks down to Berthoud Pass where the car was patiently waiting. As I hit the unlock button on my keys, the rain drops started to come down. I sat in the car watching the rain splatter and could stop giggling. Talk about timing!

Then it was time to go back to Boulder. My parents were coming back, and I knew that I’d accidentally left some dirty dishes in the sink, and I knew that if they showed up at home after their trans-Atlantic flight to find dirty dishes in the sink, it wouldn’t matter that I’d kept their doggies healthy and happy for nearly two weeks, I’d be in deep doo-doo.

Summer vacation in Winter Park was over. I’d like to think I made the most of it.

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