Zen On Dirt

14’ers bikepacking and running: Colorado Trail transfers, White Mountain, and town days

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I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little burnt out on riding bikes earlier in the summer. For whatever reason, ever since leaving Moab in the spring, day rides just didn’t really excite me. I’d done one heinously hard bikepacking trip in July, and after that, I’d decided that I didn’t even like bikepacking any more.

(For the record, even when I’m making these statements to myself, I know that I’m just in a bike riding funk, and that it, like everything else, will pass.)

But, waking up at the base of Mt Shavano, after a hideously cold night of sleep, I was excited to ride a little more, and hike/run a little more. So instead of turning back down the road and coasting into Salida, I followed Kurt and Scott along the Colorado Trail.


It was the first time in a very long time that I was actually really excited to be riding a bike. I was going somewhere! The trail definitely wasn’t easy (the CT rarely is), the weather forecast was far from stellar, but at that moment, the idea of riding more seemed like the best thing ever. I wasn’t going to argue with my psyche.


Top of Little Browns

The boys had the objective of riding Brown’s Creek to Mt Antero to Little Brown’s, closing the loop on the CT. I decided to run the loop in reverse, tagging Mt White, which sits squarely between Shavano and Antero, instead. At 13,667 ft, it’s one of the bicentennial peaks, a fact I didn’t know until I chatted with a hiker on the way down.


Looking over at Antero

The weather held throughout my journey, and the rain didn’t unleash until I was back at my bike, waiting for the boys. In hindsight, I should have set up the tent instead of huddling under a makeshift teepee with my bivy, as I was thoroughly chilled by the time the boys made it back.


Ridge of White Mountain

I was pretty low on food by this time, having packed only for a single day of riding, and at some point of time I realized I didn’t even have a wallet. It would be easier to go to Princeton Hotsprings and snack with the boys than to try to make it back to Salida. Plus, secretly, I wanted to keep riding.


The boys on their way to Antero

Princeton Hotsprings, unfortunately, is not a great place to go when it’s cold out unless you want to splurge for a fancy meal. The country store is great, but the indoor seating is lacking. We ate hot soup and drank tea in the cold outside, half shivering, watching menacing clouds coming over the mountains.


They liked to point at stuff. Matching bikes, matching orange helmets, matching GPSs. They were pretty cute. 

We dawdled until nearly dark before the motivation kicked in to get up the paved hill to a sneaky campsite that Scott and I had noticed in a prior excursion up the road. There was no camp fire, there was no chatting, we were all pretty worked.


Heading down to Princeton Hot Springs


Colorado Trail is pretty fun as far as trails go.

Luckily, the morning was sunny and warm.


Some Wilderness detours aren’t too bad

‘Oh man, I can’t wait to get to Evergreen Cafe in Buena Vista!’ I’d exclaimed at some point in time while breaking camp.

‘So it sounds like you’re coming with us?’ Kurt asked.

‘Sure, why not. Accidental bikepacking adventures are the best.’


CT lushness

We were soon on our way on one of my favorite sections of Colorado Trail, easily finding Kep’s shortcut to town, and bombing down to one of the best cafes in the state.


Pile of Salsa Redpoints in front of the Evergreen Cafe

The original plan for the trip was to try to get up to and climb Huron that afternoon. It would have been a long transfer, and we soon realized that given the distance, the weather forecast, and most importantly, our energy levels, that the peak wasn’t going to happen that afternoon.

So I texted my friend Trish, who was leaving for Nepal a few days later. ‘I know it’s a long shot, but we’re headed up Huron tomorrow morning if you want to come.’

‘No way!’ She texted back. ‘My friend and I are going up that peak too.’

We set up a meeting time at the trail head the following morning. Stoked!

Given that we had a bit of time, I went to Boneshaker Cycles to get a bit for a broken part, we went grocery shopping, and I went to the thrift store to buy a pair of tights. A certain someone hadn’t even bothered to bring knee warmers on the trip, and it was cold! I raided Scott’s stash of cash and went shopping.


Railroad tunnels

We cruised out of town mid afternoon, following the CT Wilderness detour through the railroad tunnels and up Clear Creek. We ran into two guys who were running the Collegiate Peaks East/West loop and getting a resupply for their last 15 miles on the CT (they ended up setting a FKT on it). It’s a beautiful loop, one that I’d like to do in its entirely someday.


Always look to the future…unless the future looks like that!

The rain started soon after. We sat in a ditch, eventually moving farther back under a tree when the ditch started to flood.


‘Now the road is going to be splashy,’ Kurt complained at some point.

‘Splashy?’ Scott and I asked, proceeding to laugh.

I remember thinking, back in the day, that really smart people with PhD’s probably didn’t make words up. From there on out, any puddles were called Splashies.

The rain eventually let up and we made our way up the valley, through Winfield and up to the trailhead.


Winfield. Those miners were crazy SOBs

We hadn’t been at camp more than 15 minutes when a runner stumbled down the trail from Huron. It was Ted Mahon, followed a few seconds later by his wife Christy. These two are badasses of the highest degree. Christy was the first woman to ski all of the Colorado 14ers, and Ted was mid Nolan’s 14 attempt (he’d go on to finish in 55 hours and change (I believe)). He looked a bit wrecked, but was headed to Winfield to meet his crew. It was awesome to see them both, I hadn’t seen them since crashing at the place in Aspen after racing the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse many years ago.

Our camp site, to put it mildly, was wet. We didn’t even bother with trying to make a fire, even though it was pretty early. Instead, we crawled into tents, I set an alarm to meet Trish with, and shivered through the night. Well, I shivered through the night, but I haven’t had a warm night of sleep bikepacking since…Oregon last year?

I need a new sleeping bag.


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