Zen On Dirt

The 14ers finale: Elbert, Cameron, Lincoln, Sherman and home!

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I don’t necessarily think that I thought this trip report out ahead of time. It’s been the biggest road block in me producing any sort of writing outside of work, at that makes me a little sad, because in three weeks, I leave my computer behind for a good chunk of time, and I’d be real sad-like if I didn’t get pictures and stories from the fall up.

I mean seriously, Ez, how hard is it to sit down every few days and write?

I guess I could say the same about doing some core work and stretching each day…

So maybe I’ll post a bunch of photos with captions and call it a blog post and then go lay on my yoga mat outside in the sun and call it stretching.

Our story leaves off with the three of us and our gear in the Writers Room at the Twin Lakes Inn. img_5579The stoke level wasn’t exceptionally high when we couldn’t see 20 feet out the window in the morning, the world shrouded in fog. But we went anyhow, because that’s what we do.

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Climbing out of the valley, we could see Mt Elbert, the goal for the day, towering above us. Covered in snow. (That’s Mt Hope in the background)

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All of the shrubberies were wet, and we were all suffering from cold feet, cold hands, cold everything, really. While we all enjoyed partaking in good natured whining throughout the trip, there’s were surprising few complaints as we made our way to the Mt Elbert turn off. Something about doing our actual suffering in silence. I ditched the bike. The boys ditched their bags.

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It was real purdy like up there.

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A few flowers were still holding on. The snow was melting fast in the strong sun that had me in short sleeves within minutes of breaching tree line.

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I had the Mt Elbert summit to myself, except for the raven. As someone who’s shared this summit with 50+ people every previous time up here, I appreciated the moment.

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The boys were fairly near the top by the time I started down. It’s a great trail to run and I was back to the bike in no time. I was in the middle of talking to a hiker who was trying to do the CT barefoot when the boys came barreling down, exhilarated.

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Out of water, low on food, we made our way to Leadville along the CT. We had the foresight to order the pizza while pedaling the road into town, leading to quick food delivery to the stomachs once we got there.

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No one had a clear vision of what to do from there: Try to get over Mosquito Pass that night? Ride part of the way up the pass? Stay at the hostel and get up stupid-early? We delayed the decision by heading to Safeway where we saw Elliot’s bike locked up outside. He was on his own big bikepacking adventure, and we helpfully locked our pile of bikes on top of his to ensure he couldn’t go anywhere while we shopped.

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Pretty sure that the Ultimate Directions Ultra Vesta was not designed to carry water, a jacket, leftover pizza, granola, donuts, and a banana…at once. 

The weather, which had been threatening and looking nasty all afternoon, miraculously cleared just as we finished our shopping. . Let’s pedal, we decided.

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The views of Mosquito Pass at 11,000 feet were definitely better than what we would have seen at the hostel, but it was a frigidly cold night, and the 4:30 am alarm clock was greeting with exactly zero smiles.

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There’s nothing romantic about alpine starts. But they sure are pretty.

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We’d aimed to crest the pass at sunrise. We were late, but we still got to make the bikes feel special by acting like paparazzi.

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I’m pretty sure that we all had every piece of clothing on descending from 13,000+ feet at 7am. Said clothing didn’t come off until we were safely on the sunny side of a coffee shop in Alma, hot coffee in hand, burrito on the plate. We asked the coffee shop owner to let us stash our bags behind his shop so that we could ride the next peaks unloaded. We promised to be back before he closed to buy more coffee and donuts.

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How they talked me into taking my bike up Cameron and Lincoln, I’m not really sure. But I can be pretty much talked into anything. So up we went. Alma far down the valley in the background.

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That snow storm from earlier in the week? Yeah. That snow hadn’t melted. Still, we were able to get a clean descent off of Cameron, a sub-peak, down to the saddle with Lincoln.

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Then stupid started.

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Stupid continued. But we got to the top and rode/hiked down the other side. I’m pretty sure that I would have been quicker on foot, but once down on the main road, we had five miles of downhill back to the coffee shop. I was definitely faster on a bike on that section, and we sprinted the last two miles, trying to get back before the shop closed.

Our efforts were rewarded by more coffee, donuts, and a smoothy. After that much riding, we weren’t quick to leave town. Everything seemed to require a monumental effort. But leave we did.

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And apparently the boys weren’t as tired as they were saying, because when we found a piece of singletrack, they stopped to see if it went anywhere near to where we were going. (Semi)Thankfully it wasn’t. We set up camp on a bluff above the river, semi-thankful that it was the last piece of public land before the next peak itself and that we had zero reason to keep pedaling that day.

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Mt Sherman was the last peak on our list. There’s a road to 12,800 feet, and I planned to ride until it got stupid.

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When the road turned to rubbly trail, I tucked my bike in behind an old mine building and started hiking the final few miles.

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Do you enduro, brah?

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The top ridge of Sherman is fairly flat and rideable. They were definitely trail celebrities. I just shook my head when people asked if I could believe what they were doing.

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Summit shot!

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I had the chance to watch them descend the ridge. It made me really glad that I hadn’t been around to see any of their other descents. I don’t have the nerves to observe.

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But, even I have to admit, it was a stunning place to ride a bike.

But I didn’t miss mine.

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Last big descent of the trip. We picked my bike up at the road, coasted back to camp, drank some more coffee, and started towards Salida, still many miles away.

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I’m pretty sure that this part of the route was a combination of Kurt drawing lines on a map, Tom Purvis’ Salida Big Friggin’ Loop, and some stuff that Kurt had actually ridden. We had a heinous weather forecast for the following day, so our goal was to ride as far as possible that afternoon.

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The trail was lovely, and we made it past our goal area for the night, setting up camp and getting dinner mostly cooked before the skies unleashed. Torrential rain, lighting that you could see through closed eye lids. There wasn’t a whole lot of optimism for the morning.

For good reason, because we woke up to more hard rain.

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But, just as breakfast was finished, the rain stopped. Make a run for it! Aside from some death mud in Chubb Park, we rolled smoothly along.

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A little snake didn’t know its own size, or its own lack of venom, and tried to strike repeatedly at Kurt as he tried to usher him off the road. We got a good laugh at it, and also at the fact that we were stopping every half mile to futz with something. We were all deeply tired, but entirely satisfied at what we had pulled off.

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Somehow the boys decided that it would be fun to take trails down to Salida instead of the road. Something about the Salida Creed of always taking the trail. We’d already missed closing time at Sweeties, so I figured, why not? It was worth it…I think.

In some level of daze, we inhaled burritos from Poco’s, drank massive quantities of water (we’d all been too lazy to carry enough water for the last few hours of pedaling) and found ourselves back at our vehicles for the night, ready to sleep warmly for the first time since we’d left.

I felt pretty lucky about all of the circumstances surrounding this trip. That I had the fitness to go climb 8 mountains in 8 days on a moments notice. That I have the flexibility with my work to do it entirely unplanned. That I have friends who go on crazy trips like this and find it funny that I keep delaying going home. And that Scott was willing to buy me not only food but warm clothes so that I could continue the trip without a wallet.

I am one lucky girl.

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2 thoughts on “The 14ers finale: Elbert, Cameron, Lincoln, Sherman and home!

  1. I’m glad you pushed through the writer’s block so we could read the rest of the adventure. 🙂

  2. I really enjoy your writing. Such fun adventures, too. A lucky girl indeed.

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