Zen On Dirt

Mountain biking, mountain running, and mountain adventure FOMO

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Earlier this year I was hanging out with Justin Simoni, aka The Long Ranger (if you haven’t been following his Highest Hundred attempt here, you should. He’s 36 peaks into his self-powered, self-supported attempt to ride to and climb the highest 100 peaks in Colorado. It’s the most bad-ass thing going on these days, IMHO.), when he mentioned that when he did his Tour de 14ers, he’d spent the majority of the winter running and felt that his bike riding fitness had suffered.

I, in my head, called bullshit. Running makes you fit. Fitness is fitness. Who cares if it’s on a bike or on foot.

And then I went to go ride Canyon Creek with Kimberly, Nate, and Nick, and I understood the Long Rangers’ laments. I suffered real bad like on the massive climb up to 12,000+ feet. Fitness is great and all, but if you don’t have the muscle to turn the pedals over, it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good.


I’ve seen it in the way my pants fit. My quads have shrunk. My ass has grown. It really is two entirely different muscle sets.


The good thing was though, it didn’t matter that I was hurting. It was just a big day up in the mountains with friends. And that’s cool no matter how you feel.


Even Nick breaking his frame clean through couldn’t completely ruin the day. Put a damper on it, sure, but he was able to splint the chainstay with a tire iron and roll very gentle out the final 8 miles. And the moment we got back to the van, the skies unleashed and poured. It was fantastic timing.

But I had learned my lesson. If I wanted to actually continue to ride bikes with any level of grace and joy, I had to actually ride bikes. I know. Duh. I’m a mountain biker dammit!

But Trish and Ryan were back from their workweek in Carbondale, and somehow Trish had gotten infected with Nolan’s fever. So it was pretty easy to convince her to to do a traverse of Princeton, especially since Scott and Ryan agreed to run a shuttle for us. Boys are the best!


We ran into a brown-capped rosy finch near the ridge who was putting on an impressive display of might. I think we might have been near her nest, so we kept going so that she wouldn’t worry too much.


The ridge up from Grouse Creek was a little scramblier that I had expected. I had a moment of ‘I’m skeeerd’, but I made it though. It also reminded me that there was a lot more to Nolan’s than a very long, high-elevation slog. How would this ridge feel after having already gone over three peaks, probably late in the afternoon? I think f-ing terrifying is the correct answer.


I had a variety of tracks to choose from for the descent. One from an unknown human who had completed the Nolan’s line, and one that I had drawn in from various online data. From the top, given that the weather was looking iffy, we opted for the ‘scouted’ line down.


This was a mistake because I’m pretty sure that the track I had belonged to Ted Mahon’s run, and he got stormed off the peak and exited the ridge sooner than he’d wanted it. The descent was horrendous. Trish christened us #TeamFlawlessNavigation.


I couldn’t have been that bad, because when I proposed a traverse of Yale two days later, with the boys available to run our shuttle again (boys are great!), Trish agreed yet again.


I think I lured her in with the promise of plane wreckage from a crash in the 60s (?) on the other side. Ryan started behind us and caught us halfway up.


Scott started ahead of us, but forgot his walking stick in the car, so he went back to get it. We all reconvened at the summit before dropping off our separate directions.


I managed to take us down the wrong ridge about halfway down, and then I got us stuck in a mass of deadfall near the bottom, but we did find the airplane wreckage PLUS the perfect log to cross the creek at the bottom on. #TeamFlawlessNavigation.

The two outings definitely drove home that you could have the most perfect track for Nolan’s, but it isn’t going to do you any good, at least if you want to move at any appreciable speed, if you haven’t scouted the route. Our deadfall debaucle? We were 50 feet from the track, mucking around in the trees. Track was in an open avy chute. We had no idea that those 50 feet would make a difference.

Then add darkness to the mix. Yeah.

Ryan picked us up at North Cottonwood trailhead, and we all headed to the Viking Burger foodcart in BV for lunch, then group laundry at the laudromat, then ice cream. Trish and Ryan know how to do it right.

And their dog Dexter is super cute too.


Unfortunately, they had to go back to make their Fun Tokens in Carbondale. So I went back to reminding myself how to be a mountain biker. We opted for Rainbow Trail. Lots of bang for the buck, and we’d be back in time for our lunch date.


It pretty much kicked my ass. I had to eat all of Scott’s snacks because I’d failed to bring any of my own. Runners might not eat, but mountain bikers definitely do.

Our friend, John Schilling (picture taker) was getting ready to do the Colorado Trail Race and was on his way to drop is car in Denver so that he could go back to Durango for the start. He’d contacted Aaron W for lunch on the way, and we’d gotten ourselves invited to the party.


Aaron was just back from his massive American Trail Race, where, as far as I can tell, had gotten fairly epic’d while having a huge adventure. This guy retraced our steps on the CDT two years after we did it, did it a full month faster, made it look good, and kept touring afterwards. So it sort of made me giggle to hear his stories of getting crushed by a route.

We sent Schilling off to Denver, also about to partake in a huge adventure, and went to go have beers with Janie and Jimmy. Janie was just off of a insanely fast Trans American Bike Race, one that I had closely blue-dot stalked. She also had had a massive adventure.

I wanted to have a massive adventure! All these people were doing big, cool things, I wanted to do big cool things. And I knew (felt?), rationally, that Nolan’s was still too big of a bite to take. But there had to be something.

Ouray? Should I do Ouray?


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