Friday, July 19, 2013

Nederland to Crested Butte - Day 1

Big mile day! The route for day 1 took us from camp near Rollinsville all the way to Copper Mountain, about 102 miles for the day. It started with the climb up and over Rollins Pass to Winter Park, which Rob and I had done many times. However, once we started heading west out of Frasier, I was in all new territory (Rob was too, for the most part).

Here we are headed west on Tolland Road with nice long shadows from the rising sun:

Right as the sun was finally starting to warm us up, I caught some elk on the run:

Here we're about to start up a jeep trail, Rollins Pass Road:

This is a really cool area with a fascinating history. Down Moffat Rd is the east end of the Moffat Tunnel, which goes underground more than 6 miles, crossing the divide. Before this tunnel was built, the old railroad climbed up and over the divide via a long indirect route full of switchbacks. The tracks are long gone, but the old railroad bed is now a jeep trail. Jeeps can't get all the way over the divide this way through, due to a few collapses along the route, but an ambitious MTBer can.

Here's Rob turning up one of the many switch backs up Rollins Pass road:

A quick stop for a proper (relatively speaking) breakfast:

Yankee Doodle Lake:

A bit of snow prior to the Needle Eye tunnel:

Nice view ahead to the Needle Eye tunnel, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel (literally, but definitely not metaphorically, we still have 250 miles to go). The old railroad used to go though this tunnel, but it's partly collapsed now:

Another blockage prior to the tunnel, gotta get off the bike:

Looking back at Rob as we both approach the tunnel. Above tree line here:

And the tunnel. Gotta scramble over and through the scree and alpine tundra. Having everything on the bike and no backpack is great 95% of the time, the other 5% being hike-a-bike sections like this:

Past the tunnel are some old trestle bridges:

Approching Rolllins Pass now, it's just past this snow field. It will be our first divide crossing of the trip and our high point for the day at 11,700 ft:

On the Pacific side of the divide now, that's the Winter Park ski area way ahead:

Crossing one more trestle bridge. This one is even more inadvisable to use, it's poor condition is obvious. I realize now I crossed right behind Rob, I really should have spaced out more to minimize total weight on the bridge. Oh well, we made it:

For fun, here's a picture of this trestle from below when it was operational:

Lunch at Winter Park. A big sandwich, a double-helping of cole slaw, and a brownie. Rob got a Coke, I was jealous:
Next we went north to Frasier (nice bike path for this stretch) then started a very long haul west towards highway 9. This route was half forest service road, half pavement. It didn't get very high, so it was pretty hot. Here's a representative view of the FS road:

Just before the road changed from dirt to pavement, I flatted. As per usual procedure, once I heard the hissing of escaping air, I jumped off the bike and turned the rear wheel to put the puncture on bottom, and waited for Stans to seal the puncture, but no luck; I just got a nice white puddle of sealant on the ground. Turns out, I had a nice 1/4" cut in the tire, not sure what caused it, but hey, it happens. Rob pitched in (partly because he's a nice guy and partly because he was the one carrying flat repair stuff), and when he pulled out his can of air, it was dead. We were stuck with his mini-pump, which is probably the smallest pump ever. Regardless, we got the tire booted, a tube in place, inflated (quite the upper body workout, let me tell you), and kept rolling.

At some point during the paved road section (did I say it was hot?), we got a good view of the East Branch Reservoir. Not that impressive really:

Finally, a view that gave us a sense of progress. The valley ahead is HW 9, you can just make out the cars:

After a fast and breezy decent to the valley, we struck south on HW 9 towards Silverthorne.  After almost an hour of spinning next to traffic, we arrived in town:

Once in town, Rob looked up the closest bike shop on his smart phone, which was in Dillon across I-70. We walked in, the main reason being to replace Rob's can of air. While here, I decided to do something about the fact that I was rapidly exhausting the supply of chamois cream I brought with me. I'll spare you details, but suffice to say that saddle issues have been my weakness in the past. I started this trip with brand new shorts and what I thought would be an adequate supply of chamois cream, but I had calculated wrong. I ended up buying a full size 8 oz tube of Paceline Chamois Butter, and I carried it the entire trip. It was annoying to make space for it (I had very little to spare), but this turned out to be a life saver. By the end of the trip, the tube was 2/3 empty but I remained happy and comfortable. If the butt ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

After leaving the bike shop, we connected into Frisco via the Dillon Reserior Dam and a scenic stretch of bike path that I hadn't ridden before. Climbing up to the dam:

Along the dam:

Connecting to Frisco:

Once in Frisco we looked for a place to eat dinner. Throughout this trip, our criteria for where we ate were simple. The food had to be good, the quantities large, the cachet non-snooty (some places in Basalt and Aspen failed this test), and outdoor seating was preferred, so we could keep an eye on the bikes. We found a place called The Lost Cajun, run by a Hurricane Katrina refugee from Louisiana, so the food was authentic and really good. Unfortunately the large order of beignets we got for dessert didn't make the picture, but my etoufee with fried catfish on top did:

After dinner, next on the agenda was loading up with supplies for tomorrow and finding a place to camp. We figured the best place to camp would be the beginning of segment 8 of the Colorado Trail, which was our route for tomorrow. This starts right by Copper Mountain, about 5 miles or so SW of Frisco. We had resupply opportunities in Frisco, but we knew there was a convenience store next to Copper, so we decided to hold out, carrying less weight for the slight climb to Copper. We saw some geese on the way, a rather mundane wildlife sighting for a back country trip like this:

Just ahead is the Copper Mountain ski area, the convenience store is close as well. However, it was closed! The current time was 8:30 PM, the store closed at 8. Odd hours for a convenience store... As a last resort we continued on into the Copper Village area, but it was shuttered up tight too:

After some discussion, we decided we had to abandon our plan of a early start on the Colorado Trail, but instead hit up the convenience store when it opened at 7 AM. As long as we moved with a purpose on day 2, we figured we could still get through the high country before the afternoon storms rolled in. So, we went south a mile or two on HW 91 to the Colorado Trail trail head and found a place to camp, right off the trail and near a partially finished outbuilding:

Tomorrow - some sweet single track and triple pass action! Continue reading, day 2.

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