Friday, September 5, 2014

Colorado Trail loop - Day 2

After a night of fairly decent sleep, despite a very bright full moon that glared through my tent all night (it was one day shy of the Super Moon), I got up just prior to sunrise, packed up, ate, and resumed segment 3 of the CT. This section was familiar since it's part of the Buffalo Creek trail network, and it's and nice and rideable, so I got through it pretty quick. Here's a nice and easy section:

Segment 3 ended at Wellington Lake road where segment 4 continues west into the Lost Creek Wilderness. At this point my plan was to follow the Colorado Trail Guide official bike detour south around the wilderness. This route tacks on a whopping 70 miles in exchange for the 8 miles the CT follows in the wilderness. Another option is to go around the north side, which is much shorter, but you have to ride HW 285, which has no shoulder in places. Another good point about the south bypass is I'll be following the route the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) riders will follow. They started this morning from Waterton Canyon and I expected the fastest of the group would be passing me at some point during the day. 

So I turned south on the road and mentally prepared for many hours of monotonous dirt roads. About 15 minutes in I reached Wellington Lake:

Here I found a campground with potable water, but I popped into the office to make sure it was OK first and offered to pay the day use fee, but the guy didn't care. Full on water, I continued on for 50 miles and several thousand feet of vertical of the following:

As with segment 2 of the CT a lot of these dirt roads went through the Hayman burn area and they were hot and exposed, and never flat. The up and down nature of the section in the above picture went on forever, imagine going down a bit, then cresting the next small climb, and repeating that literally about 100 times over 50 miles. But, the dirt gave way to asphalt eventually, which made for quicker progress, and increasing cloud cover helped with the temps:

Finally I reached the Tarryall Reservior around 3 PM and knew the Stagestop Saloon and general store wasn't much further ahead. I began to realize my schedule is holding and that I should be there at least an hour before closing. However, it appears I'll have some bad weather soon:

And then the cold rain started in earnest along with a driving head wind. I piled on the rain gear and kept trudging along, looking forward to hot food. At times like these, I start asking myself why I don't just play golf or go the gym like normal people:

Just before I reach the Stagestop Saloon another cyclist passes me going the same direction like I'm standing still. I catch up with him at the saloon and chat briefly with him as he's trying to simultaneously buy food, eat it, and stuff what he can't eat into various pockets. Turns out he was Neil B and he was the front-runner (and ultimately the winner) of the Colorado Trail Race. Here's his bike (I wonder why he runs a Crest rim the back but an Arch in the front?):

I didn't get a picture of the rider though, I was too busy giving him competition in speed eating. Since I wasn't racing I could have a beer too, I tried not to rub it in:

Neil took off pretty quickly, en route to an amazing CTR run. You can read Neil's race report here, he had quite the adventure. I stayed behind, had a second beer along with some ice cream, and chatted with Joe Polk of MTB Cast. What a cool guy and he drove all the way from Georgia to check out the race.

I stopped by the general store for food for the night and next day then took off north again, just behind 3 or 4 other CTR racers who had rolled through while I was resupplying. Thankfully the rain had stopped and appeared to be leaving for good. It was shaping up to be a clear but chilly evening:

At some point, still several miles shy of Kenosha Pass, I turned off the asphalt and navigated through a maze of jeep trails to connect back to the CT on segment 5 just outside of the wilderness:

And then I'm on the CT again, the last several miles on the west end of segment 5:

About 30 minutes in I tore down a short downhill, tackled the following climb, then I heard a faint "yee haw" well behind me. I stopped to look and saw a rider going down the same downhill I just did and loving it enough to yell about it:

He sprinted up the climb and then I recognized him, it was Chris Plesko. I knew him by reputation if not personally, he has single speed records in one or both of the Tour Divide Race and Colorado Trail Race. He was tackling the CTR again on a fully-rigid single speed. There's nothing more fun on a day ride than a rigid single, it adds challenge to the same old boring trails, but to ride one on something as big as the CTR? Insane...

As he flew by I yelled out encouragment and he wanted to know who was ahead of him. All I could share was that Neil B was well out front, plus a few others whose names I didn't know.

Soon the sun started to set as I continued west on the final miles of segment 5:

And then I hit Kenosha Pass where the CT intersects HW 285:

At this point it really struck me how far I'd come. To drive here from my house is a big drive, yet I had gotten here, on a much more indirect route, on a bicycle. Pretty cool, but the flip side is I have a long way to get back home.

As with the night before I pulled out my CT info and saw there was a good water source 3 miles into segment 6, followed by camping. I continued on and met a pair of slightly drunk ladies with their dog on the trail who were camping at the Kenosha campground. I yielded but they stopped too and really wanted to talk a while and know what I was doing. I knew they had to have been drinking to want to flirt with someone as grimy and smelly as I was. With light fading fast, I finally excused myself and set off to find water. I filtered in the dark then walked a bit on the trail looking for a camp spot.

I found one, checked carefully this time for any stealth bivy campers, then set up camp only to discover my tent stakes were missing. My best guess is I left them behind that morning when I stopped to lube my chain. I keep the stakes with all my bike repair stuff in the bottom of my frame bag, in a small gray cuben fiber sack, very light but it blends in with the ground. Guess I'll be buying more titanium stakes then!

Of course my immediate concern was shelter, but at the time the sky was completely clear and it was the night of the Super Moon. Hoping it would stay clear all night, I just used my tent as a ground sheet and threw down my mattress and bag. It was hard to sleep with all the light, but it didn't rain and it was a gorgeous night, with a million stars, a few satellites crossed the sky, and I saw one shooting star. Far better entertainment that watching TV before bed.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, here's why Neil ran an Arch rim up front. He borrowed Jefe's wheel that had a dynamo hub, which seems to be the standard approach now days if you want to ride all night instead of sleeping: