Friday, September 5, 2014

Colorado Trail loop - Day 3

At some point, a few hours shy of sunrise, I realized that though it was clear and had never rained, my sleeping bag was getting totally soaked with dew. Of course down is great stuff, but its one weak point is it does not insulate very well when wet. I was pretty cold by the time morning came, and I knew I'd have to dry my bag out before it could be usable again. 

On the plus side, I was at the point on my route where I'd soon be in familiar territory and would be passing through towns more frequently. I figured I'd just tackle segment 6, get to the Breck/Frisco area, check the time, and give myself the option of staying in a hotel for the night.

So, one thing at a time, on to segment 6 which just by itself is a simple 33 miles with 5200 feet of climbing ;). The first half of this trail, out and back from Kenosha Pass to the divide at Georgia Pass, is a popular day ride with MTBers, especially in the fall, but I had never ridden here before. I didn't know how difficult the riding would be and I was assuming the worst. But there was nothing for it but to get through it, so I packed up and got going. 

I soon realized why this trail is so popular, it's much more rideable than other parts of the CT, at least up to the divide at Georgia pass. Unlike segments 1 and 2 I barely ever had to walk. I settled into a nice pace and reached Georgia pass by 10:30 AM. Here are some views as I approached tree line and the divide:

and here's the bike at Georgia pass. That's the Tenmile Range way ahead on the left with the Blue River valley in front, along with Breck and Frisco, about 20 miles or so away. Hot food is in my future!

But not as near in my future as I'd hoped, perhaps. The character of the CT west of the divide is totally different, with some serious chunk. I'm a stubborn hardtail fan, but my kidneys are feeling it now:

And it ain't all downhill past the divide either. But, eventually the trail tamed a bit, intersected a road, and I was suddenly swarmed with riders turning off the road onto the CT when I hadn't seen anyone else all day. Turns out the Breck Epic happened to be on this part of the CT at the same time as me. I was too busy getting out of the way when the lead pack passed to get a picture, but I caught this lone rider chasing the leaders:

Turns out the swarm was less than half the race, the less competitive people were well strung out behind me and I kept getting passed for the next two hours. These guys and girls had fresh legs and bikes that weighed half what mine did, so I had no business trying to keep up. The easiest thing was just to let them all by, stopping as needed.

Finally the crowd thinned out along with the trees, apparently due to some much needed fuels reduction work. I say much needed because beetle kill had been bad for years in this area, and big swaths of forest were (and still are) a tinderbox, waiting to go up. The Tenmile range is getting closer:

And now I'm almost there, the ski runs are in sight now:

Segment 6 finished on some pretty sketchy switchbacks above a neighborhood where, if you went through one, you'd fall a few dozen feet onto somones roof. But I make it through, cross HW 9, and head north on the bike path that runs between Breck and Frisco:

Four oh, so easy miles later I reach downtown Frisco and make a bee line to the Lost Cajun. I ate here last year on a similar bikepack trip and the food was awesome. I picked a table outside, both to watch the bike and avoid offending the freshly scrubbed people around me, and I load up on coke, red beans and rice, etouffee with fried catfish, potato salad, a bunch of bread, and some beignets:

At this point it's about 4 PM and I'm on the fence about how to finish out my day. I could take it easy and get a hotel in Silverthorne leaving myself a big final push to get home. Or, I could tough it out today and tackle another 50 miles to make Winter Park tonight, find a hotel there, and leave myself a (relatively) easy final day.

I got some more beignets to go and I think that's what made me decide to pick the hard option. With such yummy fuel to supplement my Hammer Sustained Energy stash (which is rapidly losing its appeal), I figured I could manage it.

Full of food and resolve, I tipped generously, took off down the main drag in Frisco, grabbed water, a few bars, and a big bag of potato chips at a convenience store, then continued east and north on more bike path across the Dillon Reservior dam:

down off the dam into Silverthorne:

through town and the outlet mall, then a long way north on HW 9:

and then the long slog through the Arapho National forest which starts out on asphalt over Ute Pass:

and past a mine with a lovely tailings pond. You can't really make it out but the sludge is a really putrid gray/brown color. But it's not like the steel, titanium, and aluminum my bike and bike parts are made of grew on trees, so I have no right to be condescending:

Eventually the asphalt gave way to forest service road. Just 19 miles to Fraser and a few more past that to Winter Park!

At some point I stopped to eat my beignets. I had eaten at least a thousand calories just a few hours earlier but I was already hungry again. They were just as good cold:

I applied some chain lube too, and continued on my way. At this point the sun was getting pretty low in the west and I had a solid 3 hours of riding left, but thankfully just one more simple 1,500 ft. climb to get over to the town of Fraser:

Just before dusk I had another wildlife encounter, almost as cool as the bighorn sheep I saw two days ago. This porcupine refused to turn around so the only decent picture I could manage was of his butt. Apparently this is their standard defense mechanism, which makes sense; the quills on his back and tail were impressive. The light was just barely sufficient here to grab this snapshot before he scurried off:

As dusk settled in, the climb got a bit steeper (as they always do) before it gave way to downhill:

And that's all the pictures I got before dark fell. At some point I made a wrong turn and lost almost an hour getting back on track again, I ended up climbing a solid 45 minutes on the wrong road. This was a low morale point for sure, I was really tired and just wanted to rest. It was really cold too, and I knew the downhill would be even colder. If my sleeping bag hadn't been so wet I might have just crashed here. But once I got back to the right climb, I looked up and saw the full moon (a day after the Super Moon) rising ahead of me over the Indian Peaks in the east, and all the stars started to come out. Suffering forgotten, I enjoyed the view as I finished the climb. At the top of the climb I put on every stitch of clothing I had and settled into a solid hour of cold downhill into Fraser. But hey, at least I didn't have to pedal.

Once in Fraser, I checked the time and it was about 10:30 PM, and everything was closed. No dinner for me. Wishing I'd gotten 6 beignets to go instead of 3, I continued south on bike path for a few miles into Winter Park and found a hotel. The lobby was shockingly warm and and the guy at the counter was really nice. He even offered up that I could take my bike into my room before I had to decide if I should ask or just sneak it in. What a guy!

In my room my first order of business was to spread out all my clothes so they could dry overnight, take a shower, then I had some Hammer Recoverite and a bunch of potato chips for dinner. Talk about a total reversal of morale, I was now warm, in a soft bed, licking salt and oil off my fingers, and I knew tomorrow would be an easy day, relatively speaking. All I had to do was cross the divide over Rollins Pass, get through Nederland, then connect all the way to Longmont.

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