Friday, September 5, 2014

Colorado Trail loop - Overview

Over the past winter I did a lot of route research and hatched a plan for a big bikepack trip that would be the focus of my 2014 riding season. My criteria were as follows:
  1. Make it logistically simple by requiring no pick up or drop off and no support
  2. Include the Colorado Trail
  3. Step up the difficulty level a bit from the Nederland to Crested Butte trip I did last year
  4. Invite others but be prepared to go solo
  5. Have fun
Arguably one or more of the first four criteria preclude the fifth but that's a matter of opinion. The most difficult things in life are usually the most rewarding, right? Even if it's not fun at times in the moment, no doubt I'll swear it was fun later when the memory of pain fades.

Eventually I ended up with the following plan. Starting from my front door in Longmont, head to Waterton Canyon, ride segments 1 through 6 of the Colorado Trail to the Breck/Frisco area (with the long, official detour south around the Lost Creek Wilderness), then loop back home. At first I figured I'd take bus and light rail from Longmont to south Denver, but after further research I pieced together a decent, low traffic urban route, and decided to just bike the whole thing. I even pre-rode the Boulder to Chatfield State Park section with some friends in the spring on a two-day "Loop around Denver" ride, which was pretty awesome in and of itself.

I also decided to time my ride to roughly coincide with the Colorado Trail race. I ended up timing it perfectly and ran into several of the race leaders, including the eventual winner. Regarding ride partners, this didn't work out, but I was content to ride solo. With friends or solo, each has their own appeal, and an even mix of the two is a good thing.

On Saturday August 9th I put the plan into motion with an early 4:15 AM departure. Four days later I'd return home mostly intact and with a huge grin. The ride stats turned out to be as follows:
  • Total vertical = 35,000 ft.
  • Total distance = 368 miles
  • Total ride time = 59 hours (all time spent not sleeping or setting up camp)
Here's a map of the route split into north and south parts. I started/ended at the far north-east part of the loop, in Longmont, and traveled clockwise. Picture heavy day-by-day blog posts follow this one.

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