Colorado Trail 2014

Colorado Trail

July 6-15, 2014

Last year, me and Yana, decided we wanted to do an epic ride this summer. We moiled over various options and had decided on Park City, Utah. Then she came up with this plan to ride the Colorado Trail. We really didn’t want to camp though. Too much gear. We wanted to enjoy riding the trail and not be loaded down with a lot of weight. So, we worked out a plan to drop off the trail each evening and make it to a motel. This did require some additional navigational planning and added miles. Town/motel access is not convenient the entire way of the CT, so we did have to pre-arrange a ride at one point along the trail.

We decided to start at Kenosha Pass, which is segment 6. Segments 1-3, we ride quite often anyway. Segment 4-5, is a mandatory detour to avoid the Lost Creek Wilderness area. We would have ridden 41 miles and then taken a 70.7 mile detour on road – Yuck! Starting at Kenosha Pass saved up a couple of days and a motel stay.
Thank you Eric for the ride to the trail head.

Our total miles traveled was 425.88. Some days we had to ride a little extra to reach our evening accommodations, other days we hitched a ride. But that is the mileage that my Garmin recorded in the end.

I’m going to recount the adventure day-by-day, because that is how I remember it. Not so much segment-by-segment. Those all ran together and some days I wasn’t sure what segments we were on until looking at the data book.  The first 4 days all felt like one long ride.

We were very fortunate on our adventure. The weather was perfect for the most part, we only took one wrong turn and we always made our day’s destination before dark.

Yana was an excellent navigator. I always trust her to lead me correctly on the trail. 

If you want to see more photos:

Day 1, Sunday, July 6th
Segment 6, Kenosha Pass
This is another portion of the Colorado Trail that we ride several times a year. We were headed to Dillon, where we were staying with Yana’s relatives that night. On this familiar trail, we made great time. We rode the CT to the Peaks Trail. We then took the Peaks Trail down to the Frisco rec path and back tracked our way to Dillon.
53.16 miles for the day. 

Day 2, Monday, July 7th
Segment 7, Goldhill to Copper Mountain, was a recommended detour and we took it.
After making a food stop at Whole Foods, we rode the paved bike path to Copper Mountain. The paved trail has been extended and now ends directly across from the CT to start segment 8 at Copper Mtn.
Segment 8. The climb to Searle Pass wasn't too bad. There were snow fields to cross. Kokomo Pass had more snow, I thought.
Segments 9 and 10 – detour to avoid the Holy Cross/Mt Massive Wilderness.
We dropped off segment 9 according to the data book. Our destination this evening was to the home of some of Yana’s friends.  My understanding was they lived just a few miles outside of Leadville. We rode to the Safeway in Leadville. We needed to give them a call and let them know we were close and to stock up on food for the next day. 

I had a mild break down in aisle 6. I had grabbed a coke and decided to take a few sips. It felt as if my stomach expanded 4 inches. I just wanted to lay down in the aisle. With Yana informing me this might not be a good idea, I paid for my items and headed outside. Yana came out an told me her friend would come pick us up.
Yana: “She said 'seriously', she would come get us.”
Me: “She used the word ‘seriously’?”
Yana: “Yes, ‘seriously’.”
Me: “Ok”
That ride in a car took 20 minutes. Not sure how long that may have taken by bicycle.

 52.7 miles for the day

Yana "falling" 

Day 3, Tuesday, July 8th
Segment 11
Segment 12-13 mandatory detour to avoid the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area
Yana and friends had studied the map and figured out a route from their house to the CT. After close to 8.5 miles we came upon the CT. We were happy the route panned out.
This was one of the best days on the trail. The trail through the Aspens with a view of Twin Lakes, then the single track to Clear Creek. It was a great day. We had a late lunch in Buena Vista then headed to the store for food. In the parking lot we meet John. John asked if we were riding the CT and offered his house (which was for sale and empty) for us to stay. It was down the road from Cottonwood Hot Springs, which was our destination for the night. We took him up on his offer. We bought tickets for the hot springs, soaked for a couple of hours, and then relaxed in a big empty house.

51.49 miles for the day

Day 4, Wednesday, July 9th

From Cottonwood Hot springs we rode up road to join the CT at Segment 13 (where bikes were allowed).
Road Segment 14, then headed to Poncha Springs.
We came across some “trail magic.” I had read about people leaving goodies on the trail for CT thru-hikers and was excited to actually see it. Two Styrofoam containers full of sugary goodness. One containers had sodas. I spied a Mountain Dew, grapped it, popped the top and slammed it down. Oh, how good it was.

Only time during this trip that we made a wrong turn and it was a painful one. We descended down a rocky section of trail and came out at Brown’s Creek trail head. We realized that was not right, so back up we went. So much hike-a-bike. This little detour was about 2 extra miles.

We stayed at Poncha Lodge. The owner recommended Grimos Italian Restaurant for dinner (there really weren't a lot of options.) It was fantastic. They said we could have all the bread we wanted and we took advantage of that.

48.33 miles for the day

Day 5, Thursday, July 10th
Segments 16 and 17
The Poncha Springs Lodge owner offered us a ride up to Marshall Pass (Segment 16). We welcomed the jump start on the day. Riding up to Marshall Pass would have taken us, well, a long time. We headed out at 6am.

[We skipped segment 15. This did not make sense for us. We basically would have to drop down and stay the night again in Poncha Springs or Salida.]

We had a great ride through the morning. We reached Sargents Mesa in good time and felt good about ourselves. Then the work began. Up and down, up and down on some very bumpy trails for the next 15 miles.

We came out on Hwy 114. This is where we were getting a ride into Saquache. There was no cell phone service, so we were really hoping that Rachael would know where to get us. About 5 minutes passed and there she was. We were getting in a car after 5 days on the bike.  

The only restaurant in town was ok. There is a deli that is really good. If you are ever in Saquache for dinner Thur-Sun, go to the deli (apparently, Thur-Sun, they are open for dinner. We did not know this until we had already eaten.)

32.36 miles for the day

This is how it felt sometimes

Sargents Mesa (11,600 ft)

Day 6, Friday, July 11th
Segment 18 – 21 mandatory detour to avoid the La Garita Wilderness area.
After having an egg sandwich at the deli, Rachael drove us back to the CT. We were able to ride a few miles on Segment 18 before starting the detour. Just before our detour, we meet Apple, a trail angel that I have read about in many CT blogs. He had a whole setup for CT thru-hikers and bikers. It was awesome.
This would have been an uneventful route, just some road riding to Lake City. But the skies opened up!
We were riding towards a very dark cloud. As we got closer, cows in a nearby field starting running, then we see a white wall. The rain and light hail started and we were able to get our rain jackets on. Then the hail came fast and hard. It hurt! We were pedaling full bore, looking for the nearest shelter. Maybe 5 minutes it took us to reach a ranch. I made a bee-line for the front porch. I have no idea where Yana found shelter. We waited it out, then continued on. It rained on and off for the rest of the day.

Lesson learned: if you see cows running, take cover.

The Los Pinos-Cebolla Road goes forever.  And it goes up forever. Even though it is a dirt road, it was a slow grind. Yana said 4pm was her cutoff. That the first vehicle that came by she was going to ask for a ride. I thought this would never happen, 4pm we were sure to be close to the end of this thing.

4:20pm, a pickup drives by. Yana flags them down and we load ourselves and our bikes into the back.

They dropped us off at 149 and we made the descent into Lake City. 

70.19 miles for the day


We're not proud

Day 7, Saturday, July 12th
Lake City – This was a rest day for us. We did some laundry and a lot of eating.

This evening we meet Travis, a CT thru-biker. He had started at mile 0 at Waterton Canyon and was camping. He was quite a gregarious fellow and a joy to talk to. I hope his shoes held out. When we saw him, the thread on the bottom was almost non-existent. 

0 miles for the day
Basket of okra / Southern Vittles restaurant

Day 8, Sunday, July 13th
Segments 22 and 23 there is an optional detour. Segment 24 is a mandatory detour to avoid the Weminuche Wilderness Area.
We took the detour and bypassed Segments 22-24.

Out of Lake City, we headed up to the Alpine Loop turnoff. This begins a long pavement/dirt road ride up to Cinnamon Pass. Once you start heading up to Cinnamon Pass, there are a lot of ATVs and 4wd. All were friendly, once even asking if I needed anything. All those vehicles that passed me were at the top of Cinnamon Pass when I arrived. I had quite the cheering section. Pretty cool.
The drop from Cinnamon Pass to Animas Forks was crazy break burner. Not a smooth road, rather rocky.

We wondered around the abandoned town before heading to Silverton. 

40.02 miles for the day
Starting the hard part

 Cinnamon Pass (12,600 ft)
Long way down

Day 9, Monday, July 14th
Segments 25-26
We had arranged for a shuttle to Molas Pass while in Silverton to avoid riding on the road up to the pass. We got a pretty late start this morning since the shuttle driver could not leave until 8:30am.

This was my favorite as far as scenery and wildflowers. Absolutely gorgeous. A lot of hike-a-bike, but it was almost worth it. There was a lot of narrow single track through skunk cabbage, beautiful mountain views and glorious columbines.
On Bolam Pass (I think) we encountered more snow fields. Not too bad to traverse though. The Blackhawk Pass just below Blackhawk Mountain was a lung busting grunt, but again, the views were spectacular. Crossing the bridge at Cascade Creek was a wonderful site.

By looking at the mileage it doesn't seem like such a bad day, but it was long day. When we reached Hotel Draw, our point to drop off the trail and head down to Purgatory, I was relieved.  
The first couple of miles down on the dirt road were fast. I thought we would be in Purgatory in no time. Then we turned onto Hermosa Park Rd. This turned out to be a long slight uphill grind.

We noticed a huge ring of keys in the road and said to each other what a shame. It wasn't perhaps 30 minutes later a van coming towards us, stops and asks if we had seen any keys. We tried our best to describe where we had seen them, they thanked us and drove away. I half-jokingly said to Yana, “maybe they will be so graceful to have found their keys, they will offer us a ride on their way back.”
Sure enough – we hitched a ride down to Purgatory.

We checked into our room and went straight to dinner. Still in our dirty, smelly, wet cycling clothes. It was maybe 7:30 pm, Yana decides to take a chance and call to see if we can get a shuttle back up to Hotel Draw the next morning. What do you know? The guy at Hermosa Tours answers his phone and we have shuttle arrangements.  He told Yana he believed in making dreams come true. I like him. 

40.92 miles for the day

Cascade Creek

Long way up

Marmot eating the Colorado Trail sign

Skunk Cabbage

Day 10, Tuesday, July 15th
We meet Brian, our shuttle driver, for the ride up to Hotel Draw. He was a nice fella and took our picture before we set off on our last day. It was a stupid hard day to Durango. The Indian Trail Ridge section presents some of the most challenging terrain of all the segments, in my option. The ridge itself is a section of trail that runs above treeline at 12,000 feet for nearly five miles. Rocky steep climbs and descents, and steep hike-a-bikes.
Finally, we made it to Kennebec Pass – it was only 26 miles to Durango. I thought all the climbing was done, nope. There was one more grunt of a 1,000′ climb. Then a lot of downhill to the trail in Durango. The last few miles of trail to Durango are described as fun. Maybe I was tired, but I did not think it was fun. Too many rocks and roots. Yes, there was some, fast, flowy sections, but I wouldn't say fun.

Racheal picked us up at Trail head and we were done. 

36.71 miles for the day

Yep, that's the trail

We have come a long way

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