I decided to head to higher ground this weekend. The forecast was great, I had a hankering to ride in one particular area, and there was a 'cross race out that way to boot. So I loaded up before the sun dared to show its face yesterday morning. 1 bike with fat knobbies, two with skinny knobbies, some camping gear, and my groggy self.
3 hours later I unloaded the bike, threw on the pack, and started climbing. The first part of the ride was a long dirt road climb. The 4WD-enabled leaf peepers were out in force already, but before too long I turned off on some singletrack that got me away from them. But not just any singletrack...frozen singletrack! 3" of snow, frozen mud, and frozen puddles made the last 1000' of climbing a bit of a challenge. Before too long I hit my turn and aimed the bikes down a step, rutted, rocky, slippery descent. I found it on a topo map the night before marked as a pack trail. Pack trails are hit or miss for riding, with probably 90% falling into the latter category. Much to my enjoyment, this particular one was splendid, and I enjoyed it's rooty, rocky, pumpy, stream-crossing-laden goodness for the entire 3000' descent. Then I climbed back up, bumping into a few Great Dividians along the way. Two from Holland, one from Washington, and one who didn't want to chat. They were full of stories, enjoying themselves, and put a grin on my face that lasted for a while. At the top of the climb, I turned off onto singletrack once again and spent the last 15 miles snaking my way back down to my car. The sun set toward the end, and the evening glow set the perfect tone for the end of a great ride. 10 hours, 65 miles, 8000' vert. Not bad.
Somewhere in the afternoon, I realized that I was just having too much fun on the mountain bike to want to go do a cross race the next day. When I loaded the bike back on the car, I hopped in and headed south instead of north. Once back in cell tower country, I made a phone call and soon had alternate plans, thanks to Gary. He and his wife Patty are gracious enough to open their home to anyone riding the Great Divide route, give them a bed, shower, great food, and good conversation. They sure helped me out earlier this summer (and today Gary saved my butt with spare set of brake pads!).
Soon my weary body was falling asleep in a field surrounded by cattle and coyotes under a cloudless sky. The stars were brilliant, and the final thing I saw before falling asleep was a meteor. Again, not bad.
And then I awoke to this view:
Today I met a small group of guys in the heart of one of my favorite parts of the state. They took me out on some trails (and some "trails") that I never would have found on my own, weaving our way through a deserted volcanic landscape of brown cliffs, yellow grass, and golden aspen under bright blue skies. We couldn't have asked for anything better.
That's the kind of weekend I could get used to...