I headed south on the Colorado Trail, following the wilderness detour into BV. Now I know where the famous railroad tunnels have been hiding.
From BV, I climbed. And climbed. And climbed. The first half of the ride had 1000' of climbing. The second half had 10000'. Ouch. That hurt my sea level lungs. The first part was entirely on jeep and ATV trails, though I had them all to myself.
The biggest source of uncertainty in my route was a long stretch of "pack trail" indicated on the USGS topo maps. I took a chance and was rewarded by 20 miles of amazing singletrack, hovering around 10,000'. It clearly doesn't see much use and is rather overgrown in places, but it sure put a smile on my face. If this trail was closer to anything, it'd see quite a bit of attention.
I was again rewarded for an early start with spectacular morning lighting on continued blissful singletrack
While the scenery and trails were enough to capture my attention for hours on end on any normal day, I continually found my mind drifting off and my riding completely on autopilot. I was hoping the ride would help clear my head a bit, but instead, it just gave me all that much more time to spend with my thoughts, which were in a realm that I rarely visit, of life, death, purpose, value...
Last summer on Baffin Island, we discovered bikes and gear left behind by Mike and Dan Moe's fateful traverse, which hit incredibly close to home after I learned that they were the first to ride something akin to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route a couple decades before I raced the Divide. I came home with some photos and a couple ice axes to return to Mike's family.
Fast forward twelve months. A few days after returning home from Baffin last week, I received word that the helicopter pilot we had been working and living with for our last 10 days in the field was killed in a crash the day that we departed. I'm still struggling with this news. Our group shared with the pilot his final days. I awoke that morning after he spent his final night sleeping on a hard floor next to me. We all joked around in the little airport in Qiki as he waited for fog to clear farther north and we awaited our flight's arrival. And that was it. He soon flew north, and we flew south, never realizing that while we sat on the airplane, he lived out his final moments while flying over Sam Ford Fiord. Some debris was found washed up on shore, but it's still not clear what happened.
I found this photo taken as the only large piece of wreckage was returned to Clyde River. Just the evening before the crash, I sat in those seats. After joking about how old he was, the pilot had asked how old I was and then said something in his thick accent about how much life lies ahead. That brief exchange played through my head all weekend. And now I've again returned from Baffin with something to pass on to the family of someone who never made it home.