Aug 10, 2012
THERE'S NO END TO UP
THE COLORADO TRAIL RACE JULY 30 2012
START AT WATERTON CANYON IN DENVER TO 3 MILES PAST KENOSHA PASS.
4:30 AM came very early as we all got up. Andy’s wife Sandy cooked us a breakfast of eggs and toast. Than we rode the 4 miles to the start line where we met Stephan the organizer of the event who was handing out the SPOT locators. After a short speech Stephan sent all 80 of us on our way. The first 6 miles were a dirt road up Waterton Canyon. Yesterday when I rode this section for practice I saw quite a few Dahl sheep in the canyon. I rode some with Ben and George up the canyon. Saw a black bear across the river. After that we started the switch backs up the font range. A very hilly and choppy first couple of sections. Andy, Jeff and myself yo yo’ed back and forth most of the day. No great trails this day, mostly just climbing. After about 40 miles of single track we start the first wilderness detour. We have to go 8 miles of gravel into the town of Bailey. As I approach Bailey about 2 PM it starts to rain lightly. I meet Andy and Jeff in the restaurant. While we are eating it monsoon’s outside. Even though I’m hungry and haven’t eaten much all day I can’t finish a meal of hamburger and fries because of upset stomach, a problem not uncommon to me. I leave before Andy and Jeff and start the next road section which is a continuation of the detour. The next section is 5 miles of gravel going out of town than 15 miles of highway 285 going up to Kenosha Pass at 10,000 + feet. Felt good for the whole road section passing many riders on the way up. At the top of the pass we regain the CT. I ride about 3 more miles down the trail and at about 7:30 PM find a flat spot near a creek in a grove of aspen trees at about 9000 feet of elevation were several others are camped and decide to stay there for the night.
13 hours on the trail and about 70 miles. 7800 feet of climbing
It poured rain that night, and although I got a little wet I stayed warm.
JUST WEST OF KENOSHA PASS TO PART WAY UP THE 10 MILE RANGE.
Up at 5:30 AM and on the bike at 6 AM. Day two is a bear! The first obstacle is Georgia pass and the continental divide at almost 12000 feet of elevation. The trail is about 9 miles to the top of Georgia Pass and most of it is hike a bike. Very rocky and steep. Many long sections where I would plant my feet, push the bike up about 3 feet, squeeze the brakes and then take 2 steps up to the bike, than repeat over and over again. The top of the pass was beautiful. Above tree line, cool and clear and sunny. I passed many drifts of hail stones, which I found out later, were from the previous night. Apparently many of the faster riders spent the night up here, and at least one of them (Ben whom I had stayed with the night before the start) got so hypothermic that he quit the race the next day. Even the ride down was a lot of hike a bike because the trail was so steep and rocky. Than there was another mountain to climb than finally down to Frisco/Breckenridge area. This section was 33 miles long and contained over 4500 feet of climbing. I had talked to another CTR rider and he suggested going towards Frisco, there was a store close by in that direction. So I did. Unfortunately I rode the 3 miles to the store only to find it closed. So I turned around and rode 7 miles towards Breck to a convience store to stock up on food. Yum yum convience store food. Than 4 miles back to the trailhead. The next section is reported to be just as tough as the one I just completed The 10 Mile Range. I started this section about 3 in the afternoon and had thoughts of riding late into the night and finishing it but that wasn’t to be. I got about 5 miles into this section and came across a couple of other riders camped out at a nice spot and since it was already about 7:30 PM I decided to stay the night.
Another 13 and ½ hours on the trail but only about 38 miles.
THE 10 MILE RANGE
It rained a little that night but no down pours like the night before. Was a little cold in my damp gear. Got up about 6:30 and on the trail by about 7 AM. Another tough hike a bike section topping out at almost 12500 feet. Above tree line was very nice. Going up the mountain with Breck and Frisco down below and than when I crossed the ridge there was Copper on the other side. This is one of only a few sections that the guide book suggests that you detour around on a bike! Down into Copper and I found another convience store to get some food at. Got done fueling up about 1:30 PM and started on the next section. The next section was very high topping out at over 12200 feet with lots of time spent above 10000 feet. First I climbed up to Searle pass at 12040 feet than continue on to the high point of Elk Ridge at 12280 feet than on to Kokomo pass at 12020 feet. . It rained a couple of times while at the top, while at the peak on the windward side it was sunny but the rain was horizontal. Than when I crossed over to the leeward side it was calm and sunny. Than a long very rideable down hill that seemed to go on forever. I stopped a couple of times just to let the brakes cool off. After going down into the valley it was an easy rideable climb up to Tennessee Pass at 10424 feet. It had started to rain late in the day and when I got to the pass there was a highway rest area and I took shelter in the large concrete outhouse. At least it kept the rain off me for the next 45 minutes. The rain finally quit and I set up the tent in some trees and decided to go into Leadville tomorrow and take a rest day, Dry out some gear and eat!
13 hours on the trail and about 45 miles.
TENNESSEE PASS TO LEADVILLE
Got up at about 7 and on the road about 7:30. First of all I had to go rubber neck at a sink on Hwy 24 that was reported to be 100 feet deep. The sink hole reportedly went down to an old railroad tunnel under the road. There wasn’t really much to see the construction crews had things pretty well under control. There was 1 lane open so I had to wait at the flag man to let traffic thru. Than it was only 3 miles of trail than about 12 miles of gravel (another detour around wilderness) into Leadville (the highest incorporated city in the U. S. at 10120 feet). I got a late breakfast at the Golden Burro than got a hotel room, pulled all my wet gear out to dry, took a shower, and played tourist for the rest of the day. Had a great dinner at the Casa Blanca, than early to bed. It was during this day that I decided that I probably wouldn’t be able to finish in 10 days so I would ride another day on the trail than ride the roads back to Denver and my car.
About 15 miles of riding and 3 hours
LEADVILLE TO BUENA VISTA
I thought it was only a mile or 3 back to the trail but it ended up being about 10 miles of gravel till I finally picked up the trail again. The trail started out going up of course so there was some hike a bike because of the long steep trail, but the trail was in good shape. A lot of trail here at around 10000 feet but nothing much higher than that. Went around Twin Lakes which is a resvavoir and it was really low like a lot of the resavoirs in Colorado. The last 20 miles again was a detour around a wilderness area leading into Buena Vista. The last 10 miles of this detour was a gravel road that had once been a RR grade that was all downhill alongside the Arkansas River. A great ride! Pulled into Buena Vista around 1:30 PM and found a restaurant “Punkys Smoke Shack” and had a great lunch. Well this was my turn around point so after a good lunch and rest at 3:00 PM I left Buena Vista and the Colorado Trail and hit the roads for Denver. I had to head a couple of miles south on Hwy 24 than pick up Hwy 285 which headed N.E. to Denver. Nothing exciting here, there was 1 pass to cross over at about 10000 feet. The road went thru a broad high valley, lots of rolling hills, traffic wasn’t too bad and there was a good shoulder most of the way. Got to the town of Fairplay about 7 PM got a subway and asked the store clerk if there were any city parks nearby and he pointed me to Fairplay beach, a picnic park along the river which ended being a great camping spot.
53 miles of the Colorado trail to Buena Vista and about 6 hours
40 road miles from Buena Vista to Fairplay and about 4 hours
FAIRPLAY TO DENVER
I figured I had 80 or 90 miles to go back to Denver with 1 pass to go over and then after the pass I would repeat about 20 miles of a road detour I had done on the first day going into the town of Bailey. Then there was a really bad section of road the last 50 miles into Denver. The morning ride up to the top of Kenosha pass was great, sunny cool weather good road and little traffic. After the pass it was 12 miles of downhill but there was more traffic and sections with no shoulder, than I was able to turn off the highway for 5 miles of gravel into the town of Bailey and lunch. The map said the next 50 miles of highway into Denver was high traffic and little or no shoulder, so while at the restaurant I asked the owner about any alternate routes and he kinda vaguely pointed me to a road out of Conifer that would bypass Hwy 285 and take me into S.W. Denver where my car was. The bad news was I had to ride 13 miles of highway into Conifer. This was the worst part of the whole trip, lots of traffic and little or no shoulder and all up hill. I took about 2 hours to do this 13 miles, lots of climbing! Than I thought I found the right road to turn off on but it wasn’t quite matching with the road on the GPS. I kept going (uphill) and finally ran into some other bikers and asked directions and I was on the right road. I had to make a couple of turns but this route would take me into Denver And what a route it was. This turned into one of the highlights of the trip. The next 20 miles were all downhill on a twisty turny canyon road. Hundreds of other bikers (but none on a fully loaded mtn bike) and only a few cars. I learned later that this was a common route for Denver riders, park at the bottom ride up and then fly down. From the bottom of the canyon it was only a few miles to Andy’s house and the car, but not the end of the trip. I had learned that my brother and sister in law and their daughter were in Keystone. So I took a drive out to there and spent a day relaxing with them, than the looooong drive home.
Last day about 80 miles of road and about 7 hours.
Overall it was a great trip. Lots of beautiful mountain scenery and great riding. The uncertainty of how I was going to get back to Denver if I had completed the ride and the slower than expected pace lead me to pull out earlier than I had hoped, but it was still a great trip. Less weight would have also helped. My bike and all my gear including water weighed about 70 pounds. Way to much I’ll bet that most riders were at half of that. Didn’t have a single mechanical problem or even a flat tire and this was some really hard hard down hilling.