Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Colorado Trail

8-17-2010 --> 9-9-2010
Executive Summary:
   About 3 weeks of riding
   620 miles
   70,000 ft of elevation gain
   Mostly between 9,000 and 12,000 ft
   With 20 lbs of gear, a ~28? lb bike and 10-20 lbs of food

I'll have the next 3 or so posts being pictures and some random stories of the trip.

Last minute Prep work:
8/17 - Staying at a hostel in Durango, I put together some care packages for myself (divided up days of food) and mailed them "general delivery" to myself at post offices along the way.
8/18 - Take Greyhound to Durango (14 hour trip).  I stayed in a hostel in Downtown Durango and met some very nice guys from Italy.
8/19 - Set out.  I rode 35 miles to Indian Creek Trailhead (the start of the trail... becuase Waterton Canyon was closed for dredging)

Some pictures:
8/19: Riding my bike to the trailhead.

Finally at the trailhead! (I thought I'd be there hours before I arrived... a long first day)

8/20: Taking a picture (and a break!) at a nice overlook

Bathing in a stream! :-) Biodegradable soap & a stinky Tom.
It was cool and pleasant.  And the novelty made it a blast :-)

After a dip in the stream, I went into a large burn section.
This was pretty hot and difficult (a looong uphill).

8/21: Well, I had planned on getting water at this lake... but as you can see, it is closed.
I thought it odd that they closed a lake, but luckily I often carry more water than I'll need, and I was fine.

It was another hot day, at 93 degrees.  I sweated a bunch, and after passing some pretty disgusting water (cows mashing through a tiny stream) I found a stream.  A looong (50 mile day) hot day.

8/22: I arrived at the campsite way late last night and more than a little worn out.
It turns out it was full.  (normally I just camped on the side of the trail... but since I was on
a long detour this time (74 miles), that wasn't an option.  SO, I asked the host what he suggested.
And, it turns out he just let me camp in his site for the night.  Oh, such a relief.

And the marvelous breakfast.  (oatmeal, peanut butter cookie mix, and protein powder)

The nice host & his family.

Can you see the humming bird?  This was at a general store on the detour.

And... I just finished 26 miles of rough road.  
I took a picture because I thought it was silly to put up a sign.  
This sign probably should say "We've given up on this road... buy a jeep"

Alllmost back to the trail.  Entering National Forest land.  It feels warm and fuzzy.  :-) So nice :-)

Woo Hoo! Detour is over! And I'm back on the trail :-)

And my smiling (and tired) face to show my happiness.

8/23: Wake up and get moving.  It looks to be a decent day with some nice trail.

A weird hissing noise... for a stick in my tire.  Odd... This was my only flat of the 620 miles.  :-) Woot!

Bike up Georgia Pass, 9800 to 11,800 ft.  Most days included 3,000-4,000 ft of elevation gain.
After today's climb there was some awesome downhill biking.
Big Fun :-)
Smooth single track that went for miles and miles, slowly winding down the mountain
Big Fun (needs repeating).  :-)

Today I met Mark, Nira, and Sarah (from left to right).
They were through-hikers and friendly people along the trail.
We had a fire and enjoyed each other's company that night.  It was good stuff.  :-)

8/24: The next morning I set out for Breckenridge (Breck, as the locals call it).
I was blown away by the town's friendly people.  The people I met generally seemed happy.
Enjoying life and their place in it.

Enjoying some smooth downhill.  :-)

I took a free shuttle to Frisco (very near Breck).  Here I arrived just after the bike shop's mechanic had left.  I had called him earlier explaining that I needed a little help with a shop that stocked some rare parts.  He left saying "allow Tom to use whatever he needs in the shop."  SO... I went in and got to work.  Then the owner came in and chatted for about an hour.  It was fantastic!  :-)
In my mind I contrasted this to Sun and Ski (not a bad shop) where I used to work, and where the corporate world's black oil had infultrated.  I wanted to show a girlfriend of mine how to fix something on her bike, but when she was back in the shop area, a manager came and told her she wasn't allowed to be in there because she wasn't an employee and therefore wasn't on the company liability insurance plan.
I was frustrated.  But this day (pictured) I was super stoked to be in a shop that operated so much differently.  
:-)  Woot!

Eric: A former financial banker from the Netherlands.  He quit his job and minimized his bills, to travel the wold.  To see the sights, get to know the people, and find himself.  Meeting him was a high point of the trip for sure.  I still am fascinated that he showed up in Leadville and pulled off the Leadville 100 race with only a few days preparation (including procuring a bike).

8/25: I planned to leave Breckenridge and ride to Copper and then continue on for another 15 miles or so...  Then I realized that the 13 mile section with 3600 ft of elevation gain was mostly on this rocky terrain.

While biking hiking up with my bike... I met a nice guy who offered for me to stay at his place that night.
So, we pushed our bikes together for the afternoon and rode down treacherous terrain slowly, then headed back to his place where I got to sleep on a comfy couch.  Woot!  and Woot! for nice people :-)
(he took this picture)

8/26: Biked & Hiked up to 12,000 ft and then rode & hiked for about 4 miles at that elevation (with a steep incline at the end).. Beautifully magnificent. I was blessed with good weather (as normally you want to be off high elevation places by 1:00 or so, and I didn't get down until 5:00.

Near the end of the day, I noticed sloppy shifting, and then there was a bad noise.  My rear derrailleur fell apart.  :-(  frown  :-(  I was many miles from help (heading forwards) and really didn't want to turn around.  Luckilly (or as my brother's in the park in Houston say "there ain't no "luck" in the Bible.  Call it what it is: a blessing")  So, a huuuge blessing came that no parts were lost or damaged.  So I put the thing back together and got back on my way :-)

Portable workshop: all bikes come with it.  :-)

Some beautiful views:

I arrived here in late late afternoon.  I was tired and it was getting cold.
Many people take a shower in these falls though.  That would be neat.  They are beautiful.  :-)

Camp Hood:  Soldiers were trained for cross country skiing here during World War II.

8/27: Some ovens.  I think they may have been used in conjunction with Camp Hood, though a few miles away.

End of week 1 of 3.  Week 2 & 3 will come along tomorrow... or sometime. :-)


  1. Tom, very, very cool blog. Nice writing & pics. Maybe you're already in contact with our office of The Colorado Trail Foundation - we maintain the Trail and assist users. Don't hesitate to connect. Thanks for posting!!

    Bill Manning bill [at] ColoradoTrail.org
    The Colorado Trail Foundation
    www ColoradoTrail.org

  2. Hi Tom,
    It was great seeing you in CO Springs and Donna and I enjoyed catching up with you. What are the chances that we were both there at the same time?
    Best regards,
    Joe Benzenhoefer