Previous trips to ride in the mountains have given me great memories and stolen my soul on more than one occasion. This trip would be no different.
After arriving in Denver, I took a quick spin around the block to be sure everything on the bike was good to go. The altitude didn't really seem to be affecting me in what must have been a 1/4 mile ride. This was good news given that I live at a whopping 650 feet.
Morrison, Colorado, is roughly 6500 feet above sea level and home to a trail called Lair o' the Bear. The trail is an out and back totaling 12 miles. It is mostly singletrack with a few technical rocky sections. It starts off innocently enough by a nice creek. Then the climbing, and the effects of the altitude, kick in. The climb was broken up with a few sections of fast flowing singletrack in and out of pine trees. Just as I was thinking "This is more like it!" the trail headed back up again. Doug, my guide, host, and photographer for the trip, was cruising along like the local he is as I was gasping for air. Luckily I was able to sneak in a few breaks by claiming to look for the best photo op spots.
We finally hit the 6 mile mark and turned around to head back to the trailhead. Who would've thought there would be just as much climbing in the opposite direction? "You're in the mountains. You're always climbing." was a comment I would hear for the rest of the trip. There was a technical section on the way back that I really wanted to try. I had seen in photos and it didn't look too bad. Just a slow tight turn and then let it rip down the rest of the rocks. However, there were some consequences if you didn't make the first tight turn. Common sense won out and I decided to live to ride another day rather than risk it. Of course Doug rode it and made it look easy. We finished the ride and the trails were winning 1-0.
After the ride we ate lunch and decided to drive up Mount Evans. At a little over 14,000 feet it is the highest paved road in the US. I had the pleasure (misfortune?) of climbing it on the road bike on another trip. Driving to the top is much easier. We headed up and the views are amazing. There are several lakes and snow banks along the way. It's always so strange to see snow in the summer. Mountain goats and big horn sheep were all over the last few switchbacks at the top. They didn't seem to have any worries about all the traffic and the tons of people taking photos.
The next day we headed to Pine and rode at Buffalo Creek. It's around 7000 feet and in an area I would call eerily beautiful. Several sections of the trail go through swaths of land that have been burned out due to wildfires, which created breathtaking views. Unfortunately, at least one of them was intentionally set.
Remember me mentioning my soul being stolen? Well this trail did a good job of that. Every time I would start to recover a little the trail would go back up. For every downhill or slick rock section that made me say “This is more like it!” there was a long climb full of loose gravel. It felt like quicksand and sounded like a hail storm pinging on my downtube. I focused on zinging through the pine trees, bombing some twisty downhills, and the insane amount of traction you have on slick rock.
We left Buffalo Creek and drove about four hours west to Fruita where we would spend the next two days. There are several trail systems to choose from in Fruita and they offer pretty much anything you could ask for except shade. The altitude is a little lower (yes!) but it’s a desert climate so riding early was a must. The trails went from about 4500 to 5000 feet. It was much easier on the lungs!
Day three was a great ride on the Kokopelli trails. There are about eight different sections ranging from green to black. We stuck to the greens and blues. The blues were technical enough to keep me on my toes in places and the perimeter sections offered some incredible views of the Colorado River way below the trail. We ended the day with 18 miles and I was feeling good. The score was now trails –2, me –1. I was making a comeback!
After the ride we headed into Colorado National Monument, only a few miles from our hotel. Much like Mount Evans, I was in awe the whole time. Words can’t do it justice and my photos don’t either. It was a twenty three mile drive through unreal scenery.
The final ride was at the 18 Road trails, which sent us up a moderate 2.5 mile section called Prime Cut, leaving us to pick another trail and bomb back down. Climb back up Prime Cut, pick another trail and bomb down it. The three trails we hit after Prime Cut were nonstop fun.
The first is called PBR- Pumps, Bumps, and Rollers. It was full of small sets of doubles, tabletops, step downs and berms. It’s rare for me to be on a trail where you barely have to pedal for six minutes while going as fast as possible. We headed back up the climb and chose Kessel’s on the way down. Its rated green but anybody at any skill level can have fun on it. It wasn’t quite as wide open and fast as PBR, but it was still a blast.
The final of the three trails we hit, and my favorite, was called Joe’s. It started with a small downhill into a beautiful climb along the ridgeline, but the real fun began after the climp. We were on a narrower ridge blazing up and down with some semi-sketchy turns. A few of them made it hard to tell where we were going as we headed into the turn and dove down the next downhill. At bottom of Joe’s we could have headed back to the trailhead on the road or take Mo Joe’s to get back. Mo Joe’s was every bit as fun Joe’s with tons of jumps and turns with a few rocky sections thrown in to keep you honest. We ended up hitting PRB and Joe’s/Mo Joe’s twice each and Kessel’s once for a total of 22 miles. At last I had evened the score! Trails –2, me –2.
A big thanks goes out to Doug for putting up with me for a week! Also to the guys at home (Clayton, Rick, Jordan and Jeremy) who keep my Firefly fleet running like champs. And finally a huge thanks to the Kevin, Tyler and Jamie for letting me be a part of this and building incredible bicycles!