Bonking on the Colorado Trail and Elsewhere

Mountain biking in Colorado
Mountain biking in the Tarryall Mountains

Ryan had never bonked before. When he started to bumble around and kept losing more and more of his edge, I knew something was up. Not really realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that still littered the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing, since they ultimately turned us all, including him, around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13 year old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached, regardless of the level of difficulty that he faced.

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The Ride Down to Sorata

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Mountain biking

We topped the ridge on the dirt road and began dropping quickly on our mountain bikes into the valley. We all knew that it’d continue to get warmer and greener as we descended from the Bolivian highlands, but our thoughts at that moment were mostly focused on what awaited us at the end of the ride. For each person, those anticipated rewards were different- a warm bath, a cold beer, hot coffee, a dry room. And so, we thought of those things and little else as the town of Sorata came increasingly into view.

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The Rattlesnake in Palo Duro Canyon

mountain biking
Group Mountain Bike Ride

The Rattlesnake had just woken up from its long winter’s nap and was just trying to slither peacefully over to the big flat sunning rock when all hell had broken loose. As it was, just moving anywhere until he’d had a little time to unwind was hard enough, but the still sleepy reptile had tried to giddyap especially quickly across the trail opening once he’d felt the vibrations approaching. Unfortunately for him, lethargy was all he could muster along all four feet of his bone, sinew and diamond patterned skin and moving any faster was just not something he could do at that particular moment.

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The Handlebar

A broken mountain bike handlebar in the Colorado backcountry leads to an interesting fix.

mountain biking in the Aspens
Mountain biking the Colorado Trail

It was a long downhill and flowed well. I’d ridden it before and knew that, even though we were going down the valley toward Lost Park, I would need to pedal most of the way in order to keep my speed up. That particular section of the Colorado Trail keeps dropping slightly and slowly for miles as it winds its way down the mostly open Craig Creek drainage and since I’d ridden it before, I knew that it’d be fast, fun and effortless, save for the pedaling. Sure, there were plenty of obstacles all along the way- loose, unfortunately positioned rocks, encroaching Potentilla bushes, and washed out ruts, but only a few consistently tricky spots, all of which occurred where side creeks, thick with willows, came in. While the trail obstacles could be dealt with by using vigilance and technique, the creek crossings required something a little more involved. With their mud, roots, big rocks and water, they were simply best done on foot. Despite all of the downsides, it was Rocky Mountain mountain biking at its best.

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Lost and Found

“You’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”

Mountain biking the Silver Trail
Getting directions on the Silver Trail

At that point, we were probably some 20 miles from the last little outpost of a town we’d been through, but were theoretically about to come to another. Jerry had the best maps of the area available loaded onto his gps, but it only told us where we were in relation to the relatively paltry data it was loaded with. The realization that we might actually be the first people ever out in that part of Copper Canyon trying to figure out and quantify where the hell things went, among other things, left me with the feeling of simply being overwhelmed. The old adage of, “garbage in, garbage out” came to mind and was soon followed by the vision of a web page that simply said “no data available”. I was momentarily despondent as I looked at the convergence of three trails, all of which seemed to head up toward the top of a wrong ridge. Just as we were each desperately searching for any sort of clues about it all, I was saved, once again, by the quote- “you’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are”.

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The Meatgrinder and Puke Loop

Two trails, seven years later…

Base Camp area trails
The Puke Loop

Old trails never die, they just get harder to see.

Their names did, and still do, a good job of describing them in a few short words- The Puke Loop and The Meatgrinder. While their heydays of being a few open, flowing pieces of path connecting extended sections of tight turns, rocks, overhanging limbs, short and steep climbs, poorly angled roots, complicated descents, cactus and riding/hiking/trail running bliss have long passed, they can still be mostly followed. More than just a few body scars remain on people to help tell something about what the two were like back in the day and undoubtedly there are those that still think of mountain biking the Puke Loop whenever they find themselves hugging a commode.

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The 24 Hours of Moab

Interesting events late at night during a 24 Hour mountain bike race.

A dirt road via mountain bike
Mountain biking

Things got progressively weirder as the mountain bike race/event known as the 24 Hours of Moab continued. At some point in the middle of the night, two tandem bikes with riders dressed as frogs rode in from a direction that I was certain had nothing to do with the race course. During the first lap, I’d been concerned when another racer didn’t correctly yield the trail to me on a long climb, but by the time the frog thing happened, nothing was flustering me. I was just pleased that the creatures had stopped and waited at the side of the trail for me to pass before continuing on. For that moment, as I passed and rode on up toward the crest of the hill, I was consumed by the thought that they very well might just turn onto the same 15 mile long trail that me, and several hundred other riders were in the midst of riding. As I rode on past, I hoped that if so, they’d at least go in the same counterclockwise direction as everyone else.

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Hamburgers and Lizard Head

A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.

Pingora
Pingora, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Lizard Head is a big peak just to the north and east of the well-known, long and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges and spires in the Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular trip, we backpacked into the area with two separate groups of 7, via different routes that both came in from the east and took us to Bear Lake. The lake sits just on the east side of Lizard Head and would be the location for our backcountry base camp on that trip.

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Mountain Biking The Trail of Death

An interesting turn of events while mountain biking some Copper Canyon singletrack.

Trail of Death 1-03
The Trail of Death

Afterward, we began to call it the Trail of Death.

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Resbaloso

Resbaloso, which is a Spanish word meaning slippery in English, is “that” word and also the name given to an infamous trail descent into the town of Creel.

The Resbaloso
Riding down the Resbaloso during the La Onza bike race in Creel.

Just seeing the word, much less speaking or hearing it, causes my pucker reaction to kick into high gear. Resbaloso, which is a Spanish word meaning slippery in English, is “that” word and also the name given to an infamous trail descent into the town of Creel. Continue reading “Resbaloso”