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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Bushwhacking

Relaxing after a long bushwhack
Soaking in the Backcountry

We called it the Valley of the Dinosaurs mostly because of the monstrous rock formations that were scattered all around. Besides just overwhelming the high mountain valley with their size, they breathed a strange sort of life into the area that had convinced me from early on that the whole place was on the move. I could never pick out any one thing that caused me to think that—it was more like a general, overwhelming and deep in the gut feeling that had me convinced. I was consumed by the place’s pure and simple beauty and a feeling that the whole area was way more alive than me from the very first time I blundered into it. Through the years, I took every opportunity to return and while the physical cost of getting there was never cheap- without fail, it was always worth it.

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The Solo Storm

A stormy evening in the mountains…….

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Lightning was striking everywhere and each time it did, there was a bright flash immediately followed by the almost deafening crash of thunder. When it’d first started, I figured it was time to do something, although I didn’t. But once the bolts started lighting up individual trees, I sprang into action.

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Elk

A herd of elk in the Colorado high country

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The Colorado Rockies

There must’ve been close to 100 elk filling the valley below me, and I was astounded. I didn’t want to do anything to call attention to myself, so just sat there quietly peering over the boulder from afar. It was some sort of luck or fate that put me in that right place and at the right time, because I certainly hadn’t been thinking about it as I I’d climbed toward the top of yet another ridge.

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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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Fire in the Tarryalls

A tree catches fire in the Colorado backcountry at a particularly inopportune time.

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Penitente Canyon, Colorado

Lightning streaked across the sky and was followed instantly by an explosion of thunder, telling me that the thunderstorm was somewhere right above us. It was unsettling, but there wasn’t time to worry about it. I didn’t see any sort of flash hit the ground, but had to wonder if there was one up there, wherever it was that lightning came from, that had one of our names on it. The wind kept blowing relentlessly and the constant gusting made the whole situation seem all the more chaotic. But, where’s the rain, I thought? The Tarryalls needed it. A real downpour might put an end to the Hayman Fire as well as whatever it was that was burning up above us on the mountainside. Continue reading “Fire in the Tarryalls”