Well I am not sure where to start on this one, but man oh man, what an awesome trip.
It seems like bike packing is more popular than ever these days. Besides seeing it all over the internet, I have been selling more and more bikes to customers looking to go on their own bikepacking adventures. The more I get into it myself, the more it makes sense - Bike packing is awesome! Ride your bike all day, camp out, wake up in a beautiful place and ride your bike some more... what else could you want? And with all the gear and resources available these days it is pretty darn easy to get into.
The planning for this trip started up this past Winter. Mike pitched me the idea and I was in right away. Then funny enough a few weeks later another friend, Ben, also reached out about planning a trip. Fast forward through a few months of google docs and skype calls and we were mostly readyish to go. We planned on a 10 day ride, which as we heard was a "business casual pace". Working hard every day, but still taking some time to enjoy where we were.
While all of us had done many different trips of this length, be it backpacking, river trips, back country skiing or climbing, this would be the first multi night bike camping trip for the majority of us. That said, the Colorado Trail is a good place to start with lots of towns to restock on food and abundant streams to keep you hydrated. The trail association publishes a great guide book that has all the info you need and the trail is very well marked.
We met up in Boulder where the five of us grew up and all got into cycling. Ben still lives there as do my parents, so it was easy. We got dropped nice and early at Waterton trailhead in Denver and set off on our way! It was wicked hot and as the day grew on we started to fear our initial itinerary may have been biting off more than we could chew. Our 70 mile goal turned into a really hard 40 mile day, but hey, we were just getting warmed up.
The next day we stopped in Bailey for burritos before braving the shoulder on Kenosha pass, heading up Georgia pass and dropping down towards Breckenridge. This was our first taste of the beautiful alpine single track we would get to see a lot more of, and it felt good.
Riding out of Copper and over Searle Pass then Kokomo Pass was another highlight. I had done a lot of backcountry skiing in these areas, visiting Janet's Cabin and Jackal Hut, but never seen them in the summer. More tasty alpine single track and a crazy steep descent into Camp Hale where I thought my brake pads were going to catch fire and the weight of my frame bags might carry me straight through some switch backs and over the edge. All was went well though, and when we got to Camp Hale we met up with Sam before the whole gang feasted on Jambalaya at a nice little campsite. That was a fun one.
The next day we pushed on towards Twin Lakes, happening to ride through our second bike race (Mike and I had to ride through a course at Copper to get back on the trail). The descent down to twin Lakes was one of my favorites of the trip. Beautiful aspen forests whizzed by and the dirt was top notch. This was also our one day with the whole gang together. Ellen had to leave at Twin Lakes to go to a funeral, so we said goodbye there and made our way to Buena Vista.
Buena Vista is where the rain started. We arrived just in time for dinner and sat eating our hamburgers and milkshakes waiting for a big storm to pass. Eventually it settled down long enough for us to work our way up cottonwood pass and set up camp. Wet night, but the next day was actually very dry. The following three days would be our only with no places to restock and we were a little nervous. Bikes were heavy. We pushed on.
The Section between Lake City and Silverton was really cool. We camped out around 12,500 Ft and woke up to a nice fog rolling in. That day would prove to be hard. As we climbed up to the highest point on the trail - 13,200 some feet - we faced a nice constant 10 mph wind and rain. The first descent was brutal. Super cold in the wind and my two rain jackets were pretty soaked. We set up a tent before the second climb because it was just coming down. Worried we might just get stuck there for the night, we got out and got rolling. Not soon after things seemed to clear up. We could see the storm around us, but we had found a nice hole. The terrain was beautiful. Big peaks, super green, pretty lakes. There were several 6-800ft climbs and descents on singletrack before we got to stony pass and dropped into Silverton for our last wilderness detour. As we got there it got rainy. Stony Pass was an amazing road, I wish I had taken some photos. We dropped sooo much elevation so quickly. Soaked, muddy and tired we arrived in Silverton, and promptly found the brewery where we devoured three pizzas and were hit hard by a couple beers.
Two more days to Durango! this was it and as we were told, the best sections of trail to come... or so we thought. It dumped all night. I ran out of water, but was able to put my cup under the rain fly in the vestibule and fill up 3 or four times in a few minutes. Crazy rain. In the morning we made our way up Molas Pass, the road out of Silverton. Near the summit, the sky opened up. We spent an hour or tow under a tyvek tarp - finishing the Whiskey, eating gummy worms and listening to music on Mike's phone. I'd like to say the decision was hard, but it really wasn't. Another 48 hours in downpour isn't really what I was going for. Gotta know your goals. We opted to take the 50 miles of road into Durango instead of trail. Bummer, but it was the right choice. From a Motel in Durango we got to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics while a gnarly thunderstorm boomed in the mountains above.
All and all this trip was amazing. I'll be back again to nab that last section, but the miles we covered were awesome. If you have ever considered riding the Colorado Trail, you have to go do it! You won't regret it.