Friday, July 17, 2009

Staying up all night

A couple years ago, I did a crazy all night thing involving a mountain bike. I have fond memories of that night. After last night, I'm wondering if I'm really remembering it clearly.

The 2009 Vapor Trail 125 is coming. I'm planning to do it this year, avenging my failed attempt to finish the beast in 2007.

Seems like crazy, all night things involving mountain bikes need a bit of practice. So I decided to re-experience that night in late July, 2007. Leave from town after the sun goes down on my bike with my lights, climb to Marshall Pass, climb to the top of the Agate Creek Trail, descend Agate, climb to Old Monarch, ride the Crest-Silver Creek-Rainbow Trail.

I decided to invite a friend to join me this time, since I really expected it to be lots of fun!

Lee Blackwell was my victom. He does crazy things like this sometimes. And he's also signed up for the Vapor Trail 125. And, well, he was willing to go with me.

Look how fresh and excited we are!

Now look at this blank, vacant, character pointing out a public service announcement. Does he look like he gives a hoot?

Here's a bit of the night-time story:

We left Salida at around 9:30. As my memory (which is suspect) serves, we were sitting on our butts in the gravel at the top of Marshall Pass eating and talking about clothing and perspiration at around 1:30 AM. I was feeling really crappy. I climb to Marshall all the time. I've done it more than half a dozen times this year. Why did it work me over so badly last night? Lee and I have theories, but lets just say that I was slow, and Lee got cold waiting for my slow ass to make it to the pass.

Then it was time to climb south from Marshall up onto the Crest Trail to get to the top of Agate. During this time, I wished I could feel a little better so that I could just feel like crap. I was getting dopey from no sleep, and I just felt tired and worked over. I was eating, I was drinking, I wasn't too cold. Just not feeling good. And I was riding poorly too--I felt very clumsy.

And Lee spent time waiting on my slow ass. And got cold.

When I finally caught up to Lee at the top of the Agate Creek Trail, he was talking about how reluctant he was to get his shoes soaked in cold, cold Agate Creek in the middle of the night. I had been thinking that A) I was a total clod, and should probably not be trying to descend Agate in that state, and B) it would really be lots of work to get down there and then get back up to Old Monarch.

It was unanimous. Neither of us wanted to go down there. So we decided to just ride the Crest on to Monarch and then see from there. I drank a Red Bull. That was a good idea.

It was really, really dark. I know--nighttime is like that. But there was no moon until after 3:30 AM. The stars were exhileratingly beautiful, and we saw several dramatic meteorites streaking across the sky. But it was kind of like being in a sensory deprivation experiment. It was working on both our brains.

As 4:00 AM approached, I started actually feeling a little better. And Lee started talking about naps. We made our way to the beginning of the singletrack, a couple miles from Monarch Pass, and Lee found himself a comfy bit of knick knick and laid down to rest. I sipped on another Red Bull and took a picture of myself pointing at a "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute" sign on the trailhead kiosk.

At around 4:30, we headed back to the south, back toward Marshall. And the pink glow became visible in the east. Once that started happening, both of us perked up.

At first light, Lee makes some clothing changes.

Pre-sunrise twilight on the Crest.

Sunrise at Marshall Pass (Lee takes a 2nd brief nap here).

We make our way to the top of Silver Creek, where the light was magic.

Similarly, the light in the Silver Creek drainage was something else.

Riding all night is always a trip. Last night's experience definitely supports that assertion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sixth of July Ride

Every year in Salida, for a very long time by Mountain Bike History standards, a crowd has left town on bikes at roughly 4:30 AM on the Fourth of July to climb up to Monarch Pass. From there they ride the whole classic Crest route, then cross highway 285 to ride the Rainbow Trail across Salida's southern backdrop to Bear Creek and down back into town. In Salida it's known as The Fourth of July Ride, or occasionally The Big Lap.

I've done it with them, and it's a big day. But it's been a while. That last bit east of 285 isn't really "enjoyable". It's lots of hike-a-bike after a whole day of relatively fabulous riding. And I often have more pressing matters on the 4th. Last year it was manning the sales floor at Absolute. This year it was hanging with Kathy's family and doing all the 4th of July small-town stuff.

But the Crest is clear and almost dry, and it's a shame not to get up there as soon in the summer as it can be done. And furthermore, it's a shame not to take the dirt route up to Monarch and do it under one's own power, at least once every season.

So that's what I did on the Monday after the crowds went back to work; back to the Front Range, back to wherever they need to be on Monday morning. I had my own celebration of the Crest's season opener. A Sixth of July ride.

I left the house at 6:30 AM. Three hours and forty-five to Old Monarch, four hours to the Crest Trail sign-in just south of new Monarch. At 12:30 I was at the top of the Silver Creek Trail. Rolled up to the house back in Salida a little before 3:00.

Mostly uneventful day, other than wildflowers, singing robins in the woods near Monarch Park, gentle breezes, blue skies with puffy clouds sailing past, singletrack, and the music of Silver Creek as it grew in size and volume while I followed it down.

Saw a dozen others all day when I was back off the roads. Four hikers, 8 riders. Quite a nice day really.