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.