Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Adventure Tour Lite

Kathy and I drove a wheel truck behind the 35+ Open hot rods at the Salida Omnium road race on Saturday morning. It's a great way to watch a road race, let me tell you. Those skinny tire guys who race have motors.

Saturday afternoon Kathy loaded up the tPOD and headed down to the east slope of the Sangre de Cristo range southwest of Westcliffe, CO to meet up with her family for a little camping. I had a plan hatching to ride down and meet them on Sunday, so I stayed behind.

At about 2:15 AM Sunday, after pretending to sleep for a while, I staggered to my feet and groped in the fridge for a cold Red Bull. Nothing like swigging a Red Bull in the middle of the friggin' night, then pulling on lycra and sidis, switching on your headlamp and rolling up into the mountains.

My plan was to avoid riding down highway 50 east, where there are too many blind corners and drowsy truckers, by climbing up over the Ute Trail divide to the north of Salida. It's South Park country over there, but where I went wasn't officially South Park since I never rode over any creeks that drain into the South Platte. South Park is the high valley basin of the South Platte headwaters. I crossed through the upper Badger Creek basin, which drains back down to the Arkansas.

But it feels like South Park over there. Wide open.

Everything was sleeping when I rolled out of Salida a few minutes after 3 AM. Dogs were not barking, no cars were on the road--nothing but moths were moving around. The sky was clear and the stars were brilliant, even more so as I climbed up and away from Salida's street lights.

The night was warm. I left with my leg and arm warmers packed and did not need them until I crested the 10,000 foot divide and started rolling down the other side at around 4:30. A mouse ran out into the road in front of me just before I got to the top. It was the first mammal I saw during the trip. I startled a couple deer just as I headed down. Even though my gaze was not directed up at the sky, I saw 4 or 5 meteors streaking down toward earth.

I had wrapped up some scrambled eggs and cheese in a tortilla the night before, and at about 6 I hauled it out and chowed it. I had just found the one key turn I needed to make to start heading back south toward Cotopaxi, CO. I was just leaving the wide open high prairie of the upper Badger Creek basin and entering mixed aspen and open space. The pink dawn made for a really nice breakfast mood.

The country up there north of Salida really has some pretty places. And you usually share them only with cows and people who work with cows. The morning was all mine.

This is the magic carpet that carried me on this ride. It's my adventure touring bike, but this is the most adventurous trip we've had together yet. The front rack is the real start of getting the Hunter ready to tour.

The sun slants through a stand of aspen as I crest one of a series of climbs on the way to the long descent into Cotopaxi on the Arkansas River.

In the shot above you can see that I've got some descending to do, but in the background you can see the Sangre de Cristo range to the right and a hint of the Wet Mountain Valley (where I'm headed) to the left. It was about 8 AM when I took this photo. Shortly after, I saw my first human of the day, a dude with cowboy hat passing me in his Dodge pickup.

The day was pretty much going (among normal people) once I passed over the Arkansas and through Cotopaxi and started climbing south toward Westcliffe. The sun was getting hot and people were out driving around. I had 8 or 10 pavement miles to the town of Hillside, to a turn-off that would get me off the highway onto ranch roads. The Sangre de Cristo rise pretty dramatically up from flat hayfields and pastures. Long, straight dirt roads.

I zig-zagged up the valley, forced to ride on the highway again for a couple miles, then out climbing false flats toward the base of the mountains. The dirt route that I had scouted, that would go through, wasn't saving me from any climbing. I would climb up the west-bound zig, then descend the south-bound zag, only needing to climb again when it was time to zig.

I had planned an option for near the end of my trip. Maybe 15 years ago I saw the Rainbow Trail heading south from the Hermit Pass Road. I remembered it being pretty nice, and it looked like mostly a traverse on the topo map. But I knew that I might either be running late or too smoked to make the climb up to the 10,000 foot trailhead, so I had a direct route to the Alvarado Campground mapped.

When I got to the fork in that road, I was moderately smoked. But I had time, I could do the climb and the singletrack if I wanted to. Vapor Trail is coming. I felt like it might not be a bad idea to expose my tired butt to a little hot, mid-day climb up a dusty jeep road. So that's what I did.

This is what a pretty peice of singletrack looks like if we let our guard down and allow the lawn tractors to run amok. This was classic Colorado singletrack at one time. It was moto singletrack, but it was legendary for being "a trail". Now it's a 60" mini-road. Sad.

It was fun though. I rode about 4 miles of this pygmy road. I enjoyed it. Then I rode down into camp to join my sweetie and her nice family, arriving a little after 1 PM.

Eighty miles, 11,570 feet of climbing. Two Red Bulls. That's a good Sunday morning.


JenyJo said...


Lovely write up of a lovely morning! Thanks so much for sharing!


Ed said...

Sweet! Excellent ride and ride report.

I like that Hunter.


Sandblogger said...

I love that shot of Gibb's Peak down the road.

Looks like you rode right near my Folk's house. They live just west of Hillside up that road and a then a turn to the South. I've been riding a trailbike and MTB on that section of the Rainbow Trail for 20 years, and I can say it has officially become a place I no longer want to go. Too wide, busy, rocky, etc...I miss the way it was.

Crap I'm too young to sound like an old geez pining for the "old" days!

Unknown said...

Your blogs just keep getting me hooked on these epic rides! Last year I came across your CCP write up and I was hooked and had to ride the CCP this year. It was a great experience and had an amazing time. Now between your blogs and ties with the Vapor Trail, I want to put that on the to do list! Thanks for the blogs!


Adventure Tours said...

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