Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shivery Shake-out

I've been kitting up and planning for bikepacking for a while now--roughly since I ordered my Hunter Cycles frame and fork way back in July of 2008. What's that 15 months? Good grief.

Better late than never, but colder late than never in this case. My bud Brendan and I had been talking about doing a shake-out trip for both of us to try out new gear since really late summer. Maybe longer. We waited out all the decent weather, then when some clear weather following a little winter blast last week came through on Friday, we did it.

Of course it took me all damned day between disorganization and distraction to load the stuff onto the damned bike and leave. We actually finally rolled up Ute Trail out of Salida starting at about 4:45 PM. We didn't want to just ride an hour until dark, we really wanted (for largely symbolic reasons) to cross west over the summit into the upper Badger Creek drainage near South Park and camp over there. So we wound up riding up and over on snowy, sometimes icy, often muddy doubletrack with lamps blazing.

Over there in the open snow on the ground was over 6 inches deep. Neither of us really wanted to make camp in that much snow. As we rode along in the dark, we saw some trees near the road where there was a little less snow. We plugged along in the dark and increasing cold until we saw a shadowy grove of pine trees back a bit further from the narrow doubletrack I took us up (lots of wide open over there and not so much wooded).

This is camp, morning after. We set up with headlamps in the dark, squatted in the crusty snow heating up some soup, then sacked out after 9.

Herring Park, mid-morning Saturday

Smarter people might have just said, yep, we spent a night shivering, rolling around on crunchy snow with barely adequate sleeping bags and, well, spotty knowledge after riding almost 20 miles into the night. Good for us. Now let's just go home and get warm.

Not us though, we decided to take a little tour of the Arkansas Hills. So we headed north into Herring Park, bound for Bassam Park.

You can see some mud on my rear bag. Let me tell you, it got muddier. The bluebird day sun warmed things up enough to really slop things out in some places.

Bassam Park between Salida and BV, but north and east, is big, remote, and beautiful. The back drop of the Sawatch Range with fresh snow was awesome.

As we headed back toward home, we first had to summit Aspen Ridge, taking on a 1,000 ft climb to 10,300 ft. This stretch on the north-facing side had not melted at all. But the climb to the summit was mostly climbable, at least where we didn't sink and slip in greasy half-frozen mud.

Aspen Ridge summit view to Sangre de Cristo range--fresh autumn snow gleams white

The way down off this summit was un-godly muddy. Our bikes and our selves got totally spattered and slathered. Grindey drivetrains. Clogging chainstays.

It was tough. But it served a purpose. I came home with many assertions about areas where I am under prepared. If we hadn't had gnarly conditions, we might have learned less. Of course we might have shivered less too, but what are you going to do? Colorado didn't give us much autumn this year. Winter has been too enthusiastic about showing up early.

We survived, we learned, and we wound up riding a 50-mile lollipop loop. It was an adventure.

Damn, but did that hot shower feel good when I got back into my nice, comfy house.


Shaun McGowan said...

Mad Biking trip!

FixieDave said...

Good things come to those who wait?

Sandblogger said...

Crap dude that's a heck of a way to break in the bikepacking gear. I'd have done it when it was still summer! Actually, that's the exact kind of adventure I would have done when I was 20...how old are you again? Good stuff.