A colleague and friend of mine, who left Colorado to live in London, was in town this week. He invited my coworker Jim and me to go out for some mountain biking on Monday. So we met up that morning at Betasso Preserve and rode the trails for a while. It was my third time mountain-biking, and it was a blast.
|Riding with friends at Betasso|
As fun as that was, it was merely a warm-up for what was to come later in the week. For months now, Jim and I have been talking about doing some bike camping in the mountains west of Nederland. Indeed, that was the entire reason for buying a mountain bike. After a drawn out series of negotiations with our work and family schedules, we decided to make it happen last Wednesday and Thursday, August 17th and 18th.
My daughter told me that I was going for a hike-and-bike. I told her that we weren't planning to do any hiking, but as shall be seen, she has once again proven herself the wiser.
The goal was to ride from Nederland to Winter Park, camp overnight, and return the next day. But that itinerary wasn't set in stone, and we went out with the understanding that we'd be winging it to some extent. What we actually did looked something like this:
View Bike Camping, August 2011 in a larger map
After parking at the West Magnolia trail head, we consulted our map and chose to take Forest Service Road 355, which becomes 105 and 503, to Tolland Road. We got our bikes and gear ready, and headed out.
|At the West Magnolia trail head|
|Looking toward Rollinsville|
The road up toward the pass is rocky and bumpy, but not at all inappropriate for mountain bikes. As it climbs up the side of the mountain, sweeping vistas of the valley below are sometimes revealed.
|View of the valley from CR117|
|Yankee Doodle Lake|
|Needle Eye Tunnel|
Beyond the tunnel, the road is quite bad. While it may have been rideable by the less-encumbered, we found ourselves walking our bikes most of the way. It was approaching 4:30, and we began to question our ability to get over Rollins Pass and down to treeline before dark. So we decided to turn back.
Rather than lugging our bikes back over the tunnel trail, we decided to take a path that cut down and connected to the Jenny Creek trail near Yankee Doodle Lake. It probably did save us some time, but it was more of the same harsh terrain that had been plaguing our progress on top of the mountain.
|Home for the night|
If I lacked certainty before, the next day convinced me that the trails through this area were actually built by clearing some of the forest floor to connect the scree slopes, glacial deposits, and creek beds that were there already. It felt like we spent at least half of our time walking the bikes. There were several times that streams and creeks crossed or overflowed onto the trail, sometimes requiring a portage around the water. In time, we made our way back onto CR117.
We opted to take Highway 119 back to the trail head rather than scramble up the forest roads again. Before returning to the car, we stopped by the Kelly-Dahl campground to wash off a little bit. Trying to avoid getting the car seat too filthy, I made the trip back to Jim's place in nothing but my bike shorts. Back at the house, we cleaned up and hosed down the bikes while drinking one of the best beers I've had in a while.
We learned a lot on this trip and have been discussing what went right and what we will do differently next time. Jim took more of a bike-packing approach to his gear, while my own was more like road touring. While I don't like riding with a lot of weight on my back, I think Jim had it right.
What appears to be ideal, packing-wise, is to put clothes and camping gear in two waterproof compression sacks, lashing one below the saddle and the other on the handle bars. Food can go into a medium-sized hydration pack.
Jim also opted to forego hot food and just brought pre-prepared fare. Tofu scramble for supper and oatmeal and hot tea for breakfast were nice, but I think I can do without such luxuries for two days. I had some "Nature's Burger" mix, available in bulk from Sunflower Farmer's Market, for lunch the first day. I'll be packing that again. It tastes pretty good uncooked, especially with a little nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper powder.
We had a SteriPen with us for treating stream water. Since we haven't gotten sick, I'll assume that it worked as advertised. It was definitely faster and easier to use than a filter pump, and those don't kill microbes. So that's a piece of gear that I'll consider essential on any future trips.
I took this trip as an opportunity to try camping in a hammock instead of a tent. I never sleep very well on the first night of camping, so it's hard to say whether my sleeplessness was due to the hammock or not. But I think I would have been more comfortable in a tent.
We'll see how things go next time. For now, I'm enjoying the joys of riding unladen on carbon fiber and smooth pavement. It's good to be home.