Saddle sore

“You know, it rains every year.”

That was the typical response upon divulging my plans to ride the Colorado Trail from Molas to town (79 miles if you count the road part to my house) during last weekend’s CT Jamboree. Yes, I know it’s high monsoon season. And that such an endeavor would likely involve inclement weather, biting flies, insufferable slogs, sketchy creek crossings and death-defying descents (at least for a white-knuckled braker such as myself). And that such conditions could possibly lead to bruises, scrapes, cuts, fractures, cussing, crying, hallucinations, serious tenderizing of my underside and the discovery of previously unknown muscle groups.

But then again, it’s not every day you get to ride one of the most remote and stellar stretches of singletrack anywhere and have someone shlep all your stuff. Plus, after 10 years, I finally broke down and got myself a new-fangled, full-suspension ride (affectionately known as the “Cream Puff”). Sure, it cost my childrens’ college savings, but then again recreation is more important than higher education anyway. OK, so there was a catch: riders were expected to raise money that in turn went to two worthy causes, multiple sclerosis and the Colorado Trail Foundation. But in my mind, you really can’t put a price on someone else dealing with the groover.

So, to all those family members, friends, college chums, neighbors and random people on the street I begged for money – as well as anybody who enjoys a good horror story – here is a mile-by-mile log (I skipped a few because no one’s that bored) of all the highs, lows and in-betweens:

0.0: Depart at 7:30 a.m. after mishap over forgotten keys to the camper shell containing gear. Petty criminals in group pick lock.

0.25: Cream Puff purring like a kitten, sunny skies and tacky trails. Doesn’t get any better than this.

0.5: Pit stop to ask if anyone remembered to close the truck doors. No one can remember.

1.5: First wipe-out. A little earlier than planned, but at least it’s out of the way.

5.0: Watch in fascination as the rider in front of me’s derailleur explodes like a dirty bomb. Try to appear helpful until horse flies descend in biblical proportions. Wish him luck and flee.

10.0: Still not totally convinced of this GU stuff, but try some “Espresso Love” because at this point, chewing seems like too much work.

10.5: Riding that train high on cocaine …

11.0: Spend next few miles pondering why they call them “baby heads” when actual baby heads are soft and sweet. “Lucifer’s Gallstones” or “Hannibal’s Hemorrhoids” I could see. But baby heads? That’s mean.

12.7: Spot first dark clouds of the day, hmmmm …

15.2: Shamed by a blur of Spandex that passes us like we are standing still.

15.2: Realize we are standing still.

19.0: I think it’s starting to …

19.1: Rain.

20.0: Come to fork in road. Pathetically attempt reading map in torrential downpour. Inevitably go wrong way. Turn around, go right way.

20.5: Aid station and real food, or at least food that doesn’t come in a foil packet and taste like chocolate saw dust. Get talked into taking a bottle of beer for the top of Blackhawk Pass, a sure sign delirium has set in.

20.6: Rain turns to sleet. Think heavy stuff isn’t going to come down for a while

21.0: Begin extolling virtues of wool as the new/old wonder fabric

23.5: Sleeting sideways, bust out rain jackets. Tell selves things could be a lot worse.

23.9: Gale force winds. Stop to put on winter clothing stash.

24.2: Face the fact that things really couldn’t get much worse.

26,0: Funny how a helmet is supposed to protect your head yet still can’t keep hail out

27.5: Continue pedaling, mostly because shoes are Quikcreted to pedals, making escape virtually impossible.

28.0: Eerie sound of coyotes howling. Debate merits of hypothermia vs. being picked off by wild, carnivorous dogs

29.0: Gain Blackhawk Pass, with views of biggest light show since Pink Floyd ’88. Decide now may not be best time to drink celebratory beer.

29.1: Begin harrowing, slick-as-Satan’s-snot descent to camp and dry undies.

29.4: Come to sad realization forgot to pack dry undies.

31.0: Get to expected camp site only to find sign pointing 3.5 miles up muddy road. Want to punch the Moose in the nose, but sadly there isn’t one.

31.1: Begin death slog. Uphill. Both ways.

32.0: Thick red clay turns Cream Puff into an 800-pound Sherman tank

33.0: 3.5 miles my ass. Speaking of my ass ....

33.4: Go to my happy place

34.0: At last, limp into camp – nine hours after departure looking like a character out of Mad Max. Crack celebratory beer and enjoy quickest buzz since 9th grade.

Day 2:

34.1: Find putting on wet shoes almost as fun as putting on a frozen wet suit.

35.0: Feet acclimate, like jumping into a cold lake. Except it smells like feet.

37.0: Hear mysterious boom, now known as the “mini cannon shot heard round the world.” Thankful rednecks were sleeping when I passed through their encampment.

40.0: Wait a minute, this is too much fun. There’s gotta be a catch …

46.0: The catch – all 2,000 vertical feet of it.

47.5: Witness rider nearly plunge to his death. Decide no shame in walking.

48.0: You mean I have to go up that?

49.0: Again?

50.0: Begin dark period of self loathing.

53.6: Gain new respect for Julie Andrews, Indians and marmots.

54.2: Reach psychedelic wildflower meadow. Wonder if I died and this is heaven.

54.3: Brought back to real world by familiar whine of motos

55.0: Begin major downhill bender knowing I’ll pay dearly for it later.

62.0: Wall Gulch. Ouch.

63.1: Managed to beat the storm clouds, but now subjected to intense mid-day jungle heat. Take back previous statement about wool. Wool sucks.

64.5: Emerge from heart of darkness to find three hikers on Day 45 of lugging 50-pound packs, PB&Js and sharing a tent. Realize things could be a lot worse.

70.0: Begin final descent to cold beer, hot shower and clean undies.

76.1: Point Cream Puff home, all downhill. Feel surprisingly on top of the world for pretty much just riding to the top of the world. Suspect it may be partially due to post-ride “carbo-loading.”

77.5: Decide I can’t wait to do it again.

79.0: Doesn’t get any better than this.

– Missy Votel

 

 

In this week's issue...

May 2, 2019
In the flow

Rafting season is already under way on the Animas River, which has been flowing at near record levels and almost double the average rate for this time of year.

April 25, 2019
Laying down the law

Over the past couple decades, Jeff Robbins’ work as an  oil and gas lawyer – with a specific focus on serving local communities – allowed him to build relationships and gain the experience needed to carry out one of Colorado’s most sweeping reforms to oil and gas regulations, Senate Bill 181. 

April 18, 2019
A new kind of cold war

It’s a good thing Heidi Steltzer can’t tolerate the heat or the open ocean. “I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist, and I got seasick,” said Steltzer, a professor in the Biology Department and Environmental Science program at Fort Lewis College.