High Country Jewel

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Funny how plans change over time. I was hoping this summer would be a season of bike racing, mainly I was hoping to race the Divide one more time. Then life happened all over those plans and I spent most of the summer working, riding, and drinking beer! While I was bummed about not following the plan and that there wasn’t much racing, it turns out the adverse wasn’t so bad after all.

Living up here in the mountains leaves lots of amazing options for plan B’s. Plus my adventure partner has been game for almost anything. Therefor this summer has been chock full of bike packing, backpacking, car camping, hiking and of course a good bit of mountain bike riding. So much good stuff packed into the past few months.

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After spending every chance out in the high country for the past couple months, I wanted there to be a crowning jewel to this season. A sweet, tough, beautiful cap to all of the efforts and experiences of being up high in the raw and exposed world of above treeline. Knowing Rachel had barely even touched foot in the mighty San Jauns, I knew what that crowning jewel needed to be, Segment 23 of the Colorado Trail. No more talk of this section and what it means to me, time to tread it, live and breath it!

This past weekend we did it. We got up early and rode up the brutally steep and rough Wager Gulch to join the CT at Carson Saddle and the start of segment 23. Once high atop the pass the wind raged as the dark clouds swirled and spit. It was not the warm sunny September sky I was hoping for…but sometimes you got to have faith…

We pushed on. Though there were moments where my eyes scanned the sky with much trepidation, the heavy grey clouds never again opened up on us and the sun made more and more of an appearance as the day wore on. It wasn’t easy, the high country never is and this crowning jewel is especially tough and unforgiving. The seemingly endless trail that keeps climbing out of sight and the tough riding might beat you down, but the vistas are beyond words.

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So many mountains, just so many mountains. All bathed in gold, red and green in the basking sunlight, with the turbulent clouds casting fast moving shadows across the hillsides. So many peaks, ridges, bowls, cirques, and valleys all pulling the mind forth in wonder, all filling the heart with joy.

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I have known Segment 23 for years, ridden it, raced it, in the light, the dark, the twilight, in the glow of sunsets and sunrises. So many times I have been graced by it’s passage. Still makes my soul stop and take notice. Still it beats me down and makes me feel brilliantly small. Still sparks awake my love of this world and all it’s creatures. It is a powerful place to experience, to soak in and feel. It is to me the Crown Jewel of the High Country.

 

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High Country Goodness

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There is a funny thing about summer up here in the mountains, we look forward to these warm months all year, and when it is crazy busy we wonder why we wanted it back at all. Then July slips behind us and it becomes clear why we love this time of year so much. The High Country.

For me there is something magical and etherial about being at treelike and above. I just love being up that high, so much of the world down below and all the crap that goes with it way down there as well. Makes me feel at the same time tiny, small and insignificant and on top of the world capable of anything.

The past couple of weekends have been all about getting out there into that special High Country, as the weeks are full of work, puppies and more work…

It has been so worth it. The hike a bikes, the deep seated scream coming out of the legs, the sketchy dodging of thunderheads, the swarming black flies, all the post ride beers and the incredible un-ending desire to get back out there for more…and more….

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Been visiting some old favorites, like Dr’s, and some long forgotten routes like that crazy hike a bike trail between Tincup and Napoleon Passes. Also getting out to see places never seen by thy eyes before, some that I have hurried been past by so many times and never explored.

 

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Thing that comes back to hit me square between my eyes is how amazing this place is we call home. I’m not selling or talking up Colorado, only saying we live on an amazing planet and even after 23+ years of exploring this amazing little corner of the earth, I am still amazed, daunted, and enchanted by this world. So much out there and so much of it makes me appreciate being alive. Live, Love and gOExplore!

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This world, this Universe is so grand, so large, but never forget each and everyone of us is but a tiny speck, a minuscule part of the whole. Be kind, show love and compassion for each other and the hard rock of this planet we call home.

 

Feeling Good

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2016 has been an interesting “season” so far. It really hasn’t been a season at all in that I haven’t raced my bike since February and haven’t been training or even riding all that regularly. While the lack of focus has been kind of nice for a change, it has been a challenge to not get depressed as I sit at the computer and watch all those colored dots dance all over the map.

 

I have been hiking a bunch, camping, backpacking, sleeping in and drinking fair amount of beer. Not bad ways to roll through what has been a very nice summer so far up in the mountains. But there is a twitch inside me that is not completely satisfied.

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This past weekend I got out for one of my favorite rides, Fossil Ridge. It is a wonderfully brutal ride that extends from my door way out into the woods and all the way back to my door again. It is full of roots, rocks, ruts, but also flowers for miles, quiet solitude and amazing views of this valley I call home. While I wasn’t fast on the ride, I felt good! My knee felt strong, my head was in the game and it seemed to flash by almost painlessly.

This simple ride had me thinking….

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Then last night I went out and rode Aberdeen after work. Another great ride that takes off from my house and returns me home several hours later. So much single track through the high desert, full of smooth rolling rocks, swoopy turns and so much sage. It was such a gorgeous evening and again I felt good! 

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Two good long rides and I am now pondering a jump back into the “season”. There is something about taking on adventures that test us, that I can’t seem to walk away from. Why is it the minute I start to feel good, I am thinking of crushing myself? Regardless, I am feeling pretty excited about feeling pretty good, we shall see what comes of it!

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Door to Door

Got out for a two nighter with Rachel this weekend. No goals of milage or location in mind. Only to simply head out from the door of our house, explore the backyard and return back home.

The weather was perfect. Mostly sunny all day with a few non-threatening clouds dancing about the sky and the warmest temps we have had yet this spring.

The flowers ranged from good to amazing, in places the sage was jumping with colors.

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We rode a bit of pavement, some singletrack, bunches of dirt roads, some ghosty cow trails and of course some good old, out there bush wacking to make it a true bike packing adventure.

Without trying we managed to avoid seeing other humans till our ride out this morning. We did see(and hear) countless birds, prancing deer, one darting coyote. It was quiet, peaceful and wonderfully relaxing.

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The amazing thing is just how in the moment I was able to be out there. I wasn’t thinking about work, bills, demands or even the Divide. I was there; in the sunshine, watching the clouds swirl, feeling the wind graze my skin, soaking up the flowers, feeling the rose bushes scratch my sunburn and the ice cold snow melt burn my legs.

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After this ride, only race I found in my mind was how soon could I get back out there for some more of this magic.

Get out there, quit the excuses whatever they may be, get out there, ride, walk, run. Go find those hills just outside of town, take the unknown road, the ghosty animal track. Live, Breath, Explore!!!

 

 

 

Sunset Moon

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Magical evening out there tonight amount the sage and granite. A simple bike ride treated me to a glorious sunset and magnificent full moon rise. Amazing things, right there in the sky, in my backyard. Tangible, real, and yet extraordinary.

 

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So often I am amazed at the clarity that being outside, under that big open sky, can bring. All the hang ups inside the mind, seem to become simple and reasonable to overcome.

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Why is there such a disconnect?

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Which of these experiences is “reality”?

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For now I’m going to side with the sky, sun, moon and flowers….

Sub 24

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Yesterday Rachel headed out for a 3day, 2night bike packing trip on the White Rim. Helping her get the bike and gear dialed in the days prior, made me a bit envious. So I got my backpack loaded along with a couple for the dogs to share and set out for a quick overnight.

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We didn’t end up starting our hike in till almost 4:pm. So I picked a random area that gets little human action this time of year, yet was still close enough to the highway for easy access. Despite carrying little gear, we did have a good bit of water for a dry camp site. The load felt surprisingly light on my back, but both Jackson and Lexi were noticeably slower and less wild with their own swaying packs full of water and dog treats.

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Cresting the hill and then bushwhacking down and out of a wash found us our spot for the night. A nice little nook with some shade, soft sand to sleep on and great views. Love camping in these quiet, unknown little spots. Some how they are both unremarkable and spectacular at the same time.

 

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After a quick break in the shade, we ditched our packs and hiked down the the river. This turned out to be a popular choice as the dogs charged down the beach and leapt into the frigid spring melt off. After some quality time splashing about, barking incessantly and wrestling on the edge of out right warfare, we hiked back up the canyon to our campsite.

 

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The rest of the evening I sat in the dirt, on rocks and gazed upon the sky, the snowy mountains, sage covered hills. I made a small fire, cooked up my rice noodles and sardines, drank a couple beers and watched the sun dance upon the clouds and landscape. I listened to the wind blow calm and soothing through the scrubby trees. I threw sticks and scrubbed dog necks and butts.

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For those 18 hours or so, life was reduced to something simple. I didn’t figure anything out, have any realizations or visions. It just felt good to be surrounded by a reality that was not full of broken bikes, needy customers, hungry computers, and to do lists.

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There were no ticking of clocks, no stress of missing out on a work out, no worries about PR’s, and setting records. Instead the time was filled with the howl of coyotes, sweet bird songs, whispers of the wind, the crackle of the fire and a sunset and a sunrise. (and of course the wild cries, whimpers and barking of three crazy dogs!)

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post overnighter…got to love tired puppies….

 

inspiration

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Spent a good bit of the day getting Rachel’s dirt road bike, my old El Chi, ready for some bike pack fun. Took some time to figure out which bags would fit and carry 9+ liters of water for an upcoming two night White Rim trip.

After lots of stuffing and un-stuffing and getting the bike all loaded we headed out for a little shake down spin.  Which was a good thing from the gear/bag side of things as there are some adjustments to be made for sure. Live and learn and learn…

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The weather window turned out to be quite glorious. The sun was shining, the wind was at our backs and the dark swirling clouds seemed to be everywhere but overhead. We headed out on pavement, shortly thereafter we turned onto dirt and then up a steep hike a bike filled almost forgotten old single track.

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Despite the trolling for ticks, the scratching of legs and the potential annoyance of pushing bikes, I was stoked to be exactly where we were. To my wonder and surprise, Rach seemed to be enjoying the adventure as well. There was something about the random and primitive aspect of this outing that just made me want more. I didn’t want to come home. I want to still be out there huddling under a tarp in the trees watching the sunset.

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Something dawned on me out there today. I have an open slate this summer. I can go bikepacking with no agenda. There is time to enjoy all those many amazing camp spots, rather than wistfully pass them by. So many roads, trails, streams, and mountains to explore…and someone that wants to go there with me. Today inspiration hit me in a whole new way and I am smiling something grand in appreciation.

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livin, lovin