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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