Slowly pedaling past Pathfinders and Passports, past Colorado Trail signage and past day-riders descending the broad dirt road of Waterton Canyon, we make our way to the rest of Colorado. I leave behind a wake of states and provinces, mountains and colorfully named highways. A faint dotted line on a figurative map marks my progress, but we’re not looking back, only forward. As the present become the past, the journey retains a specific character– the good times are served well by memory and the bad, mostly severed. The last few miles to the start of the trail from Fort Collins to Boulder, to Denver and south through the suburbs along the Platte River Trail and Chatfield Reservoir are the easiest, but it’s been a long road, a detail which will not soon be forgotten.
Lumbering out of Anchorage on a repurposed “snow bike” into late spring was wet, yet spectacular; the Yukon is expansive and the midnight sun as relentless as the mosquitos and headwinds; the Cassiar Highway is a haul, and a means to lower B.C. and the States; the Icefields Parkway swarms with tourists, encouraging me off-pavement for the remainder of the summer; and the Great Divide Route is heavenly, as always. All of this has been a means to this end– the Colorado Trail. I’ve lost sleep over this trail, worrying that it is too steep or too hard, yet dreaming of the alpine scenery and the rewards of sitting atop mountains, and riding down their backsides. The crux of this journey is this trail, and from my mid-winter vantage in Alaska, biking to the trailhead was the only way to get here. As the future becomes the present, dreams become reality. I’m here, finally.
Andy, our suburban host, provides a home for a few days and a convenient jumping off point for the start of the Colorado Trail. Better known on the internet as Big Dummy Daddy, Andy holds a PhD in public health with a focus on urban bike-sharing; he has also earned an advanced degree in suburban family transport, to the credit of his Surly Big Dummy, the Snap Deck Xtracycle attachment, and a two-wheeled baby trailer. Scout the dog follows alongside, and Piper keeps watch form behind.
Andy’s new Surly Pugsley is a gift to himself for completing his dissertation, and is blowing minds daily on the local canal trail and outside Whole Foods. On this morning, our Pugsleys escort Stella’s little pink Kona to school. This is suburban cycling, summa cum laude.
Andy shows us the way to the trailhead. Lael is back in the swing of things and her new Giro helmet is supremely photogenic against Colorado skies, and a little reminiscent of 1985 mountain bike culture. A couple hot dogs and sodas send us off at the trailhead.
Beyond the gates to the Colorado Trail follow six miles of graded access road, gently ascending the South Platte River. At the dam, the road turns upward and the trail narrows. The following few miles are supremely rideable singletrack and confirm the allure of the trail. Soon, hiking through cobblestone rubble up steep grades confirms the challenges. The rumor of challenges, like bad news and gossip grow with wildfire ferocity. Tune out the naysayers who say it’s too heavy, too steep, too hard and too far– you can do it. You can transport yourself!
The list of colorfully named highways is fun: the Yellowhead, Icefields, Cassiar, Klondike, Glenn, Richardson, Top-of-the-World, Denali, Parks, Alaska, Taylor, Diagonale and Peak-to-Peak.