Perfect: The Colorado Trail

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It’s almost impossible to lose the trail, some of which is rough and unrideable, and some of which is better than perfect and seemingly, in the middle of nowhere.  Perfection in the middle of nowhere, unlike an unheard falling tree, still exists in waiting.  There are many resources about riding and hiking the Colroado Trail, so a photo essay seems the most appropriate addition to the current bank of information.  The trail is great, and it’s doable, if extremely challenging.  You really only need a bike and the Colorado Trail Databook.  A mountain bike is a necessity, but if you don’t mind hiking and just want to see some of the trail, the first few segments near Denver are accessible on an older rigid 26″ wheeled bike with 2.0″ tires.  It’s always more important to get out and do it, than to sit at home trying to figure out how.  If you get out and try, you’ll immediately know more than all the online resources could ever share, no matter how vibrant the pictures or captivating the text, it’s all fiction.  This blog is a fiction, allowing me to remember things the way I want and to write my own history in which I am a helmeted superhero and my world, perfect.  But it’s not perfect as I eventually require some income and winter is imminent and I do all this writing and riding for fun and for free– real life continues in our living fiction, and in fact I’m quite busy.  But the Colorado Trail approaches perfection and cuts through the stress of real life, and we’re drunk with it.  For a moment, we are helmeted superheroes clad in sunglasses and wool, grunting up and hollering down the Rockies.  For a moment, perfection.

Follow the photos below, imagine and plan your own trip on the local rail-trail, or to the beach; down the Divide or across the Colorado Trail.  If you’ve never traveled by bike, it may change your life.  If you have the experience, the time outdoors on two wheels will reinvigorate your belief in the bicycle.  You will return home different, if you don’t find a home on the road.

Waterton Canyon to the South Platte River.  Petits cornichons, small pickles; grown, handpicked, pickled and packed by Lael in Corsica.  Electrolytes without equal.  Day 1:

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South Platte River to Buffalo Creek.  Burn area, and the smoothest singletrack of the entire trail.  I’m enjoying my used Surly Torsion bars with new Velo Orange thumb-shifter mounts, which fit the Shimano bar-end shifters taken off my drop bars.  VO cork-foam blend grips are cool and comfortable on hot days, and cushion my hands on rough descents, although they are more dense than standard Grab-On foam.  Unlike Ergon grips, they don’t callous and discolor my hands when riding without gloves.  An ergonomic cork-foam grip would be an ideal combination, and would be great on both drop bars and upright bars.  For the price of a sandwich, the VO grips fit my budget better than buying another pair of Ergons, as I hacked the last pair to fit my drop bars.  Ergons are the obvious choice for anyone spending lots of time on the bike, but I’m always seeking new, low-cost solutions.  The new grips don’t make my hands stink like rubber either, the curse of golfers and mountain bike riders alike.

Seductive singletrack abounds.

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Buffalo Creek to Jefferson Creek.  Thru-bikers from Durango, and some of the most exotic, scenic riding we’ve done.

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Jefferson Creek to Breckenridge.  Georgia Pass, and the intersection with the CDT, which is co-located with the CT for a distance.  The final descent to Highway 9 near Breckenridge is amazing.  Descend with glee– superheroes.

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Happy summer kids.  We love it.

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Switchbacks at dusk, descending into town.  Perfect.

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16 thoughts on “Perfect: The Colorado Trail

  1. Ok, so now I’ve added the Colorado Trail to ‘The List’, and amongst visiting friends a good reason to come back to the US at some point :-). Thank you for inspiration! Tom

    • Tom, It’s been a real nice time, even if it takes a little hiking to get away from it all. We’re truncating the CT a little to make it to Interbike, but will be sampling some other southwest riding in UT and AZ. Hopefully, I can add a few more to your list.

      nicholas

  2. Great post and terrific photos. Your really provide a strong sense of the essence of life on the trail.

    I feel as though the first couple of paragraphs are written directly to me. After all, I’m sitting here mere miles from the trailhead. Ever since you headed out, I’ve been mentally assembling the equipment necessary to do a little out and back on the CT. To that end, I just built my first penny stove, based on a link from your blog. Although I’ve got a variety of vintage Coleman and other pressurized white gas backpacking stoves, I’m quite impressed with the power and efficiency of the penny stove, especially for being derived from almost nothing. It weighs a fraction of my lightest white gas stove and has no moving parts or seals.

    Next up, I’ll be searching out a sleeping bag that is less cumbersome than my old North Face 6-pounder, and a seat bag and bar sling to stow some stuff.

    • Well, Nicholas, I sat down to type a comment, then after reading Daddy’s post above I realized he had typed it for me. Almost word for word, except I live no where near the trail head. But I am told there is a beach around here somewhere…

      Got the card. Thanks!

      tj

      • Between Ocala NF and the beach, there has got to be something. The Withlacoochee State Trail was my favorite ride in Florida, especially the lush region around Floral City. I always find camping along rail-trails and canals to be pleasant, especially as this route is mostly out of town. Any beach cruiser would do on this trail, which is also popular with recumbents. There is a friendly ‘bent shop in Floral City.

        http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/crossflorida/trails/with_state.htm

        When the winds are blowing from the north, you could sail down to the Keys along bike paths and bike lanes most of the way. I passed within a few blocks of your castle on my first bike trip in fall 2008. The Atlantic Coast of Florida blessed us with favorable winds and sunshine.

      • Add the Teco-Auburndale Trail as well as some of the Florida Trail and Ocala NF Routes for a super-loop from your trailer door. The FT and Ocala might require some 2.0″ tires and a few gears.

        I’m already plotting my Florida adventures. Mountains are not an essential component of a good bike trip, and I’m impressed with the amount of public land in FL.

    • Andy, That paragraph is only written for you if you feel the pull of the trail, as it seems you do. Too often, I encounter folks who say they “wish” they could do what I do; then, there are those that really mean it. I know I cannot convince the uninterested to ride, but I can push the fence-sitters over the edge.

      The Penny Stove and other DIY alcohol stoves are precious in that they are free, and also the lightest, simplest designs available. I like to think that lightweight touring/camping doesn’t require expensive equipment, although a small tent and sleeping bag are the crux of any rack-less or rack-lite system. My bag and shelter are essential to my system mainly based upon their small size, rather than weight, which is incidentally manageable. I have been using a 30deg bag for a few years, in place of the 15-20deg bags I was carrying previously. Less material in total and higher quality down make for a small package. I use a sil-nylon vapor barrier liner (VBL) inside the bag during the colder seasons, and will wear most of my clothing to bed on the coldest nights. All of this inside a tent makes for a very warm system. As such, for a quick overnight before the leaves turn, you could run away from home with a little less. Leaving things at home is easier than buying lighter gear.

      A 10-15L drybag strapped to the handlebars and to the saddle would accommodate all your gear for a few nights, in addition to your framebag. I love the cheap nylon gear straps at REI, currently with a red flame pattern. The eVent compression sacks are seriously durable and when stuffed and compressed, are semi-rigid and negate the need for a proper sling. Under the saddle, it can be attached either like a transverse Carradice-style saddlebag, or in the other direction as a modern seat pack. Of course, the purpose-built equipment from Revelate and Porcelain Rocket does the job well. A local guy in Boulder has been advertising on CL, and does not have a website, but his Flickr account suggests that he knows what he is doing: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75696795@N08/

      His name is Greg Wheelwright and made Justin Simoni’s bags for his SS Divide run last year, on display at Salvagetti.

      Maybe I was directing my thoughts to you. You do live a mere ten miles from the most rideable section of the trail. Lucky you!

      • Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful comments, Nick. By the unique nature of what you do, you’ve amassed a tremendous amount of practical knowledge that is extremely useful to those fence-sitters like me who may dream big of comparatively modest, minor excursions. As for me, I appreciate the nudge off the fence.

        I can see how the sleeping bag and shelter are the crux of the equipment operation. I think I could easily get by for a night or two with mostly the things I already own. Maybe in subconscious anticipation, a few months ago I bought a one-person single-wall tent for $3 at a yard sale, that at the very least ought to be good enough for a night or two. I’ve also got a 20-year old Thermarest that is probably archaic by today’s standards, but should do the job. The only thing I don’t relish hauling is my beast of a sleeping bag that is old, bulky, and likely not up to its temperature rating. I’ve got some REI gift cards that could make a dent in a new down bag, but based on your following post, I may be looking elsewhere.

        In prior days I was reasonably decent at sewing my own gear, even on an old Singer. I may try to make a seat bag and will definitely try slinging a dry bag on the bars, though I know I won’t be able to match the quality of the pros. However, there is great satisfaction in self-constructed equipment, and plastic trash bags are cheap waterproofing. I’ll check out Greg’s bags from Boulder, too.

        As an armchair tourer, in addition to your blog, I’ve discovered some great reference sources as starting points. Gary, via Cass, has a nicely detailed list and appears to also be mutually acquainted with you. With any luck, I’ll be able to make the leap from the armchair to the trail shortly.

    • You still owe me an address for your postcard, even if I will see you in a week.

      Without posting it, it’s just a cheap digital print from Walgreens. The damage the USPS will serve it is half the charm.

  3. Love this post, but I think I say that every time.

    And thanks for the rusty nail in the Larry postcard! I really appreciated receiving it and it now graces the cork board outside my office.

    Joe

    • Thanks Joe. Not everyone can appreciate a puncture on the road like a touring fat-cyclist. My little Lezyne road pump makes ever flat memorable. Colorado, in total, is just about perfect– great weather, tons of trails and no bugs!

      We’re thinking about settling in CO for the winter after a bit more riding.

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