From Monarch Pass to Marshall Pass, the Monarch Crest Trail (MCT) winds its way atop the Continental Divide. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route glimpses the actual watershed divide on many ocassions; the MCT, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail which follows these same twelve miles, actually walk that line. For two hours, we were on either side of a ridge– up and over 12,000 ft– channelled through beautifully maintained singletrack, passing even more beautiful high alpine scenery. For two hours: we pushed our bikes through recent snowfall, hidden from the sun; crested the CD ridge to views over fifty miles in yet another direction; and for a few moments, enjoyed some quite rideable, “flowy” singletrack atop mountains. This, finally, is mountain biking.
From Marshall Pass, several more miles of the Continental Divide/Colorado Trail continue along the ridge before dropping into the Silver Creek Drainage at a rapid rate; descending switchbacks and talus fields, through streambeds and over deadfall. A few smooth sections of trail balance the technical rocky descents, which heat the rims enough to make you wonder, “what’s on fire?”. It’s dried mud and brake compound, with trail detritus, all served on overheated rims. Mmmm.
Yesterday was Lael’s first singletrack experience– loaded. Monarch Crest marks a second day of singletrack– this time unloaded– in which she proved her prowess in technical terrain, on a fat-tired touring bike, technically. There isn’t much traffic on the Crest this time of year, but we still turned a few heads with a pair of each: Rohloffs, full-sized Porcelain Rocket framebags, Tubus racks and drop bars. Much like the freewheeling, early history of mountain biking; enjoying the mountains on a bike is not limited to an industry standard full-suspension rig, but is open to anything your legs can pedal.
“Any bike, anywhere”, is the call of the American Rough Riders association, whose ideals are classically delineated, in Chris Kostman’s essay by the same name. Rather, Chris sets the cyclist and the bike, free.