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The Colorado Trail

July 2017

After finishing school for the year, I rallied out to Colorado for a huge trip - mountain biking from Denver to Durango via the Colorado Trail, a 486 mile trail (536 for bikers who have to take wilderness detours) with over 72,500 feet of climbing. I set an ambitious timeline of 13 days, and rolled out with a long time friend of mine, Daniel. Before starting, we stopped at Harleys: a Hotdog Revolution to get fueled up for the trip -- the owner was a rad dude who noted our next two weeks might get "a little hairy and scary." Hairy and scary they were, but that's what made for such a rad ride. Here's our rigs at the Waterton Canyon Trailhead, marking the start of the Colorado Trail:

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Prepared as we were, the long, arduous, and rain-storm filled first day got the better of Daniel. He was feeling pretty sick by nightfall, and not much better the next morning. As a result, we rode into the town of Bailey around mile 40, and Daniel hitched back to the car in Denver -- I was now faced with the task of completing the trail alone. Fortunately, Daniel would link up with me a couple times here and there throughout the trip, giving me a much needed morale boost.

 

The terrain was incredible and the riding was top notch: gnarly single track with a good mix of chunky rock gardens and wide open, lightning fast sections. Though with 20+ pounds on my back and an extra 15 pounds of gear hanging off my bike (I did not yet know the wonders of ultralight travel), I was slower than usual. I passed many thru-hikers and section-hikers along the way, rode with some other cyclists, and met some overall sick folks along the trail. Below is a photo of my buddy Mike and I at the high point of the trail (13,271 ft!).

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After Daniel took off, there weren't anymore huge surprises, though the trip didn't go completely without a hitch. Thunderstorms are notorious for rolling in unexpectedly almost daily on the trail in the early afternoons. I was fortunate enough to only see rain for four days of the trip. Below you can see my standard practice of hugging a tree and waiting out the storm.

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Normally, the strategy seemed to work, though when the storm persisted for more than an hour -- all my gear would be relatively soaked, and I would get quite cold. To remedy this, I would get back on the bike and ride to warm up.

 

Other than the slight discomfort of precipitation, the only other hangups were two crashes resulting in some minor injuries (which I threw some water on and called good), as well as a (somewhat) blown out shock on my bike. The blown out shock could have been much worse -- but it held air for a few hours at a time so I'd carry a shock pump in my pocket and give it a pump every so often.

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The riding and the views progressively got more breathtaking as I made my way towards the end of the trail. Above is a photo of my buddy Carlos riding through some pristine alpine singletrack. Carlos gave me a lift into Silverton for a resupply and fueled me up with some much needed beers at his brewery. The San Juans are notoriously beautiful yet brutal for mountain bikers. I navigated them with relative success and was rewarded with beautiful wild flowers all the way til the end of the trail.

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12 days later (1 day ahead of schedule), I found myself in Durango, at the end of the Colorado trail. The photo below was actually about a mile from the "real" ending of the Colorado Trail -- a local smugly mentioned this to me after taking my photo, so I biked down to the end and then climbed back up to my car as to finish the entire trail. 

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Whether you bike or hike this trial, I couldn't recommend it enough! The Colorado Trail Foundation does an incredible job maintaining the trail and giving us info on how to plan a trip. I've linked their website below. The most helpful thing on the trail was the Colorado Trail Databook -- if you plan on doing even a section of the trail, get this book! It has all the water supplies, camping spots, resupplies, mileage markers, and more in there and it keeps you from using your phone for navigation (woo!). If you plan to bike the route, check out the bikepacking description linked below, it was super helpful for my planning. Below tose is a 1 minute video of my trip.

 

Colorado Trail Foundation: http://www.coloradotrail.org/


Databook: https://www.shop.coloradotrail.org/Colorado-Trail-Databook-6th-Edition-DATABOOK6.htm

 

Bikepacking Info: http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/bikepacking-the-colorado-trail/