Riding the Colorado Trail: Day 11

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A Beautiful, and Slightly Terrifying, Hike with our Bikes

Our morning started out a little rough.  We woke up at 5am because we had an inkling that we would need as many hours to finish the day’s ‘riding’ as possible, as all of it minus the last few miles down to Silverton were above 12,000 feet, and the route showed 7 passes for us to climb throughout the course of the day.

That night I had slept with my shammy and other riding clothes in my sleeping bag so that they would be warm when I put them on in the morning.  As I got dressed in the tent listening to the continuous downpour that had lasted all night, it slowly dawned on Andy that he had left his shammy, socks, and raingear outside.  My empathy was palpable as I let out a collective groan alongside his own, knowing that wet clothing is not only miserable, but a bit dangerous up where we were riding.  Upon reflection, Andy opted to not ride with his shammy, but had to wear his one pair of socks and rain gear, so after eating breakfast in the tent and hoping to no avail that the rain would let up, he got out of the tent, rung out his clothes as best he could, and got ready to go.

In our frustration with this rather sour turn of events, we somehow managed to have our fastest packing time of the trip, and were on the trail a little after 6am.  We were able to do a mixture of biking and hiking for the first 30 minutes or so, until we reached our first high point which resulted in an hour or so of climbing.  Around 8am, we reached the CT’s highest point: Carson Saddle, at 13,271, much of which we could surprisingly ride.  At the top, a Young Life group was huddled together eating coffee cake and apples and excitedly offered me as much as I wanted, which was A LOT, as the last food I had for the day was a Snicker’s bar and packet of peanut butter.

Once Andy made it to the top, he too was elated to have a little celebratory dessert and chat it up with a bunch of teenagers about our trip so far.  As a high school counselor and teacher, these were our people, and we could have stayed there awhile shooting the breeze, but we both knew we needed to make time, so we said our farewells and trudged on.

Push, Step, Repeat

Carson Saddle was our last section of sustained riding for the remainder of the day, until we reached the final few miles down to Silverton.  Andy and I spent the remainder of our time, which was a lot of time, pushing our bikes up very high saddles between huge peaks, and watching the myriad thunderheads threaten to use us as lightning rods.  It was a mentally challenging day for sure, and when we finally made it over the last pass and found ourselves on a gravel road, we were both mentally tapped out.

Fortunately, the gravel road acted as smelling salts and quickly snapped us out of our stupors, as it was a super chunky 45 degree angle (at least it felt like it) descent for miles.  We actually had to take a few breaks on the downhill because we were both squeezing our brakes so hard that our hands started to cramp.  After what felt like an eternity, we cruised into Silverton, an OHV friendly town which, like many Colorado mountain towns, had its own unique identity that Andy and I both immediately appreciated.

Unbeknownst to us, the Hardrock 100 running race was happening the weekend we showed up, and none of the hotels had any rooms for rent.  We could hardly believe our bad luck and almost settled on riding an additional 10 miles up to our next entry point for the CT when someone told us about a hostel that might have a few beds left.  We immediately bolted to the hostel as quickly as we could and, to our astonishment, found that there were 2 more beds available for us to stay in for the night.  We quickly booked our spots and settled in for a night of chatting with other CT users staying at the hostel, one of the medics for the Hardrock 100, and the hostel owner who hung out with us and listened to stories from all the users of her establishment.  It was the PERFECT place for us to stay that night, and much needed after 4 days in the wilderness.

In total, we rode a little over 35 miles and climbed over 5,000 feet of elevation.