Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A ride, recently: Getting high. And old.

September.  Already.

Among other things, this year it means that the water we've been playing on in rivers and creeks since January is pretty well gone.  What an amazing year to explore new waterways.

And while if you've got time to travel and/or are willing to grovel you can still get out and paddle, I've finally made the switch to pedaling.  Not much chance of burnout when your riding season begins the last week of August.

In advance of the upcoming long weekend Pete invited me on an ambitious bikepacking loop in the San Juans.  A cursory glance at the maps revealed that his proposed loop covered more ground in 3 days than I'd prefer to.  A lot more.  Nothing against extended saddle time, but if I'm going to be in the mountains I want to savor them, not suffer as they blur past.

So I opted to ride solo, and slowly, to revel in some thin air and skinny track.

 And I was frankly shocked, even from the first few minutes, at how prolific the flowers still are.  Even at treeline.  Even on west facing (hot, dry) hillsides.  The winter that gave so much continues to keep on giving.  (Thanks!)

I was also surprised at how many people would show up to a trailhead with two cars, load all bikes into one car, then leave in that car.  Took me a bit to figure out that they were running shuttles.


And by "many" I mean many.

There are lots of times when using a car is appropriate -- like driving to ride somewhere that's 50, or even 20 miles from home.

But I'm at a loss on how many people now *regularly* incorporate a vehicle to take care of most or all of the uphill part of their bike ride.  Regularly.

I'm dating myself by saying so, but we as a community used to be so much better than that.  And now shuttling is so common that few even think twice about doing it.

Shame, that.

My high point for the first ride was a bit over 12k.  A handful of snowfields meant that I didn't need to carry much water, and could almost always dip a bottle to re-up.

^ Lunch stop.  3rd one of the day.


I finished that ride after over 7 hours out.  I couldn't be me without thinking how much faster I used to be able to cover a similar distance.  And then immediately I realized how much more I enjoy rides where I've taken my time and soaked in a little of the soul of the place, rather than just racing through it.  Progress.

I was tired enough the next day that my ambitions were much less, uh, ambitious.  I chose a much shorter loop because I was pretty sure the flowers would be exceptional.  And because it has a great techy climb, stunning above timberline views, and then a rowdy, steep, rough descent.  The only downside?  It's not a secret, and it's easy access.  Also, see above mentioned positive attributes to understand that it's a popular destination.

Even though it was crowded -- as expected -- it was still worth doing.

When mid-way through the climb I sensed that I was within a bubble of humanity I deliberately stopped in the meadow above and just hung out for a spell.  Wandered around, spectated the doings of insects and people alike, enjoyed the ~320* view, then when the people thinned out I restarted.  Wish I could say that I never saw anyone else the rest of the ride, but that's not realistic in this place at the height of summer.

The people I did see were friendly, happy to be out, happy to be sharing the place with friends and family.  Except for the two tweens whom were pushing up the descent.  Don't think they'd been there before, doubt they'll choose that direction again.

Looking forward to getting back up there a few more times in the next few weeks.  Given the lateness of the flowers, and the proximity to peak color, I'm sort of expecting one of those fall seasons where you can experience purple asters, green grasses, yellow aspens, and snow covered peaks -- all in one ride.

Sure hope so.

Thanks for checkin' in.


  1. Beauuuuutiful, sweetlove... In photos and in execution. Thanks for sharing the sweetness...

  2. Amazing pictures again Mike! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. BEAUTIFUL photos, sentiment, attitude, and philosophy! Many thanks!

  4. I have heard them described as "gravity riders". I agree, it is an unfortunate use of petroleum. I have begun to prioritize rides that are impractical for auto based shuttles for two reasons. I like riding uphill, and there is generally lighter trail use.

  5. It looks like you and I were in a similar area at around the same time. Absolutely gorgeous. The flowers awed me. I feel the same about those shuttlers... they drive me nuts and mystify me. Isn't riding uphill fun? I think so. I like Bernhard's approach to choosing rides.