After we stayed at our spectacular campsite with tremendous views of the San Juan Mountains for a few days, it was time to move on. Because riding in a vehicle on a bouncy 4wd road is terrible for my back, we made a plan that involved me riding a gorgeous singletrack route from our campsite to a relatively nearby paved road.
I knew that the distance and climbing were well within my capabilities but there was one hitch. K couldn't run that far with me, and the runners in the family had a very long run planned, which was too arduous for K. So, I exercised K before starting my odyssey.
To give K some fun and exercise, I rode my mountain bike with her to a nearby alpine lake. K frolicked and swam until she was sated. Then, we rode some singletrack back to camp. We stopped for a few parting photos of the amazing wildflowers in that area.
When we arrived back in camp, I left K with the Runner and R. They would drive the long way around to meet me at the paved road. I bid them adieu with one last soulful look at our wonderful campsite. We will return to it, no doubt.
Then, I confidently headed off on the Colorado Trail. Almost immediately, I was confused by the lack of trail signs on a trail that normally is extremely well marked. I kept riding, trying to make good time. Soon, the trail descended steeply to a creek and then paralleled it. I was starting to question whether I was on the right route. I perused my map and turned on my GPS.
Then, I realized that I'd made a classic KB mistake. I am a terrible navigator, and I tend to bull-headedly storm off in the direction that I think is correct while ignoring the evidence that I might be going the wrong way. It takes me far too long to realize that I've gone the wrong way.
I turned around and climbed out of the abyss that I'd descended into. I was climbing hard, breathing heavily, and feeling my burning quads. Eventually, I found the Colorado Trail. I looked at my cycling computer, and I realized that I'd burned an hour trying to find the trail. I also realized that, by the time I added up the time I'd spent riding with K, the time spent lost, and the projected time for the ride ahead of me, this was going to be a very long ride for my fragile spine. It was too late to find the pack and ask for a ride (and there was no cell phone reception) so I started on my journey with trepidation.
The other problem was that I was going to be at least an hour later than the Runner expected. I thought that he'd be worried so I started hammering on my pedals, trying to make up lost time. At first, I felt pretty good and kept up a brisk speed.
The beauty around me distracted me from the fact that I was not being smart. I was riding in the red zone at the *start* of a very long ride. If I'd been thinking, I would've realized that I was going to pay for my high intensity riding later.
As I lay there, I named the pass "Endless Pass".
I took a long break feeling completely wrung out. I'd been riding far too hard for such a long journey, and now I was bonking. I turned my backpack inside out searching for calories. I inhaled every morsel of food that it contained and had a long cold drink.
Replenished, I continued the climb, but now at a more reasonable pace. I reminded myself that the Runner is not the panicking type and probably would not be very worried about my lateness. Soon, the actual pass appeared above me!
And, I've got to admit that my back was hurting, a lot. A reasonable quantity of bike riding is really good for my spine. That day's ride was simply too much.
Soon, I spotted a pair of lakes in the distance that I thought were close to the trailhead. I pulled out my 2-way radio to see if I could reach the Runner. Woo hoo - I heard his voice reply to me, meaning that I couldn't be too far from the van. I confidently told him that I was descending into the trailhead and would see him soon.
I ate everything that I could lay my hands on - a Ben and Jerry's ice cream bar, a yogurt, plums, peaches, tortilla chips, cookies. You get the picture. I was like a hungry bear set loose in a well-stocked kitchen. All that food barely touched my energy deficit.
I think that there was a lesson learned somewhere in that day but I'm not sure what it was. "Bring more food than you think that you need" is the most likely candidate. Regardless, I now look back on it as a grand adventure, wending my way through bucolic mountain meadows with wildflowers blooming so thickly that a hummingbird would have trouble deciding which one to drink from.
Perhaps the biggest lesson is not to be afraid to embark on these adventures, for I always end up loving them!