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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Icy Journey

We went to bed early after that epic storm because it was too cold and cloudy to sit outside and watch the Perseid meteor shower. The next morning, the skies were clear but the air was frigid.
We needed to start moving toward home, which meant that I had a point-to-point mountain bike ride scheduled for that day to avoid a long bumpy ride on a 4WD road. It was so cold outside that the water clinging to my bike chain was frozen. I was worried about the start of my ride, knowing it would go through deep subalpine forest where there would be snow and ice.

I procrastinated a bit, hoping that the warm sun would work its magic on my route while I waited. But, it was a tradeoff - by waiting, I was more vulnerable to being caught in the afternoon thunder storms in the forecast.
I headed out, saying goodbye to our campsite until next year, saying a secret little prayer that our pack would be as healthy and happy then as now. Life is uncertain. I departed this campsite a couple of years ago assuming that K would be back many times, and I was wrong. The tough stuff in life teaches you to appreciate when things are good.

As I started my ride, I was wearing a winter hat, neck gaiter, winter cycling shoes, mittens, and many layers. It was COLD. But, the start of the ride was through open land where the sun had already melted the snow and ice on the ground so I could pedal without worrying about ice.
I pedaled across the meadow and toward the forest, which you can see the start of in the next photo. Unfortunately, the trail became very hazardous in the shade. Every root, water bar, and other wood object on the ground was covered in ice. After trying to negotiate a few of these icy obstacles on my bike and nearly hitting the ground hard, I decided that I needed to be more cautious, especially given my delicate spine. So, although it was slow, I hopped off my bike and walked over all icy obstacles for about the first hour of the journey.
Eventually, I worked my way out of the forest and into the sun again. The trail was ice-free so I could ride continuously! But, as you can see, the mountains still sported their beautiful layers of snow.
Soon, I was climbing toward the highest point in the ride. For a moment, I thought that the mountain pass that I was aiming for was the snow-covered slope to the far left in this photo. Thank goodness that I was wrong!
This is a pass that I always end up calling "Endless Pass" in my mind. When approached from the south, it is a really long and hard climb.
It seems to go up and up and up. I was running very late due to the ice at the start of the ride, and I thought that maybe I could make up some time by climbing to the pass extra fast. Ha! There was no way to go fast without going too far into the red zone. Around every blind curve, I assumed that the top was waiting. But I was wrong many times before I actually made it to the top.
Finally, I got to gaze at the mountains from the top of the pass and then coast down the other side.
I could see my path laid out in the alpine tundra ahead of me. Clouds were building in that direction but didn't look too threatening.
It turned out that I had a tough time for the last quarter of this ride. I think that I hadn't been drinking enough fluids. At our last water refill station a few days earlier, we'd filled the LabMobile's tanks with water that I thought tasted horrid. I was carrying that awful water with me on this ride but I really hesitated to take sips.

I pedaled powerlessly through the last miles, about as fast as a snail. Climbs kept appearing in front of me that I'd forgotten existed. In the view below, I was getting close to where I was meeting the pack. I was hot and tired, and it was very hard to believe that I was running late due to ice on the start of the trail!
I finally made it to my patiently waiting pack. We found some good water, and I tanked up (and ate a lot of food), which made me feel much better.

As a side note, many of you asked about the hikers in the storm the day before. I didn't see those particular people but I asked the two "through-hikers" who I saw on my ride what they'd done during the storm. They'd set up their tents and hunkered down for the afternoon and evening. They were warm, dry, and safe.

I did, however, suspect that someone might have been lost in the area because a small airplane kept patrolling the Colorado Trail during my point-to-point ride. The pilot spotted me three times, and each time, he circled me. I didn't know how to signal that I was okay except to keep moving. Since I didn't hear any big news after arriving back in civilization, I guessed that there was no big crisis. Most people out in this wilderness know what they're doing... and I'm glad for that when big storms hit!


  1. Another great post, KB. Just shows us the wonderful scenics and the tough, fearless rider you are!



  2. Living in Virginia, I've forgotten how beautiful the mountains with the first snow can be, they really are amazing, and what a wonderful adventure to end your trip with. I hope your wish for next year comes true!!

  3. You really do know how to tell a suspenseful exciting story. I was on edge until the end. Great photographs as usual. And I'm so glad for the happy ending.

  4. Such beautiful scenery. Are you sure the bumpy ride was worse than the biking?

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  5. Great story,KB. Good think I am not your mother or I would be worried about you all the time you were out there alone. Wait a minute, I worry about you anyway:)

  6. WOW, amazing. I have been gone so long I feel like I have missed out on a whole lot. Beautiful shots. Despite the weather you mentioned it looked like a wonderful ride. In five days MOM and I will be backpacking through the wilds of Wyoming along the Grays River. We did it several years ago and it was amazing and the cool part was on the 5 day journey we did not see one other human.
    Oh, we have missed you tons.

  7. When I look at these photos- I feel your world,,, and I can feel the crisp coldness that you talk about.
    Oh,,, I yearn for your mountains and all the beauty you share.
    Your so right about treasuring what we have each day....
    So glad your all ok

  8. Howdy KB, oh what an amazing and beautiful part of the world you live in. The photos are magnificant. Take care on your bike journeys mate. No worries, and love, Carol (and Stella and Rory)

  9. Really enjoyed your posts about your trip. Wonderful photos. Glad all worked out well in the end. We have had similar weather conditions here in Spain in our Sierras, like you very strange for August, but not as extreme as what you had. In my rucksack lid it contains info on how to signal to aircraft. Rather than me try to explain how to say no help needed I've attached a link that will show you how to say yes and no, it's exactly the same as mine so assume it's a world wide language. Hopefully you will never need it but always worth knowing

    Kiersten :)

  10. What an adventure you had! You are certainly fearless, KB! Your pictures are just fabulous!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  11. You comment about never knowing what lies ahead in life hit home to me. It is a great reminder that we must love every day we have (especially the great ones) because you never know what life has for you tomorrow. It sounds like a wonderful trip!

  12. i enjoyed having a glimpse of your journey through your words and gorgeous photographs. so glad it was a good even if challenging journey for you.

  13. Again, WOW. You are truly in the 'heavens' in this mountain trails! Beautiful!

  14. Oh dear! I echo the comment of the Op Pack! I'd be worried sick!! I'm glad that you know your part of the country so well and you share your gorgeous rides and awesome mountain vistas with us! I miss the mountains! xo Jeanne

  15. You live in a gorgeous part of the States, KB. I envy you for your rides, your endurance, your courage. I'm not sure I could do that - I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable to do this all on my own. I used to hike on my own, but I don't do that anymore - which is really sad because I enjoyed that so much.
    What really hit home is you saying that we never know what is in store for us and to enjoy the good days - and be thankful for them.

  16. Wow, what an adventure! What an amazing life you live.


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