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Monday, August 31, 2015

An Alpine Journey

During our trips in the high mountains, the Runner encourages me to do point-to-point rides. He drives the LabMobile around the mountains that I ride over on my bike to meet me.

We've had some epic disasters but 2 out of three of my point-to-point rides went well this year. That third one was a doozy but I'll save that story for later.

After our LabMobile was fixed much faster than we expected, we decided to make the whole drive out to the San Juan Mountains that day. It was a loooong drive, with my sciatic nerve hurting like a bolt of lightning was sizzling down the back of my leg.

We reached Ouray as it got dark, and, after we got out of town, we decided to find a place to camp ASAP. The cool thing about the San Juan Mountains is that open space abounds. There are innumerable mining roads leaving the main road, and most of them are empty. We found one, drove about a quarter mile down it, and we parked the LabMobile in the dark.

After arriving, I fiddled with my camera a bit, trying to capture more shooting star images, and then we went to sleep. It turned out that I did capture a shooting star (near the middle of the photo) along with the Milky Way. You can see the silhouette of the mine building in the lower right of the photo.
We woke up the next morning to find that we'd parked next to a mine that had once been a bustling workplace and then had been abandoned after the mine stopped producing. Below the mine and the LabMobile, streams poured downhill, draining the mine area. We were leery of the water, after the Animas River disaster earlier that week. There are mines all over Colorado that are slowly leaking out poisonous mining by-products.
We knew where we wanted to go next... but it usually involves a long point-to-point ride for me and a long bumpy LabMobile ride for the Runner. I hesitated because I felt tired and had a headache that felt like it might be the start of a migraine. However, in the end, I decided to "go for it" (with migraine medicine on-board) because I always count the day that I do that alpine ride as one of the best of the year. It's so beautiful.

We drove to the trailhead, and I bid the pack adieu, promising to meet them 25 miles (and many vertical feet) to the southwest. After I started my solo journey, I quickly remembered why I love that particular ride so much. The gorgeous views are endless.
And when I emerged above treeline after a very long climb, the flowers stunned me.
The ride has a long section above treeline so I was fortunate that there was almost no chance of thunderstorms. I could enjoy the beauty without any worry about lightning.
The ride climbs up to a tall pass (~13,000') at the middle of the journey. Near that point, I realized that I was exceptionally tired, and I was only halfway to my destination. I had that "empty" feeling in my legs like I couldn't produce much power when I pedaled.

I took a break to eat and drink, and I hoped that my flagging energy would come back. My rest spot certainly had a gorgeous view.
As I sat there, I noticed Columbines blooming in the midst of the many Paintbrush flowers. Photographing them was fun because our local Columbines had stopped blooming weeks earlier.
To be honest, my energy never really returned and my headache got worse. The second half of the ride was very hard, as I struggled to pedal through terrain that normally would be easy.
As I crested the last ridge before our usual campsite, I received a text on my Delorme satellite messenger from the Runner saying that our campsite was a mile further along the route than usual. I almost had a meltdown. Another mile seemed like an eternity with my body as tired as it was.

I knew I had to ride this long straight trail slightly downhill for a few miles, and then I'd have a steep climb up the campsite. After I took the next photo, I didn't take my camera out again. I just put my head down and doggedly pedaled toward our campsite.
I was a basket case when I arrived in camp. I ate everything in sight and then I finally got out of my sweaty biking clothes. It had been such a long day. Usually, this ride isn't so hard for me. I can only guess that the stress of the previous day's drive plus my headache had taken more out of me than I expected.

We took a very short little evening hike, and I even got a golden sunset photo of my sweet girl. I slept well that night!
All in all, it was a day to remember... although the memory of the fatigue is already fading. The memory of the incredible wildflowers will never fade.


  1. You are a perfect example of tenacity and perseverance, a quality and example for many like me to follow! I'm glad you were able to finish your ride and bring us such amazing and stunning photos! I'm also glad you're remembering the stunning beauty of the day!

  2. You never cease to amaze us, never, never!!! Kim said it all above. Thank you again for sharing all this beauty.

  3. One other thing, the Solid Gold kibble does have a bit of a fishy odor, but only if you stick your head in the bag:)

  4. I agree with the OP Pack, we are always amazed by the beauty and your ability to capture it all.

  5. I'm sorry you were in such pain on such a beautiful ride. What I envy is that you can push through it and still sleep well, in fact sleep heavy. My illness doesn't allow me to push myself otherwise I get worse and sicker and I don't sleep at all, which is torture. I can always push myself, that's not the hard part. It's the consequences later, insomnia, neuro shut down, tremors and tics that I have to deal with after. I hope some day I can push myself physically again. So rewarding, especially among such beauty. Glad R is doing well!

  6. I'm re-reading all the Harry Potter books. That first photo looks like it could be a book jacket! Amazing flowers! I think we ofteen forget how much energy is sapped from our bodies by a stressful day. Glad you were able to re-coup.

    Oh, and by the way, Ruby doesn't get to go to the beach any more - way too stressful for her...She stayed home and helped Mr. RottRover eat some bacon... :-)

  7. I applaud you for continuing with a migraine. I get them also and I don't think I could have been as strong. God bless you!! The colors and the flowers are incredible.

    Anne and Ziggy

  8. ditto to everyone else. You amaze me.

  9. It's a wonder you didn't sleep for a few days!

  10. You are an unbelievable trooper, KB, and your photos are so beautiful!

  11. If I could I would grab my bike and I would love to pedal with you through this wonderful area... but I can't because a bad boy with sticky finger snitched my saddle :o(

  12. Your photographs could not be more beautiful. I love being taken to places I have never seen. (You are a real trooper).

  13. What a fantastic place. And it looks like you had a great time. LOve the photos.

  14. As always we feel like we are right beside you in all your adventures, beautiful pictures....stella rose and momma

  15. What a fantastic journey. Beautiful views, pastures, sky! Sorry about that sciatica thing. Mom gets that too. Sitting on a tennis ball helps a bit
    Lily & Edward

  16. Wow! Sometimes I am envious of your life and the beautiful areas you visit!

  17. Oh KB.... So sorry you hurt so bad.
    Your amazing to us,,, that you pushed and made it, and have the photos to share with us..
    We can only imagine how miserable you were.. but glad you made it.


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