Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Solo Journey Through High Mountains

Every year, during one of our summer trips to the high mountains, I do a challenging point-to-point ride to meet the pack at a new destination that the Runner accesses in our 4wd high-clearance LabMobile. I used to be a bike racer, and I took for granted my body's ability to do whatever I asked.

Now, umpteen surgeries later with a spine that has two long surgical fusions, I don't totally trust my body anymore - no matter how hard I've trained. My migraines have been the final straw - I strongly fear one hitting when I'm out in the middle of nowhere. So, navigating through the mountains and pedaling over high passes to meet my pack someplace far away scares me just a little. Last year, my point-to-point ride felt like a death march when I had to take my anti-migraine medicine partway through the ride and felt terrible the whole way. But I made it!

This year, the weather did not look good. Heavy storm clouds had already accumulated early in the morning. However, I felt fabulously energetic. So, I packed rain gear and my Delorme satellite communicator before pedaling off into the wilderness by myself. I know that some people close to me wish that I wouldn't do these kind of solo efforts due to the possible risks - but taking on challenges like this one seems to be knitted into my DNA. I love them.

At the start of a solo ride like this one, I never look backward until I'm a few miles into the ride. This was my first glance over my shoulder. It wasn't a bluebird day but it was beautiful in a stark way.

And this was the path forward - a beautiful red thin trail heading up higher into the mountains. The whole ride was well over 10,000'.

I didn't take as many photos as most years because those storm clouds kept me hustling along. I was hoping to beat the storms to my destination. This was my last glance over my shoulder before I entered the true alpine zone with no trees, gorgeous wildflowers, and endless views.

Above treeline, I passed through a basin that is very wet most years.This year, it was drier than usual, just like the rest of the mountain region. Wildflowers lined the trail but they were thirsty! I just hoped that they didn't get the rain that they wanted until I was back down in the trees.

As I pedaled hard in the thin air endlessly upward toward the highest point of the ride, I noticed how much the crimson paintbrush flowers were coloring the scene.

I managed to pedal even the steepest pitches to the pass, and I was greeted with dramatic looking skies all around me. There was no sound of thunder so I let myself rest on the pass for a bit.

I adore being so high above treeline. I kept wishing that Shyla was with me but it was too long a ride for her to do with me.

Then, I started the long descent off the pass. The wildflowers were brilliant!

I kept stopping on the steep descent to take photos. It was too beautiful to zoom along the trail without really seeing the scenery. I found a lone Columbine in the midst of the riot of flowers.

And an alpine bistort caught my eye with a purple and yellow background of wildflowers.

Finally, I realized that I needed to cover some distance to avoid getting caught in storms. After the long descent, I went through a series of drainages - long downhills to creeks, creek crossings, and then steep climbs back up out of drainages.

Many of the creeks drain abandoned mines. This white-stained creek is probably contaminated with cadmium, a bad mining by-product that messes up calcium metabolism in animals. It is listed as carcinogenic to humans - mimicking estrogen and perhaps causing breast cancer. Isn't it crazy that Colorado is dotted with abandoned mines? The miners just walked away years ago, leaving their mines to poison the environment for years to come. We had an almost worst-case scenario last year when a mine in the area of this bike ride spilled out waste and colored the Animas River bright orange.

Near one of these creeks, a clearer one, I saw a hillside of Columbines. What a treat! The wild Columbines at our elevation finished blooming quite a while ago.

After that, I pedaled hard for a solid hour to reach the final pass of my ride. At each pass, it felt like I traveled from one world of mountains to a whole new one. This was the world that I was departing. What tough terrain I'd just covered!

And I was entering the world of mountains that we'd be living in for the next few days. This view awes me every time.

I rolled up to the LabMobile pleasantly tired but not shattered. It was a confidence-building long ride through tough terrain (those are R's rehab toys next to the LabMobile).
And now I could rest in my vision of paradise. I feel so lucky that I can still ride my bike through fairly rough terrain despite my spine. Every year, it feels like a huge victory.


  1. It's a good thing you tell us about this ride AFTER the fact as this old lady would be a nervous wreck the whole time you were out there. But it is easy to see why you love it. The scenery is amazing and those columbines are prettier than any flower in the garden here:)

  2. absolutley beautiful. I cant even imagine what a high it must have been for you. thank you so much for sharing. glad it was a great drive healthwise.

  3. Exhilarating, adrenalin rush.
    To be so far away in the mountains.
    Maybe none of my business but i bet you talk to God out there, for surely he is with you.
    Are the trails what are considered fire breaks?
    Linda and Astro

  4. Such a challenging and lovely ride. The very definition of solitude. Thank you for sharing this beautiful journey. I'm certain the runner is a bit anxious every time you do this. Glad this ride had a perfect ending. Tired but exhilarated.

  5. What a stunningly beautiful way to spend the day.

  6. Good for you for staying determined year after year, KB. Your photos are just fabulous!

  7. I would love to spend a day there... bet all sorrows are gone with the wind as long as I can see all the beautiful things around me :o)

  8. What a totally awesome accomplishment!! Go you!!!!

    The scenery is so very breathtaking!

  9. That was some beautiful and amazing journey!

  10. That trail looks wonderful. Fun ride!

  11. What a grreat victory for you! Fangtastic job and amazing pictures!

  12. That is amazingly beautiful. And good for you, for not letting anything get in your way and stop you. The minute you stop trying, is the minute you stop completely.

  13. Stunning. Amazing. Mind Boggling.
    I understand how the beauty of being in nature alone. On a bike at high elevations must be as close to heaven as a human being can get in this living life.

  14. I can breathe the wonderful air up there when I look at your beautiful pictures. stella rose and mom

  15. Anything tough and that beautiful leads to a wonderful calmness in its accomplishment. Well done!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  16. Gosh that place is gorgeous!! Those storm clouds would have scared us back to camp
    Lily & Edward

  17. Yayyyyyy! Congratulations on achieving your goal with still a bit of energy to spare. All those wildflowers are a treat for the eyes. I know what you mean about pushing yourself into wildfeness even if people think maybe it's not a good idea. I still do it, too, when I take long hikes into the backcountry. I'm careful, but it's so exhilarating to face the challenges that arise. Great ride KB!

  18. you are amazing! And all the scenery is spectacular
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  19. Oh KB! What an accomplishment and a wonderful day of beauty. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. And, YOU GO, girl!!

  20. I get that desire to take on challenges, even though my challenges are much smaller. Congrats on your journey!

  21. Every bit of your solo ride was splendorious
    Thank you for sharing


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!