Almost every summer, I do a couple of point-to-point rides high in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. We plan them out so that the Runner drives the LabMobile into a fairly inaccessible place where we'll camp. At the same time, I ride trails to meet him there. It serves two purposes. It means that my poor spine doesn't have to endure a bumpy jeep road, and I get the gift of a long mountain bike ride across beautiful terrain.
It seems as if the whole region is very high. My ride started at an elevation over 10,000'. The beginning of the ride was through reddish soil on a ribbon-like trail cut into mountainside. The vegetation was glowing with an autumn gold.
This year, unfortunately, I started my ride at about the same time as a group of inexperienced mountain biking guys. They felt that they *had* to outride me (a female on a bike - let's crush her!) but they didn't have the skills or fitness to do it. It meant that I spent the first hour being chased down by a testosterone-driven guy, then he'd have to stop to rest so I'd pass him, and then he or one of his buddies would repeat the whole thing all over again.
It took me about an hour to leave them behind me for good, just as I was getting above treeline and discovering that there were still a few flowers left!
I dropped my bike to enjoy the wildlflower meadow. I was like heaven on earth even if the flowers were nearing the wilting point.
My favorites are the crimson paintbrush. I love their vibrant color.
When I'm above treeline, I always am scanning for potential thunderstorms. The forecast said that the odds of one were low... but of course, some clouds began to concern me when I was in the very long exposed stretch of this ride.
Thanks to those clouds, I worked hard to reach the high point of the ride quickly. I adore this high mountain pass. Behind me, I can see the mountains that I just rode across. Ahead of me, I see the mountains that I'm about to pedal through!
The descent from that pass is steep but easily ridden. However, I usually dilly dally looking at a hillside full of wildflowers. This particular hillside had no flowers left for me so late in the summer. Ah well - the views were still beautiful.
|A sharp hairpin turn was just ahead of me, leading to that lower trail segment in the left of the photo|
Down a little lower, the autumn colors were unfolding, painting the hillside a subtle gold.
And, to my utter delight, I found one Columbine still blooming. I stopped to enjoy its beauty. I thought that it might be my last columbine until next summer. I was wrong but I still loved seeing it!.
After descending from the highest point on the route, I traversed a long section of trail in the forest that climbed in and out of drainages containing creeks of rushing water. It's usually a kind of riding that slows me and makes me start to lose my confidence.
Not this year! I have a "new" bike with a very smooth suspension and wide tires. My internal monologue included "my bike eats rocks for breakfast!". That monologue was meant to keep me riding with confidence even in this technically challenging part of the route.
It worked! Much sooner than expected, I popped out of the forest into the huge open area that signals that I'm getting close to camp. The trail ahead of me pointed at the "Lizard Head" mountain range.
I pedaled happily on the curvy trail that took me through the meadow. I marveled that, even though I'd been riding for a long time, I still felt great. Yay!
I arrived at camp about an hour faster than ever before on this route. That wasn't a total surprise. I worked hard this summer building up my endurance and strength, finally feeling a tiny bit of confidence in my physical capabilities despite my "messed up" spine.
Of course, as I mentioned two days ago, my messed up spine has made itself known again. However, it was fun having a period of time this summer when I felt almost like I did in the summers before my spine pain was so bad.
What a gift this ride was! I loved every moment of it.