Bikepacking the Colorado Trail

It had been on my dream list for awhile, to bikepack the Colorado Trail in one long thruColorado_ref_2001_with_trail.jpg ride start to finish. On the 18th of August, I loaded the bike on top of my little Corolla and drove to Durango to start what was going to be a fantastic and truly challenging adventure. The 18th also happened to be my 31st birthday and what better way to celebrate than embark on a 2-week solo trip through the mountains.

The plan was to drive to Durango and leave the Corolla at my friend Richard’s house and then take a rental car from there to Denver. This way I would be riding back to my car in Durango, which would make logistics easier once I finished, and more or less force me to finish the route. I had to be back at work on September 1st, which only gave me 11 full days of riding.

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Getting to the trailhead started early with riding around Downtown Durango with Richard delivering his kiddos, by extra-cycle, to there respective day camps. Then picking up a work truck and dropping me off at Enterprise rental. After filling out paper work and loading the bike I then drove 6 hours to Denver in a new 2017 Toyota Rav 4 (Oh boy did it go fast!).

After dropping the rental car off in Littleton Co, a suburb of Denver, I got on my bike and rode for about 20 minutes before a massive downpour forced me to take cover in a little league dugout. After downing rain gear and waiting for the worst to pass I continued on via a somewhat confusing network of urban trails and back roads. Ultimately I made it to the Waterton Canyon trailhead, the start of the Colorado Trail, just as it got dark. First camp of the trip, under a picnic table cover about a mile up Waterton Canyon.

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End of Day 1, Lost Creek Wilderness bypass

Day 1, as I’m calling it, started with being woken up by these nutty Denver joggers that like to go up Waterton Canyon in droves before the sun even comes up. I decided that the bast plan was to go big and get as far away from Denver as I could in a hard days ride. The trails once up and out of Waterton were quite good and I enjoyed many fast flowing descents, although overall there was a lot of elevation gain–8,000 feet on the first day–coming up out the front range into the high country. I made it part way around the Lost Creek wilderness bypass and camped at dusk after a full 12 hours of riding.

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Tarryall

Day 2: Lost Creek/Tarryall to Kenosha Pass with a  nice leisurely lunch break at the Jefferson town store. The 75-mile detour on roads was an ass kicker (another 8,000ft of climbing), the Kona Hei Hei was not ideal for all those road miles, especially the pavement (though she made up for it later). Also, my shammies proved under-prepared for the trip as they started to wear through by the end of the day, a theme that would plague me for the rest of the trip. There are no resupply points between Denver and Jefferson so by the time I got there I was pretty hungry. Turns out I had underestimated how quickly my metabolism was going to explode into a nuclear furnace of calorie consumption.

There are no resupply points between Denver and Jefferson so by the time I got to the Jefferson store I was pretty hungry. Turns out I had underestimated how quickly my metabolism was going to explode into a nuclear furnace of calorie consumption.

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The Jefferson valley, 9,500ft. Hungry Hungry

After gorging myself on sandwiches and soda pop I was about to leave when the owner offered me a cheese burger so, of course, I had to eat that as well. I barely made the 4mi peddle up to Kenosha Pass, I was so bloated, a good feeling though.

Day 3: Kenosha Pass to Gold Hill outside of Breckenridge. Georgia Pass was the days highlight, it was the first taste of alpine on the route, a good preview for what was to come. The trails leading into Brek were fantastic as well and made me glad I was on a trail bike and kept my dropper post.

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Georga Pass, My rig the Kona Hei Hei looking so sexy!

Day 4: Gold Hill to Leadville. This was a fantastic day, starting with the “10mile” climb over to Copper Mountain Resort, and after that, the Kokomo Pass section was a truly spectacular section. Perhaps the steepest climb and descent of the trip was going up and over 10mile (called that because it’s a ten-mile climb).

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Nearing the Top of Ten Mile climb

There were sections gong up that I was grabbing onto trees to pull myself up. It was more like “drag-a-bike”, not “hike-a-bike”. Coming down the back side, into Copper Mt, was exhilarating and a little terrifying. A white-knuckle brake burner for sure! Without the dropper post, I wouldn’t have been able to ride the whole thing.

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