Sedona…

I was on the ski shuttle the other afternoon heading back from a bluebird spring ski day up on the hill when I heard this booming voice a few rows behind me that I knew I’d heard before.  An intoxicated spring breaker on the “booze bus” I was riding on yelled out, “hey do you work for KOAA?”  Sure enough it was a talk radio personality from Denver’s own 850am KOAA.  That deep, booming voice got me to thinking…

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Do you remember dedication night?  Before the big hair bands of the late 80′s and before grunge rock of the early 90′s took over this author’s persona, there where the pop hits of the mid 80′s.  And there was dedication night.

 

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Every Thursday night where I grew up, between 6 and 10 pm on KIKX 102.7 there was no other place to be than up in your room, with the door closed, listening intently for your name.

 

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Between writing out essay questions for Social Studies class and talking to your schoolyard girlfriend on the rotary phone, there was dedication night.

 

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Before playing songs like INXS, “Need You Tonite” the DJ would rattle off a dozen or so dedications from kids who’d called in. “To Cindy, From David,”  “To Steve from a secret admirer,”  “To Kerry, from Jeff,”  You’d listen through dozens of these, song after song, listening intently for your name…

 

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These went on for minutes.  The 80′s classics like, “Hungry Like The Wolf” by Duran Duran, “The Look” by Roxette, anything by Tears For Fears, Whitesnake’s “Slow An’ Easy,” and The Human League’s “Human” filled the airwaves of my impressionable middle school nights.

 

 

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Well, I dedicate this song to you, Sedona, Arizona…….

 

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from Matt, who says, “thanks for our time together…”      Ooooo….

 

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Nothing but sunshine and good times on our week long, mid-winter escapade down south…

 

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Sedona’s been in the press so much lately for being the next big destination for mountain biking.  As it turns out, that secret’s been outta the bag for a while now…

 

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I wouldn’t disagree a bit.  After hearing about it all, we had to see it for ourselves.  After 3 days I was already doing the math on what it would take to set up shop down there…

 

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Not to mention the fact that we had two of the hottest new bikes to test out on the trails: the Santa Cruz 5010 carbon 27.5″ and the Trek Remedy 27.5″.  These two cutting edge rigs made the trip even more enjoyable. But more on that later…

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As for Sedona?  Ya, we’ll definitely be back…

 

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Gapers Unite!

So I’ve been schralping the gnar on some mad coulies lately out on the slopes.

Schralping the gnar: that’s “bro” lingo for “having a great time skiing in really neat places.”  And speaking of lingo, I was reading a recent issue of Powder Magazine and it had an insightful article about those who are commonly known as “beaters.”   A beater is bro lingo (or ladybro lingo, for that matter) for a gaper.  And a “gaper” is bro or ladybro lingo for, a tool….. a ski tourist… And a beater or a gaper is typically referred to as such by a hotshit skier with a phat ego.   Exhibit A: group of spring break beaters, likely from the mid-West…

2014 Gaper Day at _________(insert resort name)_________!!

The article briefly describes a beater as someone with, “the ridiculous spaceman outfit, the giant clomping boots, the cluster of layers and packs and goggles, falling on their ass in an icy parking lot.”  The article went on to describe how a beater is certainly different things to different people.

 

Frickin beater…

 

 

The author describes his own criteria of a beater as anyone “holding a camera pointing at themselves,” (been there, done that! ~Editor)  “wearing a full-face helmet,” (been there, done that! ~Editor) “or sporting an in-bounds hydration device.”  (been there, done that! ~Editor)  But then the author tells a story of a group of incredibly strong skiers in Chamonix a while back, skiing off an incredibly difficult glacier on “variable” snow.

 

 

It read, “Halfway down, a glance over my shoulder reveals a little dot far behind us, a skier just pulling on to the glacier from the Grand Roc route…I look again a few minutes later and he has gained an extraordinary amount of ground on us, a party of excellent skiers on the best modern equipment, hauling ass on variable snow.  Soon we hit the end…skidding through the bumps and blue ice with all the skill of Longtime Locals Who Sometimes Get Free Goggles.”

 

 

“I stop, and before I can even reach down to unbuckle my boots, the mysterious follower pulls up and is revealed not to be some French pro, but an elderly man in a tattered one-piece, on snowler blades, with a large backpack, and a lit cigarette dangling from his lips….he just sidestepped up and burned us  off like a bunch of beaters.”

The point here?

The point is that at that moment when those hot shit skiers were schralping the gnar, they were both witnessing the gaper and existing as the gapees.  The point of the article was that the gaper or the gapee entirely depends on the situation.  At any given moment, you yourself, the hottest hotshit to ever walk the Earth could at any moment become the gapee…

 

Frickin Bieber gaper…

 

 

 

The point was to embrace your inner gapedom.  We are all gapers, some more than others…

 

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(TwoWheeledWorld fotofile)

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On the flipside, The Mrs. is in the market for a totally schweet new schralper…

 

 

And as such, we’re heading down to Sedona, AZ  for a week to do demo some schweet schralp-worthy rides.  We’ve heard the hype about Sedona, and we’re excited to see the newest mountain bike mecca for ourselves.  Being that it’ll be February, I think the warm Arizona air will be a welcome respite…

 

 

We’ll be sure to bring the sunscreen…

Frozen Yogurt…

Another fall has come and gone, and the colors have gone with it…

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I definitely tried to take advantage of the seasonal changing of the guard as best I could this fall, and with it witnessed some pretty dramatic views…

 

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These views never get old.  This is a time of year where I tend to switch gears a little and go against the grain a bit.  When many bike racers keep the pedal floored and move right into cyclocross season in the fall, I tend to slow things down a bit…

 

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Me and The Mrs. even had the chance to play cowboy and cowgirl one afternoon a while back.  And to think I used to really dislike horses.  Now, I ride ‘em every chance I get…

 

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And while I’m not an angler I did get the chance to witness a few big guys being pulled from a prized stretch of the Fraser River another recent afternoon.  I may just have to take this up someday…

 

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The problem with life is that there’s so many things to do with it, and so little time.  And even less time to get good enough at just a couple things to really be good at them.  Which is why I always tend gravitate back to a thing which I’ve definitely put in my time…

 

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Another fall trip to Moab has also come and gone.  And with it, just like many other trips there came the chance to make new friends, to hear old stories…..

 

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To see some amazing vistas…

 

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And to do some kick ass mountain bike rides…

 

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All the while the Mobile Command Vehicle has served as more than adequate accommodations for those occasional long weekends in the desert…

 

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But ski season is just about here and I’m starting to get excited.  I have a love-hate relationship with winter.  Short days and long nights, but as someone who’s been skiing most of my life I always gravitate back to that endeavor, as well.  Rumor has it a different ski resort is opening every few days.  All we need is a little more of that white magic…

Indian Peaks And Yet Another Pass…

Dang…I’ve been getting unusually far behind on trip reports… But, rather than punt out one of those “catch-up” blogs and puke out a dozen photos checking off my mental checklist, I’m gonna actually tell you the stories.   I mean that’s why you’re visiting this site.  Facebook is great for quick catch-ups….but blogs are for stories…

Indian Peaks Wilderness…

 

There’s this new concept floating around with “parents to-be” called the babymoon.  Rest assured, me and The Mrs. are not the ones expecting, but my bro-in-law is.  Similar to a bachelor party, the babymoon is one last manly hoorah before sleepless nights and dirty diapers replace dinner dates and sleeping in till 11am.  And when this babymoon took the form of a backpacking trip with the guys, I was quick to help put a trip together.

 

We’d use the Mountain Command Post as a launch pad a few weeks ago for a 3-day trip deep into the Indian Peaks Wilderness.  The cast of characters included five friends, and one overly-prepared tool worried about non-existent hunters…(me)…

 

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The plan was to hike 7 miles in on Friday morning to a remote, snow melt lake just below the west side of the Continental Divide, summit the 12,550′ Pawnee Pass on Saturday’s day trip, and hike the 7 miles out Sunday.  With my recent trips this past summer, slinging a heavy pack seemed old-hat, as we set out and headed east from Monarch Lake, first getting photo-bombed by the local yokels…

 

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The conversations were fresh and the miles tacked on and as the trail steadily climbed the views began to open…

 

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We wasted little time throughout the day and arrived at Crater Lake by mid-afternoon.  I’ve explored a lot of Colorado but the mountains surrounding us on three sides were something right of Lord Of The Rings.  Massive cliffs and jagged ridges almost completely encircled the small, alpine lake…

 

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Night was sure to fall quickly, being mid-September and we set up camp as the sun ducked behind the ridge…

 

 

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When you don’t have a campfire, and the sun goes down, and you’re 7 miles back in the wilderness there’s just not a lot to do.  In the first hour or two of darkness we’d tell stories by the “warmth” of our headlamps as we ate the familiar freeze-dried food.  It was about then that the full moon rose and lit up the massive cliffs like a white spotlight.  The pale, moonlit forest entertained us for some time before we ducked from the cold into our tents…

 

Day 2 greeted us with bright sun high on the cliff walls, but cold temps at camp.  The plan was to pack light and do a day trip to the summit of Pawnee Pass.  We all thought, “day trip?  Should be pretty easy…”

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Mid-September is a period of transition in Colorado.  And as such, autumn winds blew as we left the comforts of camp and made for the 12,550′ pass…

 

 

“It’s only 4 miles one way.”  Well, do the round trip math, add in 2000ft of vertical, a little rock scrambling, and the elevation and it stacked up to be a tall day…

 

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Rising through 12,000′ the winds were steadily socking us up against the rocks while a barely noticeable trail lead steeply over sharp boulders…

 

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Sure, these pictures insinuate a calm, warm day but let me assure you that last push over the ridge top had cold temps and 60mph sustained winds.  The trail to Pawnee Pass is one steep mother, and it’s overrun with loose boulders and scree.  I could only imagine how frequently these rocks shift and slide as the constant freeze-thaw of these mountains continually decays the jagged peaks.

 

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Our time at the summit lasted 30 seconds before we scrambled back down to the lower slopes…

 

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Once down below timberline we rested and lunched.  Once we were recovered and ready to move on we backtracked our route which led us west around the lower slopes and back to our lake-front camp in the late afternoon…

 

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Weary and windblown, the boots came off and the ice-cold snow melt lake soothed the feet…

 

 

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It was sure to be an early night…

 

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Weather sure can change fast in the fall, and as we looked up at the moonlit sky once again later that night, I thought to myself, “naaaaah….won’t rain tonite…”

 

 

But a 4am wake up call to the steady pitter-patter of raindrops hitting the tent is never something I really enjoy, but that’s what we were faced with early that next morning…  We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the very last time this fall that precipitation fell in the form of rain… in fact, later that afternoon it would turn to snow above timberline…

 

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Motivation to get up and at ‘em is pretty tough when it’s a soggy, grey day and you’re hours from civilization.  But, we all finally summoned the will to stir and, thankfully, the rain subsided just long enough for us to break camp.  Once we hit the trail for the 7-mile trek back to the trail head, the rain picked up again and did not stop.  The motivation for a burger at the trails’ end, and to get out of the wet weather was plenty enough for us to knock out 7 miles in about three and a half hours…

 

Officially dubbed “Mancation 2013,” it was another tremendous trip with the bro’s featuring a great backcountry adventure full of incredible vistas…

 

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This past summer has been one of the busiest yet, or so it seems, with new outdoor adventures at every turn.  The Stunt Double once told me, “the older you are the faster all this stuff goes.”  And he should know!  And here I thought all this activity was about wrapped up but I just got back from an October trip to Moab.  I’ll be sure to fill you in on the best photos and dialogue  because like I said before, Facebook is for catching up.  Blogs are for stories…

ProActivism…

I was just looking back at some recent blog posts here on TWW and I gotta say, it’s been a summer of some serious adventure.  And it’s not over yet – with a solid month or two of reasonable temps likely between Denver and the Mountain Command Post, might as well keep things going.

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And in spite of all the endless photos of great trails, mountain vistas, and wildlife on this blog, this is actually my view for most of the week…

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Gotta pay to play, I guess… the thing that makes Monday’s so tough is simply the fact that those weekends are so good…

Anyhoo, I’m about to wrap up another season’s racing.  With all the hiking and backpacking and whatnot, the racing results suffered a smidge this year, but my participation points netted me 10th place overall in my “home” mtn bike racing series, for which I’m pretty happy.  It made me feel even better seeing that I was the 2nd oldest pro in the top 20… yikes…

But honestly that’s what keeps it fun – some years you spin it up, some years you dial it back.  And that’s what keeps the whole thing fresh.  This weekend I’ve got the inaugural Epic 50 mountain bike race in Winter Park, which will be a painful 50 miler that I’ve been spending the later part of summer ramping up for…

And speaking of ramps, I’ve been having a lot of fun recently in Trestle Bike Park, where I recently met up with my good buddy Alan and the Stunt Double.  I got some good GoPro footage and it’s currently in the TwoWheeledWorld Editing Dept.  I did not, however, capture the moment when our other buddy (MTBR.com’s ad man Mister Gouge) tank-slapped it in a rock garden and broke a couple ribs in the process…

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I’m starting to go a little bigger than my age should permit (“bigger” would lead you to believe there is some level of “big” with which to increase upon, but I assure you I the level of “big-ness” is minimal.  Doubles, yes.  Drops, no.)

As a result of witnessing the breaking of the Gougeman’s ribs, I’m buying in to wearing full protective gear.  In the shot above, I either look hardcore, or I look just plain stooped.  I’m thinking the latter.  As years go by self-preservation is becoming more important.  As such, I should have a delivery from Mr. or Mrs. UPS tomorrow with some body armor and once that 50 miler is in the books, I’ll be heading back to the park to jeopardize my bones with the best of them…  here’s a preview…

Produce 1 from TwoWheeledWorld on Vimeo.

The 4-Pass Loop, Part 2…

Spending four days backpacking in the wilderness shows you what sorts of things you actually “need” to survive.  Me and The Mrs. have backpacked plenty in our long and storied past but it had been a good 12 years since.  The technology has probably changed a lot in the gear (most people we came across had a good 30% less than us) but the needs are the same.

You need to have food, you need to have shelter for warmth, you need to have water, and that’s about it – everything else we covet in life is really just a “want.”

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We wanted to stay dry at camp, so I packed a 6’ x 8’ tarp and rope to string up for cooking in the rain.  Turns out we used it every evening and it was really worth the weight.  Speaking of water, you need a filtration system.

When you’re 500ft below the melting snow drift that is your water source, as we were for most of the trip, you could probably drink directly from the stream with no problem.  The risk of parasites is undoubtedly not as great as getting water from, say, a Sri Lankan river, but I wouldn’t want to take any chances.  We used a new UV light filtration system to purify a liter at a time, and it worked great.

Erring on the side of self-preservation, we had plenty of extra food, a map and a REAL LIVE compass that actually relies on Earth’s unwavering magnetic field just in case (phone apps are no good if the battery is dead), a minimalist first aid kit, and plenty of warm clothes.

Wilderness rules required we carry a bear-proof canister for food storage, and we each carried one of these heavy buggers.

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The theory is if they’re tough enough to withstand a 600lb bear they must be heavy.  And the Mrs. couldn’t stop laughing at my failed attempts to hang these from a tree branch each night.  Just having the canisters was probably enough, but the boy scout in me just had to get the full experience.  After all, with Trailrider Pass up next, we’d need plenty of calories…

Day 3: Trailrider Pass; Taming the Beast…

To have hot coffee on a chilly morning in the wilderness is a thousand times better than it is any other day.  And to have this true luxury while the rising sun brightened the forest was an inspiring way to start day 3…

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After a quick breakfast we loaded all of our Earthly possessions on to our backs, collectively groaning as the weight settled on sore backs.  The stats on the day were a little daunting.  We’d head down the valley paralleling the river for a couple miles, cross the river, and immediately be faced with a 2 mile, 2000ft vertical wall to 12,400’ Trailrider Pass.

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And on the other side we’d descend nearly as much in a knee-wrecking series of switchbacks to Snowmass Lake.  The morning sun warmed us quickly and the scenery was stellar.

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Once we crossed the river things got serious and the trail really steepened.

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Short, frequent breaks to take in the views is what it was all about to keep making headway.  Little by little, step by step, the trees thinned and the views got bigger as we ascended.

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Gasping for air, the summit grew closer: 1000 yards, 500 yards, 100 yards, 50 yards as we strained to crest the saddle.

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Looking back from the flank of the upper slopes we could see where we’d started out hours before…

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Once we crested the summit and peered north, the view was enormous with Snowmass Lake seemingly close enough to touch.

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With the weather situation improving as the weekend progressed we lingered and ate atop the narrow saddle before submitting to the descent.  Snowmass Lake sits at 11,000ft on the dot, and would serve as our camp for the night.  As close as it appeared, it was a solid 60-90 minutes away…

With each descending switchback the air warmed and the azure water reflected against the blue Colorado sky.

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Once again the trail wound through lower slopes where we again found ourselves knee deep in wildflowers filled with the buzz of bumblebees.

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Upon arriving at the lakeshore we stared in absolute awe at the jagged Hagerman Peak rising 13,841ft in elevation, from the opposite edge of the water, and the view of Trailrider Pass from where we were two hours before.

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As evening descended on the alpine lake our dinners were prepared under cover as a cold wind blew.

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A misty cloud cover settled in on the jagged Hagerman Peak which loomed above the lake.

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Once daylight faded to dusk it was an easy decision to escape the weather and retreat into the comfort and warmth of sleeping bags inside the tent.  The chilly wind faded late that night and gave way to calm which couldn’t have helped more to let us sleep through the night.

Day 4: Buckskin Pass…

The grey tones of Hagerman Peak from the night before eluded to a harsh, cold and hostile place.  But waking up the next morning, zipping open the tent flap and walking over to the water’s edge the view will forever be one of the most spectacular I’ve experienced..

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Sunlight bathed the view of the mountains over the glass-calm lake.  We enjoyed another stellar cup of hot coffee standing in the brisk morning, quietly reflecting on the experience of this remote cache.

Amidst the early morning we reviewed the map of the final pass; and were thrilled to discover that both the steepness and rockiness of the trail surface of the day before would give way to a much smoother, and perceptively easier final climb.

The final descent, however, would dish out one last kidney-punch by way of a 3000ft descent full of switchbacks in over 4 miles to complete our wilderness loop.  And with a mighty groan our heavy packs were slung once more as we set off.

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As far as backpacking trips go, the 4-Pass Loop is one of the genuinely gourmet trips there are.  World-renowned Aspen serves as a launchpad, and day 1 is truly the appetizer.  Days 2 through 4 serve up a four-course, tundra-infused meal that overwhelms the senses with color, countless vistas, and a truly remote experience.  Visited by hikers from all over the world, being from Colorado we did have SOME home-field advantage.

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As we climbed up through the alpine flowers we looked back towards Snowmass Lake in the distance and tried to pick out the peaks and valleys of our route the preceding three days.

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It had been an indescribable trip, full of our own personal peaks and valleys.

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Nearing timberline, the view of the final pass came into view… “Enjoy it, this is the last one!”20

Finally topping out at the summit of Buckskin Pass the front side of The Bells came back into view, after completely encircling them on our route.

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We got a glimpse of a herd of white mountain goats on a distant peak, celebrated, and re-upped on the calories that would get us to the finish.  It was all downhill from here…

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The cherry on top was the final days’ weather; cloudless from start to end amid flowers at their peak color of summer.

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The 3000ft descent lived up to its difficulty and we were all pretty shot the last couple miles.  “Would you do it again?”  I asked The Mrs. as we rounded the steep switchbacks towards the shuttle stop at the base of Maroon Bells.  “Ask me tomorrow…,” was the reply.

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I knew my answer.  Trips like this are grounding.  We all get comfortable in the luxuries of home; the conveniences of cell phones, the reliance on the fact that whenever you open the refrigerator door there will be food in it, and when you push the gas pedal the car goes.  But I loved being out there and self-reliant.  When the sun comes up you wake up with it.  You carry what you need and you propel yourself to the next destination.  You make do with what you have, and when the sun goes down you go to sleep.  This may seem very caveman and barbaric when described this way, but it’s all very organic and natural to me.  It’s the breaking down of the reliance on conveniences and the acknowledgement of life’s necessities and the world that surrounds us.  And it sure helps to have friends with which to share…

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The 4-Pass Loop, Part 1…

“Maaaaaan, this water is nasty.  Tastes like it came from a machine.”  After four days of drinking pure snow melt directly at its source, even the water at the ice cream place in Buena Vista on the way home seemed impure.  Me and the Mrs. reflected on our adventure from the previous four days as we motored down US-285 towards home.  We’d finished the famous 4-Pass Loop outside Aspen just hours before, and were in a haze of caloric depletion as we recounted our escape to the wilderness…

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The 4-Pass Loop is a 4-day, 3-night 26 mile backpacking trip through the remote Snowmass Wilderness south of Aspen, CO.  Starting at Maroon Bells, the route climbs over four mountain passes, each between 12,300 and 12,500ft elevation.  Cumulative elevation gain over four days is 7500 ft, and there is but one way in and one way out: by foot.  Add in a 50-60lb backpack and this trip is one serious mutha.  Being in a wilderness area, there are zero roads, no vehicle access, no bike access; with only the occasional jet flying high overhead.  Meaning, if things go bad, there ain’t no easy way out…

Day 1:  The Hike In…

Our group started as six.  And with nervous gusto we leaped off the Maroon Bells shuttle and began our trek on Thursday at 1pm.  Within 30 minutes, the rain jackets were pulled on as an afternoon storm rumbled through.  Following the first couple miles to Crater lake, the tourist crowds were left behind as we hiked through 10,000ft.  With Maroon Peak looming above our right shoulders, we soldiered on, climbing steadily.  Things were good, the rain let up, we were fresh, and the 5.5 mile hike moved along…

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Late in the day the trees would thin as we approached timberline.  The strategy was to try and camp as high as we could but below the first pass to get a head start on day 2…

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Our first camp would be at 11,500ft elevation amongst the smallest wind-whipped pine trees and low-lying willows.  Me and The Mrs. tucked the tent up tight against a group of trees, sheltered from the wind.  By now it was 6:30pm; cloudy with light rain.  We tore into our freeze-dried dinners by 7, and were hunkered down inside by 8pm with nothing to do but review the route, and listen to the wind…

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As I zipped the tent door I glanced up at the surrounding ridges and peaks, which by now were completely socked in by swirling and misting clouds.  Mentally, today would be the easy day.  Tonight would be our go/no-go moment.  We could wake up to bad weather, or early fatigue and decide to hike the “easy” 5+ miles back.  But if we decided to go for it, we’d be all in.  There ain’t no bailouts in this remote loop.

Day 2: West Maroon Pass…

Fifteen minutes before 7am a pack of coyotes would serve as our wake-up call, howling across the alpine valley outside the tent; and we reluctantly ventured out of our warm sleeping bags.  We staggered out of the tent into the crisp air to take in a sun-soaked view… yesssssss…..

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Our tent site perched on an outcrop, and surrounded by peaks close enough to touch, the u-shaped valley below stretched back deep past Maroon Peak from where we began.  Good weather was a very good sign.  That’s because the majority of the day would be spent above timberline.  As we swung our heads around the 360 degree view our gaze focused on the first task:  West Maroon Pass.  One mile away from us, and almost 1000ft above, the trail cut steeply up the ridgeline to a saddle at 12,480ft…

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Yowza.  After a quick breakfast two of our group decided to turn back as we broke camp and slung our packs on.  Our group was now four.

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0.9 miles, 900ft, and 50 lb packs meant one full hour to the top…

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This would be our warmup.  Standing there at the top, at 12,500ft the view of Hasley Basin on the other side was captivating…

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At the same level as the surrounding peaks, a lush green valley stretched out below, carpeted with wildflowers…

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Elated and full of new energy, we snacked and pressed on down the steep switchbacks towards Hasley Basin.  Knee deep in purple tansy aster, blue lupine, bellflower, and yellow Old Man of the Mountain, the constant buzz of bumblebees filled the fresh air as we contoured the high valley…

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We would descend less than a thousand feet on the trail which contoured Belleview Mountain…

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I could get used to this…  It would be a two-pass day, and a couple miles later we approached a trail junction where the sign pointed to Frigid Air Pass, almost literally straight up to our right and 400ft above, at a grade of almost 40%.  A cool breeze greeted us as we popped up to the 12,465′ ridge.  Once again we stood atop a wide and rocky saddle with a flower-filled basin below.  This time, Fravert Basin rolled out deep below where we stood and far to the other side…

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We were now directly behind the infamous Maroon Bells, as it loomed above the basin…

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There was not another group of souls in this wilderness for miles.  With gray clouds starting to gather, we snacked on top and descended in the Fravert Basin.  Our spirits soared as the air warmed while we descended into the sunny, vibrant basin filled with colorful blue flax, purple loco, and white bittercress…

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After another mile or two we would descend into the relative safety of tree cover.  Our goal was to make it to the waterfall on the North Fork of the Crystal River and camp just beyond, which would give us a bit of a headstart on the following day.

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Our packs weighed heavily on our already strained backs and shoulders and the last few miles were long as we finally reached the falls.  This point marked roughly the halfway point in the 26 mile trek, and also the lowest elevation in the trip at about 10,700ft…

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We found a nice little spot to set up camp above the river in the trees, and it was almost 3pm.  In the late afternoon sun we took the time to relax, explore a little, and take in some of the finer aspects of the backcountry experience…

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The simple things in life.  No cars, no noise, no distractions, no electronics, no phones…

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To me experiences like this are a necessary thing.  The mountains are my reset button…

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After another freeze-dried dinner of beef stroganoff in-a-bag and freeze dried apple cobbler (a luxury in the backcountry, believe me) we were off to bed at the early hour of 8pm.  Being at our lowest elevation, and with another 12,300ft pass looming somewhere up the trail, tomorrow would prove to be another huge day…

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Old Faithful…

I was thumbing through Esquire Magazine the other day when a paragraph caught my eye.  It said, “Reliable is underrated.  Sharp is great, and stylish is a fine and noble goal, but if what you’re wearing isn’t reliable, then you might as well stay at home in your sweatpants.”  The paragraph was, of course, reviewing a $7000 watch, but those words caught my eye.   And as I flung my sweatpants across the room and suited up, it didn’t take long for me to find my reliable summer companions…

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The reliability of July, where the spring runoff fills mountain streams, hi-country temperatures are a perfect 76 degrees, and where the reliability of freshness and newness is just about everywhere…

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This really has nothing to do with anything.  It’s a happily normal summer filled with the annual milestones and trails I typically ride and race in summer.  Vehicles utilized have varied, but the reliability of breathing summer in deep hasn’t changed one bit…  As faithfully as the Earth travels around the sun, I’m certainly one of so many who take full advantage of summer…

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Weekends are full, backyards are filled with parties and BBQ’s, and time for blogging is short.  So, too, is the reliability of the wildflowers everywhere you look, which couldn’t be closer to peak colors right now…

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The reliability of summer and all that it has to offer is just one of those things we all love about life.  Long days, ample activities, and a full social calendar…

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Well, I’m sure you’re as busy as I am these days so you better get back after it.  I’m planning on a “vivid” campaign to the second half of the racing season since the first half had precious few instances of my name in the start lists;  I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes…  Summer’s here!  Go get it…

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San Rafael Swell, Part 2…

Day 2:

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To rise with the sun is one of natures basic instincts, and I love when I get to do it.  And as the morning sun rounded Assembly Hall Peak the campsite roused and camp stoves began to sizzle.  The familiar smell of eggs, bacon, and coffee being cooked in fresh outdoor air is simply one of the best.  The group poured coffee and poured over maps…

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We quickly decided the day’s ride would be the creme de la creme of the area: The Wedge.  Characterized by some as “the best ride in Utah,” The Wedge is a 6 mile dirt road and a 15 mile singletrack that twists and turns as it follows the edge of what can only be described as a mini Grand Canyon…

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…This ride began 15 miles northwest of camp, and Buckhorn Draw Rd wound up through the sandstone canyons, delivering stellar scenery…

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….A part of the whole “gasoline equation,” if things go south out here, you’re pretty much on your own…

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“Head south and at the cliff, turn left…!” I yelled as the de facto mapping expert when we hit the dirt…

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Narrow single track lead us from the dirt road to the rim of the canyon, winding through widely spaced junipers and over sharp rocks near the rim’s edge.

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This ride is a lot like Rampart Reservoir, for those familiar, the way it follows the long fingers of the reservoir all the way around; except instead of water in the middle there’s a 500ft drop…

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No one was in a hurry, and we’d stop often, taking in the views of the San Rafael River far below.  On the final 3 mile stretch of dirt road back to the cars, spirits soared from the ride and the fact that we hadn’t gotten lost yet.

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As the crow flies the beginning and end are only a couple miles apart, but to get clear around the rim is a solid 15 mile effort…

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As special as mornings are in the desert, evenings are just as magical.  The way the fading sun lights the red canyon walls is something everyone should experience.  And at the end of the day we regrouped at camp to share in the evening light, and once again gather around the campfire for laughs, drinks, food and stories before ducking away to recharge for the next day…

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The last day of our desert exploration we packed up the Mobile Command Vehicle one last time and headed back towards Green River, and turned off at Black Dragon Wash.  Still 20 miles from town, being so close to I-70 somehow made it seem so civilized.  “As you cross the San Rafael River on I-70, slow down and look for a dirt road leaving the highway and go through a gate,” a guidebook directed.

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The moment our wheels started turning the ride became more than just interesting.  A massive, smooth slickrock ramp jutted up from the sand, with the two-track trail leading into the mouth of the enormous canyon…

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The morning heat quickly gave way to cool shade provided by the vertical canyon walls, as ancient pictographs loomed on the sandstone walls…

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As the ride wore on the trail climbed steadily up Black Dragon Wash towards its top and the sun once again beat down…

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In the spirit of true adventure, we departed the main trail to explore the adjacent canyons and dry washes; riding ledges, portaging bikes, and generally hoodlumizing in the expanse of Black Dragon Wash…

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One by one our friends began turning back, being that it was the last day and the drive home would be long.

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Back down to the vehicles, we’d completed the weekend safe and sound.  After packing up the bikes, clinking beer bottles and changing, we took one last look at San Rafael Swell.  With some diligent preparation, planning, and a little research a trip like this can be a breeze.  We had over a dozen people in our group and in 3 days of riding we had 2 flats (one bike, one car) zero mechanicals, zero injuries, and left with plenty of food and water.  We even jump started a stranded moto.

I have to admit when I first learned of the destination for this trip last winter I was hesitant because of how remote it was.  After embracing the remoteness and being prepared for it, the reasons for my hesitation were what made the trip so memorable…

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San Rafael Swell, Part I…

Reset the odometer… Reset the odometer… Don’t forget to reset the flippin odometer….. The words kept repeating in my head.  White lane stripes endlessly flew by in the dead of night.  By now it was almost midnight, and we’d left Denver 6 hours prior.

I hadn’t seen any headlights in over 30 miles as I exited I-70 at Buckhorn Draw Rd.  Turning the Mobile Command Vehicle north, the truck’s headlights stretched down the wide open dirt road that emptied into the vastness of the south-central Utah desert.

Not only had we left the nearest town 30 miles behind, but the destination was still 20 miles off pavement.  This DirtDivas destination trip had an added layer of complexity.  A little backtracking of the petrol situation was required: Fill up in Green River, then it was 50 miles out to camp, and 50 miles back; that’s 100 miles.  Plus 30 miles to the ride on day one, times two for the return trip to camp; plus 15 miles times two for day two, plus day three mileage; plus any unforeseen driving in between meant a little extra thought had to go into this one.

Being this far off the grid piques the senses that aren’t generally acknowledged.  You notice things – like silence.  When the engine turned off upon our arrival well after midnight, we looked up to a moonless, 3D sky full of stars, unspoiled by any shred of city lights. And what we heard was silence – equally rare.  We could barely make out the black outline of massive cliffs below the starlit sky.

It was so dark, in fact, that as the headlights of the next vehicle approached camp and dimly lit the cliffs above, it was a full 15 minutes before they actually arrived.  We knew we’d driven through desert beauty this night but we’d have to wait for the sun to see for ourselves the next morning…

Day 1:

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The San Rafael Swell is 3000 square miles of dome shaped sandstone pushed up about 60 million years ago.  Since then, flash floods and constant erosion have carved endless canyons, mesas, buttes, and rock towers in the sandstone.  A proverbial geologic yearbook of sandstone layers, the Swell’s vast and cavernous canyons beckon to be explored.

And with trail names like Devil’s Racetrack, Goblin Valley, and Black Dragon Wash, it surely could be a heartless, desolate monster of a place.

We chose Devil’s Racetrack to be our first ride almost as if to tempt fate.  Following the topo map,  our small 2-Tacoma-caravan navigated the 30 mile trek; over dirt road and through drainage tunnel… We were out there… we were waaaaay waaaay out there…

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To the trailhead at Dutchman’s Arch.

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With temps perfectly perched in the upper-60′s, we eagerly hit the dirt.  Devil’s Racetrack doubles as an ATV trail, as the technical trail climbs in the first couple miles….

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The surface is actually a lot like Moab, with one major difference: zero human beings.

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Quite the technical trail, rocky climbs, ledges, and gaps kept us on our toes…

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Within 3 miles the trail levels and views of the Swell open up…

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Past the technical sections the trail surface morphs into its namesake; a fast, flowy, fiendishly fun section that heads towards the Twin Priests, and our lunch…

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Ridden as an out and back, we returned the way we came shortly after, in pursuit of our next destination: the Head of Sinbad….

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The late afternoon light softened the rock walls where Native Americans painted their religious visions, clan symbols, and events some 2000 years ago…

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Clearly visible after so much weathering, interpretation is impossible.  One can only imagine who it was who stood there and what they were trying to say.

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We gazed, talked, and thought for a while and took with us the memories of experiencing someplace so rare…

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One of the great things about roughing it is that with today’s technology it can be pretty damn comfy.  Albiet, we were 20 miles from any shred of cell coverage (which is one of the greatest and rarest feelings of living in a smartphone world) but today’s utility vehicles and camping equipment make things damn easy.  Me and the Mrs. slept on supple air mattresses in the comfort of the bed of the Mobile Command Vehicle, we shared Hurradura Anejo handmade margaritas; hell I even charged a friend’s GPS in the wall outlet in my truck’s bed.  And as day turned to dusk we played games, laughed, ate, and drank as we welcomed a few more late comers to “Festival De La BLM…”

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And as the last light gave way to the darkness of night and the group closed in on the campfire to tell stories of other trips and other trails, burnin the coals down until ducking into tents and truck beds.