The Colorado Trail Race, 2013 Race Report

The Colorado Trail Race (CTR) had it’s 7th annual start this year on July 21st at 4am. There were only two elements that could make this year’s race more difficult than years past: a direction change or an alternative wilderness area detour. It so happens that this years CTR incorporated both. As a rookie to the CTR, but having rode the trail last year, I was not certain that the direction change was what made it the trail so taxing, but I knew that the additional 50 mile Taryall detour added a new element of challenge for many.

In any case, my first CTR would include riding 550 miles from Durango to Denver with little idea of how much time it would take. I set a goal of under 6 days, just to make sure I could get back to Crested Butte with a day to spare before work. All of my plans and preparations had been solidified roughly a week before the race, and all I needed was a ride down to Durango. It came down to the wire but Nate Stewart from Gunnison, a fellow CTR racer, volunteered to drive his car down to Durango.

Nate and my bikes in the back of his truck, if only they knew what they were getting into.

We arrived in Durango on Saturday afternoon, got some food, a hotel room, and made final adjustments to our rigs. It was nice to chat with another rider the night before as it really helped me figure out some final details. I slept well that night, had dreams of beautiful mountain vistas, sunsets, and laughs. I woke up, put on the bike clothes that I would wear for the next 5 days, and headed over to Carvers for a delicious quiche and some coffee. 74 riders all assembled in front of Velorution Cycles and set off at 4:00am after Stefan, the race organizer, said a few words. Eventually we would hit the Junction Creek Trailhead where we were all bottlenecked for a while. I had a good position until I needed to stop to adjust my bike computer sensor. I dropped far back and it was a struggle to get back up front. The sun rose and slowly everyone spread out.

I had no real plan but to keep pushing. I got to Kennebeck Pass and eventually Indian Ridge where I had my first taste of the Colorado Trail hike a bike (HAB) with Jefe Branham and Max Morris.  Jefe eventually took off and I would never see him again. He went chasing after Jesse Jakomait who took off hot from the start. Blackhawk, Bolam, and Molas all passed with my lungs taking a beating. I forgot how high this trail can be. Even after training in Crested Butte, I still felt the altitude. I would eventually make it into Silverton around 6pm where I saw Matt Schiff and Jerry Oliver eating some food. I was certain I could make it to Silverton before the grocery store closed at 8, however I still packed a lot of food in case. I didn’t purchase much at all in Silverton, just a few things to eat at the time.

I made my way up Stony Pass trying to bike as much as possible. The sun set beneath the mountains
just as I got to the top. I was getting my lights ready for segment 23 when I noticed my head light, a Fenix LD20, wasn’t working. The same thing happened to me on the Arizona Trail Race 300 this year. It just shorted out for some reason. I replaced the batteries, banged it against my hand, event took it entirely apart, but had no luck. Fortunately I was prepared for this and had my Black Diamond Spot headlamp as backup. It emits 90 lumens for a good while on 3 AAA batteries. I rigged it to my helmet and pushed on. I didn’t push too far in the dark, maybe 8 miles, before the sleep monster took over. My plan was to sleep a lot the first two nights just to feel rejuvenated. I slept 5 hours that first night. I woke in the dark and started to pack my sleep system. While packing Max and Eric Cutlip passed me. I eventually caught up to them and chatted with them a while. I rode the beautiful Cataract section pedaling harder then I would have ever imagined. It is truly a sight bringing your bike up to 13,000 feet. The views were unbelievable. I finally got to Spring Creek Pass and started the long, hot detour around La Garita Wilderness.

Stony Pass sunset.

I continued to leap frog with Max as we got scorched by the afternoon sun. We made it to Apples Camp and it was really a treat. I had heard about the legendary camp but had yet to experience it. It was just what I needed, a Coke, chips and shade. I didn’t stay long. I wanted to get past HWY 114 and get in towards Sargents Mesa before I would bivy up for a few hours. Both Max and I were counting on water from Razor Creek, but after further inspection we decide against filling our bottles with cow poop infested water. I was nearly out of water and knew I was going to need to detour to Baldy Lake. I road with Max until the sleep monster struck again. I contemplated continuing to Baldy Lake but decided to bivy up with Max. We slept 4 hours that night and it felt amazing.

The alarm sounded and before I knew it Max took off as I took my time getting my things packed up. I eventually got to Baldy Lake around 3:00am, filled up on water, and continued on to the infamous Sargents Mesa in the dark. Man, was I happy to do that section in the dark. Although I don’t believe it’s nearly as difficult going South to North, it is still so damn rocky. I stubbed my toe so many times that I would eventually bust up my left big toe pretty bad. The sun rose just as Sargents Mesa was behind me. Long descents, like the one to Tank Seven Creek, were starting to take a toll on my body. My feet were beginning to jam in my shoes and my arms became exhausted. After the long and steep hike-a-bike out of Tank Seven Creek, I finally arrived at Marshall Pass which was a welcoming sight as the area is so close to home.

I started to feel real good heading up the Crest Trail. I filled up on water and was ready for the heat of the day. All of a sudden, Travis Wildeboer came cruising by out of nowhere. He passed me so fast there was no time to chat, he was definitely on some sort of a mission. He continued on his fast pace and I followed, we would quickly pass Max making it the last time I would see him for the remainder of the race. I passed Travis on the way down Fooses, near the top, and had a blast on the 3,000 foot descent. It beat me up, but it was still a lot of fun. I stopped to eat some food just off Hwy 50 as Travis rolled up a few minutes later.

We got to chatting and Travis was trying to make it to the Buena Vista post office for a package pick up.  It was already about noon and I told him I didn’t think it was very likely to make it before 5pm. He crunched some numbers, as he often would for the duration of the race. He knew it would be nearly impossible and slowed his roll. We chatted all the way from the Shavano Trailhead to Cottonwood Pass. Having someone to talk to made time pass, and I was really enjoying myself on the trail. It also did not hurt that this section of the trail is actually pretty fun and not that rocky. We stopped at the Princeton Hot Springs market quick for a snack and beverage before continuing on. It was a very warm day as most summer days are in the Banana Belt. While riding up the steep road we crossed paths with three southbound riders. It was nice to chat with those guys and get their perspective on the guys ahead. Having the opportunity to chat with other racers is something I will never take for granted.

We finally made it to Cottonwood Road as the sun was setting. Travis and I had planned to make our stay brief as we wanted to get as close to Twin Lakes as possible. We ordered some burgers and sandwiches from Jan’s, and went to City Market while the food was cooking. I loaded up on batteries for the rest of the trip and got a few extra Cliff bars and a Powerade. I went back to Jan’s, devoured my burger, which I loaded with mayonnaise, and stuffed my fried chicken sandwich for the next morning in my frame bag. After our 40 minute stop in Buena Vista we were on the road again, in the dark, in complete CTR bliss. The detour was fast, I really wanted to push the pace. I felt fantastic, Travis too, sometime during the detour Travis was wondering if we could catch Matt or Jerry. I said no way as I thought they would be pretty far ahead. I think that was great motivation however. We obviously did not want to get caught by Max but we felt we were going at a fast enough pace to catch those guys. We made it to the Clear Creek Reservoir as both of us became delirious. My goal was to push to the top of the initial climb and Travis followed. Not sure if he was seeing things or not but this was the only time I ever felt weird.  I knew I would at some point, but it never got all that bad. We made it to the top and decided to bivy up in a clearing two miles into segment 11.

Details are hard to remember, but I think I woke up around 3:30am packed up my stuff quickly and got on my way. Night riding is difficult, but it’s a must in the CTR. The sleep really helped as I had a blast all the way to Twin Lakes. Before I knew it, the sun was starting to rise, and my spirits were high as a kite. One thing I never did on the Arizona Trail Race this April was listen to music. I decided to put in the ear buds for the climb up to Half Moon Road, and man I felt awesome. A little Bob Marley screaming in my ears was just what the doctor ordered. I quickly made it to Half Moon Road. I told Travis I was going to bypass Leadville as I felt I had plenty of food until Copper. He had plans of the same, not before we took a quick stop at the gas station off HWY 24.

At this point my knees started to hurt pretty bad. I became a bit worried but was still focused on the ultimate goal, so I told my knees to “shut up.” I climbed up to Wurts Ditch and eventually Tennessee Pass. I was in a funk and expected Travis to gain some time on me, once we reached the downhill and crossed HWY 24 again, I was resurrected. It’s funny how emotional a race like this can be. I still can’t believe what our bodies are capable of enduring. This was a key moment for me because I really wanted to stick with Travis, and my goal the rest of the way was to keep pace with him. Travis is used to these demands. He is an ultra marathon athlete and his body is trained for grueling races like this. We cruised past Camp Hale and started the long climb to Kokomo Pass. A perfect time for a storm, right? It would eventually dump buckets on us. Not only that but hail the size of nickels fell for a good half hour. The storm made the trail a flowing creek which made it slow moving. Lucky for us, just as we reached tree line the storm had pushed West. Behind the storm brought blue skys, which made the double pass of Kokomo and Searle possible without stopping. Travis took off and I again thought I would never catch him. I started my decent into Copper and to my surprise, ran back into Travis.

Travis near the top of Gold Hill. We were truly blessed with the weather this afternoon.

We biked through Copper Mountain Ski Area and made our way off route a bit to the gas station off HWY 91.  I walked into the Conoco completely overwhelmed, it was not normal. I gathered my self and tried to remember what I needed… Ibuprofen!!!! My knees were really hurting and unfortunately I resorted to Vitamin I, as I like and stay away from pain meds.  I got a few snacks, a coconut water, ordered two sandwiches to-go, and a meatball sub to scarf down quick. My stop was quick, but not as quick as Travis who was always ready to get back on the trail. This was a good thing as it made me hustle whenever I stopped. I made my way back to the trail stuffed but mentally prepared for the HAB up Gold Hill, I nearly hiked the whole way to the top. Luckily the weather had turned to clear skies, and it would last the whole duration of the steep climb. We made it above tree line as I stopped and soaked up the views. Every so often you need to stop and soak in the beauty, and remember how beautiful the Colorado Trail actually is. We made it to the top and started the long descent which turned my arms into Jello. The sun slowly faded just as we reached the the trailhead. Travis and I stopped to eat some food, layer up, and turn the lights back on. The last major climb was in our reach, Georgia Pass. At first the riding was fun, but my body soon shut down and needed to sleep. Travis felt the same way so we bivied up about 8 miles into segment 6. I shut my eyes, knowing this may be my last rest until the finish.

Selfie near the top of Gold Hill
a typical section of the Coloraod Trail, Gold Hill.

I woke up to the crushing sound of thunder as rain drops started to soak through the trees and onto my bivy. It was around 3am and I rushed to get all of my things packed before the rain saturated all of my stuff. Everything hurts, my ass, my knees, my upper body, my mind. It is always so difficult to get back on the saddle after a few hours of rest, especially this far into the race. I got moving a few minutes after Travis and started the long stretch up Georgia Pass. It was raining pretty consistently, making every root as slick as ice. It didn’t help that the Georgia Pass climb is a trail of roots. I reached for my sunglasses as rain started to get in my eyes. I usually kept them on my helmet, but when I reached for them, they were not there. I had been in such a rush to pack up my things that morning that I forgot my sunglasses on the ground. I was not happy. We finally made it to the top of the pass as another huge storm came whipping in from the West. I hurried to shelter myself near tree line as the rain really started to fall. Here I would layer up to prepare for the cold wet ride down Georgia Pass. I was freezing, my body hurt with every bounce from a root or a rock. After the pain of the century ended, we finally reached Kenosha Pass, filled up on water and were ready to embark on the unknown Teryall detour.

First we had 6 miles of unknown singletrack that I completely forgot about until it was in front of me. It went by fast and it was relatively fun. We then reached the famous Taryall detour. I now look at it in three parts. Part 1 being lots of ups and downs, a few turns here and there but very bland and uneventful. Part 2 started when Pat greeted me as we turned in to the Stage Stop “you Neil” he said. “Yeah” I responded. Pat was the owner of the bar and convenience store. He was completely into the race following us all on Trackleaders. He mentioned that there was some one right behind us. We went to his computer to find out it was Wayne Keith, who started his individual time trial on the 19th. I was happy to find out no one else was near us. I ordered a chicken sandwich and got a few items for the road. We thanked Pat and quickly got on our way as Wayne rolled in. He was excited as ever and pumped to finish the race, as was I.

Travis on Wellington Road

Part 2 continued until we were greeted by the construction crew. Just my luck, we missed the 10:30am opening and had to wait until 12:00pm. Travis and I were upset at the time because we thought it would hinder our sub 5 day finish. We took the time to sleep in the shade under a truck. Part 2 continued through the construction zone and through the town of Taryall. All in all it was not too bad. Part 3 however was the kicker. It started off fun, a nice climb, a nice descent, another nice climb, another nice descent. It was crazy to see how vast the Hayman burn area actually was. Soon the receptiveness of the climbs and descents became draining and before I knew it a storm with a consistent 35 MPH wind started entering our direct path. Before I knew it I was being pelted in the face and eyes by hail and rain. I really could have used my sunglasses right now. The storm didn’t slow us down however,  as we knew the sub 5 day goal was in our grasps. It continued to rain all the way up Stony pass (the not so stony one), and all the way down to Wellington Road where segment 3 began. Taryall…Yes, it was longer then I could have imagined, yes, it was miserable for Part 3, yes, I voted against the detour, but looking back on it I can’t say it was the worst part of the CTR. I even remember Travis saying on one of the downhills how awesome it was.

Me on Wellington Road.

We started segment 3 as the rain finally came to a stop and the sun quickly set. We reached little Scaggy Trailhead. We were making good time and both Travis and I knew we had one more major climb left. We both made phone calls to our pickups stating we would be arriving at Waterton Canyon between 12:30 and 1:30am. We started segment 2 in hopes that it would be super buff singletrack, but with the rain the trail was slow moving. Travis and I talked the whole way down to the Platte River praising each others performances and talking about future plans. When we made it to the river, we sat and relaxed, for the first time there was no urgency. We chilled for about 10 minutes eating a lot of the extra food I was carrying and chatted with a friendly and curious police officer. At that moment I know I had done it, I could have walked the rest of the way and been happy with my performance.

We hopped back on our bikes and continued to talk. The climb was wet and cold but we quickly warmed up as our heart rate rose from the switchbacks. It seemed to last forever, but for some reason my body felt the best it did the whole race. It’s funny the way that works. I’m sure if it was not the final stretch I would have felt like crap. We made it to Lenny’s Rest and with one more final climb we knew we were home free.  In the final stretch we decided to cross the finish together, it felt right. We arrived to the parking lot where each of our significant others greeted us. We had finished the CTR at 1:30am on Friday morning. Our final time was 4 days, 21 hours, and 30 minutes. Just like that, I stopped riding my bike and I was ready for a shower and a bed.

Time for some pizza, a shower, and sleep!

I started Mountain biking about three years now, and I would never have imagined getting this into it, and doing something this ridiculous on a bike. But this is reality, and I love every bit of it. While I was on the trail, I told myself I would never do this damn thing again. It is amazing how fast you forget all of the pain and suffering. My hand is currently not working, my knees are still killing me, and my back is as sore as ever. Bikepacking is my favorite way of traveling and I can’t wait for my next adventure.

I really need to thank everyone who supported me in this endeavor. My girlfriend Lindsay for picking me up at the trail head, and dealing with me working 70 hours a week this summer. Stew Gross for telling me I had what it took to race bikes, and of course for introducing me to Trackleaders. I was so into following those little blue dots, I told my self one day, Ill be a small blue dot myself! Rhett Griggs and Dave Ochs for giving me the opportunity to race on one of the best teams in Colorado. Its also pretty cool feeling being on the same team as Jefe, who has been a main inspiration for my bikepacking. Dave Wilson, thanks for the sweet Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks saddle bag, and your advice on sleeping a lot early really paid off. I’m so stoked to be on Team Go (Griggs Orthopedics), Its a dream come true. Big thanks to The Alpineer my go to Crested Butte bike shop, SRAM (cant wait to be like Jefe with my new XX1, haha), Acli-mate best sports drink out there, Crested Butte Mountain Resort for employing me and for having some bomb singletrack, Rock and Roll Sports, The Go To Guide, Pike Builders, Elk Mountain Lodge, Rudy Project, High Mountain Concepts, Chucks Glass, and Squirt.

Salida’s Big Friggin Loop

This past Saturday I planned on racing in Salida’s Big Friggin Loop (SBFL). After the Original Growler, and my first race with Team GO I was super motivated. I wanted to get another race in before my busy non-bike schedule kicked in. Tom Purvis, the Salida local race organizer has done a fantastic job planning the 2 routes. The base loop is the shorter of the two at 90 miles and 10,500 feet of climbing, it follows the big loops route but takes a more direct route back to Salida. The Big loop consists of 107 miles with a mix of singletrack, dirt road, and very primitive trail. The course climbs roughly 12,500 feet through thick forest and wide open valleys.

If there was an option to ride a century I didn’t want to pass it up, I was in for the 107 mile loop. The previous day I rolled into Salida with hopes to get a good nights sleep at the Days Inn. First, Lindsay and myself went to Amicas for some pizza and salad, I would highly recommend it. They are also a microbrew with a tasty IPA. We went back to the hotel where it seemed to take me forever to fall asleep. I was not all that nervous but for some reason I had a lot going through my mind, making it difficlut to fall asleep.

I woke at 5:00am excited for the race. I made my way to Cafe Dawn to get all my gear and bike ready to roll. Racers started to trickle in and soon enough the place was packed. Tom stood up to give a brief overview of the day ahead and explained about the 45 minute time reduction ‘chip’ long loop riders could find in the ghost town of Futurity. 6:30am arrived quickly and 65 riders swarmed the streets of Salida. We made our way up the contry side of Salida and steadly climbed up towards the Mt. Shivano Trailhead. I biked with Matt Schiff for a bit as 6 other riders took off ahead. Matt gave me some beta on the trail that was very helpful. We chatted a bit about bikes then he eventually dropped me a little ways after we hit the singletrack.

I forgot how difficult this section of the Colorado Trail was. I remember it being rocky from riding the Colorado Trail the other direction last year. It was much more difficult then I had anticipated. What I did know was the climb out of Prinston Hot Springs would be tough, with 1,400 feet of elevation gain in less then 4 miles.  I passed two short loop riders and one long loop rider before I got to the long decent into Buena Vista. I knew there were at least 3 riders ahead of me, and I assumed they were all going for the long loop.

I cruised as fast as my 38 tooth chain ring would go down to Buena Vista, trying hard to catch up to anyone I could. I arrived at Boneshaker Cycles, they were kind enough to have water and electrolight set ouside their shop.  It was a perfect location as it was still on course. It was getting hot, I took off my base layer and purchased a few Honey Stingers waffels, filled up on fluids and got on my way. My refuel was brief and soon I was off to unfamiliar territory, the east side of the long loop.

Jens Nielson passed me while I was at Boneshaker Cycles, I caught up with him on the climb out of Buena Vista. He set a good pace and I just followed him on the super fun Midland Trail. We climbed up Co Road 315 and I eventually passed him before the downhill where the long loop seperates from the base loop. I later found out Jens took first overall on the base loop. I took the turn left on the long loop, the head wind was brutal. I slowly made my way up and across HWY 285 into the South Park Basin.

After 285 I didn’t see another soul, at least souls on bikes. The terrain was tough, lots of permitive roads that were rocky and steep. There is a lot of time to think when your in the saddle for hours and hours. I studied the tire tracks, I saw three, I figured I was in 4th because no one in their right mind would bring a bike out there for fun. The tail-wind was helping me a bit with it blowing at my back, it gave me a boost. Eventually after a few small climbs I ran into a locked cattle guard. It stated “No Tresspassing, No Hunting, No fishing.” I didn’t want to turn around as no one else did. I had no choice but to climb over and push on, hoping a rancher would not see me.

My willpower soon faded and cruise control set in. I had to dismount my bike numerous times because of locked cattle guards. I eventually got to the hike-a-bike section after passing the turn off, thank god for GPS. I knew my opportunity to pass someone was out of the question now. I was on and off my bike for a good half hour, hiking up to the ridge that would eventually lead me down to the Ghost Town of Futurity. In Futurity I found the 45 minute reduction chip quickly in a house on the right side of the trail. I also looked for a water stash that I secretly hoped was there, nope. I was conserving water pretty well but it was hot and I wanted to chug gallons upon gallons at that point.

I took off from the small little ghost town thinking it would only get eaiser. After descending down a road the long loop rejoined the base loop. I start to notice lots of tire tracks, I was thinking maybe I would have seen some one, nope. Better yet I would start the toughest climb of the day. It took forever, the loose rock and steep grade road was demoralizing, I wanted to just walk my bike. A jeep passes me, he says “your almost there” he saw the pain in my eys, those simple words were very uplifting. I finished off my last of my two water bottles. I had a little more then a half liter in my bladder left.

After making it to the summit of the climb my legs were beat. I was completely exhausted, I was just hoping for nothing but downhill the rest of the way. That’s what I got, a very fast 10 mile decent into Salida. I recognized the North Backbone Trailhead which is part of the Arkansas Hills Trail System. I chugged the rest of my water signling a personal victory. I walked across the 3 railroad crossing and hopped back on the saddle and weaved my way to Cafe Dawn. I had made it. 107 miles, with 13,000 feet of elevation gain. This was a true test of endurance. I finished In 4th place (9hr 27min) just as I had thought. However, Jessey Jakomait who finsihed first (8hr 47min) did not find the chip, which bumped me up to 3rd… if we’re playing that game.

Big Thanks to Team Griggs Orthopedics ( Team GO) and Rhett Grigss. I was the only GO rider in the field and it felt good to represent. I also want to thank the Alpineer for Calling SRAM multiple times this month regarding my broken Reba. The persistance eventually paid off with a generous upgrade to a 2013 Sid XX World Cup. The fork worked to perfection. Another big shout out to Rock and Roll sports where I spend far too much money. Acli-mate my go to endurance sports drink, and to the rest the sponsors: Go To GuidePike BuildersCrested Butte Mountain ResortRudy ProjectElk Mountain LodgeHigh Mountain ConceptsChucks Glass, and Squirt, thank you. Can’t wait for the Vapor Trail.

Gunnison Growler 2013

This past Memorial Day weekend, 700 racers filled the Gunnison Valley for the Gunnison Growler. The Growler has been around for 6 years now and every year becomes more and more popular. The race is held at Hartman’s Rocks, and is sure to test anyone’s ability. There are two races, the 32 mile race, which was held on Saturday, and the 64 mile race held on Sunday. Each year the tough course rotates directions from clockwise to counter-clockwise. This year happened to be the faster (clockwise) direction.

This was my first race on Team GO (Griggs Orthopedics).  I felt the pressure in the days leading up to the race, but that was expected. Not only that, but my legs were not feeling 100 percent after I raced the Kokopelli Trail the previous weekend.

I woke to my alarm at 5:00am, after a decent night sleep. For breakfast I made some bacon and eggs. Stew Gross and I made our way down to Gunnison shortly after eating. I was pretty nervous. I knew I would feel better once on the trail. After getting changed and packing my food in my jersey, I was ready. We all piled in on the street in downtown Gunnison just waiting for the shotgun start, singling the neutral roll out to Hartman’s.

It was cold but I knew I would heat up fast. Bikers were rubbing tires jocking for a good position on the road. Once we reached the entrance to Hartman’s, everyone took off and it was complete chaos. The narrow road created a bottle neck. I wanted to keep to the left as there were no washboards on that part of “Kill Hill.” Later in the race Troy kept saying local knowledge is to our benefit. This was one example of that. I got up “Kill Hill” and noticed not many riders behind me. I was at the tail end of the leaders group.

I was thinking my pace was too hard, but I just kept pushing. Josho’s, Sea of sage, Skyline, and down to Bambis. After completing the difficult Skull Pass section, I made my way back up to the first feed zone. I was greeted with a platter of food, bacon, bananas and Honey Stinger gummies. The support crews were overwhelmingly helpful. Rhett was all over the place… Skull Pass-Base Area-Skull Pass…that is true dedication. I changed out my bottles grabbed some bacon and got going toward Enchanted Forest. Ochs would soon pass and eventually Troy as I rode solo through Dave Moes, Josies, and Gateway.  I reached the Top Of The World/Ridge intersection when I noticed Evan pumping up his tire that was giving him some issues. I rode through the Ridge like a sloth and made my way down Collarbone.

I reached the second GO feed tent. I knew there were a bunch of GO riders ahead of me so we all must have kept the the support crew pretty busy. I was in and out quickly, knowing one of the hardest climbs lie ahead, Backbone to The Notch. This is when my legs succumbed to the pain for the first time. I got off my bike on the sandy Backbone climb and hopped back on for The Notch. There were some fun spectators at the Beck’s junction which gave me a bit of a boost. It wasn’t over yet as we then had to climb up Rattle Snake, brutal.

By this point everyone was a good distance apart, which was nice. Josho’s, Broken Shovel, Skyline, and back down to Bambi’s. The course was pretty beat up and dusty after the race on Saturday and the first lap of Sunday. The climb out of Bambi’s was tough and Evan passed me. I was determined to stay on his wheel. I again made it to Skull Pass as the heat of the day started to crank up. The climb from the bottom was painful and I started to cramp up. I reached the feed zone and had to get off my bike and get some fluids in me. The support crew, again, was super helpful and made sure I didn’t stay too long.

I felt refreshed, I downed a banana, some gummies and had two fresh bottles for the finish.  Evan was still in sight which was my driving force not to let go. I reached the Josie’s climb when I saw Jefe. He was behind me as my legs started to fade fast. He caught me at the Gateway trail junction. I knew it was the final stretch but when he mentioned it I picked up my pace a little bit. The Cokes our supporters were handing out were adding up and giving me an extra boost.

I saw some other riders ahead and passed them just before The Ridge, that was such a confidence booster. The finish line was near as I suffered up The Ridge, exhausted and cramping. My legs wanted to stop as I started to climb out of Tailpipe. The cramping got worse and worse, but I was so close. I made it to the top and cruised down Collarbone with feelings of joy running through me, I had finished.

Team GO killed it. Brian Smith took 3rd (5:02:15) and only 7 seconds back from the winner Kalan Beisel. Brian Dillon took 4th (5:07:52) and 1st in the 20-29 class. Dave Ochs crushed the single speed class and was 13th overall with a time of 5:37:27 . Troy Hiatte placed 12th at 5:36:50 and Stew Gross rounded up the top 15 with a time of 5:43:07. The rest of the men placed in the top 25 with Jefe Branham in 21st (5:47:54), Evan Ross at 23rd (5:48:55), and myself at 24th (5:49:59). The women slayed the course with Janae Pritchette winning the ladies class at 6:14:05 and Jari Kirkland right behind her at 6:15:55. Sarah Stubbe was also in the mix at 6th place for the ladies at 7:12:23.

Overall, Team GO did a wonderful job on Sunday, with the help of Rhett and the whole support team. A big shout out to the whole team at Griggs Orthopedics, thanks for what you guys do. Acli-mate you guys rock thanks for the boost. Rock n’ Roll Sports and Dave Moe, thanks for having such a rad shop. Stan’s No Tubes thanks for keeping them tires rolling, by far the greatest invention ever! I’m new to this and I have a lot of more people to meet but to the rest of our sponsors, thanks for everything. This would not be at all possible with out you! Go To Guide, Pike Builders, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Rudy Project, Elk Mountain Lodge, High Mountain Concepts, The Alpineer, SRAM, Chucks Glass, and Squirt. Finally, thanks to Gunnison Trails and Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association for having trails for us to ride, with out them we would be nowhere. YOU. GUYS. ROCK! Thanks again and have a wonderful summer, until next time.

The Kokopelli’s Trail Trip Report

Last week my friend Mike asked if I wanted to partake in bikepacking the Kokopelli’s Trail with him. The trail is approximately 142 Miles from Loma, Colorado to Moab, UT. It takes you through large canyons, over desert plains, along the Colorado River, up to the La Sal Mountainrange, and down to Moab. I immediately accepted the invitation and declared it my final hurrah before the ski season ramps up. A few days passed with diligent route and logistic planning, eventually we got everything dialed in. Mike and I would be bikingpacking the Kokopelli’s Trail Monday, October 29th with hopes of finishing on Halloween so we could get back home and maybe have some fun.

Highway 50

I work as the Security Supervisor at Crested Butte Mountain Resort and had to work Sunday night until 12:00am. Instead of driving straight after work and sleeping in my car, I decided to sleep at my house for a few hours. I woke up at 3:20am, packed my things and was on the road by 3:40am.  Next stop was Gunnison to meet up with Mike and drive our two cars together. We left Gunnison and made our way to Montrose as the moon light illuminated the road. Eventually we would reach Grand Junction and stop at a City Market around 6:30am for camp food, snacks,and two 3gallon water jugs. Back on the road to Moab by way of Highway 128.

Up Onion Creek Road

Water is the main issue on the Kokopelli’s Trail, depending on the time of the year, some say it is impassible without water drops. After much deliberation and research our hope to do the trailself-supported without a water drop would not happen. It was tough to plan for water as people usually don’t ride the trail this late in the season. Our thought was there might be some water due to the the recent snow fall, but with lack of knowledge of the area we really had no clue. We decided to drop our two large jugs where Onion Creek Road and the Kokopelli’s Trail meet in Fisher Valley as this was a very easy access point for us off Hwy 128. This however would be our only drop of any sort. As we were getting ready to hop in my car with the jugs of water to drive up to Fisher Valley, we noticed Mike’scar was smoking pretty badly. We are no car mechanics but we both knew smoke was not good! When in doubt, add some oil. Both of us had about a quart between our two emergency bottles in our cars. We added the oil and got in my car to drive the 8 or so miles up the road. We got to the junction, dropped the water and drove back down to Hwy 128.Mikes car seemed to be working just fine once we got back, of course, just in time for my check engine light to turn on. Car issues was not the way I had hoped this trip would start. However, my car seemed to be running fine but once we got to Moab I would get it checked out.  I made my way to ASAP Automotive to get a computer test done on my car. Luckily, no issues, just a glitch in the computer system, fewef!

Getting our things together

We dropped off Mike’s car and started to head north to I-70 and eventually the Kokopelli’s Trailhead in Loma. It had already been a heck of a dayand we had yet to get in the saddle. Once we arrived at the Kokopelli‘s Trailhead, we went through our gear, loaded our bikes, and hit the trail at 2:30PM. Our Goal was to make it to Westwater but with the late October sun setting around 6:00pm it would have been hard to muster 40 miles in 3 hours.

My Setup

Even with the late start and early frustration it was hard not to put a smile on our faces once we got on our bikes! It was our first time bikepacking since the Colorado Trail trip in early September. Mike and I were talking about how amazing the feeling is, it’s a whole different style of riding!

Marys Loop Over looking the Colorado River

I’m pretty familiar with the Kokopelli Trail system out of Loma, so it was a fun way to start the trip, Mary’s loop to Lions Loop to Troy Built. All very fun single track that eventually brought us down to Salt Creek. We crossed Salt Creek and instantly our pace slowed with a hike-a-bike section until we got to the top of the ridge. 
After the hike-a-bike we got on a fast road all the way to the Rabbit Valley Trailhead.  After taking a quick break, we continued on some double track, which included sand and rock ledges. We had also noticed the Western Rim Trail and how fun it looked. I’ve heard the riding in Rabbit Valley is great, but the look of this trail convinced me I would need to return. 

Western Rim Trail Area

After wasting some time gazing at the Western Rim Trailand taking some photos we called it a day, overlooking the trail and the beautiful canyon walls! The natural night light of the moon was so bright it created shadows, it was pretty unreal. After some tuna pesto pasta and some other snacks the long day that started at 3:20am was over. We got in our bivys after 30 miles of biking on the day.

spigot with clean water….YUM!

My watch alarm woke me up at 6:00am the desert wascold and still moonlit. I slowly got out of my bivy and started to boil water for tea and food. Both Mike and I understood we needed to crank out some miles today in order to reach our goal. As we hit the trail and started our first climb, a steep and rocky but short climb I had doubts we would reach the goal. I wanted to enjoy myself on the trail but at the same time the ultimate goal was on my mind. Bikepacking makes you think about logistics a lot, at least for me when I’m riding. I have kind of picked up the phrase “not much left to do but keep going” since, it is true until your finished. Once we got to the Westwater paved road we really started to cruise. If the trail calls for paved road while bikepacking, I won’t complain. We took a short trip to the Westwater Ranger Station to fill our water at the spigot. We heard about the spigot but we were not sure it would still be on this late in October. It was and we filled up on water and pushed on. The day was getting warmer and we stopped to de-layer. As we did, a Grand Mesa Sheriff drove up to us and asked us if we had seen any vehicles today at all. We had not and told him so. This was the desert, anything goes right? For the next few miles I was thinking what the Sheriff was looking for and hoping we wouldn’t stumble upon any vehicles.

Between Westwater and Cicso Boat Ramp there is a whole lot of nothing just plain desert with the occasional nice view,  and the riding was very easy. Mike and I did a lot of chatting. After Cisco we got on paved road again, then some more technical riding along McGraw Bottom. We reached Hwy 128 after some spectacular views of the mountains ahead.

Just before HWY 128
Old Dewey Bridge

Because we were in a bind for time we decided to detour around Yellow Jacket Canyon, we had also heard the riding was a bit sandy and not fun. The detour quickly got us to Dewey Bridge, there we took a left on Entrada Bluffs Road. Spirits were super high at first but what we didn’t know was this would be the worst section of the trail, in our opinions. Views were great but around 2:00pm it was like a heat switch turned on. The heat along with the consistent climb up sand and loose rock made it tough going. After the slow climb we finally reached the decent. At first it was a fun little downhill with cool slickrock ledge drops. This got very repetitive and after awhile we made our way to the hardest section of the trail. 

The crux of the trail, Rose Garden Hill.

We were carrying our bikes at one point down Rose Garden Hill. Mike and I were saying how we couldn’t imagine a dirt-bike even trying this. We finally made our way down to Fisher Valley and eventually our water jugs. The sun was setting but we both wanted to make it to Hideout Canyon Campground, so we filled up on water and carried our jugs the 2 miles from Onion Creek Road to Hideout Canyon Campground. We had made it to a very nice campsite, with a toilet, fire rings, and picnic tables, all to ourselves. We got a fire going as we knew it would be a little colder then the previous night. We made a tuna pesto soup with ramen noodles and penne, it hit the spot. we got some good coals going in the fire, hopped in our bivys as the moon lit the earth and shut the eyes after roughly 70 miles of biking on the day. Tomorrow, we hit the LaSals, Moab, and hopefully Home!

Mike warming up
Officially entering the LaSal National Forest

I woke to my alarm at 5:45am, my sleep was not nearly as sound as the night before. It was a cold morning and I didn’t want to get out of my bivy. I rolled over to my left, grabbed some wood, and rolled back over to my right to put the wood on some buried hot coals. Not until I started a good size fire did I get out of my bivy. My watch said it was 30 degrees. It was slow getting our acts together but if we didn’t have a fire to warm not only our body’s but our spirits it would have been much slower. We got the water ready for what mike calls “rambombs” which is ramen noodles and potato flakes and the occasional summer sausage mixed, it was tasty! We got our things together, huddled around the fire one last time and doused it with our extra water. We knew we had a pretty long climb ahead but were hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as the Dewey Bridge to Fisher Valley section. We hopped on our bikes while our fingers and toes slowly went numb. The sun had yet to hit the north part of the canyon where we were. Once we got to sun the pain from the thaw hurt so good. It had not warmed up too much as we climbed. Ponderosa pines lined the sides of the roads, snow started to fill the shaded areas but the views became increasingly more and more spectacular. We passed paradox trail road and made our way to the top while overlooking Fisher Valley, Surprisingly we never hit any large amounts of snow.

Top of the climb before we descend to Castle Valley Road

We descended from Bull Draw down to Castle Valley Road on a very fast paved road. Just as we were about to start our final climb of the trip we were stunned to see “road closed 1.5 Miles ahead no access to Sand Flats Road.” My stomach dropped, confusion set in. We were hoping this wouldn’t end our trip early. This was one thing we never thought to look into, but once I saw that sign I thought how stupid I was to have not to! We disregarded the initial sign as well as the one 1.5 miles ahead on the road. Once we arrived to the construction we were immediately greeted by some construction jerk. I asked to speak to the foreman as this guy was not the brightest. The foreman was kind and said he has not let anyone through, but said there was a road at the valley floor that would take us around the construction. We thanked him and right there descended down to the valley floor.

We scaled down this hill…..how funny!

Our so called detour brought us on a very rocky road and eventually back to the paved La Sal Loop Road. Once we got there we knew the top was near so we both pushed it pretty hard. We got to the top and soaked it in! All we had to do now was cruise down Sand Flats RoadI had done the Whole Enchlada last year, so considering our lack of time, we opted to descend down the road. I have only gone as far as the Slickrock Trailhead, and I was blown away by the cool rock formation and beautiful vistas up Sand Flats Road. We descended past Slickrock Trailhead and past what the Latitude 40 Map says the 2nd most beautiful landfill, we thought that was funny. We got to Moab at 2:30pm and went directly to Zax for a burger and a beer!

Sand Flats Road looking East

After our meal, we still had to bike to Potash Road to get Mike’s car which was another 8 miles of road riding. We got to Mike’s car pretty quickly, loaded up our stuff, checked the fluids in his car and took off for Loma to pick my car up. After a quick stop in Grand Junction at the Jimmy Johns and Starbucks I hit the road for Crested Butte. I arrived home at 9:45pm put on my costume and went out and had some fun! After it was all said and done we finished the trail in 48 hours, yet we still enjoyed ourselves. I could not have asked for abetter trip this late in October. There is something about bikepacking that feels so right; covering so much ground, carrying all the essentials on your bike, it is truly one of my favorite things to do!

I need to thank Rad Anzulovic of 2Pedal Mountain Biking, Rad helped Mike and I with last minute trip planning and convinced us that we needed to do a water drop (so thankful for that). He also sent over his draft of his Kokopelli’s Trail Guide book. It was very easy to use and help tremendously. I cant thank Rad enough for the help, Please check out his web site and look out for the Guide book coming out soon! 

Check out all my photos here 

Also Check out this brief video Mike made using his Go Pro Footage. 

 

 

A Mind Changer

First and foremost my name is Neil Beltchenko. I’m 24 and reside in Crested Butte, Colorado. I love mountain biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. This spring I made a goal for myself to thru-bike the Colorado Trail. I’ve only mountain biked for around 2 years now, but the idea to travel on my bike through the Colorado mountains by way of singletrack kind of blew my mind! As I wrote a few articles for websites about my trip, I realized I enjoy sharing my adventures and thought I should create my own blog. Here are the links to the articles I wrote. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks to Singletracks.com for publishing my first article.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Days 1-3
Part 3: Days 4-6
Part 3: Days 7-10

I wrote a more visual friendly article for Crested Butte local Frank Konsellas and 14erskieres.com.
Part 1: Denver to Buena Vista
Part 2: Buena Vista to Durango

We also carried a spot device and you can check out our progression on Trackleaders.com

Here is Mike (right) and myself (left) in Durango, Colorado at the finish with a Happy Camper IPA from Santa Fe Brewing Co.