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Colorado Trail Excursion

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

A team of strategists didn’t create the Dawn to Dusk Colorado Trail Excursion.


We didn’t bounce ideas on a white board to develop an unmatched, supported journey from Denver to Durango.

No, there wasn’t a business plan when this idea first dawned on me. Something far more powerful inspired this creation. Something that drew from the pain, disappointment, and frustration I felt as I ate two hot dogs and drank a Coke sitting in the food railcar bound for Durango. September 2017. With my fully rigid, 53 pound, bike in the cargo car the idea took its first step. Some day I would enjoy the entire Colorado Trail, fully supported, on a bike that could be enjoyed. Some day…


Almost 6 years later our group of 6 left Waterton Canyon en route to Durango. 6 years, thousands of miles, and weeks of planning prepared us for an adventure of a lifetime.

The Nuts & Bolts of the Trip

330 Miles

56,000 Elevation Gain

All of the Singletrack of the Colorado Trail

None of the Wilderness Area Ride-Arounds

8 Days.


The Support

Each day’s route finishes at a prepared camp complete with yurt lodging, elevated stretcher cots, each rider’s 60L duffel, sleeping gear, and a hot dinner. After an evening spent with Normatec compression boots, CBD sleep aids and balms, and fireside chill sessions, riders awake to a hot breakfast and another day’s planned route.


While our adventurers take on the Colorado Trail the support crew leapfrogs the route to setup camp. Once complete another guide rides the reverse route to meet our lead riders. Daily routes range from 35 to 50 miles and 5,000 to 9,000 feet of elevation gain. There are no free miles on the Colorado Trail.

The Adventurers


DtD Guide Nolan led 4 experienced riders on their journey. Adam, who’s pursuing a LT100 personal best this year, tackled the route on his titanium hardtail. Broox won the Cat2 MTB State Championship the day before we started the CT and has been on Cloud 9 with his podium-perfect results this year. Colin timed this adventure perfectly as he’ll recover from the CT and head into the Breck Epic a CT champion. Erik, who’s competing in Leadman this year put the running training aside for 8 days on his MTB. Lastly, you’ve got me joining the group when possible. Days 1, 7 & 8 I start and finish with the crew. The other 5 days require both vans to be shuttled to our evening’s destination and a spirited ride to meet up with the guys on trail. Abbe. Every adventure needs the comfort, care, and support of a camp mom. Abbe kept our portable camp a smooth machine and made sure each adventurer had more than enough food, sweets, fluids, and joy.



 

I’m amazed at how many different types of mountain bike rides one can have. Races differ from training rides. Recovery rides differ from group rides. And adventure rides? Yep. They slot in their own space as well. However when you put 6 accomplished riders at the start of the Colorado Trail Excursion you end up with a hammer session up Waterton Canyon. As Nolan and I broke the ever-present headwind to the start of the CT I looked back and thought, “we’ve got a long way to go” and dropped us into a comfortable pedal. With adventure on our minds, Segment 1 provided smiles, photo ops, and a quick reminder of the greatness of Colorado Trail single track. As plenty of day remained we took time to soak our feet in the cold river before heading into Segment 2.

Segment 2. Those familiar with this twisting, exposed bit of trail leave underwhelmed most years. I’ve taken to riding this segment at night just to add some needed spice to the pedal. This year however, provided 2 very memorable elements. 3 actually. If we include the trail interactions of Colin and Pit-Rub (trail name), then there were 3. The first: the heat. Still near our Denver elevation, the 90° day wore us like an electric comfort blanket. Steeps become steeper in the sun, sand deeper, and shade coveted. With Adam quickly progressing into “man, you look pretty dehydrated” quicker than we’d like it came to great relief when we made it to the Buffalo Creek Fire Station and our water reload for the day.

Bumping into other trail users turns from surprise to investigative journalism as days grow. Our first interaction went deep…quickly, and after learning too many details from a solo trekker, we bid her a quick farewell and moved down the path. All of us had ridden Buffalo Creek’s section of the Colorado Trail many times, yet today’s was unique. Today we were not riding at Buffalo Creek but simply through Buff Creek. That small designation could’t be over-stated. Adventurers on a journey. A journey far from home and with many unknowns. Tires pushed over familiar kitty litter but with the excitement of new trail, new vistas, and new hurdles just around the bend. Dropping into Wellington Lake, after a couple mile detour from the CT to our campsite, a well earned baptism with the spirit of the Colorado Trail.


Adam and Broox in Normatec Recovery Boots

The Rhythm of DtD Camp Life

At the risk of being repetitive over the next 7 nights, here’s a snapshot of Camp Life during a Dawn to Dusk Excursion on the Colorado Trail.

Rolling into comfort after a long day on the saddle needs to hit the immediate demands head-on. 1) get out of that damn chamois. 2) give me a cold drink. 3) where can I simply sit down?! 4) what’s to eat?!?!?


Abbe and I worked in tandem, having the CanvasCamp tents raised, the oversized OzTent cots prepared, and each rider’s travel duffel ready on their bunk, and a buffet of eats and drinks. Some come screeching into camp exhilarated and gleeful, some come in licking their wounds and working to stay upright, but all rejoined the camp ready for the 4 mentioned items. Silence settles over camp in those first minutes. Each rider addresses their most pressing concerns at their own pace. We aim to have a water source: river or lake, nearby for some au natural bathing. Once they’ve turned back into civilized creatures the decompression and camaraderie begins. Slip into the zero-gravity lounger and have the Normatec compression boots work out the day’s effort. Grab a recovery drink and pull a chair up alongside the fire pit. Or perhaps it’s a nap? Yeah, a nap sounds real nice. Go ahead, you earned it. Dinner will be ready at 7.


No 2 dinners were the same. No dinner was cold. No sir, not here. BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with mashed potatoes and cookies. Hawaiian teriyaki pork and sticky rice bowls. Angus beef burgers with potato salad, pickles, and good ol’ Lay’s Potato Chips. The green chili carnitas, black beans, and rice build-your-burrito bar was cleaned up quickly. The dinners are critical and we know that a belly of hot food makes bruises, scrapes, and gashes simply disappear ahead of tomorrow’s ride. Lights out timed by the sun and a complete night’s rest becomes more important than any other aspect of an adventurer’s recovery.

Morning begins much the way the evening ends: plates of hot food, murmuring of the riding to come, and a systematic collapsing of camp. Adventurers repack their bags for transport as Nolan, Abbe, and I break camp and prepare the riders for their day’s route. After the pancakes, eggs, and yogurt granola bowls are eaten, the circus moves down the road.



 

We don’t ride Segment 4. Segment 5 neither. We pick the CT back up on Segment 6. Hikers roll through 4 and 5 as they are deemed “wilderness appropriate” but the heathen mountain bikers? Those fiery creatures from the depths of Hell (or so assumed by the powers that be, no matter how out-dated)? No pedaling in the Wilderness Areas. Insert one of the greatest features of the DtD CT Excursion: no wilderness detours by bike. Ranging 50-80 miles these detours take riders onto dirt roads, paved roads, and back routes to navigate around Wilderness Areas. The entire CT, for bikers, totals 550 miles. Put against our route that shows near 220 miles of non-Colorado Trail riding. No…..thanks.


Day 2 began with the loading of bikes onto our Shuttle and a drive to Kenosha Pass. Bypassing a 78.8 mile detour, our adventurers popped onto the CT single track fresh for their journey to Copper Mountain. Only a few mountain passes in the way. They got this.


5 hrs later I’m cresting the ridge at 12,500’ facing down a strong wind threatening me with the faintest veil of rain. I should’ve seen our group by now. After setting camp I bid farewell to Abbe and the dogs and pedaled my way on Day 2’s reverse route. East-to-West or West-to-East, the Colorado Trail is a monster but on this specific segment the easterly direction can swallow the gumption of the toughest of tough. Knowing I’d meet the group I prayed it sooner than later. I pedaled, pushed, pedaled, and picked my way up and through the high alpine terrain. Facing the wind and driving over the ridge I began the screaming, high-consequence, descent toward the Breckenridge side. My hopes to meet the group soon disappeared as the joyous descent rushed toward me at 15, then 18, and more than 20 mph. Those moments when the bike, rider, and terrain become a single blur working in concert without thought or fear. Those moments. Momentous occasions.

Erik tops the Ten Mile Range.

It wasn’t until the Gold Hill and Peaks Trail intersection that I bothered a status check with Nolan. No sooner than I received his reply did I slap a high-five with Broox and Erik. The fellas are here! The 6 of us ultimately reconnected and began the grunt to the ridge I just floated down. Move. That’s how you accomplish big, high alpine riding. You simply keep moving. On the bike, off the bike, and alongside the bike if your feet are moving the task becomes manageable. Slowly we were swallowed by the grandness of our journey. A single view captured Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain ski areas. The first of many treeless vistas. Wrestling that ever-present wind retired our reverie and we whipped down the chunky, tricky ridge line to a brake smoldering forested descent. In a blur we race past columbine flowers, milky stream beds, and ankle-biting stumps. Camp. The comforting, complete, waiting camp drew us up the highway and to our day’s finish. Broox and I first, followed by Adam, and then Erik who used the last signals of cell service to check in with the fam, and then Colin and Nolan made our group whole. The day’s effort reminded all of us that a MTB adventure may be outlined but never defined. Each day brings its own challenges and sometimes we conquer the day and other day’s we simply make it through. 2 days, 7 segments, 84 miles, and 15,300’ gain complete.


How to care for your bike on a multi-day adventure:

  1. Address your issues immediately. If there is a small noise, a tiny misalignment, or a pestering problem, stop. Look at it. Assess the root cause and assign it a level of importance. On a big trip you won’t be able to fix every single issue but knowing the issue and understanding how important it is, or is not, sooner than later saves catastrophic setbacks.

  2. Keep your drivetrain happy. DtD Adventures believes in Squirt Cycling Products. Our daily practice includes wiping the grit and debris from our chain, pulleys, and chainring after the day’s ride and then applying a generous amount of Squirt on our chain while reverse spinning the cranks 6-8 times. Set it up in the evening and let it dry overnight. Your nightly-waxed chain will spin all day, grief free. No. They don’t pay us to say that but they do give us free chain juice. You get some for free on DtD Adventures also.

  3. Keep your pressures tight. Checking tire pressure before every ride builds your confidence your most important connection to Earth. Hand squeeze tests are a thing of the past…and a terrible gauge. Also, the little dust wiper o-ring on your suspension gives a very incomplete picture of your suspension’s setting. Checking with a digital gauge every few days, or when you experience unsatisfactory performance, can keep you gliding over bumpy terrain with a smile.

  4. Don’t worry about cosmetics. Don’t be fooled. I LOVE a shiny bike. So much so that I sent my Allied BC40 back to Bentonville after a few months of riding so they could strip and repaint it. The matte sand color didn’t pop after a detailed bath and buff. I like the mirror-like sheen on the start line, in my garage, and, well, any time I’m not riding. Hassling with the appearance of my bike on a multi-day adventure, however, is a complete waste of valuable time. Leave it dirty. Leave the paint knick from that flopped rock. Let it be ugly with a shiny chain. A mud covered face with a gleaming grill. Plus, since you don’t have all of those bike packing bags hanging on your frame you need the dirt to keep your thru-trail cred up.

 

Another wilderness area forces Day 3 broken into 2 rides. The first is a top-3 segment of the Colorado Trail and the second a rarely-ridden bit of sweet single track that I prefer stays quiet. Leave the fun to us CT adventurers.

Climbing out of Copper Mountain, and back into the wild, happens quickly. In fewer than 3 miles the day hikers, vacationers, and mountain activities disappear. Big mountains and deep woods again take center stage. Working past Janet’s Cabin (there’s a sauna there if you need more sweat) riders hit the first of the day’s 3 passes. Searle Pass opens to a chunky, challenging trek over to Kokomo Pass, before the trail gives way to a thrilling descent to Camp Hale. Knowing there’s a second leg to the day’s journey, little time can be spent imagining the hundreds of buildings that made up Hale during WWII. Soldiers trained in tough conditions preparing for the Dolomites and if there’s one lesson to remember from the 10th Mtn Division, at this point in the trip, it’s to keep moving private!

Our well-made plan stubbed its first toe just as riders left Camp Hale for a short bit of trail to Tennessee Pass. Route Finding Lesson: when following a most important .gpx route (race or specific route) turn OFF the re-route feature on your GPS unit. It is better to backtrack than to accept a reroute option. Second, if passing through trail intersections, toggle away from the Climb Pro feature. Stay on the arrows! No, I don’t blame him. Not at all! We found him and quite expeditiously but those 45 minutes +/- had me more puckered than I preferred. So with our adventure unit complete we left Tennessee Pass for a 20 minute shuttle ride into Leadville. Erik and Adam crossed fingers and turned their rally jerseys inside-out hoping we’d beat it to Buchi Cafe Cubana for what they promise the best cuban sandwich around.


Granted there’s a lot to be said for pickles when cycling, but gobs of cheese melted over pork and mustard delivered via a loaf of bread pulls even the most determined rider from “GO MODE” to “Where’s the commode?” For this reason, and because this excursion must be as much about the experience as the route, only Broox, Nolan, and I took on the final 21 miles of the day. Abbe delivered us to the trailhead and retrieved Colin, Adam, and Erik, now donning Castro caps and bellies, to the night’s camp at Clear Creek Reservoir. Did they miss out? Shhh…yes they did, but don’t tell them. That section of trail features mellow climbs on forested single track that top out a rewarding descent stretching for miles. Upon reaching Twin Lakes the CT links into a brief portion of the Leadville 100 MTB racecourse before hugging the shoreline, tempting riders to take a plunge. A short punchy section put us right back into the forest and, with a bit of effort, to the final descent of the day. Nolan and I raced one another, spraying dirt through corners and looking to best one another’s line as Broox cruised into a route-completing-finish at camp.

Camp at Clear Creek Reservoir

Another morning shuttle pulled our adventurers from their cots much earlier on Day 4. Without a 12 bike capacity rig these Wilderness Areas could really put a wrinkle in our journey. Fortunately a half dozen coffee presses later Adam, Erik, Broox, Nolan, and Abbe pulled out of camp heading to Segment 13. The day’s final goal: Marshall Pass and a camp placed high (11,000’) on the Continental Divide.

Electing for a rest morning, Colin joined me as I broke camp and we headed into Buena Vista for a visit to the roastery. I’m a fan of camp coffee but when given the chance I’ll take that frothed oat milk beverage thank you very much. Properly caffeinated and fed camp hosts make for better camp hosts. Bumping along Marshall Pass road gave Colin and I a chance for a chat, him a snooze, and a solid hour of XM’s Classic Vinyl. Just as we topped 11,000’ our meadow came into view. Big enough for our group, shaded from the penetrating sun, and only mildly decorated with petrified cow patties, this meadow transformed into Basecamp Night 4 in under an hour. Satisfied with our new home, Colin and I took off for the group on a route backtracking mission. After an hour of uphill pedaling we decided a rest day should be a rest day and turned back for camp. I exchanged Colin for Abbe and headed back up the hill with a much more attractive trail companion. Once she had her fill of high alpine riding I turned further up route to see when I’d meet the group. Not unlike Day 2, I was hoping to see them sooner than later for I knew every bit of trail I put under my tires would need to be retraced.


A half mile into the descent I was “woo-hoo’ing” and “yee-haw’ing”. Another mile down and I was in full flow-state. 2 miles in I started thinking about the energy I’d need to scale back up the 20% pitch I just flew down, and in the next 3 miles I exchanged hopes to see the group soon and to never see them again. I took that descent as the giant piece of before-dinner dessert pie that it was and without an ounce of guilt. A damn fine rip down Foose’s Creek got the juices pumping and when I screeched to a halt in front of Broox, well out of Foose’s and near Highway 50 I could only laugh and exclaim, “that’s gonna be a helluva climb up buddy!” Like a great guide should, I shared a special treat (chili spiced mango) and clapped him on the shoulder. Shortly after I did the same with Erik and another few minutes with Adam and Nolan. They had all reloaded water and steeled their minds to the arduous task ahead. Kindly reminding them that a full camp (the night’s menu: All-American BBQ with grilled chicken sandwiches, baked beans, potato salad, chips, cookies and Coke) sat just atop the next pass, I turned back uphill, chasing down Erik.

We fell into step with one another and pedaled, chatted, and billy-goated over streams and through the woods. Three-feet tall wildflowers blocked our view of the trail and the beauty of the moment helped silence the burning in our legs as we left riding behind and hiked our bikes up that 20% pitch. Nearing the top we reunited with Broox and the 3 of us topped out of Foose’s, glad to be back on the high side of the Monarch Crest. Learning there wasn’t cell service at the campsite, each of them checked in with families and we took to the final descent with fervor. Funny how the screaming legs and burning lungs disappear when these bikes take flight on a downhill. By the time we reached camp we couldn’t tell if we were 180 miles into our adventure or fresh as a Day 1 rider. Ain’t that beautiful?

Who do we do this for?

I’m a selfish athlete. I ride MY bike ALONE for hours at a time without a care for anyone beside MYSELF. I alone stand on top of podium boxes large enough for ONE person. This is MY time.


But that’s not what drives me forward. Not in a race, not on an adventure, and not when I need help the most. While we may pedal alone and hyper-focus on ourselves, most cyclists draw a massive amount of energy, inspiration, and purpose from the same people we set aside when pedaling our way to a full life. My primary argument for why I race bikes is simple. A bike race demands 100% of me. Being a husband, a friend, a coach, a son, an entrepreneur, or a dog walker rarely, if ever, demands 100% of my effort. I can text a friend while walking my dog. I can write an email and watch a movie. I can, believe it or not, even walk down the street and chew gum at the same time. But mountain bike racing? I can do only one thing. If my mind wanders I tend to crash, get lost, forget to fuel, or misstep any one of a hundred variables that must stay in check for a perfect performance. When it works, it’s amazing. The feeling of nailing a race effort provides an “attaboy” unlike any other. But… when the train comes off the tracks what do I do? I think of the others. I think of my wife, my athletes, my family, and, yes, my dogs. I think of the people that bring love to my life and I use that energy to bring the system back online. We do this for us but we can’t do it without them.


Why was Erik so charged to get an early start on Day 4? Why did he push on when I offered to stop and take his photo? Because his wife and daughter were meeting us at Camp 4. They were joining us for the night and that force pulled Erik to Marshall Pass faster than gravity.


The idyllic setting, the solitude, the big efforts already accomplished all contributed to the perfect camp energy that night. Huddled around the fire each adventurer exhibited the calm that settles in when an exciting thing becomes routine. We’ve found our stride and when Erik’s family pulled out s’more making goodies everyone smiled. Sure, the debate over proper roasting technique remained the age-old agree-to-disagree, but the community had formed and the spirit, strong.

Day 5 Start at Marshall Pass

Riding away from camp the next morning, all adventurers on route, left Abbe and I to our jobs: move camp, reload propane, reload ice, reload water, and maybe, just maybe, grab a shower. 25 dirt road miles later we hit the holy grail in Sargents. Everything we needed in a single stop with a hot breakfast to boot. 5 days in and loaded for the second half of our Excursion, ready to tackle the wildly inconvenient La Garita Wilderness Area. Our adventurers’ day included a notoriously challenging trek over Sargents Mesa. Considerable hike-a-bike, dusty conditions, and rock gardens would make for a laborious 5 hours on the bike. Good. We needed the time to get our vehicles in their correct positions. Abbe took the Shuttle Van to the end of Segment 17, where the CT meets Highway 114. I took the Camper Van through Gunnison to our camp at Blue Mesa Reservoir. We got a shower but the adventurers get a lake! Just as I hammered in the last stake my phone buzzed with confirmation that all riders met the shuttle and were happily en route to a Gunnison pit stop for ice cream and ice cold drinks.


Fully in stride with the moving camp, we hung at our shoreside compound, splashed about with the dogs, and scarfed plates of Hawaiian teriyaki pork and sticky rice. Erik’s family hung for a second night and the rest of the adventurers exchanged sessions with the Normatec boots as the sound of lapping waves drew us to dreamland. Rest would be needed. Tomorrow’s route has been known to break souls.

Blue Mesa Reservoir

The Colorado Trail connected Denver and Durango in 1987. Have you seen mountain bikes from 1987? Nobody figured the Colorado Trail to be frequented by those machines. The Colorado Trail began as, and many argue still is, a hiking trail. Day 6 will prove this point for our adventurers. Spring Creek Pass, Carson Saddle, and Stony Pass shouldn’t rank too high on the “Need to Bike” wishlist. They do however rank on the “Have to Bike to do the CO Trail” list. So with that our adventurers had another big day on the books.

Shuttling to Day 6’s start routed us through Lake City. If you’re looking for that last hidden gem town in Colorado, look no further than Lake City as it’s far enough away from a major ski area or thoroughfare to stay rustic and quaint. Well, quaint with a side dish of OHV traffic to/from Engineer Pass. The side-by-sides and big rigs dominate the gravel adventures close to town but as we reached our start at Spring Creek Pass we reintegrated to the majestic spirit of the Colorado Trail. A young man invited us to fresh fruit, snacks, and drinks with him and his grandfather, trail name Pinecone. As with many thru-hike routes, users adopt trail names. Acting as a way to completely detach from their “normal” lives and become characters of nature, trail user often become trail angels in their future years. This trail angel set up a fueling station and, along with his grandson, taking a week to connect with the spirit of the trail.


Their arduous journey to Silverton would take all day. Likewise, Abbe and I’s drive would use every bit of sand in the hourglass. Back to Blue Mesa and onward to Montrose where we’d reload groceries for the rest of our journey and then to the sweetest stretch of highway in Colorado. Driving from Ouray to Silverton, and then on to Durango can be a maddening series of abrupt stops and engine-groaning switchbacks, but drivers need only to look left, or right, and the views can stop your heart. Then again, look too long and you’ll be careening off an unguarded highway and getting far to close to that canyon you were just crooning over.


Up, and over, and around, and amongst the most spectacular mountains in Colorado, Abbe and I dropped camp at Molas Lake Campground and continued to Durango where we’d stage the Shuttle Van for our grand finale on the CT.

Abbe hopped out at camp and began prepping our pasta dinner erstwhile keeping the dogs at bay. The pack llamas positioned next to our camp had our hounds curious, excited, and confused. Frankly the whole situation, those thru-hikers with their pack llamas and the idea of hiking the CT in that fashion had me curious, excited, and confused. Back in Silverton I linked up with Erik and Broox who had finished the day’s route and were stuffing themselves with pizza, and waited for Colin, Adam, and Nolan. Rolling in a bit before 6PM they also looked curious, excited (for food), and confused (what the hell was that route?). The crux moment had come. Day 6 complete and the adventurers were feeling it.

Molas Lake Campground offered hot showers and 360° mountain views. Fully aligned to the sun clock we fell as the moon rose. 2 more days. Only 73 more miles. Arguably the best 73 miles. Molas Pass to Durango delivers 5 mountain passes and a first-time experience for our Front Range group.

POV on Segment 25

No more driving! For me anyway. Having dropped the van in Durango I could join the group for the final 2 days on the CT. Sharing the guiding load with Nolan we broke camp in staggered starts, Broox and I leaving last. Adam took his rest day, joining Abbe for some free time in Durango before our rendezvous for the final camp night, and the 5 of us took on the San Juans. Segments 25 and 26 wind through woods and high alpine fields. Sometimes alternating between the two in 1/2 mile increments. The rolling attitude let us pedal with consistency and kept our group within sight of one another for the bulk of the ride. Our only hangup came when Nolan and I had to wrestle Erik’s valve stem off of his rim. There’s a joke in here somewhere but it took 3 guys in spandex 45 minutes, and a smattering of tools, to get a tube in his wheel. I’m not terribly proud of our efficiency but we earned a few points for creativity. With ground to make up, the 3 of us made short work of the flowy descents and punchy climbs. Our delay proved just enough time for Broox and Colin to get a head start on filtering water for much needed refills. This 35 mile day came and went with expansive views, phenomenal trail, and a bonus downhill ripper. Nolan’s expertise of the region gave us an unplanned rip down to camp and much like Day 4 it refilled our MTB vibes.


The best made plan, on the best laid trail, in the best state, in the best country easily crumbles under the weight of a single variable: weather.

We’d been lucky. Nobody brought it up. Best not to speak of such fickle, unpredictable, diabolical things. Simply take the win, when offered. However, just as the adventurers exchanged their spandex for sweatpants, the sky opened. An innocent sprinkle turned full rainstorm and our hasty retreat to shelter both quick and complete. Over an hour passed and the rain showed no sign of letting up so I donned my rain gear and prepared 18 Angus beef burgers letting the weather wash over me, and the grill. Our Dawn to Dusk philosophy was about to meet its test. Go to the Trailhead. Always. That simple commitment, that necessary commitment, keeps adventures on task, but with the rain relenting just enough for our riders to eat dinner, we had to take stock of our options. Option 1: if the rain doesn’t stop do we call it and drive to Durango in the morning? Option 2: if the rain doesn’t stop do we push on?


We didn’t have to choose. Fate rewards the bold and we woke to blue skies, what should prove to be hero dirt conditions, and a final morning of Kodiak Cake pancakes and coffee. Camp is over. We have eaten our last meal outside. The tents have been packed for the final time. There lies one final task ahead: Segment 27 and 28 to the terminus of the Colorado Trail in Durango. Let’s go!


Everyone saddled up. A short, albeit completely uphill, forest road delivered us back to the CT and we rejoined the single track one more time. Adam in his customary unicorn-horned helmet. Erik in his party-boy, last-day banana peel Hawaiian shirt. Broox rocking his 7th, and final, race kit. Colin representing in No Ride Around team colors. These 4, alongside Nolan and I, completed our merry band of MTBers who will soon be able to list the Colorado Trail on our highlight reel.

 

It’s not easy. That Colorado Trail still demands your best, and worst, and best again, even in the final miles. Indian Ridge appears to be a dragon’s lair of rock and ridges. The miles spent above 11,000’ start to wear on tired muscles. The rising temperature, as you descend toward Durango, remind riders that the high desert is in fact, desert. Each of these uncomfortable aspects of Day 8 are countered with equally impressive views, terrain, and woo-hoo side hits that allow the roller coaster to exist both on wheels and in hearts. “One more climb,” I holler over my shoulder as Erik, Adam, Broox, and I cross a final bridge. What I didn’t say is that the climb features a few 20% grades but at this point in the trip up is simply up. And when that final climb falls, we are left with a 10 mile descent into Durango. A descent so long, and so fast, and so fun that time disappears. Peripheral vision blurs and focus hones on the slender strip of trail directly ahead. My role of guide disappears. My self disappears. I submit to the pull of the trail, the flow of the turns, and absorb rock, root, and drop in a constant flow of go. Durango is near and yet I want the descent to last forever. Ultimately the parking lot breaks my reverie. I have arrived and I cannot miss the chance to video capture the moment our adventurers hit this same spot. They’ve invested a lot of time, a ton of energy, and more than a few bouts of ouch for this moment. So I ready my camera and wait for it…


Broox.

Adam.

Erik.

Nolan.

Colin.

They’ve all arrived. Some fast, some slower. Some all the miles, some most. Some scraped and bruised and some…scraped and bruised. But all of them, with 100% commitment, have just pedaled their MTB from Denver to Durango on an iconic cross-state, single track, route of more than 330 miles and 56,000’ of elevation gain. Dawn to dusk adventuring for Dawn to Dusk Adventurers.


 

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