Colorado Trail MTB Bike Tour
Day 10 - Turqouise Lake
July 30, 2006. Today's ride was a very different one to what we'd been experiencing here in Colorado. Much drier, lower elevation, more fire roads, with water views and warmer temperatures as we rode around Turqoise Lake.
We started out from our campground at Half Moon West and headed up to the dirt Half Moon Road to the Mt. Elbert Trailhead. Mt. Elbert is the tallest peak in Colorado, and is just 60' shy of Mt. Whitney's elevation. The Colorado Trail and Mt. Elbert trail share the first 1.2 miles. It was a steep climb with rocky water bars, that was much more than we expected from the official guidebook elevation profiles.
One thing we've come to realize is that the Elevation amounts listed in the guidebook differ greatly from what we've been recording with our GPS units. Our Edge GPS units have consistently recorded 25-50% more elevation gain than the book lists, and we're now planning for it. We're not sure why... perhaps our units have a higher "resolution" for elevation change than the units they used, or perhaps they are not doing cumulative elevation gain. So our estimated 75,000' of climbing for the trip could be much more.
Steve had a pretty good OTB off the end of a bridge. He didn't quite clear the second piece of wood...
The rise eventually became rolling up and down terrain through pine forests and alders. We cruised through this section, past a beaver pond, on the mostly smooth and fast trail surface. The trail turned to jeep trail in places, then back to single-track, and gradually descended until we were in sight of Turqouise Lake. We passed under the highway and on to the edge of the lake.
We dropped down into an area that was much drier and notable for its lack of trees. It seemed a lot like California here with dry dusty single track and low brush. We rode around the lake, with temperatures in the low eighties, but feeling much hotter in the direct sun. There were no trees to shade us. We skirted the lake, but at one point the trail disappeared. We headed out to the road, which was just a few yards away, crossed a bridge, and found it again.
We rode past the dam and headed around the south side of the lake. The trailed rolled along the bank for about a mile, but this side had pine trees and the trail rolled up and down, before switching back into a 20% grade 600' elevation gain climb. Fortunately, this climb was all rideable. There were no water bars, and the gradient was steady all the way to the top. Not a problem to ride, but still quite a grunt. The lower elevation helped, as we were only in the 9,500' range, lower than we had been since we started the ride in Denver.
From here the trail again rolled along for miles through the forest, and again became quite dried out. We eventually merged onto what appeared to be a power line service road which climbed up and over a ridge. The final descent was steep, loose and very rocky, with views of Clear Creek, Clear Creek Ranch and the lake below.
We rode down this last section and headed down the dirt road to the lake. Swimming at the end of the ride was quite a treat. We were able to cool off while Ed rode the last mile to where the truck was parked and came back to pick us up.
From there, we headed to Leadville for a little city life. First stop was Pizza Hut, from where Steve was able to upload the previous three days of reports, and we gorged ourselves on salad bar and pizza. The laundry, two doors down, was an adventure. We just made it in, and it started to rain. Then hail. Heavy, heavy rain. Our bikes and Ed's truck were all getting a free wash... not a bit of dirt or mud left on the bikes once the storm passed.
Ed and Hans stocked up at the Safeway market, and we headed back out to our camp at Half Moon West for the night.
The day was a 24.5 mile day, with about 3,100' of climbing and 3,950' of descent. The guidebook said it would be 1500' of climbing....
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