Colorado Trail MTB Bike Tour
Day 13 - Angel of Shavano to O'Haver Lake
August 2, 2006. Finishing a ride, setting up the camp kitchen, setting up our individual tents is becoming quite routine. We're all getting more efficient. We were up at 6:00 this morning and riding at 8. Shawn made eggs over easy and the truck was loaded and packed. It hadn't rained the night before, and the creek flowing by the camp lulled everyone into a good sleep. Being completely worn out from riding helped too.
Our camp was just 100 yards off the trail, so it made it logistically pretty easy to cruise right out of camp and onto the trail.
We started out crossing a couple of bridges over the creek that had lulled us to sleep, followed by a pretty hefty climb, Though short, there were lots of short sections of hike-a-bike. We've become pretty accustomed to that pattern... climbs with sections that are too steep, loose or rocky (or high in elevation) to ride, interspersed with short grunt sections. It makes for a good workout.
This first climb was only about 700' in a mile and a half. After the peaked the trail went into rolling single track with a few dips and climbs but a net descent.
Shawn had a mechanical at this point. He snapped his rear derailleur cable. It broke at the attachment point on the derailleur end, so the fix was pretty simple. He shortened the cable housing at that end, cleaned the cable end, and reattached it. It worked.
We cruised out along the trail until it joined a power transmission line service road. We rode down the service road, which was just a jeep trail, but Shawn and Rooney blew past the trail turnoff and went to the bottom of the trail. It wasn't a big deal though, as we dropped down and crossed the highway and met them there. We'd come about 6 miles at that point.
We crossed the highway, which was the beginning of the next segment. The road cruised up a fire road, which was an authorized off-road trail for motorized vehicles. It followed a creek up the canyon, past a small hydrolectric generating dam operated by the town of Salida.
Ed's tire started going flat. He stopped to put in some air, but as he pumped he realized there was a small leak. He had seen a cactus near the power transmission line and told us about it, but it looks like he found it with his tire. Shawn went back to help him change the tube. He got a new one in and pumped it up to just over 45 pounds. There was a loud boom that everyone could here, even up the trail a few hundred yards. He'd exploded his tube. Apparently the tire bead wasn't completely set, and the tube was bulging. He realized but just a second too late. He and shawn put in another tube, but this time there were rocks stuck in the bead, but fortunately he saw them before pumping up to full pressure. It took a little longer than most flats would normally take.
Three mountain bikers came down the fire road, and there were other tracks on the ground. It seems this was a popular ride locally.
The trail eventually turned off the fire road, became single track again, and headed up the mountain. The climb was good, and followed Fooses Creek for much of the way up. Most of it rideable, cruising up at a steady grade. There were some short sections of hiking, but for the most part it was a good trail. It would have been an epic trail to come down, but it looked like we were riding the trail the reverse direction to what the locals would ride it.
It had been sunny and clear when we started, but it now started to rain lightly. It was also getting much colder. Twenty-five minutes later, the clouds blew through and the sun warmed us up again. With the climb, it was quite hot.
Rooney's bike wasn't shifting correctly. He tried to adjust it and ended up flaring out a link in his chain. It was screwed up, and he wasn't able to fix it. He and Shawn took out the bad link, and did their best to adjust it. The rest of the group kept going, knowing they were the fastest climbers in the group.
Shawn stopped to fill up a water bottle from a small spring that was coming out of the ground. We cruised up through picturesque meadows with views of the surrounding mountaintops above tree line. By now we were at about 11,000' and the altitude was taking it's usual toll. We were hiking sections that we'd have been riding at lower elevations.
The views were getting better and better. White clouds had started to roll in to the north making for a dramatic sky. We were loving it. Hans and Rooney had charged ahead, while Bill, Ed, had trudged along. Steve and Shawn were too busy taking photos.
The final approach, with about 400' of climbing to go turned intense. It was loose rocky dirt, and went straight up the face. The grade was about 35-50%, and it was even difficult to walk. The guidebook calls this one of the steepest sections of the entire Colorado Trail. We were almost at 12,000' and really feeling it. Rooney and Hans were already at the top, shooting photos of us coming down. Rooney hiked up a 100' or so hill beside the saddle and rode down a single track that came down off the top.
We hung out at the top for about a half hour, enjoying the sunshine and the panoramic views. It felt good. The guidebook had reported an elevation of about 12,200', but our Garmins were showing 11,990, probably due to the barometric variation, and the fact that you can't calibrate the altimeters on the Garmins. We could see the San Juan Mountains to the Southwest, with rain looming over them.
The guidebook had been right on with the distance to the saddle for this section. It was almost exactly 8 miles. With the six miles of the previous segment we'd ridden from camp, we were just over 14 miles.
We took a group shot at the top, and headed down. From here the trail again joins the Continental Divide trail, and we headed down to Marshall pass. The ride across the top, above treeline, was fantastic. We hit the second peak about a mile away, then started to head downhill on the single track. There was one more climb but all rideable, before the trail came out onto a fire road.
Rooney was still having trouble shifting, and the group stopped to try to adjust it one more time, but without much luck.
The fire road was fast and fun, with dips and jumps all the way down to Marshall Pass at 11,000'. Phil was waiting there when we got there, and told us that the road down to O'Haver Lake campground was ten miles and all downhill. He wanted to ride it so Ed drove his truck down, Rooney rode Ed's bike since his wasn't shifting correctly, and Hans, Steve and Shawn also rode down. It was great to have that much dirt road, all about 3% downhill grade. What Phil forgot to tell us was that there was just over half a mile climb back up to the camp by the lake.
Phil got back to camp and went straight to his tent. He wasn't feeling well, and had a migraine coming on. The rest of us had vegeburgers for dinner, and tried to figure out the complicated logistics of having two vehicles in Buena Vista, someone who needed to fly out of Colorado Springs on Friday morning. The conclusion was that there will be no peace between Israel and Palestine. You had to be there.
Ed and Rooney worked on his shifting problem, and figured out that his rear derailleur had a cracked part, the part that holds the set screw in place.
Our mechanical issues to date: Steve: 1 flat and 1 torn sidewall (both on the 310g tires), and a broken spoke nipple. Ed: Two Flats. Shawn: a broken derailleur cable, a broken chain, and a broken pedal. Rooney: a broken rear derailleur. Phil: two broken spokes. Not too bad for 250 miles of riding in nine days, most of which was on single track.
Our day's stats were 31 miles of riding, with about 3 miles of jeep trail and 10 miles of dirt road descent, 4589' of climbing and 4493' of descent.
It was a great section of the trail, and aside from the push to the top, was absolutely epic. Next time we'll have to do it in the reverse direction. Going that way there would be almost no hike-a-bike, and some steep, fast, technical single track descents.
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