Colorado Trail MTB Bike Tour
Day 5 - Georgia Pass
July 25, 2006. This had to be one of the most incredible days of mountain biking most of us had ever done. It rained most of the night, and we all had wetness issues, but not the type that you can take care of with Depends. But nobody was too flustered by the incessant damp... it had stopped raining by the morning when we got up at 5:00 for an oatmeal breakfast. It took longer than expected to pack up, since we were all trying to dry as much as we could before packing it away.
We were on the trail about 7:35 a.m. The climb from Kenosha Pass started out gently, the dirt firmly packed from the night's rain. The trail climbed through pine forest before opening out into wide open meadows with incredible views of Big Valley below and the mountains to the south and west. After a brief downhill, we passed through aspen groves and fields full of wildflowers and greenery.
There was a slight descent before the big climb started. We climbed from 10,000 feet up to 11,880 at the top of Georgia Pass. There was rain looming in the distance, and the temperature would change by 20 degrees or more in less than a minute as clouds rolled by, or the sun came out.
Having learned the lessons from day 1, we filled up our bladders out of a stream at about 8 miles, half-way up the climb. The water looked pretty clean, but none wanted to take any chances. As it turned out this was the best bet, as there wasn't water until we passed the summit and were on our way down the other side.
The altitude definitely got to everyone, and Glen was really tired and taking his time on the climb.
Mike made it to the top first. He wasn't distracted by having a camera and wasn't stopping to take photos every few minutes. He bundled up and found shelter by lying low behind some brushes, out of the wind. He was waiting there for nearly a half hour (so he says!) before we arrived.
Steve had a little carnage today, falling over and down a rocky embankment when his back wheel spun out on some slippery roots, and he wasn't able to get his foot unclipped. No major damage, just a bit of skin on his palm (he hasn't worn gloves the whole time, as usual).
There wasn't a lot of wind, but it was definitely pretty cool at the top of the pass... figuratively and literally speaking. The views were breathtaking, and the open alpine tundra feel of the pass with a thin single-track line through the middle was a fantastic place to be. We were all marvelling at the opportunity we have to be here in this place, right then and there. Nothing matter except that we'd made it to our first big pass.
The descent off the west side of the pass was one of the most fun single track descents any of us had done. It snaked it's way through meadows, pine forests, aspen groves, with views in every direction. The trail got quite technical in places, really rocky, slippery, with lots of roots and firm-packed earth. It seems the trails handle the rain well as the roots form natural water bars which divert the water. In addition, they don't (or haven't recently) had the intense drying followed by torrential rain that causes the trails to form deep ruts. These trails are pristine.
We made it to the bottom of this climb, and to the optional bail-out point. Everyone chose to continue on to the second climb, even though there was some weather up ahead. This climb was about the same grade as the first, ranging from about 10% - 20% on average. The earth had great traction, and we just paced ourselves.
By the time we got to the top of this climb there was a thunderstorm moving in pretty close. It had rained on the group and we'd donned rain gear again. The thunderclaps seemed less than a mile away. We didn't want to stay on the top of the mountain too long, even though it was covered in trees. There is always the thought of lightening strikes.
Ed caught up to Steve and Hans and let them know that Glen had stopped to lie down and recover, just a half mile or so from the crest. Mike headed down first, since he didn't want to go to fast on the descent, and Steve, Hans and Ed caught up to him after a few minutes. He'd been in radio contact with Glen and told us that Glen was on his way, so everyone waited for him.
This last descent was just as great as the descent from Georgia Pass. Steve got a pinch flat on one fast, straight rocky stretch. The rocks were really sharp and grabby in places, so it's not surprising a 310gram tire would flat like that. A quick tube change, and everyone was on their way again. By the time the group reached the lower third of this descent, the sun had come back out and all were feeling the heat in their rain gear.
The final section was a gentle climb, followed by a rolling forested section, then a series of tight switchbacks down into the town of Breckenridge. It was a fantastic 32 miles.
We headed out to a campground on Lake Dillon. We got camp set up and had Salmon and vegetables for dinner. Then it started raining, and it hasn't stopped yet.
Tomorrow we're planning a rest day, before tackling Tennessee Pass, a section "for expert technical single-track riders" with difficult ascents and descent. We can't wait!
Totals for the day ended up being 30 miles of riding, 4826' of climbing, 5622' of descent, 8:20 on the trail, and 4:45 ride time. Yes, we stopped a lot to enjoy the views.
All I can say is Wow! I can't wait to see what's next.....
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