Hmmmm.....a trip to Monarch Crest. I have never mountain biked up there although I have always wanted to do so; have always been told how spectacular the ride is and how phenomenal the views are. I have to admit at being a little cautious. How advanced were these riders? How fast do they climb? Would they tolerate a slooooow climber like myself? Would I be able to breathe? (Dang, I really detest this breathing issue I have...) Ahhh.. so many questions. However, I decided I was NOT going to let my "performance" concerns get in the way of what could potentially be one spectacular weekend of riding and meeting new people. After all, my friends from Yeti would be there as well as my new friend who had invited me.
Ok, SOLD! I'm going!
Up 285 to Salida with a side stop at Absolute Bike Shop. I had always wanted to stop in there since I had heard so many good things about that place. Met Jim, the mayor of Salida who happens to work at the shop when he isn't mayoring -- way cool dude! And my friend, Big Joe, just happened to be there as well. Sweet! I'm liking this trip already!
So, off we go to the campsite to set up camp. The spot was down by the river and so wonderfully woodsy and damp, giving a false sense of privacy. The muted roar of water over rocks actually gave a good "white noise" effect from the traffic up on the highway overlooking the camping area. The evening was spent setting up camp, cooking dinner and socializing by the campfire with a swig or three of Joe's "doctor" (his famous scotch).
Next morning saw us up and caravaning to the shuttle service that would take us up to Monarch Crest!
Actually, it took two full vans to get us up to the top and then another half hour getting it together. Thankfully, Joe was there to fix my brakes which were rubbing due to a slightly bent rotor. And then off we went!
I was suitably impressed! Not only with the scenery, which was breathtaking, but with the caliber of riders I was with. The group was broken down into three barely definable sub-groups of wickedly fast, sorta fast and snail-fast. It assuaged my ego to say that I was comfortably in the sorta fast group -- once my lungs decided they were going to work, that is! I did always seem to be looking at the "man-ass" of the wickedly fast....well, maybe not "looking" directly at the "man-ass" -- sorta viewing it from afar would be a fairer description.....
It definitely looks different from this distance!
However, we all finally got to a resting place and the obligatory photo-op's were met...
Me and Big Joe....
And then, after a sweet downhill there was more climbing to above tree-line! Where was everyone? The wickedly fast group was long gone and here I was just steadily pedaling, pedaling and looking at such breath-taking beauty! So was everyone -- all of us just cruising our way along the Continental Divide Trail.
We then reconvened at the Silver Creek Trailhead. No pictures were taken for the rest of the day one ride (except of my legs/feet, which I will spare you -- however, I will say that there was quite a line of demarcation between the legs and the feet!) The downhill was exceptional and had it all: dirt, rocks, roots, small drops, scree, loose crap, water -- stellar! However, after 34 miles we opted not to tackle Rainbow Trail, but headed back to the cars!
After another evening of campfire fun, the next day we headed back up to the Monarch Crest Trail. It had been determined that we would do a shorter version of the ride with a sweet downhill called Foose's Creek Trail. The head of this trail was steep, loose and more than a bit of a challenge. After watching our wickedly fast boys attempt the first few feet of descent (and seeing a couple of spectacular endos), the rest of us made the "manly" decision to walk our bikes down and even THAT was somewhat of a challenge!
However, the rest of the ride made everything well worth it! Fast, flowy, roots, rocks, huge dips, mini-creek crossings, a wrong turn thrown in, a couple of foot bridges....sigh! I don't think I have smiled so BIG....
We all gathered at the end of the single track to chat, brag, snack and discuss the route taken from there.
And, we still had some more downhill to do (whoop!) albeit on the road, but still! Ended up almost back to the camp when my tube blew -- but Joe was there to help with the tube change and advise on why I should go tubeless (which I totally will do since I keep getting these silly pinch flats! grrrr....).
Of course, the comment when I finally got back to camp was: "It was so cool your tube blew -- it meant that we could finally catch up and pass you!" phfffft! WhatEV-er!
Regardless, this was a ride I would never have wanted to miss!! New friends were made and new trail (for me) discovered! I'm thinking that this will be a perfect trip next year for the Divas! Thank you Adventure Cycling for allowing me to tag along!