Summer Skiing

June rolled into the Front Range with bright sun, blue skies and temps in the 70s. Sounds perfect, right? Well, we ditched out on the perfect summery weather and headed to the mountains to get a little more winter.

Saturday we buzzed up to A-Basin for a few hours on what was their anticipated closing weekend, but thanks to a late-season (um, summer season?) storm, they had gotten nearly a foot of snow earlier in the week and are extending their season for at least one more weekend.

June Skiing A Basin

The conditions were the best summer skiing conditions I’ve had in Colorado. The temps were warm, no wind, sunshine, and plenty of slushy bumps at the bottom. The top on the other hand was so far from slush. It was perfect soft snow. You’d have never guessed it was June 1st.

Evan_ABasin_June13

Not only were we stoked to get up there to tick off skiing in another month this year and enjoy the summer conditions, but we also retrieved our mugs! Thank goodness we went because the 6th Alley Bar isn’t open next weekend, so our mugs would have been long-gone.

ABasin_Mugs_June13

We didn’t use or mugs nearly as much as we’d hoped, but definitely still love having them.

Cheers to summer skiing!

 

Kokopelli Trail Ride Fundraiser

I have been volunteering with Trips for Kids Denver/Boulder as a ride leader for about five years now. Some of you might be familiar with TFKD/B through their involvement with Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. The group is great, and takes under-served youth out in the mountains on single- or multi-day mountain biking and camping trips. TFKD/B also runs the “EARN A BIKE PROGRAM” which focuses on teaching kids bike maintenance while promoting safe urban cycling. It’s a great program run mostly by a volunteer staff on a shoestring budget, and they certainly could use all the help they can get. Which is where this comes in…

 stephevanmoab

Evan and I are participating in and asking for your support and donations for the Trips For Kids Denver/Boulder Kokopelli Pledge Ride—an epic three-day mountain bike adventure from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT on the Kokopelli Trail which covers 142 miles on dirt, ending on the Porcupine Rim Trail. Each day of the “TFKD/B Kokopelli Challenge Ride” is its own epic ride, testing the endurance of the riders in the same way Trips For Kids programs challenge Denver and Boulder’s under-served youth. The weekend of riding and camping promises to be a fun, positive, and personally motivating experience for both Evan and I, since we love long rides and we love sharing them with others. The people I know who’ve ridden the Kokopelli Trail say it changed their life, and we can’t imagine anything better than having such a life-altering experience also positively affect others as well. Proceeds from this pledge ride benefit TFKD/B’s cycling based programs that build the health and boost the confidence of over 1,000 under-served youth each year. Basically, this is a similar deal to rides like the MS150, Ride for the Cure, or Ride for the Roses but with a very localized focus, making an immediate impact here in Colorado by getting kids out on bikes.

Please consider helping TFKD/B bring our passion for mountain biking to kids who would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience it by donating to our ride! It could be $100 or it could be $1, everything helps. If you’d like to donate follow the link below.

 https://www.coloradogives.org/StephAndEvanKoko2013

Cheers To Not Prohibition

On this day, January 16th, in 1919 the 18th Amendment was ratified and on January 16th, 1920 prohibition started. For the next 13 years it was illegal to produce or sell alcoholic beverages.

I thought it was only appropriate to focus on alcoholic beverages today, especially my favorite of them, craft beer. Because beer matters.

because beer matters

On our recent trip to Seattle, we visited a couple of local breweries my favorite of which was Fremont Brewing. Even before I made it inside this “urban beer garden” I knew I was on the right track because of this sign out front.

fremont resolution board

I loved the inside of this cute little place with bleacher like seating at the entrance, chalkboard paint behind the bar, lots of taps, picnic tables, big bright windows, an outdoor seating area and primary colored walls.

I was overwhelmed with the number of beers that this small brewery had on tap. There were at least 13 on tap and a couple of others we tried that hadn’t officially been tapped yet. I didn’t take notes or a photo of the beer list, but I should have.

fremont dark star

Below is a list of what I believe we tried and some brief tasting notes.

fremont flight

  • Universal Pale Ale
  • Interurban IPA –  This was a really delicious tre to style IPA.
  • Wandering Wheat
  • Abominable Winter Ale – A delicious Winter Ale. Strong, dark, and malty with hints of hops.
  • Harvest Ale – A perfectly balanced Saison that was delicious.
  • The Brother Imperial IPA – Big, bad, brother. All hops. All.the.time.
  • The Sister IPA
  • Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout – So smooth and easy to drink which is scary given it was around 8% ABV.
  • Super Duper IPA – This IPA was really piney, but had strong citrus notes as well.
  • Dark Star Oatmeal Stout with Hazelnut and Chocolate – It was like drinking Nutella Beer. It was definitely something you’d have one or two of, but not drink a bunch in a row.
  • Harvest Ale Cask Conditioned w/ Buddha’s Hand and Thai Basil – HOLY AMAZING. This beer might make my list of top favorite beers ever. The flavors played so well together and the cask conditioning make it perfectly mellow.
  • Wandering Wheat w/ something – I cannot remember what this was, but I’m pretty sure we had two wandering wheats.
  • Abominable Winter Ale Nitro – again, I can’t remember for sure, but I think we had one of these on nitro

fremontbrewingtasters

It was a long afternoon, which explains my brief tasting notes. Tasting that many really excellent beers all at once was pretty overwhelming for me. There wasn’t a single beer that I wouldn’t have again which, for me, is unusual when tasting so many.  As overwhelming as it was, I survived. Evan seemed to handle it just fine too.

evan at fremont

After our flight we, of course had to order one of our favorites. My top favorites were the super special beers – the Saison with Buddha’s Hand & Thai Basil and the Dark Star Hazelnut, so I wasn’t able to get a full beer of them. I ended up with a regular Dark Star which was also satisfying.

dark star fremontThe staff a Fremont was also amazing. The fella that was helping us was very friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and spent a decent amount of time chatting with us, getting our opinions on the beer and even let us try beers that were mid-brew.

If Fremont was closer to home, it would be on the go-to list for me and I think Evan too.

Cheers to prohibition being over and to the rise of the craft brewing industry in the United States.

Backcountry Skiing at Butler Gulch

I think between the hut trip and our latest backcountry outing I’m already well on the way to crossing “more backcountry” off my ski season bucket list.

Butler Gulch is a super accessible area where winter enthusiasts of all kinds get into the backcountry. That has its ups and downs since it can be highly trafficked. It is often also mentioned as a great place for people to gain more backcountry experience because it is relatively easy to remain in safe areas and avoid avalanche terrain.

Since I’m pretty much scared to death of avalanches, as I think everyone should be, it was a great place to head out to check out Evan’s new skins, get some more skinning practice and get some skiing in.

We got a super late start and the parking lot was full, but rather than parking at the lower lot we followed what others had done and parked along the road.

The sun was shining it was fairly warm and lots of people were out. Skiers, snowboarders, hikers, snowshoers, nordic skiers, and lot of dogs too.

The skin track was so packed in it looked as if someone had taken a snowcat up it. Ah, the Front Range.
P1000763The skin started very mellow, but became steeper with switchbacks and spurs heading into the trees near the top, but there was always an obvious high-traffic route.

We took our time skinning up. I have no idea how long it took us, what elevation we topped out at or the total distance because I forgot to start my GPS. Woops! On our approach we picked our first lines. Once we popped out of the trees to cut over to the area we wanted to ski we felt the wind pick up and the sun disappeared behind the clouds. It was chilly and that stomped our plans for our first run.

We opted to ski the line that was in front of us – low angle untracked trees. After a little more thought it was probably a better option because our first option may have been a little too low-angle.

Evan and I wanted to practice safe backcountry travel, so we scoped our lines together, picked save areas, and skied one at a time. Being the nerds that we are we did this all the way down even on the terrain that was no different from a resort mogul run.

The snow was a bit heavy, but deep in the untracked areas, so it took me a couple turns to figure out how to ski deep snow again, but once I did I loved every minute of it.

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The run we took crossed the skin track then narrowed down into a packed glade that popped us back out at an open area along the skin track where we met up with our friends.

My tootsies were freezing, so we skipped the second run and headed back down toward the cars for some hot chocolate.

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The ski out can be super fast in some areas, but beware, there are plenty of little hills that zap your speed and make you work to get going again.

How to:  At the first switchback of Berthoud Pass take the turnoff to the left toward Jones Pass and Henderson Mine. At Henderson Mine (where the gates block the main road) take the fork to the right up to a large parking lot. Once you’re geared up, skin on the road past the trail map and info board on your right. About a quarter-mile up the road there is a fork. Left goes to Jones Pass, right to Butler Gulch. Take the left fork and go around the gate. Follow the well established skin track up the ascent. I didn’t have my GPS, but I’ve read that the ascent is about 1,500 feet over 3 miles. We only ascended to about treeline. There are options to go higher, but those look to be a bit more technical and travel in and near avalanche terrain would be needed.

S’mores!

Until this weekend, my Mother had never had a s’more! Can you believe that? Although they had probably been around for much longer, the first s’mores recipe was published in the Girl Scout Handbook in 1927, so they were certainly around well before my Mom was a youngster.

s'more

I have a feeling now that they have an outdoor fire pit, she is about to make up for all of the years of her life that she didn’t have s’mores.

firepit

While I can’t say I have never had s’mores I can say, I’ve probably never had s’mores so fancy and smelled so little like campfire after having them.

We had quite the assortment of items for our s’mores including three kinds of gourmet handmade marshmallows – chocolate chili, toasted coconut, and rosewater. The marshmallows were from Bang Candy in Nashville, TN and were given to my Dad as a Christmas gift with this purpose in mind. It was my first experience with handmade gourmet marshmallows and I may never be able to go back.

Don’t worry, we still had plain old marshmallows too. Not only did we have chocolate, but we also had Chocolate Cappuccino spread and peanut butter.

gourmet marshmallows

My Mom started with a plain old s’more. It was tough to just how much she liked it, but I do know she thought it was messy!

Mom S'more

We each made a variety of combinations. Of course none of them were bad. I think Evan’s were the most extravagant.

smore eating

Then we had to try the marshmallows on their own also. We compared favorite ways to eat a toasted marshmallow. My preference is to char the outside, eat the outside, then char the next layer, eat it, and so on.

marshmallows roasting

My favorite combination was graham cracker + toasted coconut marshmallow + chocolate cappuccino spread. So freaking delicious. I also prefer mine open-faced aka single graham cracker instead of double.

P1000796

The big winner for marshmallows was the chocolate chili. I could have eaten the entire bag. Just enough spice to keep me wanting more.

Have you ever made gourmet s’mores? What are you favorite s’more fillings?

Hut Trip: Ringing In 2013 at Betty Bear

Preparations

Just a few days before New Year’s we still hadn’t made any definitely plans. Each time we discussed our options another three options came up and we weren’t getting very far. We had a little extra time off, but not a ton. A quickie trip to Jackson Hole was our top option until we got an invite to go on a hut trip.

With little to no discussion needed, we committed to joining a group where we only knew a few people and heading to Betty Bear Hut to ring in the new year.

Since we were late to join the group the food planning has most been done, so we weren’t in charge of a whole meal, but rather dessert, snacks and extra booze.

We were keeping our packing to a minimum this time around since the last time we went on hut trip we super-mega over packed and nearly died carrying it all in.

I was pumped to use my new Osprey Kode 38 pack that Evan had gotten me as a gift. It was 50 liters smaller than the bag I brought on the last hut trip, so that was a major step in the right direction! In addition, I had a new, much smaller, sleeping back to bring that I was pumped about.

In my pack: sleeping bag, under garments, shorts, tech-tee, half-puff jacket, goggles, mittens, socks, yoga pants, down booties, first aid kit, bladder, shovel, probe, compass, slope meter, and some other odds ‘n ends.

For food we split the following between us: 6 PB&Js, 6 apples, 1 lb cheese, Triscuits, pepperoni, salami stick, nut mix, dried soup, 2 rolls of pinwheels, coffee, half & half, dried fruit mix, marshmallows, rice krispies, butter, hot drink mixes, 1 liter of tequila, 1 liter of rum, powdered drink mix.

I wore in: baselayer pants, socks, ski boots, tank top, l/s wool baselayer, smartwool hooded top, Flylow Bib ski pants, shell, fleece hat, sunglasses, thing gloves, beacon, ski boots, skis, skins, poles.

In addition to packing we did some research on the route through the 10th Mountain Division website, trip reports, and GPS tracks. We knew the first 5 or so miles would be pretty painless, but the last 2 looked steep and daunting. We brought along a map from the 10th Mountain Division and the written route description.

To The Trailhead

The trailhead was about an hour past Basalt, past Ruedi Reservoir on Frying Pan Road. Our friends met us bright and early and we hit the road just as the sun began rising. The drive was uneventful with the exception of a stop for some breakfast, bathroom, and a quick stop in Glenwood.

While we were in Glenwood it was freaking cold. Really cold. It worried us all a bit, but we had faith it would warm up before we got on trail.

We hit the parking lot at 11:30ish had some snacks, changed clothes and got our gear all together then hit the trail around noon. Probably later than we should have, but it could have been worse!

Day One: The Skin In

The first 5 miles were out a snow-covered road on a super mellow grade. We zoomed through those miles really quickly, no major issues except a few hot-spots and blisters to tape up.


EvanSkinIn

We were happy to not be breaking trail.

SkinTrack

When the blue diamonds started indicating the trail we were heading up I think I laughed out loud because it was so steep I couldn’t imagine it actually being the way we were suppose to go.

It was.

On our first attempts to ascend the start of the trail I think all four of us went sliding backwards and eventually fell. It was kind of ridiculous. I finally made it, so did our friends. It left Evan still sliding backwards.

Let me take a minute to note that Evan’s skins were cut for his other skis which were 10+ centimeters shorter than the skis he was on and the tail clips weren’t secured because they weren’t long enough. Mistake number one. Mistake number two was that the skins were also significantly thinner than the skis he was on.

Mistake number one proved to be the most problematic. As he slid backwards on the steep section the skins began peeling off. As they peeled off, the glue side became covered in snow rendering the glue and essentially the entire skin useless.

We tried to rig up something to hold them on the trail, but at the next steeper yet section they failed again. At this point we were only about a quarter-mile into the steep last two miles and the best option was for Evan to take off his skis and bootpack it.

Honestly, the bootpacking wasn’t too much slower than the skinning for a lot of the climb because the skin track was super packed in from the others skinning in the previous day.

I had my GPS and we were counting down the miles and climbing that was left, but they were ticking by slowly. Much more slowly than we anticipated.

As the mileage grew closer to the 7 miles we expected and the elevation neared the hut elevation we remained positive, but knew we had to keep moving forward.

As a group, our forward progress had slowed immensely. It wasn’t just because Evan was hiking and often post-holing, but also because I was getting cold, tired, and anxious and didn’t make it more than a few minutes before stopping for a rest. Not only was the daylight fading but also our moral. At each steep section we couldn’t imagine that we had much farther to go. Once we hit a small clearing which we determine to be a meadow, our spirits lifted as we thought according to the written directions that we were only ⅛ of a mile from the hut. The distance according to my GPS agreed.

At about the distance we were suppose to have reach the hut at, 6.9 miles, we encountered a split in the trail. I felt a sense of panic. My friend skied ahead to see where one spur took us, but returned without much information. Once the boys caught up, we pulled out the directions and compass and chose the path that headed mostly South.

Again, our speedy friend on nordic skis, skied ahead. Shortly after I heard her hollering back. I couldn’t tell if it was good yelling or bad yelling. I sped up to catch her, as I rounded a corner I saw her excited face and could hear her yelling that she saw a sign.

My body relaxed in one big sigh of relief as I approached the sign that read Betty Bear with an arrow pointing down a skin track.

As we moved forward we smelled the fire and knew we were close. I sped, out of control, down the steep hill around the left hand turn and at that moment I saw the hut.

We cruised into the hut just as the sun began to set and I couldn’t have been more relieved. I dropped my stuff and ran in my boots back up the skin track to meet Evan and encourage him for the last few feet of the long slog up to the Betty Bear hut.

The hut was warm and comforting. Food was already being made and we were so thrilled to be there.

Our trip was longer time and distance wise than we expected.

Screen shot 2013-01-07 at 1.13.51 PM

Night One: Exhaustion

The first night in Betty Bear hardly deserves it’s own section because we basically stripped off all of our gear, warmed up, changed, then did the rounds of introductions.

Once we got through all of that it was time for dinner. Amazing hot bowls of green chili with cornbread. We excited for food, but I hardly ate a whole bowl before I was full. Totally unusual for me. After a few bites of his meal Evan turned greenish white and I knew he wasn’t feeling well.

He was exhausted, nauseous, and had a headache. I think he had a bit of altitude sickness, so he laid down to rest as I pushed water on him and tried to get him some more calories in the form of sugary hot chocolate.

We laid down at like 6pm. I was feeling better than Evan, but just as exhausted. We napped on and off until about 10pm when we emerged from the sleeping quarters to say hello to everyone for a few minutes before heading back to bed.

Sleeping was glorious after the day we’d had.

Day Two: Touring

After an amazing night of sleep we woke up feeling much less exhausted, refreshed, and surprisingly not that sore.

All I could think about was percolator coffee. If you like coffee and you’ve never been on a hut trip you should probably go on one just to have coffee out of the percolators in the huts. I’m obsessed.

I downed lots of delicious coffee and enjoyed lots of buttery French Toast for breakfast.

The sky was cloudy but the sun was trying to peek out. It was really beautiful.

SunSnowHut

After breakfast Evan focused on figuring out how to affix his skins so they could at least get him through the rest of the trip. He came up with a great plan and with a lot of diligence and determination he implemented it flawlessly.

Evan, a friend, and I headed out after the rest on a small tour toward Hagerman Pass. The goal wasn’t to get to the pass, just to get out, test Evan’s skins, enjoy the surroundings and tool around. We did just that.

skinning

We covered around four miles (I started my gps late) and actually saw where everyone else was skiing, but didn’t go join them.

Screen shot 2013-01-07 at 1.15.02 PM

It flurried all day, but the snow started falling a bit harder as we came in from our adventuring.

When we returned from our tour we pulled together a huge plate of meat, cheese, and crackers so the group had a snack after their tour.

As people returned to the hut, sledding became the focus. Folks sledded, drinks were made, games were played, and relaxing was the main objective.

Night Two: Happy New Year!

Games and drinks commenced and our New Year’s celebration was underway. Margaritas, whiskey sours, hot buttered rums, and beers were enjoyed while we celebrated New Year’s in a different location each hour.

We enjoyed a tasty dinner of pasta, sauce, and meat before beginning rowdy game of charades. As charades ended out came the Rice Krispie Treats I made for dessert. Perfect hut dessert, lightweight, squishable, easy and delicious! I’ve added this to my list for every hut trip from now on.

I was still super tired, but was willing myself to stay up later and later. I knew I wouldn’t make midnight but I was giving it a shot.

At some point during the day, the outside fire pit got dug out, so we had a lovely fire outside. We might have even had a few fireworks to celebrate.

HutFire2
Finally around 10:30 I couldn’t’ keep my eyes open. I went to sleep and missed a night-time sledding session and more bonfire fun.

HutFire1
Evan woke me up at two minutes to midnight so I could run upstairs and join in the Happy New Year! I made the countdown, got  my kiss, and went back to sleep.

Day Three: The Skin Out

Everyone was a little slow to rise on New Year’s Day, but eventually we were all up and the hut was bustling with folks packing and breakfast preparations.

Packing up was pretty quick and painless. Somehow my pack didn’t seem much lighter than it had on the way in. I’m sure it was, but my tired body just couldn’t tell the difference.

Throughout the time at the hut we had built the ski out up to be horrible. The steep packed in terrain with lots of rocks seemed like an insurmountable task.

A bit anxious to get it underway, Evan and I set-out in the front of the pack.

StephEvanHutSign

The first few steeps were manageable, but the switchbacks got tighter and the more people that skied them the more rocky they got.

We mostly sidestepped, and snow plowed our way out with skins still on to further help control speed. Finally near the bottom, it just wasn’t possible to keep the skis on so we popped them off and hiked out.

EvanHikeOut

Once we hit the road, we knew we had about a mile climb to the high-point and thought it would be fast cruising from there.

GroupRoad

The high-point came quickly and we pulled the skins off to glide the last three or so miles out. Our judgement of just how downhill it would be was a bit off. We did a lot of skating, slipping, and sliding.

StephSkinOut

The ski out the road didn’t seem that much faster than the skin in on it, but alas we rounded the final turn and could see the parking lot.

I think I speak for both Evan and I when is say we were relieved to be back at our cars and take our skis off for a few days. Walking without extra weight felt so freeing!

The Lessons

Hut trip number two provided us with even more lessons and experience. We learned both good and bad things.

The number one lesson was make sure your gear works! Evan has already replaced his skins and tested them out. Huge improvement.

We need to do more skinning. It isn’t like any other sort of activity. I run and workout a lot and Evan bikes a ton, but neither prepared us for the struggle up the last couple steep miles of the skin in. We started on this by doing a little tour this past weekend.

Leave early. We should plan on starting our skin into any hut earlier than we did since we were approaching the hut at dusk. This is mostly to keep me from panicking ;)

A super positive thing I learned was that my new pack was amazing! It fit my back perfectly and carried the weight evenly no matter how well I packed it.

Rice Krispie Treats are an awesome, lightweight, squishable dessert to make!

Looking at the Garmin info, we waste a lot of time on the skinning. We should work on stopping less.

We learned plenty more, but those were some that stuck out for me.


Have you ever been on a hut trip?

What are your most memorable hut or backcountry experiences?

2012-13 Ski Season Bucket List

‘Tis the season to make resolutions. While I’m not one for resolutions I do like lists and checking things off of said lists. I also like skiing. So here is a list about skiing. Some items will change, some are givens, some I’ve added simply to check off the list.

SkisPolesPanoLiftMonarch

  1. Ski outside of Colorado. I haven’t skied outside of Colorado since Evan and I went to Jackson Hole in 2008. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here and we have lots of options and lots of snow, but so do other places.
  2. Call in sick for a powder day. I’m already working on my cough.
  3. Ski bell to bell. I’m talking first chair to last, lunch on the lift, a full-on get after it day.
  4. More backcountry. This has been on the mental list for a few season, but is always snow conditions permitting. Safety first, friends.
  5. Take a lesson or clinic. I’ve skied since I was a youngster but have never-ever taken a lesson.
  6. Huck more. Jumping off things and landing in big poofs of powder looks so fun. I would like to do it more.
  7. Ski on opening day. Been there. Done that. Got a mug.
  8. Picnic lunch at Loveland. Pack a lunch and eat it in one of the on-mountain lodges at Loveland.
  9. Ski with my family. I skied two days with my whole family after Christmas. I wish I could do it more often.
  10. Night ski. Either backcountry or at a resort at least once in the season. I did a ton of night skiing growing up. It is cold, but fun.
  11. Snowboard. I really would like to be tri-slidable, so I need to start learning. I think giving snowboarding another shot is a must.
  12. Document. Take more photos and videos while skiing. Maybe a little camera courage will help out item no. 6.
  13. Ride in a snowcat. To ski, on a night grooming session, or just for the scenery.
  14. Visit 15 ski areas. With 25 in Colorado and a goal of skiing outside the state this should be easy-peasy. Current count: 5

WPTreesStephEvanThumbsUp

What’s currently on your bucket list? Skiing or otherwise.

Emerald Lake Crested Butte

Crested Butte: So Many Trails, So Much Fun

There’s no need for me to tell you how much I like Crested Butte and how amazing the mountain biking is or how much trail there is. I’ve covered all of that before. For the Labor Day weekend we headed back to Crested Butte with friends for a what turned out to be a weekend packed full of amazing mountain biking. I’d done a lot of cross-country riding in Crested Butte, but Evan hadn’t done quite as much and some of our friends hadn’t done any. The options seemed endless. Thursday night we poured over the map in awe at all of our options. We decided on a couple of rides that were high on our “to-do” list and finally forced ourselves to put the map away.

Totally irrelevant to all of the biking we did in CB, but awesome still, there were tons of open range cattle on the way and on every trail we rode. I love open range cattle so much. I kind of just like cows I suppose.

Crested Butte Cows

I did not to get to cuddle any or slap any on the ass, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. It is unfortunately but probably for the best.

Steph Cow Creeping

Anyhow, when we got to CB on Friday we settled in then hit the Alpineer for some trail beta. I wasn’t sure how we could need more trail beta after all of the map-looking and interneting we had done the night before, but it turned out to be extremely valuable information. Local bike shop knowledge is always valuable information, I’m not sure why I doubted it for even a millisecond.

Our Latitude 40 Map of Crested Butte and Taylor Park was spot on for every ride and all of trails in the area are extremely well signed. So, I’m not going to give detailed trail descriptions. Get a map, read signs.

Day 1: Green Lake Trail

Our “short” and “easy” ride.

With our newly acquired trail knowledge we headed out for our first ride.  The Green Lake Trail. It was a 4.5 mile out and back. The trail was really pretty and for the most part fairly smooth climbing gradually. There were some steep sections and the upper section of the trail got quite a bit rockier, but it was a pretty short section. On the way down we noticed that the leaves were starting to change and it made for some gorgeous views on all of our rides and some colorful trail decorations as well.

Green Lake Trail w/ Aspen leaves

We took our time knowing that we had a lot more riding ahead of us, but that didn’t stop us from zooming on the descent. It was a hoot and definitely a great way to start the weekend. The whole ride covered around 9 miles and took us probably just shy of 2 hours. My Garmin had died so I’m not 100% sure.

Post ride we had a hankering for margaritas. We wandered into Mexicali Grill and they had Beermargs on the menu! Well, they called them River Margs, but we prefer Beermarg or Cervesarita. Cheap beer + cheap tequila + limeade = surprisingly delicious. We agree.

Beermarg

Day 2: Reno/Flag/Bear/Doctor’s

The Big Ride.

Yea, shuttle logistics are a major pain in the ass. I hate shuttling, but I have made an exception for this ride not once, but twice and would do it again in a heartbeat. It is definitely in my top three most favorite rides in all of Colorado and after this weekend it might even be in the numero uno slot. I remembered the Doctor’s descent being fantastic, but I didn’t remember how insanely fun the descents before Doctor’s were too.

The climb up Reno Divide Road isn’t super fun, but totally tolerable and doable. Don’t drive it. Just ride it.

The Flag descent was way more fun than I remembered and I loved every second of it. There are a few rocky, rooty sections of climbing on Flag or Bear, not really sure where the trail switches, but most it is just beautiful rolling singletrack with cows.

Cows and Singletrack Crested Butte

The weather was crazy on us. The saying “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” could not have been more true this weekend. Coat on, coat off. Long sleeves on, long sleeves off. I think that means fall is in the air. Also, those fiery yellow aspen trees are a pretty strong sign of fall.

changing aspens crested butte

We pedaled and smiled and pedaled some more. Even with a big group we were moving right along and everyone was riding super strong.

group pedaling crested butte

The fun-factor on the descents of this ride builds. Flag is a hoot, the Bear Creek takes it up a notch. It traverses for a bit then heads into the woods and lets loose into fast fun trail on the edge of a gully with a few rocky sections a few sections of “root balls” and a whole lot of fast corners.

Bear Creek Trail Crested Butte

I remembered the climb up Doctor’s Gulch to Doctor’s Park being the worst climb ever. I was not looking forward to it, especially 20 or so miles in. Amazingly, it wasn’t that awful. It was steep and seemed long, but it was totally manageable. I’m not sure if my expectations were better or if I was riding stronger. Either way, it was worth every struggle of a pedal stroke.

The Doctor’s descent starts out rocky, rooty, and steep, but turns into the most perfect singletrack on the most perfect pitch with the most perfect turns through the most perfect aspen trees. I felt like I was flying, but I wanted to go faster. I giggled all the way down.

Doctor's Park descent

How do they make it so fun? I don’t think it could get any better.

GPS Route & Stats: Reno/Flag/Bear/Doctor’s (there was not 12,000+ feet of climbing, I’m not sure where Garmin got that. Probably 4,500 or so)

Day 3: The 401

The Classic Ride.

We had some Crested Butte newbies in our group so the 401 was a must. Last time I rode the 401 I really wasn’t all that impressed. This time, much more impressed.

We climbed the road. The climbing itself wasn’t that awful, but the cars and sheer amount of traffic on the road sucked pretty bad.

The views. Those didn’t suck.

Emerald Lake Crested Butte

We more than took our time on the road climb and enjoyed the outstanding vistas.

emerald lake girls

Once we hit the trail head we rested, fueled up and made the final push up the singletrack climb. All twelve or however many switchbacks. They were much easier than I remembered – steep, but nothing technical. My tired legs managed to get me up the hill pretty okay though.

401 crested butte

The day was clear and at the top of the climb the back of the Maroon Bells was in view. I never realized it was visible from the 401 so it was pretty cool to see.

Maroon Bells from 401

The beginning of the descent isn’t my favorite, but there are some ripping sections for sure. This time around the early turns and switch backs had a lot of brake bumps. Not that awesome. The traverse is really beautiful, but I’m afraid to look at anything because I might go crashing down the hillside since it is so exposed.

Once the trail isn’t so exposed and the descent through the aspens begins it was a hoot! I do not remember that at all from the last time we rode it. Give me aspen trees and a down hill and I’m stoked. Doesn’t matter if I’m on a bike, skis, or my feet. It rocks.

401 Aspens

The second climb was brutal. It was also covered in cow poo and eventually we were too. We mobbed through the descent and it was over way too quickly.

GPS Route & Stats: The 401

Day 4: 409.5

The new ride.

I was exhausted on Sunday. I wasn’t going to ride. Well, I wasn’t going to do a big ride, but somehow Evan convinced me. As always, I’m glad he did.

This was a new ride for the four of us that set-out on it. We didn’t want to shuttle which meant we had a lot of road to ride. More than we really thought. From what the map showed there were several ways to ride to the 409.5 trail, but from what we heard most were gruesome climbs and by climbs I mean hike-a-bikes. We opted for the longer ride with a lower suffer factor. I’m not sure that it was truly worth it. I might choose more suffering for a shorter duration next time around.

We parked on Brush Creek Road, zipped out to the highway and down to Cement Creek Road, up that for a bit then up Walrod trail, to 405 which is Warm Springs I believe, then to 402.5A which is also a segment of Doubletop, then to 409.5. It was about a 6 mile climb from the road much of which was traversy, but there were some steep climbs that were a bitch on the legs after four days of riding.

Where Walrod narrows down to singletrack was by far the worst. It was about 350 feet of vert over around .25 miles and it was loose and rocky. My legs would get up that on a good day!

After some more tough climbing and an amazing traverse around a valley, we made it to our destination – 409.5.

409.5 crested butte

It wasn’t my favorite descent, but it sure was good. There were more roots and rocks on this than any of our other descents and also some fun little jumps mixed in.

corner on 409.5

Overall the descent was a blast, but the ascent to descent ratio was a little off for my taste and the fun-factor of the trail wasn’t quite high enough to make up for it. Like I said, I’d consider the shorter ascent (hike-a-bike) next time. Also, with more time and fresher legs making the short climb to Strand Hill after the 409.5 descent would be worth it. It was tempting, but I don’t think my legs could have pedaled up another climb no matter how minimal.

We finished the ride at nearly 21 miles and I was 100% spent.

GPS Route & Stats: 409.5

After feeling like I haven’t been on my bike much, four amazing days and nearly 75 miles of riding has me itching for more high-country rides this fall and has made me a tiny bit less eager to ski for now.

What are your favorite mountain bike rides? 

2012 USA Pro Challenge

First of all, after a week of closely following the action and excitement of the USA Pro Challenge as the riders tackled 600+ miles across Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, I’m really sad to see it come to a close. Like last year, we volunteered at the Stage 6 start in Golden again, and this year I also got to go to the start of Stage 5 in Breckenridge.

Stage 5 Start – Breckenridge

BreckVIP

When we got to Breck we wandered through town, took a lap through the start village then headed toward the VIP tent as soon as it opened.

Breck start line

 

Shortly after the announcers took the stage and I couldn’t be peeled away from the barriers on autograph alley.

Slowly riders started appearing to sign-in for the day’s stage. I got nearly every single autograph even though I’d be hard pressed to identify most of the riders in the first few groups to come across the stage. Cool nonetheless.

USA Pro Challenge 2012 Riders

Then some bigger name riders started to appear. The crowds went wild each time a rider appeared. The announcers did a great job of keeping us informed on who was coming up to the stage while still interviewing riders. I’d say 90% or more of the riders signed every single autograph they were asked for. Most were super chatty when you asked them how the race was going, how they felt, how the crowds were and wished them luck.

Jensie had won the previous stage and had a smile on his face the whole time. I can’t imagine him being anything but a super friendly, upbeat guy.

Jens Voigt

Nearing the end of the sign-in period notable riders were coming through one after another. They were so darn friendly and seemed genuinely excited to be there and be part of the Pro Challenge.

Big George in his final professional race.

Big George Hincapie

And his teammate in the yellow jersey, Tejay Van Garderen.

Tejay VanGarderen

The defending champ, Levi Leipheimer.

LeviLeipheimer

And one of my personal favorites and a local boy, Tommy D!

Tom Danielson

My sister was able to make it to the race last year, but could be here for this year’s race. I was bummed she wasn’t able to join, but I focused some serious attention on capturing the moment for her and by capturing the moment I mean as many photos of Jensie as possible. She loves Jens!

Jens Voigt collage

Is that weird? Maybe.

Sign-in seemed to fly by and before I knew it the riders were lining up.

Breck Stage 5 start line up

Just moments later the riders were off on their first of two neutral parade laps.

 

USA Pro Challenge Stage 5 Start in Breck

And making their way back around to the start line for another show for the enormous crowd in Breck. The noise was almost deafening.

Breck first parade lap

Watching the support vehicles is almsot as exciting as watching the cyclist. Almost. Shortly after the support vehicles cleared the riders were already back for lap two before heading off to Hoosier Pass.

Breckenridge Parade lap 2Sadly the whole start passed quickly and I had to head to work, but I didn’t loose my enthusiasm for watching the race. As as soon as we were in the car I had the Tour Tracker on and listened until the end in Colorado Springs. Being in Breck for the Stage 5 start got me super stoked for the Stage 6 start in my very own town!

Stage 6 Start – Golden

Just like last year we volunteered in the VIP tent. It meant any early morning, but I was alright with it because watching the set-up is fascinating. It is amazing to think they do it for 7 days straight in 7 different cities.

Golden Stage 6 Start line set up

We went about with our volunteer duties and time passed quickly. Before we knew it the start line was up and they were starting to set-up the barriers. We cheesed-out and got a photo in front of the start line.

StephEvanStartLine

As race time neared the VIP tent filled up and we were busy answering questions, handing out autograph cards, checking credentials, and putting on wristbands. As the minutes ticked by and the riders lined up similar to the day before the VIP tent was jam-packed, but the focus was strictly on the riders.

Golden Start w/ wheels

And just like the day before the riders were off on two neutral parade laps. I wish I had a better camera because the view of the peloton cresting the hill on Washington was really fantastic. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture that too well with my iPhone.

GoldenStage6Lap1

Just a few minutes later they came through on their second lap. This time significantly faster and you could sense that the race would heat up quickly. The number of people who turned out in Golden to support the riders and watch the start was seriously impressive and the roar could probably be heard all the way in Boulder as the riders raced out of Golden toward Boulder.

Stage 6 Golden Second lap

Like any dedicated fan, I watched the rest of the stage on the Tour Tracker and tuned in for the time trial the day after. Who would have thought that the race would come down to just a few seconds and the leaders would change so quickly in the last couple of stages? I was sad to see the race end, but can’t wait for next year.

 

Did you watch the Pro Challenge at all? Who’s your favorite rider? 

 

 

Unplugged At Vagabond Ranch

I know I haven’t even finished my updates from the last trip we took, but this one is fresh on my mind and was a real treat.

Evan and I, both working in the outdoor industry, may not be bringing in the big bucks, but every once in a while we get some darn good perks. Evan has a buddy who owns a cable cam company, condorcam. Said friend happens to do some work for and up and coming guest ranch. When we received the email putting out the request for “talent” to come up to Vagabond Ranch to be filmed while hiking, biking, drinking coffee, relaxing and having fun for a few days we weren’t sure we fully understood. Evan clarified by responding with “So wait a minute… you’re basically looking for people to film while they shred bikes, hike, relax, and whatnot? Let me clear my calendar…”

And so we did. After a jam-packed weekend of wedding festivities for a couple of our friends, we packed our bags full of various outdoor clothing and gear and jumped in the truck. Monday we took our time heading up to Vagabond Ranch, which is north of Granby, CO and about two hours from Denver. We arrived midday and were delighted with the scenery and friendly welcome when we arrived. We had our pick of the rooms in Ranch House, so naturally we chose the one with the biggest bed.

Vagabond King Room

After settling in for a bit (um, and watching the end of Stage One of the US Pro Cycling Challenge), we threw on some bike clothes and headed out toward the trail where the cable cam was being set-up. We did a little helping, a little biking, a little exploring and a lot of taking in the amazing views and fresh mountain air. Eventually, the cable cam was set-up and we were ready to film a bit. Just as I started pedaling I felt a few tiny drops and they quickly got faster and harder until it was a complete downpour. The boys frantically got all of the gear covered and safe, while I went inside because I was cold. So helpful, I know.

That evening we made some dinner, did some hanging out and explored more of the buildings on the ranch property. Evan and I swore we’d be up early because we take our volunteer modeling very seriously. What do you know, the next morning we were the last ones up. Oops!

Our first task was to take a morning walk while drinking coffee. It was really tough, but we managed. We chatted and laughed as we leisurely walked over a bridge with a babbling creek below. Then it was off to the deck of River View which as the best view of the whole ranch to lounge in Adirondack style chairs and drink our coffee. Really rough life.

Once we finished our morning walk, we changed clothes for the next filming scene. On to hiking. We did a couple of laps of hiking with the cable cam following us. I like to think we only had to do it a couple of times because Evan and I nailed our parts.

Then it was on to biking! We did several laps with various groups of people, at different speeds, with dogs, without dogs. You know, to really show the diversity of options. Check out some of the still from the cable cam on Vagabond Ranch’s facebook page.

Vagabond Ranch Bike Ride

Once we had enough cable cam footage, it was time for a big trail ride. Evan and the owner of the ranch had planned out a crazy ride the night before. I wasn’t sure I was up for that ride, but I went with it. The three of us took off on the ride and the rest of the group, including the camera man, followed shortly after on dirt bikes. With GoPros rolling, we climbed up Illinois Pass Road which was a tough one, but doable. Then we took off on an amazing section of singletrack – Willow Creek. It was such an awesome trail and you could tell it wasn’t ridden as much as a lot of trail in Colorado. After 7-8 miles and some serious climbing we (well, I) was ready to start heading back. Just then the rest of the crew caught up with us. We did a bunch filming on some amazing singletrack descents and then the dirt bikes left us before our last (several) climbs of the day.

Rather than going back the way we came, we opted to climb up toward Illinois Pass further then connect into the Bill Creek trail which would bring us right back to the ranch and where we had been filming earlier in the day. The climb was brutal. There were definite hike-a-bike sections, but when we reached Bill Creek, which was part of the Continental Divide Tail, it was totally worth it. The trail was hardly ridden, loamy dirt, and had amazing views.

Bill Creek Trail

We definitely needed some rest after the final climb(s) yes, there were multiple. They probably were hardly climbs at all, but we’d been riding for a while. It wasn’t a high-mileage ride, but it was pretty intense, especially the climbing sections.

Bill Creek Top

I was getting cranky near the end of the ride, I’ll be honest. We had been riding for more than four and a half hours and I had no idea how much further it was. The fact that I haven’t done any big rides since the FT 40 really shows. Once we started descending, my crankiness disappeared. The descent was a ripping good time. It had a variety of terrain from steep and rocky to fast flowy corners. I immediately forgot about the dreadful climb. Soon, we were back at the ranch and greeted by the rest of the group on the porch recapping the excitement of the day.

We covered 15 miles. It sounds short, but believe me, it didn’t feel short! Look at all that climbing! [full ride]

We relaxed, prepared dinner, had a couple beers, and watched some of the day’s footage. It’s good. Believe me. And I promise to post some up when I get my hands on it. We finished off the evening with some glow in the dark Bocce ball. We didn’t want our time at Vagabond to end, so we decided to stay the night and get up super early to drive home for work. It was a painful drive home, but that will quickly fade and the memories of the great couple of days with no cell phones and only fun to focus on will remain.

Vagabond Ranch Sign

Our hosts were amazing and welcomed us back anytime. The ranch also has amazing winter opportunities and incredible access to backcountry skiing. We will be returning. Sooner than later.