After being pinned mostly indoors by the weather gods for a couple of days... ok, four days... I was in dire need of some mental and physical therapy. When Marky doesn't get his "medicine," life just seems to fall apart. Fortunately Bobbie was home in Lovely Ouray, and thus was not present to witness the breakdown.
The weather was less than friendly as I pedaled off on my new Fat Tire, "Bad Habit." A cold, steady north wind penetrated three layers of polypro like it was fishnet as temps struggled into the mid-40's. A barrier of menacing clouds formed between me and the sun, but at least it wasn't raining.
I needed a good long ride, but the initial shock of the cold, north-wind set teeth chattering and sparked second guessing. I almost turned around. I'm such a weeny when it comes to riding in wind and cold. It was only three miles to the Klondike Trailhead from camp. If I could just make it there I could slip into the cover of Klondike's folds and boulders, grind out the long uphill pull of Klondike Trail, maybe warm up enough to actually enjoy this ride.
Previously, on a beautiful sun-splashed SPF 50 day, Bobbie and I hiked a nice loop through Klondike. I wanted to scope out the difficulty/danger level of some of the trails before riding them. We ended up coming down the "slick rock" portion of Klondike Trail, and though it would be a long, stiff pull to ride up its grade, it would might work to get blood circulating enough to un-shiver my jaw.
|Photos from our hike: Klondike Trail is "Slick Rock," but more potholed than the smooth pavement-like stuff found closer to Moab.|
|Just follow the white "Dotted Lion," or in this case, "dashed."|
|Beware of the puddles, some are deeper than they appear.|
It worked. I was quite warm when by the time I topped out on the ridge. Clouds began to yield to sun and blue skies.
One of the smart things about the Klondike trail network is that it is well signed. There are maps at every intersection that show exactly where you are, the trail's difficulty level, and distance.
I decided to do Klondike's outermost loop, counter clockwise (an "ambitious plan" to say the least): "Klondike," to "Baby Steps" (a misnomer), to "Alaska," to "Nome," which comes out at the northern Dino-flow Trailhead, a fun mix of intermediate "traps" strung together with moderate single-track that I have done several times.
What Klondike's trail maps do not show well is elevation gain/loss. Not long after Klondike Trail topped the ridge, and much to my disappointment, it fell away... down, down, down into the depths of a serene pastoral valley. Damn. What goes down must come back up.
Soon I found myself in a stare-down with a precipitous, loose-rocked rut... thinking, "I'm going to have to climb back up this shit again at some point." About then, three manly-type bikers roared up alongside, stopped, took a look, said, "Cool!" and rode off into what looked to me like a shortcut to a short life. They skidded every which way to Sunday, ricocheting off boulders and crossing up, all but going OTB (over the bars). The "Studs" made it down in one piece and had an impromptu high five session. One of them hollered up, "It's not as bad as it looks." Easy for you to say, you young stud-ly prick.
|Piece of cake... not!|
I decided to think about it a while and walked over to an old mine shack to have a look around.
I've seen a lot of mining ruins and tumbledown shacks in my time, but this place looked like a bomb went off inside. Who knows, maybe a propane leak. A guy lights up his morning cigarette, and Boom... no more worries.
|One thing about it, the owner of this shack had a nice view.|
Not wanting to lose elevation only to be made up down the trail, and not wanting to ride the Dragon's Back, my only other choice was to forget the big loop and turn around. My legs were already shaky from the Klondike's long bump and grind up the ridge. Hmmm. Of course I could always walk my bike down the Dragon's Back. But if the trail outta pleasant valley was anything like this obstacle-ridden escalator down into it, I wasn't so sure I could push the fat tire up and out. Decisions, decisions.
I took another look, rolled up to the edge of the "drop zone," teetering on indecision, flip flopping from common sense to "just do it." I spied a line of skid marks left by the Stud Brothers, how their route missed most of the things that could put one OTB. If I could just stay in their "groove" it didn't look to bad. "If" and "could;" such a reach... like, "yeah, if I had wings I could fly."
At last I eased off the "point of no return," ass puckered like the school pig in a kissing booth. I stood on the pedals, hung my ass as far back over the rear tire as possible, feathered the brakes, especially the front, trying to follow the "Stud Bros" skid marks as they weaved their way through the maze of rocks, ledge-outs, and washed out ruts. I put a foot down here and there for safety and thus didn't "clean it." But, I did't crash either. By the time I got down, the "Stud Bros" were long gone and was forced to high-five myself. Onward... north, through the pleasant valley. I had it all to myself.
Just short of three miles, my trail cut back to the ridge. Pay back is hell.
|Looking back over the valley after starting back up "the ridge." Clear skies!!!!|
"Top" turned out to be a "false summit." After what seemed like forever, I topped out again, on this...
|Where "Baby Steps" turns into rocks from Hell.|
Climbing again, but doable. This high, I could see over into the land of Arches. The sun was warm on my back. My energy recharged. All was well.
Maybe it was the hard-won views, that I had to fight for them. Or maybe it was endorphins, coursing through by bloodstream. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm just a weepy old wild-eyed romantic these days. Whatever it was, I know of what Edward Abbey meant when he spoke, There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.
I give you My Klondike...
Miles tripped by. "Baby Steps" rolled into "Alaska," Alaska into "Nome," with its rampant free falling descent. At last, the now familiar "Dino-Flo" Trail Head.
Another Gatorade, a Power Bar, water. Ah, Resurgence. Resolve. I well acquainted with "Dino-Flo" by now, and though there are some fine intermediate "traps," I'm ready for them... in the right gear, in the right position. Home, baby, I'm headed home. Got this baby licked.
Suddenly, I found myself misjudging, mistiming... making silly mistakes. Time to back off; I'm out of gas. An hour and change later the canyon spit me out at the south Klondike Trail Head. Only three dirt road miles to go. Another protein bar, then another, washed down with a last swig of Gatorade. Onward.
Argh. If it's not the cold it's the heat. If it's not the rain it's the wind. WTF! I rode into the face of an abrupt 20 mph gale that had me working first and second gear. I propositioned God... said, Here's a chance to prove to me that You exist once and for all. Turn this headwind into a tailwind I will be thy servant evermore.
Apparently He was busy.
Editor's Note: To see the highest quality version of photos on this or any other post, double click on the lead, or any other photo and arrow through them in their highest resolution separate from this or any other post. It's worth your time...