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Sunday, June 9, 2019

3,059.3 Feet: A Glorious Mountain Bike Grind Up Camp Bird Mine Road

Ahhhh, the time of year when Spring finally runs out of bewildering Winter surprises. Normally a time to set our sights on exploring Lovely Ouray's surround of High-Country. But these are not "normal" times. In the aftermath of a record-setting 700% above normal snowpack, it'll be a while before we can go off-road without snowshoes. Nevertheless, we haven't been idle...

It could be well into July before County road crews can clear the record-setting number of avalanches and associated debris from county back-roads. Thus, my first bike ride up Camp Bird Road was delayed this year...until yesterday. 

I'd be lying if I told you I didn't feel any physical repercussions in the wake of yesterday's ride. There's an audible old-man-grunt when I attempt to stand up out of my chair, as well as an noticeable old-man-limp for the first few steps. This is the "some day you'll be sorry" pay-back my dearly departed mom warned be about all through my rough-house years. I can almost hear her now, I told you so. 

With winter extending its rage in the high country, Camp Bird Road was off limits. So Bobbie and I have been staying in shape by riding Ouray County's back-roads to Ridgway and beyond and hiking Lovely Ouray's Perimeter Trail. Knowing the summer bike race series up Log Hill and Camp Bird Road with Leon is drawing nye, I have plenty of motivation. Last year we added a race up to Camp Bird Mine, where Leon runs and I bike. Knowing Leon has had better training weather opportunities down in Montrose, I bumped my rides from around 30 miles to over 50. The crazy things testosterone and endorphins drives some Man-Children to do, eh? What can I say, it's my Geezer Dope. A good workout and good IPA and I don't have any problem sleeping at night. Oh, speaking of "good IPA," a new Colorado Boy Brewery just opened up on Main Street! Little ole Lovely Ouray now sports four, count-em, FOUR breweries!!!

Beyond Ridgway, Bobbie rides the Uncompaghre Riverway bike path 
Views back toward Ouray from our County Road bike rides

Anyway, back to yesterday's ride...

I read in this week's  Ouray County Plaindealer that the county dozer crew was getting close to having the Jeep road plowed to Yankee Boy Basin. Maybe, if I was having a good day, I could ride all the way up. Being my first ride at "elevation," a "good day" wasn't likely. When nudging up against 70, aging one year is equivalent to aging one decade. Who knows if I can still make the 2,000 foot grind to Camp Bird Mine, let alone 3,000 feet to Yankee Boy. I've never made it beyond Camp Bird Mine on a first ride of the season because, well, the only way to train for the ride up Camp Bird Road to Camp Bird Mine or Yankee Boy, is to ride Camp Bird Road to Camp Bird Mine or Yankee Boy. 

With a caffeine tingle from two hand-pressed cups of expresso coursing through my veins, I set my new Gaia hiking/biking iPhone App to "Record" and flew down the driveway...the only downhill I would see for well over an hour. This is what it takes to out-train ole Leon, I told myself as I hit the uphill through town.   

Evidence of avalanche near Camp Bird Mine 

I'll spare you the motivational, albeit obscenity-laced details regarding what it took to pedal my ass up 2,200 feet of loose gravel to Camp Bird Mine. Let's just say it was a Fire and Brimstone Sermon-on-the-Mount.  

Once there (one hour and 18 minutes...3 minutes shy of a P. B.)  I literally fell off my bike trying to dismount. Sipping a Gatorade, I walked-off hamstrings on the verge of knotting up and quads that had had enough.   

Aspen trees were just beginning to leaf out at Camp Bird Mine. Weather-wise it was a Jekyll/Hyde kind of day, with friendly blue skies to the south, and ominous dark clouds to the north behind Potosi Mountain. Sure enough, and me without a jacket, large wind-born drops of rain begin to pelt my helmet. Suddenly it felt more like winter than June 7th. I needed to get moving to warm up. Unfortunately, it was all downhill back to town. I'll just go on up a short distance to warm... 

Above and Below:  This avalanche run took out the power lines

I found a wind-break on the road down to Camp Bird Mine

Surprisingly, after finishing off the Gatorade and walking around a few minutes, I felt somewhat refreshed and pedaled on up toward Yankee Boy just to see how far I could go on a "first-ride."

Ice water rained down one the right half of the road. It felt good, so I stayed in it.

 Grinding on up into the snow-zone, I came across another avalanche run...Aspen trees mowed down like grass, with sizable pine trees snapped like toothpicks and scattered at wild random like thrown "Pick-up Sticks" into the canyon below. 

Road 869 to Imogene Pass had yet to be plowed...
 The higher I climbed the deeper the snow...with air so thin it set fire to legs and lungs.

Finally, the road to Yankee Boy Basin. It was plowed, at least for a ways, so I felt obligated to keep on churning. 
Gutting out another thousand feet of elevation gain, I finally made the cutoff road to Yankee Boy Basin. A sign read: "Four Wheel Drive Only Beyond Here." About a quarter mile after the sign I hit the wall on an obscenely wet, loose and steep climb. I only had two-wheel drive, so it only made sense to heed the warning  and turn around short of the bulldozer, and short of Yankee Boy Basin (sigh). I checked my Gaia App for Elevation Gain: 3,059.3 feet. Wow. Not bad for a "first ride." 

The roads up in the melting snow-zone were flowing like creeks. As I zoomed down I could feel my backside being splattered with slung sand and mud from the rear tire, while my front tire did in my chest and face. A Jeeper gal gave me a thumbs-up. I shot her a Peace Sign. 

I let it rip going down...almost 30 mph according to my App. 

Bicycle ride to Yankee boy basin Road
6/7/19, 8:53:51 AM MDT
16.8 mi
Average Speed:
5.7 mph
Max Speed:
29.1 mph
3,059.3 ft
Min/Max Altitude:
7,660.2 ft, 10,710.7 ft
6/7/19, 8:53:54 AM MDT - (38.03083, -107.67512)

6/7/19, 11:51:59 AM MDT - (38.03046, -107.67526)

Just another day in paradise...
Peace Out


  1. That was quite the "first ride." I'm impressed!

  2. Gaia, huh? Is this the same Mark Johnson who wouldn't use a GPS?

  3. I think Ouray now has the highest per capita number of breweries of anytown in the US?

  4. Have been wondering what you two have been up to with the snowy challenges of the trails out there! Does this mean there is Colorado Boy Brewery pizza available in Ouray also?

  5. Not bad, a year older, first bike ride at altitude an still only 3 minutes off your PB. At least with the road being wet dust was not an issue. I will miss not seeing Ouray again this year but at least I will have your pictures to bring back such good memories.

    Amazing the amount of snow around Ouray being June. I’m assuming the wild flowers will be late this year due to the snow but spectacular due to all the moisture. Keep training and just focus on keeping Leon in your rear view mirror.

  6. Amazing...as always! I can just imagine my lungs if I tried to do what you did...they'd probably explode!

  7. Right on, been waiting for a look see around them thar hills of lovely Ouray. Seeing the damage from those avalanches was really cool too, would like to see that myself.
    Hope this comment goes thru Mark, Google shut down all of their accounts so I will have to try something else and Im not to computer sassy.
    Have a great summer.

    1. Problem with all those snapped trees is that they eventually wedge together in narrow parts of creeks and rivers and create a dam of sorts. That's what causes most of the flooding around mountain towns. The city has put out two or three sandbag stations for residents who live in vulnerable places...

  8. What a great ride. I envy you.

  9. I wondered how you were getting your dope given the conditions out there. It is sobering to see. It will be quite a while before things are "normal". It must be nice, though, to have those places to yourself! No (or at least few) tourists, I'm guessing. We will be out there late this summer, one way or another.

    1. "Off Season" is fast drawing to a close, town is starting to bustle. But if get out early enough and you can have a solitary experience. Wildflowers will be late this year due to all the snow. Maybe you can catch them :)


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