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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bikepacking the Colorado Trail. (Pt. 2)

After Paul's departure in Buena Vista, we took off to tackle the second half of the route. We still had a good chunk of riding in front of us. The character of the trail changes quickly as you start riding out of Buena Vista towards Monarch Pass. Steeper sections, looser more technical terrain and more mountains... big mountains. 

The Colorado Trail normally avoids Monarch Pass and a good section of the renown Monarch Crest Trail through Fooses Creek. We really wanted to ride the ridge, so we avoided the original route and instead did 8 miles of pavement to reach the pass. Our mini detour was well worth it; a clear morning welcomed us as we rode into the Monarch Crest trailhead... 

- No wonder why the Monarch Crest is popular, the riding is exceptional and the vistas are stunning in every direction.

-- Little by little the smoothness of the trail started melting under our tires and rocks and roots took over. First just short sections and then they just invaded it all... we hit the Sargents Mesa, probably the most challenging section of the ride. 

-- Most of the terrain is rideable, but it requires concentration, strength and skill to keep your wheels rolling on top of the big loose rocks. Once you master that, be prepared because it keeps coming at you relentlessly for many hours.

-- Above, one of the few sections where the Sargent gives in a bit and lets you enjoy smooth terrain and fine vistas ( that's if you don't get hit by the storms that like to chase riders)... 

-- Then you find yourself back in the woods and riding on top of those big, loose rocks again...

-- Appreciation for the Karate Monkey and its knobby fat tires grew even bigger in this section...

-- No matter how hard the ride or rocky the trail, good camping was always available.

... finally, after several hours we were out on double track and adding miles as we approached the last wilderness detour: La Garita.

-- Slumgullion Pass. Back into the high mountains and re-fueling for the long day towards Silverton...

-- With only a few snacks left and maybe an emergency dinner, we needed to decide whether to  go down to Lake City to resupply or commit to ride in one day to Silverton. After some deliberation we decided that the next day we would start very early and finish in Silverton. If it was going to be "Comandante's" last day on the trail it had to be a good one!

-- More food followed the discussion. The long lasting dehydrated vegetables and fruits I brought from the farm kept being our main ingredient for every meal, served here with miso and rice pasta.

-- We woke up to a clear sky and a bright full moon, who was still awake.

-- Soon we were back on the trail, gaining altitude as the sun came out...

-- ... many miles of delightful singletrack, open alpine ridges and high passes unfolded under our tires.  Legs were tired and food scarce, but the weather was on our side and storms avoided us all day long, that alone was enough motivation to keep rolling.

-- Little dwarfs on a sea of mountains...

-- Some short strenuous hikeabikes and then riding again this endless thin line of dirt.

-- High passes gave way to more mountains, it becomes hard to believe that you are actually riding it.

-- Eventually we dropped down and some miles of gravel took our tired bodies to Silverton.

-- With several beers and a good meal we said goodbye to "El Comandante".

-- That afternoon only two pairs of worn boots were left outside the tent. Cass and I would wrap up the ride from Silverton to Durango.
Note: Old and new model of Shimano MT91 boots (aka. XM9). This guys are hard to beat for a ride like the CT.


A refreshing morning off-the bikes in Silverton. 


--  Once more we loaded our bikes and hit the trail. 
(Photo: Cass's Revelate Designs Egress pocket proved to be a great option for carrying XT-2 camera and lenses)

-- Once more we were lucky with the weather, blue skies prevailed as we rode up from Molas Pass.

-- A wonderful display of colors and clouds as storms lurked around us.

-- Warming up the engine... 
Note: Ground Effect Robin Hood top has proven to be unbeatable as a merino base layer. Cass has been using this green one since I know him!

-- Wild flowers, patches of snow and great riding seemed to be theme of the day. We can't complain...

-- Our last camp. Blackhawk pass.

-- Some tricky connections (due to trail closures) eventually took us down Hermosa Creek trail and finally to Durango.  After 14 days of awesome riding, the CT came to an end. 

Special thanks to my partner Marcela who stayed behind with our two little ones (Koru 3 years, Antu 5 months) to let me fly. Also big appreciation for Paul and Surly Bikes for letting me ride such a nice bike, Cass for being my adventure -compadre- and my tribe back at Nahual who covered my back while I was gone.

Also Thanks to:

and the wild FLOWERS...


  1. Great write up, and fantastic pictures! My friend and I attempted the trail a couple weeks after you guys. Unfortunately we made it only 7 days before bailing at Salida. I can't wait to jump back on next season and shoot for the moon! Thanks for the inspiration.


    1. Thanks Beard...
      It's an awesome ride, if you have a chance give it another go and shoot for the moon!!

  2. Thanks for checkin in, glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Such a great read (and looksie). Let me know when you decide to take the Big Fat Dummy to the CT -- I'll hold down the back end for you.

    1. Thanks Rebecca, glad you enjoyed it!... it was a really nice ride.
      I dont think the BFD will see the CT anytime soon, but Iam really looking forward to take her on a family adventure in the vicinity. You can come then... haha

  4. Hola Michael, super fan de tus fotos y aventuras. Sueno con hacer alguna de tus rutas en Ecuador y Peru algun dia. Una pregunta sobre tu saddle bag, quiero comprarme uno pero estoy indeciso entre el Terrapin q tu usas y uno de PorcelainRocket que tiene un rack de soporte que segun los comentarios lo hace estable (lo malo es q es algo pricey aqui en Canada)....en base a tu experiencia como se comporta el Terrapin en terminos balance y si se desajusta cuando cuando el terreno es bien bumpy.

    Un cordial saludo,


    1. Que tal Diego,
      Bacan que te inspires a hacer alguna de las rutas. Si necesitas algo de información no dudes en preguntar...
      A mi me encanta la Terrapin, si esta bien empacada y se ajusta correctamente no tiene casi nada de juego. Tiene un sistema de hebillas para prevenir que las correas se aflojen y funciona bastante bien. Es simple y liviano...
      Mi amigo Cass (whileoutriding) utiliza la Mr. Fusion de PR y es también un muy buen diseño, tanto Eric (el dueño de Revelate) y Scott (dueño de PR) son bikepackers de muchos años, sus productos son sin duda de los mejores en el mercado.
      Resumiendo: Creo que las dos opciones en términos de funcionamiento, estabilidad y calidad de producto son garantizadas. Precio, disponibilidad donde vives y gustos personales (colores, etc) creo que son tus factores determinantes.
      Espero te ayude.

    2. Buenisimo el feedback Michael. Te lo agradezco mucho....Tambien he visto las super aventuras de Cass...Uds son unas verdad los felicito.



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  6. This is such a great post in every way... and what a ride!

    1. indeed pana, what a ride!, Iam glad you enjoyed the post. Good memories!

  7. Nice recap. I sure wish I would've had as many dry days/nights as your ride!! Brings back a ton of good and not-so good memories from an otherwise soggy CTR!! Well done.

    1. Thanks John,
      haha I know what you mean. Its a challenging ride as it is, leave alone with bad weather!