Monday, August 17, 2009

Mountain Unicycling From Copper Mtn to Camp Hale.

Imagine the most perfect Colorado day.
Sunny without being too hot.
Marshmallow clouds floating lazy through a clear blue sky.
Cool breezes calmly brushing through your hair.
A scent of wildflowers tickling your nose.

A rare day in the Colorado high country, perfect for an epic adventure of singletrack, one wheeled, adreneline fueled tour of one of the best alpine rides around.
The Colorado Trail put on it's finest display today and we were there to soak it all in.

Normally, an summer, alpine attempt in the Colorado high country requires a crack of dawn departure and a race to the summits before noon when the cooling rains and the deadly lightening make their appearance.
Not on this day! Absoulutely no thunderstorms predicted, no scary dark clouds, no prickly ozone standing up the hair on the back of your neck as you hurry over the passes.
Just blue, blue, blue skies and fluffy small clouds greeting you like your best BFF friend all day long.

Mike and I have tried for two summers now to put this ride together and today was the day. We met in Leadville, the highest city in America, and proceeded to drop off cars and perform the holy ritual of the shuttle.
We finally arrived at the parking lot of Copper Mountain Ski Area and started our ride at a casual 9:00 AM.
Starting under the American Flyer chair lift, oddly not moving at all, like a slow, surreal line of empty chairs going nowhere. A ghost resort where the white ribbons of parka clad ski enthusiasts were replaced by a green hill of long grasses performing their turns in the breeze.

The parking lot starts at 9800 feet above sea level, we began the slow climb up the Colorado Trail to Searle Pass. We followed the trail through dark pine forests, passing Janet's Cabin, meadows of willows, and finally got above tree line to chorus of colors from the remaining wildflowers that still clung to the slopes. We reached Searle Pass with two mountain bikers who were amazed that two unicycle guys somehow managed to keep up with them from the start. In the 7 miles to the pass we climbed 2600 feet.

The next traverse to Kokomo Pass was the narrowest singletrack I have ever seen. Barely wider than my 3" tire. Mostly un-ridable for me, Mike's 29'er cleaned the whole few miles. My pedals seemed to strike the side of the deep cut trail throwing me off into grassy clumps lining the trail. The second half was much more 26'er friendly.

Amazing high alpine fields under a blue sky, a sky made even more bluer in the thin air. here we are contouring along a basin at 12,200 feet. The views are as breath taking as the lack of oxygen. We are riding unicycles at almost 2 1/2 miles in the sky, at 2.1/2 MPH. The moment does not go un-noticed as Mike and are grinning and high-fiving along the whole traverse.

We drop a bit to Kokomo pass. We have been riding now 13 miles now, most of it above tree-line in the land of Marmots and Pika who make burrows among the clouds. We have seen no other humans for hours now, and enjoying every minute of it. Cameras get put away as we have 4 1/2 miles of descent into Camp Hale. Giddy with endorphines and Espresso flavored Gu we drop in and ride non-stop to the car along Cataract Creek. Mike found a waterfall down by the trailhead where we left the car and enjoyed some nice relaxing down-time waiting for me.

We left our shuttle car in the heart of Camp Hale, made famous as the ski-training grounds for the Army's 10th Mtn Division before WWII. From these hallowed grounds the troops of the 10th mountain went to Italy and climbed some un-climbable cliffs to defeat the Nazis who were not expecting anyone to come that way. Many of the soldiers returned to Colorado and began most of the Ski areas that we enjoy today. I bet they never-ever expected their ski trails to be assualted by pale, crazed unicyclers.

This was my longest and most grueling Muni ride ever. I was sore and beat up, but also energized, amazed and grateful for being able to complete such an amazing ride.
Thanks to Mike from Aspen for putting it together, being such a great guy and amazing Muni-rider. Thanks, also, for the delicious Espresso Gu.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Scotty (and Mike) fantastic one-wheel riding on The Colorado Trail. Thanks for your write-up and great photos. Let us know if you'd like to have the CTF keep you in the loop with our newsletter and info about volunteer trail work. Glad you enjoy the CT - WooHoo!!

Bill Manning, Mg Dir
The Colorado Trail Foundation