Riding the Crest

Sometimes the quality of the ride is not measured in speed, the distance covered, the hours on the trail or the number of QOMs racked up. No, sometimes the ride can only be judged on the amount of smiles and the time spent with friends. Not every ride has to be hard and Saturday's trip down Monarch Crest was definitely a smiles per mile kinda ride. Once the plan to ride Monarch Crest was finalized, Nick invited our friends from Golden, Dan and Leslie, to join the fun. And of course, they were all in. While Leslie had ridden the trail once before, it had been years. This would be her longest ride in a number of months. So we all chilled out, had fun, rode great single track, enjoyed the awesome views and got to spend time with friends. Might not have set any speed records, but judging by the grins, the fun meter was off the charts. Which is really why we all ride bikes!

Not wanting to dodge semis and speeding cars on the shoulderless HY-50, we opted to take the shuttle up from Poncha Springs. I know, the purists out there would scoff at taking the shuttle, saying that the only true way to experience Monarch Crest is to ride the complete loop. But for me, I know the cars always win and I didn't want to take my chances. And I didn't see anyone opting to ride up the road that morning, either so... It was a very crowded shuttle Saturday morning. Leslie and I ended up in the "overflow" pickup, neither one of us wanting to leave our bikes unattended. The air at the top of the pass was crisp and held a sense of anticipation. Either that or it was all the eager riders unloading bikes. We took our time, knowing that it wouldn't pay to rush with the number of riders. And there were truly all shapes and sizes and kinds of bikes. Lots of people setting out on a grand adventure into the Colorado Mountains.
The trail up high on the Continental Divide
There was a little section of dirt road before we turned off and started the Monarch Crest trail. But as we meandered along the alpine tundra, I was having a hard time focusing on the trail. To much to look at with the 360 degree views of the continental divide. The riding was fun, with some steep climbs, a few little rock gardens, fast descents and long traverses along the ridgelines. At Fooses Creek, we merged with the Colorado Trail and started to enter the trees. More fun and fast descents with some tight switchbacks before Green Trail and the shelter. Grins abounded coming off that section of trail. Then more climbing - a steep, loose climb the brought us to just below tree line again. Another trail - Agate Creek - dropped off to the right, leading down to Sargent's. A short regrouping at Marshal Pass road, then we continued along the Colorado trail. Some rolling, some climbing and some descending, then finally the last highpoint of the trail. That was a sucker of a climb! Then it was time for fun. The drop down from the Continental divide on Silver Creek trail.

Dan and Nick, discussing bikes
And fun it was - I was on my Era, enjoying the suspension. Because Nick was riding his HT, I was almost able to keep up with him! We took a long break at the end of Silver Creek to eat lunch and rest for a bit. We were all having fun, but Leslie was starting to get a little tired. We didn't want to separate though, so made sure everyone was ready for starting on the last section of single track - Rainbow trail. Another really fun 9 miles of riding. The trail seemed to be carved out of the mountain side in places! We'd drop down into gullies, then climb back up the other side, traverse across to the next gully and repeat the process. A few of the gully climbs were steep and they were all really loose. I didn't make the longest of the climbs - just had some traffic. Which was fine, because it was about time to stop and take a break anyway. Dan and I sat at the top of that hill, watching all the riders coming up. I only saw one person ride all the way to the top - Nick on his 1x9! Everyone one else walked. We were getting really close to Hy-285 by then and fatigue was setting in. I think we reached the blacktop downhill run not a moment too soon! All my photos are from up high - and Nick never got his camera out!

Remembering the hike-a-bike up Fooses Creek during the 2009 CTR
 One thing that was funny with the shuttle - we kept hopscotching other groups of riders. Nick, Dan and I would catch them, ride for a while, then stop and wait for Leslie. Then the others would pass us back. We did this with three groups all the way down to Silver Creek, then with another group the rest of the way down Rainbow trail. I don't know if it was annoying to them, but it was kinda fun seeing the same groups the whole time. And useful - once when we were eating a snack, the women riding about the same pace passed us and let us know that Leslie was a little further back - also eating. Which was good, because we were just starting to get a little worried! I was a little concerned that the trail would be just crazy with the number of people coming up, but after the first few minutes of trail, it was very spread out. And everyone was really nice and polite. We were all strangers, but with one goal. Ride what some call legendary Colorado singletrack. An epic day that I can't wait to repeat!
Having fun and ready for more!


  1. Hello Tracy,
    Just a quick message to ask if you would be interested in a ‘mutual’ following on twitter. I am currently following you now and am awaiting for your follow-back. (#FYI I do RT’s ‘anytime’ for all #Triathletes #Cyclists #UltraRunners & #Marathoners who follow me on Twitter and have something important they want mentioned…)

    All the very best for the rest of 2012 and beyond Tracy. Look forward to hearing from you…



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