Of Shuttles and Hike-a-Bike...

Another long weekend with no agenda but riding bikes. Okay - that's not quite true. We did want to get one final scouting trip done before September arrives, so we did have an agenda. Friday, that agenda involved loading our bikes up on the shuttle for the Crest run and Saturday there was going to be some hiking...
The plan on Friday was take the shuttle to Monarch Pass and ride the entire section of trail back down to Poncha Springs - Monarch Crest, Starvation, Poncha Creek Rd, Silver Creek and Rainbow. I'd planned on about 5:30 based on my time from last year and how long it had taken us to do various chunks of the route. Without the benefit of aid stations, we were fully loaded up with food and water while waiting for the shuttle. It was a small group eagerly waiting for the ride - but mountain biking is a small world! One of the other guys happened to be friends with some of our friends from Colorado Springs and with the Boise group we met through them... Another guy was Chama Dave, who I recognized from a feature about him in Mountain Flyer a while back. That made for a very social ride up the pass!

With a big day ahead of us, Nick and I wasted no time once the bikes were unloaded. We were pedaling up the service road and I glanced over my shoulder to see Chama Dave sprinting up the hill to catch us. He'd heard me say we were riding Starvation and wanted to join us so he wasn't riding alone. And it was cool having him along. He was just so happy to ride his bike and share how much he loved riding with everyone. We took the road across to Starvation, just like we will in September and Nick and Dave just spent that entire time chatting. Me? I was eating! Working on strategies for later...We dropped Starvation - thanks to whoever went in and cleared the downed trees - Just as much fun as I remembered. Dave was all set to drop the road back to Poncha Springs, but Nick convinced him to climb back up Poncha with us. He opted for another Starvation trip instead of finishing out the Crest with us, but it was a pleasure riding with him and I'm glad we got the chance. Meanwhile, Nick and I continued along our way. Finishing out the CT, we met two guys at the top of Silver Creek. I was putting on my elbow pads and they both laughed, saying "If they're wearing body armor, we better let them go first!" And they were both on much bigger bikes then my poor little Camber...

Focusing on the trail - the steep little hills always seem steeper at 10k feet!
We made good time on the Silver Creek/Rainbow run and I got some good info for water and food. No sense carrying more then what I need and if I run out just before an aid station, that's okay. I also got a first hand lesson in why Nick always wants a bottle of plain water on the bike. A rather inelegant dust cloud just before Green's left me with sand in my eye. It would have been a very long day if I hadn't been able to wash it out.

Saturday - Canyon Creek. The ride might be shorter then the rest of the rides that weekend, but that didn't mean we were going to take it easy. Nick pressed a steady tempo up the Tomichi Pass climb. I was hoping to ride most of the jeep road this time, but was having some issues finding my cadence in the loose rocks. So there was some hoofing before the hike-a-bike even started - which was fine. One area where I was a little lax last year was hoofing at speed. I'd get off and walk, but without the urgency that I should have had. Not this year. At the start of the single track, we rode for just a little. I knew once I was off my bike, I would be off for good. Too much energy expanded trying to get back on and then off again. Again, a nice quick tempo for the hike-a-bike. A steady pace but one that wasn't too hard and hopefully one I can duplicate later! I carried my bike up the steeper sections and the pushed the rest of the way. A quick stop at the top to inhale some food and get jackets on and then we were off.
Standing there so small, among the giants. The infamous Canyon Creek Hike-a-Bike

Canyon Creek. A descent of over 3000 feet, dropping from alpine tundra above the sky to lush aspen groves along the creek. Worth every step up to the summit. I still find myself on sensory overload at times, with nothing to focus on during alpine descent. And then it's into the trees and the stimulus changes from the vast emptiness of space around me to the tight quarters and rocky lines among the pines. A different challenge, but just as much fun. With Nick riding just far enough ahead of me that I couldn't see his path, I had to find my own lines again. Reading the trail is a skill as much as any - picking the smoothest path through, around or even over the obstacles. Nick would wait occasionally, but take off again the minute I came into view, pushing me every step of the way. There was no letting up this time, not on this ride. So if you want more photos - take a look at last year!

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