Confidence Comes with Taking Chances

I'll admit - I'm hesitant to go on big rides and monster loops alone. I look at the photos and the Strava rides of other women, wondering how they manage the courage to head up into the mountains solo. For my long rides, I tend to do loops - up down and round, staying close to home and off the "back country" trails.  I've never gone further then Blue Columbine alone while on my bike. I worry about something happening, getting injured or so many other things that can go wrong. It's not that things can't go wrong on my up, down repeat loops - it's just that I'm closer to home and Nick can come and get me if things do happen. But that doesn't mean I don't look at the map - dreaming of the big loops and taking chances alone in the back country.

Thursday was the day to change that. I had my map, I had the Spot, I had my water treatment method (a steripen - which works great when it works) and a backpack with warm clothes and food. Didn't think I'd need the warm clothes - after all, it was already near 80 when I left the house a little before 9:00. But this is Colorado - you neve know about thunder storms! I also knew I was going to be out there for a while, so borrowed my long run trick of a thin long sleeve wool shirt. It might feel warmer to start, but as you start sweating, the wool actually keeps you cooler then sleeves. And then I don't need to worry about sunscreen! Or feeling like I have bugs crawling on me.

Gold Camp Road, off in the distance, winding around the mountains
My original plan was to ride/hike up St Mary's Falls, then past the falls to where the trail merges with 381. Just to see where the other drop into St Mary's comes out - we usually take the singletrack as soon as possible. That was the plan - but as we all know, I'm easily distracted by maps of all kinds. The push up St Mary's was good - I got to practices carrying my bike and pushing my bike. I'm faster carrying the bike then pushing, but it's easier to carry in an alpine area! Those trees tend to get in the way down low! There were a few hikers out and about, and most of them were pretty amazed that I was going up the trail, not running them over from behind. I wasn't in a hurry - the plan was just time on wheels and time on feet combined. Stopped for some photos in a few places - rode what I was able to ride (which wasn't much past the base of the waterfall).  I got to the junction of the singletrack trail and the road up to 381. Whew - I would be able to ride again on the road! Ummm. Yeah, not so much! It was a cross between the push up and over Hancock Pass and Poncha Creek Road. At least know I know where to go for some quality HAB if I so choose..."

There is a trail there, promise!
Finally, I got to 381. Time for a snack and a check of the map. I checked with the spot so Nick would have an idea of where I was and sat down to look a the map. And here is where I got adventurous. I could easily take 381 back to our normal drop in to St Mary's and have good, hard ride. But I didn't really feel like tackling the switchbacks going down and St Mary's was really loose. Or I could check out part of the course for the Pikes Peak Ultra 50 mile race - one I'd had my eye on until Nick talked me out of it. That would involve heading up 672. I opted for up, knowing full well after studying the topo that there was a fine chance I'd be doing more hiking then riding again. And I was right - between the steep trail and the loose baby heads, I don't think I rode any of 672 from the road up to the saddle. I briefly pondered a Mt Rosa summit as well, but opted against it. Clouds were moving in and it was getting late. So down I went, into the unknown descent off Mt Rosa to Frosty's park. That was actually really fun. I'd been worried about it being loose and baby headed like the east side, but it wasn't! There were a few things that I should have ridden, but got a little chicken about. I didn't feel like taking chances out there in the middle of no where.

Pikes Peak!
Selfie with Pikes Peak!
And how do you know if you are getting close to Frosty's Park? Just listen for the gun shots. Sure enough, as I crossed the creek and started the last little climb on 673, I started hearing gunfire. How typical.... It also was starting to rain - I was hoping to get to Frosty's before putting on my rain coat so people could at least see me and I didn't have to worry about them shooting at me. No luck - one hard downpour had me donning that coat in a hurry! The rain had stopped as I dropped into Frosty's so I almost took my coat off. Then I looked up at the clouds. Yeah, they didn't look to friendly! I quickly put on my elbow pads and my raincoat back on. Time to do something I haven't done before. Pipeline - alone. And in the rain... It started raining harder as I dropped through the gait and was near full downpour level as I made the turn off 701. This was going to be fun! Just keep your wits about you and ride your bike. The rain was turning into hail, white blobs splatting against the rocks. Visors on helmets might be a little annoying, but they do help keep sunglasses cleaner when it's raining! To my delight, I was able to ride the entire descent of Pipeline until the first pipe sighting clean. Even with the deep scree and slippery rocks!

Fuzzy comlumbine
The rain was gone and the sun out by the time I hit 7 Bridges. With all the new trail work, I wasn't sure what I'd find down there - I was hoping for one last run down Crankcase. But I fear I may have been too late - and I didn't really explore too much either. The trail dropped me right onto the new construction, completely bypassing crankcase. I know it's new and they just finished it - it needs to pack in and settle a little. But I fear it's going to become a scree pit much like Columbine and will not be able to handle the amount of use it's going to get. There is a reason why most trails in the area follow creeks - that's where there's actually dirt and where the trail will survive. Taking trail building ideas based off of having real dirt to dig in usually doesn't work when the entire hillside is unstable decomposing granite... But we shall see. A gem of statewide renown is gone and that's where I leave it.


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