2007 Colorado Road Trip
Me and the Nuclear Trio
July 2007
At some point during the third day of trail riding in Taylor Park, an
astounding thought sprung to my mind:
I can’t believe they let dirt bikers
ride here
. In this case, the “they” being the National Forest Service,
along with the local populous who supports the habits of both two- and
four-wheeled adventurers by supplying everything under the sun
needed for a week of paradise. These specifics will come; first, let’s meet
the players in the
2007 Colorado Nuclear Road Trip:
Matt Sellers: Navigator
  • The Bike: KTM 300XC-W
  • The Day Job: Training future Homer
    Simpsons
  • Map reader extraordinaire
  • Can smell a sale on ketchup from
    three aisles away
  • Ditching Curtis was all his idea
Scott Maxwell: Fashion Coordinator
  • The Bike: KTM 450EXC
  • The Day Job: That thing Homer
    Simpson does where the green
    glowing bar of uranium ends up in his
    pants
  • Master of all things George Foreman
  • Riding speed increases when traveling
    in the wrong direction
  • Disposable Dockers never looked so
    chic
Curtis Wood: Supertanker
Captain
  • The Bike: Suzuki DR-Z400
  • The Day Job: Nuclear smart-
    guy engineer person
  • Has more gas capacity than
    you do (in more ways than
    one)
  • Knows a marmot when he
    sees one (he saw one)
  • It was a marmot
Yours Truly: Mr. Anywhere,
Anytime
  • The Bike: KTM 300MXC
  • The Day Job: Master of the
    Cubicle
  • King of the Plunger
  • His horn is bigger than yours
  • Chipmunk destroyer
The plan this year was to rendezvous at the Three Rivers Resort in
Almont, Colorado. Curtis had lined up a cabin suitable for four grown
men in a post-Brokeback world. Matt and I drove out together, 15 hours
straight from Wentzville starting at 2:45 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Big
Bird
, my glow-in-the-dark yellow Blazer, made its maiden voyage to the
Rocky Mountains with our bikes in tow. Unlike
last year, the drive was as
trouble-free as could be and a bit more enjoyable taking the southern
route across the Continental Divide via Monarch Pass, a fully paved U.S.
highway. Cottonwood Pass may be more scenic, but that gravel road...
torture with a trailer.

Upon arrival, Scott and Curtis were hanging out at the lodge, admiring a
young lady with a set of 6-pack abs tuned as finely as anything I’d seen
since Janet Jackson hit her prime around 1992. The resort was lined
with long rows of various types of cabins, ours being the most modern
version of the dwellings in a pre-fab style that we guessed had originally
arrived by flatbed truck. The interior was oddly similar to a 40-foot motor
home with dining room slide-outs on both sides. Curtis took the bedroom
and Scott claimed the living room futon, while Matt and I endured the
Jack-and-Ennis jibes upstairs in a loft clearly designed for midgets and
kids under the age of 5.

Monday
Our first day of riding began with a search for a trail just north of Almont
that would connect us to Roaring Judy road, where we’d head to the
Gunnison Spur trail. Matt’s navigational skills were being questioned by
at least one in the group when we traveled more than five miles on
pavement to locate a dirt road that should have been half a mile north of
town. The new front rim I’d laced up myself was demonstrating the ill
effects of an amateur truing the spokes with the help of a screwdriver
and duct tape. It shook a little at 60 mph. We finally gave up on finding
the trail and instead used Jack’s Cabin Cutoff road to make our way
across the ATV trails of Roaring Judy.

Not long after finding our first trails of the week, my KTM’s throttle
developed a mind of its own. More specifically, it only wanted to run wide
open whenever the trail got fast and rough. In keeping up with the brain
pool of three nuclear power plant professionals, I had developed in short
order, and with about 95% certainty, a proposed diagnosis for the
problem, thereby skipping the hypothesis formation step in the scientific
process and heading straight for the root cause of the malfunction:
improper reassembly of the slide return spring plastic thingy that seats
itself inside the needle holder gizmo because I hadn't put it back
together correctly when I changed the jetting for high altitudes. Twenty
minutes on the side of the trail was all it took to fix everything, and for
the rest of the week the throttle would operate perfectly.

This year the trails were much drier and dustier than my previous visit,
so much that in certain spots I had to give the guys ahead of me some
extra space so I could see clearly. The sun shone brightly on alpine
meadows and gave us picture perfect sights to start out our week of trail
riding. As the morning passed and the singletrack miles added up, we’d
made our way to the Gunnison Spur trail, where the going got tougher
and eventually we decided to get going somewhere else. We were
hungry and Scott was nervous about the smallish 2.1 gallon gas tank on
his KTM 450EXC, despite the Supertanker’s ability to supply enough gas
for the whole group of us for a good long time. Curtis had brought with
him a Suzuki DRZ400 outfitted with the most bulbously huge gas tank I
have ever seen with my own eyes. He claimed it held four gallons, but it
looked like it could have held six.
Gunnison Spur - steeper than it looks.
Last year Matt and I rode this trail in
the downhill direction in much muddier
conditions. This year we climbed the
trail in dry dirt, which was still a
challenge and would have been next to
impossible if the trail had been as wet
as it was in 2006.
We located a jeep trail to take us to Rocky Brook Road and then to the
Taylor Park Trading Post for gas. Along the way, I slid out on the jeep
trail and crashed in 4th gear. It hurt. All my necessary body parts
seemed to work and the bike looked ok, so I got up and remounted
about the same time Curtis caught up from behind. Unfortunately,
nobody else had witnessed the most impressive crash any of us would
perform the whole week. More importantly, nobody had seen that I
sheered off the step pad part of my brake pedal. I didn't notice until
many miles later, while attempting to grab some air over a series of
water breaks on an off-road shortcut from Taylor River Road to the
Trading Post.

We ate lunch in the restaurant at the Trading Post, rested, and decided
to use jeep roads to make our way back to Three Rivers instead of riding
22 miles on a 2-lane highway to Almont. We found Union Park Road and
later a sign noting the entrance (and exit) to Union Park, which consisted
of a couple trees, some boulders, and dirt. The town had hit on hard
times, apparently. From there, the predictable afternoon showers of the
Colorado Rockies moved in with fat, cold raindrops as we headed
towards Union Canyon and Lottis Creek. The trail quickly turned into a
mass of boulders of every shape and size, now wet and slippery from
the rain. In some places, the creek and trail were one and the same.

When we finally emerged from the roughest of the rocks and found
some smooth trail, we came across a family of three on a pair of rented
ATVs. They had somehow made it down the same trail we did and were
now contemplating the return trip to Taylor Park. From Lottis Creek
Campground, they were 5 miles by highway and lord knows how many
miles by heading back up that gawdawful rock garden of a trail.
Yeah, it hurt a little. Who needs a step
pad when an allen wrench will work
just fine?
Our trail diversion still left us with 17 miles of pavement between the
campground and Three Rivers, so Matt and I voted to send Scott and
Curtis down the road to retrieve a trailer and pick us up. My aching right
arm and wrist were now feeling the effects of my big crash and I had no
Happy Pills to ease the pain. In the time we waited for Curtis to return
with his trailer, I found a solution to my sheared rear brake pedal pad
involving a 4mm allen wrench, a hose clamp and a couple of zip ties.
Worked like a charm for the rest of the week.

Tuesday
Another sunny morning greeted us on Day 2. We rode out the backside
of the resort and climbed a jeep trail, followed by a long ride over dusty
roads to the Fossil Ridge trail east of Almont. The singletrack passed by
some of the largest beaver dams I've ever seen. We stopped to take a
look at one dam that must have been around for generations. The pond
behind it was crystal clear, reflecting trees and mountains in the bright
sun.
Click on photos for full-size images
Paradise ended when the trail began a long climb up a boulder infested
path to high altitude. Along the way, my KTM suffered a bit and began
spitting coolant from the radiator overflow hose. We stopped to cool off
and let Curtis and the Exxon Valdez catch up. The energy needed to
move a 350-pound motorcycle to the top of Fossil Ridge Trail carrying a
grown man weighing north of 200 pounds, well, lets just say multiple
laws of physics must be overcome. The big DRZ’s radiators were
sending coolant back to his overflow tank, so we took an extended break
before Scott decided to make a solo run to the top of the mountain. We
could hear his 450EXC above us crossing back and forth along a series
of long switchbacks as the trail wound its way up. At the top was a large
clearing about 11,000 feet high with a southerly view stretching as far as
the eye could see.

Further down the trail was a locked gate with a sign warning us not to
enter. The metal gate was about six feet tall and wide as an ATV, yet
there was 500 feet of open space on either side to ride around it. We
did, and a quarter-mile later was the remnants of what had been a
similar gate, except someone (or something) had destroyed it, leaving a
mangled set of metal pipes and chain links. Maps would later show that
this trail passed over private property. Evidently the owner didn't care for
trespassers, but the gate was useless to keep anyone out.

The singletrack ended with a long series of downhill switchbacks, where
Scott found a poorly placed tree branch that tore a large hole in his set
of modified khaki pants. Why, you ask, would a person trail ride in
khakis? Only Scott knows this answer. Every day he dressed himself in
a new pair of pants with a leather belt and about 10 inches cut from the
bottom of each leg. Knee pads were worn over the pants, presumably to
protect their fine fabric. By mid-morning, the pants had usually
developed an ass crack sweat stain running the length of the rectal
area, producing an image not unlike that of a county fair carnival rider
having the shit scared out of him on the Tilt-a-Whirl. At the end of each
day, Scott took off the pants and threw them in the garbage. The
following day, a new pair of pants would appear. These disposable
pants were a week’s worth of worn out leftovers from Scott’s standard
attire for his job at the Callaway nuclear plant in Missouri, thus
preserving the time and effort of having to wear and wash conventional
off-road riding pants. He looked...professional.

Lunch was found at a bar in Ohio City, where we parked our bikes next
to an outdoor patio and grabbed a sandwich before heading to Alder
Creek Trail for our return trip to the cabin. My bruised right arm and wrist
were feeling almost no ill effects of the previous day’s crash, thanks to a
generous helping of ibuprofen in the morning. And the allen wrench was
still working quite well as a foot pad for my rear brake pedal.
How you doo-win???
When we located Alder Creek Trail, it didn't look like much of anything. If
we hadn't seen a signpost every once in a while, there were several
places you wouldn't know you were on a trail. We continued down a
lengthy gulch filled with beaver dams and eventually stopped to rest
above a small pond. A beaver swam toward us and disappeared under a
submerged log just as I was about ready to take a picture. Some of the
locals had told us to look for a species called the Rarefied Bald Beaver,
but this one had plenty of fur and we didn't see any bald ones the whole
week. We were later told a few places to look but we didn't understand
why any beavers would live in town, so close to nightclubs.

Scott and I navigated our way past a fork in the trail where the Alder
Creek singletrack continued, but by the time we realized our mistake,
Scott and Curtis were ready to call it a day. Matt and I found a way for
them to go on ahead and stop at a point where the four of us could meet
up after we backtracked and rode the last of the singletrack. In the end,
Scott and Curtis avoided a boulder field that would have sucked the last
of all our collective energy trying to push and pull four bikes through
there. Matt nearly ruined himself from breathlessness trying to take an
impossible alternate route around the toughest boulders. We made it
through, met Scott and Curtis at the next trail intersection, and headed
back to Three Rivers with just enough time for my rear axle bolt to fall
out. By some miracle the chain block stayed put and my fancy
Erider
stainless steel bolt was still in my toolbox. Disaster averted.

Wednesday
The North Bank campground, a few miles up the Taylor River from
Almont, was the start of our Day 3 ride on a trail called Doctor’s Park.
The singletrack began at the river and immediately climbed 300 feet in
about a quarter mile, through a long series of switchbacks. From there,
the trails were glorious. Near the end of the singletrack six miles later, I
took off ahead of the group and blasted down the trail in full-on race
mode. We coasted down a series of switchbacks carved out of the
hillsides for jeeps and found ourselves on Doctor Gulch Road.

From there, we crossed through Spring Creek, still as cold and deep as
it was the last time we'd crossed on Monday, and headed for the
sweetest singletrack in all of Taylor Park: Deadman’s Gulch. It’s smooth,
relatively free of rocks, and pure joy to ride. Matt could sense my
anticipation, possibly from the foam spewing out my mouth, and let me
take off ahead at an accelerated pace. The trail followed a wide gulch
that gradually rises about 750 feet over five miles.  Most of the trail is cut
into the side of the gulch in the grassy part where there are few trees. It’
s second and third gear all the way up.
At the top, Matt and I rested while Scott and Curtis made their way up. I
was notified of my accidental killing of a chipmunk, which I vaguely
remembered darting into my path just ahead of some sort of groundhog-
sized varmint. Curtis offered his theory that it was actually a
marmot,
those squirrel-on-steroid rodents that stare at you like Mrs. Klemme in
the 4th grade when you've just shot a bull’s-eye spitball onto the earlobe
of Jeff Reed’s head. We were either too tired to respond or didn't give a
shit, but Curtis was looking for the same affirmation as a toddler learning
to identify animal pictures in a children’s book: keep on repeating “Monk-
eeee??” until someone -
anyone - responds. We wouldn't let him have it.

The last mile of Deadman’s Gulch was a long series of downhill
switchbacks that we decided to ride without our engines. To clarify, the
engines did remain attached to our motorcycles; we just didn't use them.
It’s an odd feeling, coasting that far with only the sound of my
suspension soaking up bumps and my tires rolling over hard-packed
dirt. I couldn't help myself – I still pulled in and released the clutch
everywhere it would have been needed if the engine had been running.
Matt, riding behind me with a little extra natural ballast at his disposal,
gradually caught up near the end of the trail at Cement Creek.
Nobody was brave
enough to cross the
creek on the log
We then headed up a steep trail on the west side of
Cement Creek that probably wasn't meant for uphill
riding, based on the deep ruts and multiple alternate
trails to the top. Our intention was to keep moderately
close to Cement Creek Road and eventually work our
way back east to American Flag Mountain, but Scott
had other ideas. In the lead position, he missed a right
turn in the trail and blasted westward on top of a
mountain ridge towards Crested Butte at Warp Factor
9. Matt and I watched this happen and debated for
half a minute whether we should go after him or wait
Shortly after crossing back over Cement Creek Road, we let Curtis take
a solo tour around Taylor Park for the rest of the day. We really didn’t
plan to lose him. In fairness to The Navigator, the point where the three
of us voluntarily separated from him was within shouting distance of the
Grassy Trail ATV path, Reno Divide Road, Reno Ridge Road, Flag Creek
Trail, both the new and old Italian Creek Roads, and what we would
soon discover was the steep trail up to the Reno radio repeater. It’s a
busy place on the map. Matt thought we were headed for Old Italian
Creek Road and a long, steep quasi-jeep trail up loose rock. It was an
intimidating sight, to which Curtis said “no thanks.” We sent him towards
what we thought was the easier “new” Italian Creek Road, on the map
showing convergence with our path a few miles later where the old and
new roads met again.

Curtis continued east while the three of us took turns riding straight up
face of the mountain, starting at around 11,250 feet and dead-ending a
half mile later at 12,100 feet. At the top, it didn't take a nuclear scientist
to figure out we’d just screwed Curtis. He was surely a mile or two down
the road now and we were a thousand feet above him, with nowhere
else to go but back to where we started our climb. Brushing aside Scott’
s advice that we do just that, Matt and I stared down the mountain and
saw what appeared to be only a large field of sagebrush between us
and Old Italian Creek Road. About a half-mile down the mountain –
probably could coast all the way, right? Theoretically, sure. The slope
down the mountain was no problem, but the sagebrush suddenly
became thicker and taller than it appeared from 1,000 feet away. We
took turns riding blindly through the 4-foot brush, trying to find any sort
of goat trail or gully where we could actually see what we were riding
into. Eventually we found mud and flowing water, both of which were ill
suited for any of us. We all made it down to Old Italian Creek Road,
finally, but not before watching Scott disappear into a gully. The
sagebrush had concealed a 10-foot drop-off, which Scott handled the
way any normal dirtbike-addicted person would: he bailed off the bike
and rolled down the side of the gully, thus preserving his 450EXC from a
similar fate.

We rode our collective asses off toward American Flag Mountain, a peak
we knew Curtis badly wanted to see. Along the way we stopped a group
of riders who’d just descended the treacherous mountain trail and asked
if there were any DR-Z400’s at the summit. Once we mentioned yellow
fenders and a gas tank the size of Montana, they all nodded
enthusiastically. They had, indeed, spotted The Supertanker, and it was
magnificent. We began our climb.
Alas, there was no DRZ at the summit. We took some pictures, ate a
snack and resigned ourselves to the certainty that Curtis was going to
be an angry man the next time we saw him. With that, Matt and I
decided it was time to torture Scott by leading him down the toughest
singletrack we knew of in Taylor Park:
Star Trail. We picked up the
trailhead near the bottom of American Flag Mountain and assured Scott
that since we would be riding the trail in reverse of the route Matt and I
had taken the year before, Star Trail would be much easier in this
direction.

A gullible man, that Scott Maxwell.

For about 2 minutes on Star Trail we had Scott believing what we’d told
him. But any semblance of a smile left his face when we came upon the
same hill Matt and I had slid down last year in the mud and I swore it
would be impossible to climb. That would have been true, except this
year the hill was bone-dry and a couple of alternate routes had
materialized. Matt and I showed Scott the best line to the top, but he still
wasn't entirely convinced it was possible, despite the two orange KTM’s
parked 40 feet above him. With a little coaching and a push over a
boulder or two, he made it up like a champ, later criticizing the trail
designers for placing a boulder field immediately following a blind
switchback. The nerve!

Scott had a chance to air his complaint to a pair of forest service workers
repairing water breaks a mile or so later, but the sight of them
performing manual labor with garden hoes (and with smiles to boot) on
the side of the mountain probably effected all of our appreciative
responses when they asked us to watch out for a team of mules on the
trail. The mules were hauling concrete blocks to repair the nasty hill we’
d forced Scott to ascend, two and a half hours each way from the
opposite side of Star Trail. I took off ahead of Matt and Scott and
reached the mule team about 5 minutes before they did. A couple miles
later, another team was being led by a gentleman whose cowboy
demeanor spoke for itself when I expressed my admiration for the
toughness of his mules. Dead silence, then realization that he was
leading a team of horses.
City people, sheesh.

At the trailhead, Scott burst out of the woods with the most relieved face
I've seen since my sophomore year of college when Adam Whipple’s
one-night-stand got her period. Scott had survived one of the toughest
trails Colorado has to offer. When asked if he wanted to ride back to
Three Rivers by way of Doctor’s Gulch, Scott replied, simply, “I cannot
do that.” Probably a good idea, as we were all running low on fuel at
that point. We headed for public roads and rode on gas fumes back to
the cabin. The absence of Curtis at the cabin was met with a sense of
dread, especially when we pooled our collective heads and realized he
had no key to the front door. When he arrived an hour later, Curtis was
oddly apologetic. Funny thing, he actually thought it was
his mistake
that got us separated.  We let him go with that for awhile, but Scott’s
conscience weakened first and he gradually let Curtis know that maybe
we had something to do with his frantic all-afternoon search for us. He
had in fact visited American Flag Mountain but left just minutes before
we arrived. He’d traveled as far north as Crested Butte South, a
community that is located (believe it or not) south of Crested Butte, to
get gas (his tank hits reserve with 1.5 gallons still in it!) and finally
arrived back at the cabin about 5 hours after we’d left him.

That night we took a break from the George Foreman grill graciously
provided by Curtis and enjoyed $5 burgers at the bar next to the resort
lodge, where Scott quizzed Sara the Waitress about her recent
honeymoon to Norway. We discussed the fine art of protecting the
general public from nuclear disasters and I learned more about nuclear
plant operations than any corporate banker should ever know. During
the week, so much nuclear power discussion took place that the whole
trip could have been written off as a business expense.

Thursday
The plan for Day 4 was to trailer the bikes to Taylor Reservoir and ride
the length of Timberline Trail, all the way from Tin Cup to Pie Plant. I
had a leaky fork seal to play with and Scott worked on tightening his
chain, which eventually turned into a greater problem when his chain
adjuster bolts seized. After an hour of fiddling, Scott and Curtis decided
to make a run to the Gunnison KTM dealer to handle the issue while
Matt and I drove to the
Taylor Park Trading Post to begin our ride.

We found a fun jeep road called Slaughterhouse Gulch and took it all
the way to Tin Cup, then headed eastward toward Mirror Lake. The
Timberline trailhead was a bit of a challenge to locate, not helped by the
fact that I passed within 20 feet of it without noticing the signpost.
Eventually we gave up and asked for directions in Tin Cup from a guy
who claimed to have once walked its entire 26-mile length.

Last year we had ridden part of Timberline starting at its northernmost
end near Pie Plant. In that direction, the first 2 or 3 miles had been
brutal. The south trailhead was more moderate but still quite challenging
as we climbed up to the tree line at around 11,000 feet. We had missed
this entire section in 2006 after losing the trail where it converged with an
ATV transfer section. It was a remarkable trail, mostly cut into the sides
of mountains.

The first leg of Timberline ended at a parking lot at Cottonwood Pass.
The trail continued on the other side of the road, about a quarter-mile
from the parking lot...a quarter-mile
west of the parking lot. This part of
the trail was just out of sight on our map, and I thought we had to ride
east. About the time we were within spitting distance of the Continental
Divide, we decided to turn around and coast back down to the parking
lot. It was a 15-mile diversion.

The south-to-north route was indeed easier than starting from Pie Plant,
but it’s all relative. The trail was still challenging. In one spot I paused to
admire the view 750 feet above the trail where we’d begun a steep climb.
Had anyone slid off the trail in that spot, they would have had an
unobstructed thrill ride all the way to the bottom. We saw a handful of
hikers on the trail, a few motorcycles, and a guy riding a horse. Near the
end, I recognized the hill I’d pushed up the KTM the year prior and
nearly died of asphyxiation. Downhill was better.

Pie Plant came upon us just as the afternoon rains rolled in. Our ride
ended with Taylor River Road, where we passed by the frigid Dinner
Station campground where we’d shivered for three nights in 2006. Back
at the cabin, Scott and Curtis had just finished up their adjuster bolt
project and Scott’s chain was looking good. They’d both been exhausted
the night before, so a day of rest was probably a good thing. Matt and I
took a drive up to Crested Butte to give me a chance to see the town for
the first time, then came back and drank a few more beers at the bar.
Earlier in the evening I’d dominated the cabin’s toilet and had to retrieve
a plunger from the lodge’s front desk. The most attractive summer
employee on staff played it cool, handing over the plunger with a simple
nod, as if to say
Yeah, I might be a hot chick but I've dominated a
crapper or two
.

That night, a pair of identical YZ125's were parked at the cabin beside
us, decked out in full lighting and the appearance of street legality. The
bikes were those of a father-son tandem of Henry's, the elder being one
of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met, and the younger a 13-
year-old with legs not long enough to touch the ground while sitting on
his YZ125. Young Henry had ridden the Timberline Trail in 2006 on an
85cc motocrosser, and the fact that both Henry's were navigating
singletrack in the high country on 125cc motocross bikes was evidence
enough of what we presumed were mad skills. The Henry's made
friends everywhere and left us with a standing invitation to visit them in
Santa Fe, where they promised the riding would be as good as Taylor
Park. "We have a guest house!" Young Henry proclaimed to the chagrin
of Elder Henry. Scott provided a quick recovery for both of them by
suggesting that we could stay at a hotel.

Friday
Our final day of riding began with another run up Deadman’s Gulch and
another coasting down switchbacks to Cement Creek. Overnight rains
had brought in overcast skies, the first we’d seen in the morning portion
of our riding. We picked up Cement Creek Trail and found the same
mud ruts as last year in the grassy valley next to the creek. Through one
section of a series of gullies, I had to hop off and push my KTM through
a deep gully. I motioned for Scott to take a higher line where the gullies
were shallower, but his interpretation of my arm motions was to take a
high line up the side of the mountain. He and Curtis disappeared into
the woods for about 10 minutes, then reappeared approximately 50 feet
further along the tree line. Matt shrugged and we took off for Hunters
Hill.
The ATV trail to Hunters Hill is a 1,500-foot climb
from Cement Creek over the course of about 2.5
miles. The path continues north to Crystal Peak
to some of the highest singletrack elevations in
Taylor Park. Where Doubletop Trail meets Brush
Creek Trail at about 11,500 feet, I walked down
the mountain about 20 feet to fetch a snowball
and just about passed out from exhaustion on
the way back up. Mountain climbers have my
respect.
Cement Creek at the
bottom of Deadman's
Gulch was a bit more
damp on Friday.
The air was thin but the view was fantastic.
Curtis was a bit winded at
the summit of Hunters Hill
.
The Nuclear Trio arrived at Taylor Pass Divide Road about 15 minutes
after I did, which gave me a chance to chat with an English dude riding
a mountain bike. I have no idea how those people can breathe. This guy
was planning to ride all the way back to Aspen. A few random jeeps
drove in slow motion over the rocky Taylor Pass while we flew down the
road to where it turned into a boulder-filled river as it ran parallel to a
creek. By now the afternoon rains had moved in, following what was
apparently a wet night. We were all a bit soggy by the time we reached
the Lily Pond trailhead. As always, the Lily Pond singletrack was a blast.
Our final trail of the day was Bear Creek down to the last section of
Deadman’s Gulch just west of Spring Creek Road. Matt was absolutely
flying down Bear Creek to where we met a retired couple from the East
Coast, now living in Crested Butte, out hiking with their dog under skies
that had now turned sunny. I took one last look at paradise, then
continued with the Nuclear Trio back to where we’d parked our trailers
on Spring Creek Road. Our week of riding the trails of Taylor Park was
over.

Y’all come back now….
It’s becoming an annual event, these trips to Colorado. There is, quite
simply, no other place within reasonable driving distance from Chicago
with such a combination of good riding and amazing scenery. Seeing it
on a dirt bike lets you take in much more in a week’s time than is
possible by hiking, biking, or any other form of motorized travel. One of
the times I paused on Timberline Trail to take in the sights by myself,
Matt put a couple hundred yards of distance between us and then I
heard the sound of nothing. No birds, no wind, just absolute silence. It
was glorious.
Yes, they let
people ride dirt
bikes here.
The last mile leading  to Star Pass is some of the most fun I had on the
bike all week, on third-gear mountainside singletrack at well above
12,000 feet. Even though the KTM’s engine was struggling in the thin
air, it pulled me all the way to Star Pass, where I succeeded in twisting
my left knee for about the 20th time this summer. Matt, Scott and Curtis
decided to continue towards Taylor Pass Divide Road, while I took a
diversion around the west side of Mount Tilton. It’s never a good idea to
ride alone on the side of a mountain, but the Crystal Peak Trail was one
of the most amazing parts of last year’s ride and I badly wanted to do it
again. I carefully made my way along the side of the mountain, through
a snowdrift and up the Mount Tilton Spur. The trail then headed steeply
downhill from there, dropping nearly 1,000 feet in less than a mile.
patiently for him to figure it out on his own. I decided to pursue, which
took about 2 miles at Warp Factor 9.5 to catch Scott and casually
mention that we might want to turn around before we start seeing ski lifts.