Hotdish on the Colorado Trail
The ingredients of an epic bikepacking trip combine like a great recipe. You need the right mix of trails, companions, gear, clothing and a proper attitude. I recently snuck away on a trip with just the perfect combo that resulted in a scrumptious getaway. After receiving an email from my friend Michael Dammer inviting me to join him on the Colorado Trail, I replied with a definitive yes. Then starting scrambling to figure out how to make it happen.
The Trail: I was familiar with the CT route and knew it was challenging but had never done any detailed research. My friends were planning to ride the entire length from Denver to Durango over two weeks. I joined them for a week and peeled off at Buena Vista. The total mileage for the route was 590 miles and primarily consists of singletrack with some dirt road detours around an occasional Wilderness area. The trails are high, steep and technical. Just how they should be. The biggest challenge for me was the altitude and length of climbs. The reward was the long endless single track downhills. We were also treated with remote camp spots and expansive mountain views surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks.
My Companions: Zack Shriver, Cass Gilbert, and Michael Dammer are all strong riders and experienced bikepackers. Our group had similar expectations going into the trip. Ride all day and take plenty of breaks along the way to rest, refuel and absorb the amazing views. Stops for ice cold dips in lakes and streams to wash off the sweat and grim were frequent and refreshing. We shared shelters, stoves, and cookware to reduce equipment and I was thankful that Zach carried our Black Diamond shelter. I felt a little guilty until I repeatedly watched him ride away from me on the long endless climbs. I lagged the group most days on the climbs but was able to hang on the descents. It was quite exhilarating riding the long downhills in a pack as we were all very compatible descending. Our first stop when arriving at resupply towns was always to locate a brewery to recharge our bodies and gadgets. The conversations were engaging and usually revolved around gear, food, bikes or past trips.
Gear: My trail weapon of choice was the newly updated Krampus with a Manitou Machete front fork. The wheels require a little extra effort to wind up, but once they are rolling the go over shit like a bus. The 29x3” Dirt Wizards were designed for this trail. They grabbed roots and rocks on the climbs and hooked up in the loose corners and lumpy descents. For gear receptacles, I went with a Surly Revelate frame bag, Revelate Viscacha seat bag and two feed bags on the stem. I also carried a small Salomon backpack for food resupply. This combination worked well to carry all the essentials. I utilized two Loop Style Junk straps to secure my sleeping bag and small clothing bag to the Moloko bars. I brought MSR Aquatabs for water treatment and carried one liter Nalgene bottle and one 26 oz. water bottle. Cass, Michael and went in on breakfast and dinners using shared pots and Trangia alcohol stoves. We were on our own for lunches and snacks during the day. Michael brought multiple bags of tasty dehydrated fruits and veggies from his organic farm in Ecuador. Breakfast usually started with coffee or tea and was followed by hot porridge made with oats, polenta, dried fruit, coconut butter and honey. Veggies and noodle soup was often our first course before dinner. Then followed up by a rice dish with veggies, tuna, and hot pepper flakes.
Clothing: The temperature range was wide and ranged from 30’s to 90’s so I packed multiple layers. My pack included one pair of thick tall wool and a pair of lightweight wool socks, two pair of Ibex wool boxers, Ibex wool long underwear bottoms, over shorts, knickers, short sleeve lightweight Surly jersey, Ibex short sleeve base layer, Surly long sleeve raglan, Patagonia Nano air jacket, rain jacket, two pair of gloves and hiking boots. I wore all the clothes at least once time during the ride.
There were many highlights on this trip that are challenging to put into words because they never fully express the experience in the moment. The one thing I enjoyed the most was the escape from the day to day grind. A week out in the mountains away from society and technology was the most rewarding aspect of the trip. Sometimes when an opportunity arises, you need to commit first and figure out the details later. This trip was one of those I will never regret.