Picking up where we left off earlier ..
It was hard to leave Crested Butte that Monday. It had been more than 10 yrs since I'd last been there, & the couple days spent up in the woods outside of town was spectacular, but didn't even come close to scratching that itch to explore more. It didn't hurt that the weather was PERFECT & the aspens were on the cusp of painting entire mountainsides in shades of yellow & gold. I could've camped out in that spot for another week, easy. Just the same, N & M hit the road for Golden to get back to their real lives as parents & worker bees, while JP & I set up shop at Camp 4 to get a little work done before setting sail. The fact that anyone from the sprawling & crowded Front Range could easily replicate our amazing weekend, basing out of any one of a dozen or more charming little mountain towns in CO, & disappearing into the wrinkles of the Rockies, is an incredible attribute unique to CO & is something that the PNW can be justifiably envious of.
Anyway, JP & I were headed back over the hill to another great little mountain town to meet up with friends & get just a couple more miles of high-altitude singletrack under our belts .. a plan that was hatched the week before in Fort Collins, as many a great adventure are: late night, in a dive bar, deeply under the influence. The Prof gently twisted an arm & got us to agree to meeting him in Salida, an easy drive from CB, to ride the Monarch Crest on Tues. But first .. a couple more images from CB.
We arrived in Salida to a warm welcome, beds & showers -- & a newborn! -- at our coworker's & her husband's beautiful little house near downtown. A big dinner & beers with friends & the fam. A lot of belly laughs. A couple impressively firm handshakes from the new grandma. Then off to sleep, in a real bed no less, with that fun mix of physical exhaustion & nervous energy of anticipation for the next morning's adventure.
In spite of the overall length, the elevation & my relative out-of-shapeness, it seemed like inertia was pulling us in the direction of Monarch Crest. But first, breakfast. CO has always rated highly in my estimation for breakfast options .. seems like every breakfast cafe offers green chile on everything + bomb cinnamon rolls done the right way.
With full bellies we drove up to the trailhead at the summit of Monarch Pass, where the climbing had just begun. There's a bunch of different ride configurations. We opted for the full meal deal - about 40 mi all told - with a plan to wrap at the little local brewery way back down at the bottom of the pass.
As promised, the ride went on & on. And on .. & on. At several points i caught myself congratulating myself on how well i was riding & handling the elevation & length. Foolish pride. At about 12 mi out from the end of the ride I started bonking. A bunch of short steep sections in rapid succession forced me off my bike & my energy reserves bottomed out shortly after my food reserves did. The final long, steep descent down to the highway was technical & demanded full attention. I can usually bomb that stuff real fast, but I was on my brakes the whole way down. I barely made it out of there on my bike. One thing that was made abundantly clear is that the Salida locals are badasses. It's normal for some of these guys to add the climb UP THE PASS to the ride, adding several thousand vertical to the day. Respect. Anyway, all's well that ends well, & a whole pizza to myself expedited that "ends well" part. As for the Monarch Crest, I'd go back & do the exact same ride again tomorrow given the chance.