No food. A little bit of water. 46.95 pounds, including my new cup.
It’s fall in the west. I first heard of “leaf peepers” last week. I thought I had to them avoid at all costs. The name instantly triggered images of creepers in the woods: autumn voyeurs. Turns out, they’re just people taking the time to check out the foliage and incidentally, I’m one of them. This autumn Colorado trip has me reeling in splendor. I hardly knew the changing season in the Rockies was so vibrant.
I have a very brief history as a leaf peeper. Growing up in Anchorage, the leaves didn’t go through a stunning color change. Many of the trees didn’t have leaves. If they did, they either turned brown and fell off or they were covered in snow before anything else happened. My first encounter with leaf peeping was back east. On our first bike trip, Nick and I chased the fall colors from Montreal until we hit the coast in Myrtle Beach. I was blown away by the maple, birch and oak. The eastern leaves transitioned through colors on the rustic spectrum: burnt oranges, warm reds and mustard yellows. I felt nostalgic for experiences I’d never had.
I can’t say that western leaf peeping tops that in the east, but it’s worth taking a look. The contrast of the aspen against the big blue sky, the Columbia Pictures clouds and the Rocky mountains are a real wonder.
We’ve spent the past week above 6,000 feet. Nightly frosts follow toasty days. The air is chill and makes me appreciate clear days and dry sunny heat. Around 11,000 feet we’ve encountered snow and plenty of mud, another reminder that I want to cruise south. Heading for Nouveau Mexique.
Ride and push up to camp at 12,050 ft.
I started riding this big blue bike with luxury gold handlebars last week. Sometimes, the riding is tough. Mostly, it’s really fun because I’m taking my sweet time.
We are riding the Colorado Trail. It is a 450 mile singletrack hiking, biking and horse riding trail that begins near Denver and ends in Durango, Colorado. It is magnificent and we are in no way rushing to the end. While the trail is fairly challenging, I’m happy rolling through it as I please.
My bike is pretty simple. It’s made of steel with 29″ wheels and nine speeds. It’s really great at going downhill. Climbing can be a challenge with limited gearing (and leg and lung capacity). At times, I grit my teeth up the steep stuff. Or else, I walk and push the bike, but there could be no better place to to take a stroll. I’ve spent a lot of time riding bikes and walking, probably thousands of hours in total. I keep doing it because it gives me the mental space to think and daydream, and it gets me places for free.
Bikes and feet are my main forms of transportation. Each mode is suited for different situations. Walking is slow, but I can arrive almost anywhere eventually. Biking is faster, but not great at climbing up big boulders or stairs. I’m enjoying the Colorado Trail hybrid transport. The trail is incredibly well maintained and traveled. I find more challenging and technical riding to be pleasurable in it’s immediacy. Individual moments and short-term goals are more important than the ultimate destination, and the top of the hill is more relevant than the end of the trail in Durango. However, a cold soda in Breckenridge is motivating, as is the bounty of grapes at the supermarket.
The combination of walking and biking feels like balanced cross-country travel. When I grind uphill, my lungs and legs burn. I like how it quickens my blood. When I’m tired, can’t make it or don’t want to, I push the bike like a shopping cart. I take lots of breaks, drink lots of water and fly downhill, hollering like a kid.