Zeke and I arrived in Salida Friday afternoon. He drove the van and picked me up at the airport. We are staying with Mary Ann and Kent, 2 amazingly interesting people who lead an idyllic life. They are ex-adventure racers, who have travelled all over the world, competing in some of the hardest races, including the Raid Gauloises.
On Saturday morning, we rode the 6 miles of trail that Kent and Mary Ann built on their property ... just a little slice of heaven. I tried out my legs and lungs at 7000 feet and felt pretty good. The only time I felt the altitude was on a sustained climb greater than 1/4 mile.
After lunch, we rode from Kent's house up Bear Creek to Rainbow Trail (ele. 9000ft). It was a 7 mile climb, both gravel road and gnarly doubletrack, to the trailhead. NOW, I was feeling it. I just settled into a good aerobic pace and did not try to push it. I had heard stories of people going too hard too fast, and then falling apart on subsequent days. And I want to ENJOY all my days in Colorado, so I took it easy.
Well, taking it easy came to an abrupt end, once I hit the Rainbow. Oh my God, it was so sweet. It rolled along for 6 miles along a side cut, with a few openings revealing the beauty of the Rockies. The trail varied from smooth and flowy to some fun rocky sections. I felt great breathing in the thin air and my legs were hammering. Much better than I expected. We finished up the day with a screaming descent back down to Kent's house.
On Saturday, Kent took us up to the Monarch Crest Trail. This trail has not been open very long and we were one of the first to ride it in its entirety. Being at 11,500ft, it takes awhile for the snow fields to melt and the trail to become visible. We had to climb over 3 fields, with one having a 10 foot drop. On this one, we had to do a butt slide down. Zeke managed to tear his shorts and had to dig a few rocks out of you know where. Kent, being a gentleman, grabbed me as I slid towards him, and cushioned my landing.
There were so many OMG moments. With the vistas, the wildflowers, and the Aspens, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My head was swirling, not because of the altitude, but because of the immense beauty. It was sensory overload!
And the trail was to die for! From open and flowy along the Continental Divide to rough and rugged through the pines along the Colorado. The smells of the pine, spruce, and sage were unbelievable. All my senses were engaged. And during the times I stopped to take pictures, it was absolutely quiet! No planes, trains, or automobiles up here.
The trails along the Monarch Crest, Continental, Colorado, Silver Creek, and Rainbow each had their own character. As we slowly descended down from 11,500 to 7,500, I was captivated by the beauty of each ecosystem.
Once again, I was surprised how my body was handling the altitude. I expected it to be a lot rougher. However, along this 36 mile stretch of the Crest I only gained 3000 feet of elevation. So I know that the FC 50 with its 5000 feet of gain per 25 mile lap is going to hurt like a mother. But I did come to realize that I may not be able to go as fast up, but I can still scream down the descents!