Day 2 — Segments 2 and 3
I started the day a little later than I had wanted, but when the only thing on my to do list was to ride my bike and eat food, it didn’t really matter what time I started. I really enjoyed the freedom from having to be somewhere at a certain time. It is also very nice to stay in the sleeping bag until the sun was up and ready to provide warmth. I didn’t sleep well, as I had already expected, and was cold throughout the night. I tend to sleep poorly my first night of camping because of all the changes to routine, sleeping surface, climate and the new noises surrounding me. I also thought that I’d experiment with my new reflective tarp as the barrier between myself and the air current under my hammock. Normally I sleep with a sleeping pad under me to shield me from the cold air below, but I wanted to see if I could make due with the lighter and more compact tarp instead. This was a failed experiment, as I don’t think the tarp did any good, and in fact, I think it may have made the hammock colder to sleep in. I have no evidence to prove the latter claim, but it was a cold night for me. I don’t think the temperature ever really dipped below 40 degrees, but I sure was shivering like it had. I also felt that I didn’t need socks when I went to bed, knowing that the only part of my body that ever really gets cold when I sleep is my feet, and when they get cold, it seems like the coldness proliferates through the rest of my body and chills me to the bone. When the morning came and I saw that it was still not quite bright enough to be warm, so I covered my head a little more and gave myself an extra hour of rest until the sun poked up out of the ridge-line and provided some warming rays.
Chattering a little, I packed up my camp and enjoyed some warm coffee. I briefly thought about eating breakfast, but I remembered that the first mile of the day was nearly 400 feet of straight climbing and I didn’t want to deal with that and a full stomach. I headed down from my camp to the river and filled up on water. I saw the group of four bikepackers pass and begin their ride. They had camped in the spot closest to the river and were ready to go much earlier than I was. They appeared to be three younger guys, two of them brothers I presumed, and the father of the brothers. They were packed light and looked to be in decent shape to be making the trip. We exchanged quick pleasantries and I filtered my water into my hydration pouch. Today’s ride was going to be very exposed and with limited chances for water, so I packed 3 liters in the bladder and 40 ounces in my water bottle. My hydration pouch let me know what happens when I try shoving it into the frame bag when it is too full, by leaking it contents until it was satisfied with the water level. I found that I could only fill the pouch up about 2.25 liters and keep it in the frame bag without any spilling. I also learned a little trick with releasing the air from the pouch by keeping the lid off just a little and squeezing the bag until it’s just water left in it.
Filled up with water, I was on my way. I made the initial climb to the top of the ridge and saw the “Gang of Four” bikepackers taking group selfies and shedding layers since it had warmed up quite a bit. They were about to head out as I rolled up, and I offered to take a “Someone-elsie” for them. After the the photoshoot I stole their spot, a great lookout of where I just came from, and had my breakfast. I also took the first of very few selfies I would be taking of the trip. I made sure to include my summer sausage on my knife to keep the Manliness Quotient™ to an acceptable level. I enjoyed my breakfast for a while and finally made way back to the bike to continue the 23 mile journey for the day.
This segment covers the 1996 Buffalo Creek fire and flood area. For miles it looks like you’re riding through a disaster area, with charred and barren trees, and an almost desert feel to the land. The hills are bare and brown, but you can see that Mother Nature is healing the area well, because there is plenty of vegetation and the wildlife is abundant. I followed the trail for a small time before I came across a rock formation that looked like a chair. I went down to the rock and found that there was a bunch of abandoned and rusty equipment scattered around it. I didn’t know what it was for, but I did find it compelling enough to take a few photos, one of which is above, of the rock and the junk with my bike.
Satisfied with my photos, I continued along, finding it hard to ride up the short and steep hills and opting to walk up a few instead. My legs were a bit tired from the ride the day prior and I was also the victim of mechanical issues. My rear derailleur started acting up as I was shifting from my second and third gears to the granny gear. It would overshoot the cog and end up wedged itself between the cassette and the spokes. This happened a couple times before I had to stop and give it more attention with my limited mechanical knowledge. I fiddled with the limiting screws for about half an hour, not making any progress and only growing more frustrated, before I gave in to the bike’s wishes. I found that if I gently requested for the bike to change gears to the biggest cog, it would comply with very little gruff. But if I shifted with anything more than a caressing touch, it would overshoot and grouchily hide itself in the crevice. I also took the time to readjust the way I was packed, moving my food from my back pack to my seat bag. This was a great choice because the food was heavy and it was nice to get it off my back, and it also allowed for me to isolate the food into its own dry sack so I could hang it at night in my attempt to prevent bears. Nearly an hour and a half and only two and a half miles into my day’s ride, I began again, this time going uphill for a long three miles.
The gradient was pretty mild and steady as I snaked around the side of the mountain and up and over. This section was vastly different from the scarred burn area. It was a heavily covered and a beautiful forest. For these few miles I was completely in solitude. I hadn’t seen anyone since the bikepackers left me at breakfast, and I didn’t see anyone until I crested the mountain, where I passed a older couple on a day hike. I was very relieved to see that from here I’d be pointed downward for awhile, and made the best of the well maintained trail. This section stayed within the trees and vacillated between climbing and descending for a few miles until it opened up again to another vast expanse of burn scar. This time the scene was even more devastating than the last. It seemed like a dead sea of charred trees and wide open meadows.
I was thankful that I was on a bike making my way through this area rather than hiking because it was a completely exposed and long stretch with the beautiful blue skies of Colorado and the hot morning sun. I eventually caught up to the Gang of Four and we chatted briefly before I continued on to a fire station that conveniently supplies water for wary hikers and bikers along the route. I stopped for a time to refill my water and take in a little snack. The end of the segment and the beginning of the next was only about a mile up the road, and I wanted to get going and finish up the day before too long.
Riding a little bit on the side of the road and then turning down a fire road, where people can come to collect “fuelwood”, I found the beginning of segment 3 at the Little Scraggy Trailhead. This section makes use of the Buffalo Creek mountain biking trail system. I had heard that this was a great place to ride, and the trail did not disappoint. There were tons of day riders out ripping it up and I did my best to do the same. The trail was smooth and fast; flowy and winding. It was also mostly downhill for several miles and that was a great relief. I found the one water source along this route, a small seasonal creek, and had lunch. There was a man doing the same route by foot at the same creek and we talked for a bit. This was his first time on the trail as well, and was really enjoying the hike. He was actually averaging nearly 20 miles per day and was working towards a rest day in two more. He went on his way after about 20 minutes and I enjoyed some tuna and Cheddar Bunnies. The Gang of Four also caught up with me and passed through as I was finishing up my lunch and preparing myself to finish off the day with four miles and 800 feet of climbing. I was already tired, and this last push was going to be a challenge.
The trail was pleasant and on face value, not too challenging. There were gradual inclines and short declines peppered through out. But the legs were starting to control the mind and I was giving in to their demand for the end. I started counting the tenths of a mile as I mounted and dismounted my bike and the landscape made its ups and downs. At this point, I felt like I had pushed myself the furthest I had on a bike and was ready to be done. I made it to the end of the segment, and my camp for the night, where there was a shallow stream running, and a few perfect camp sites. I set up camp in the one that offered the nicest spot for my hammock and began the nightly routine of getting water and hanging clothes. I had spent nearly eight hours on the bike today, climbing 4400 feet over 23 miles. The hiker I met earlier showed up about an hour after I set up camp, and the bikepackers nearly an hour after him. We all dispersed throughout the different camps and mostly kept to ourselves, other than when our paths were required to cross as we got water and found nature’s little bathrooms. We were all wiped and it was apparent in our eyes. As soon as the sun went down, the rustling had stopped and the lamps were extinguished. It was an early night, and sleep was easy to come by feeling the weight of the day and listening to the lullaby of bugling elk in the distance.
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