March 22, 2008

'99 Road Trip - Installment #3

Installment #3: Summer In Colorado! / Location: Crested Butte, CO (still on vacation)

Personalities: The Matt & Matt show and an AA Convention!

Report: The drive over Cottonwood pass is spectacular! Topping out over 11,000 feet you get a true feeling of altitude here. The same is true for the climb over Fremont pass from Copper Mountain to Leadville, CO. The majesty of that view is marred by the Climax Molybdenum Mine. Basically in the quest for minerals the miners there have dismantled a 13,000 foot mountain so that only a hollowed out core remains. Sad the travesties we push in the name of power and development.
Ripping along Highway 24 towards Buena Vista you pass the Collegiate Peaks, a series of 14,000 foot mountains that includes Mt. Elbert (highest point in CO), Mt. Princeton, Mt. Massive, Mt Harvard and Mt. Yale. There is a great natural hot springs at the base of Mt Princeton in case your in the neighborhood sometime. In all there are over a dozen Fourteener’s in the region.

Once checked in at the Marriot we took some time to clean up our bikes and clothing which hadn’t been touched since Park City. While looking for the local waterin’ hole we were dismayed to learn that we were sharing the hotel with an Alcoholics Anonymous Convention. Note to self: don’t stay in a hotel with 750 AA’ers, it kills the nightlife!

The next morning we headed out towards the town of Gothic and the legendary 401 trail. The dirt road climb to the top of Schofield Pass (10,707) was pretty easy compared to the climb up Steamboat Mountain. After turning left off the road we encountered a 15 minute hike a bike section that takes you to approximately 11,000 feet. The high alpine fields sported carpets of yellow and red flowers and numerous patches of Columbine, the purple beauty that is the state flower of Colorado. Just as we started the single track traverse to the downhill mother nature offered us her version of a cold shower. Fearless and laughing we rolled on.

As the rain thickened we started the plummet towards town. I’ll never forget the experience of railing down narrow single track high on a mountain in driving rain. The edge of the trail was lined with large yellow sunflowers, each blackened center highlighted by a ring of sunshine and gold. The sunflowers inevitably hung out onto the trail and each time you’d clip one with the edge of your bars or hand a big splash would erupt from the undamaged flora. Snap, snap, snap, explosions erupeted on my right and left. After 10 minutes of clipping flowers my hands were becoming slightly sore, those little buggers are solid! Brake performance was going away fast as we shot through steeply bermed corners, rocketed across small streams and gullies and generally enjoyed ourselves immensely. Of course the really technical parts of the trail were sure to arrive as the brakes completely disappeared. Sliding headlong into a sharp lefty switch back unable to scrub off any speed was hilarious, primarily because the resulting crash was of minimal damage! After a few more off trail excursions and a really big stream crossing we made it down and headed directly to the local bike wash to start the recovery process. Both bikes needed new brake pads and both riders needed baths! After cleaning our bikes and selves we opted to stay in Crested Butte another night. Once again we ate to excess, drank to mild excess and enjoyed the ramblings of a local hippie/mountain biker. He actually knew his stuff pretty well and was fairly entertaining while we stashed Guiness down our throats. If we’d had more time he wanted to show us lots of great local trails but we had fish to fry in Durango

Notes On CB: Rain sucks! Especially at 11,000 feet! The Porn Station at the hotel was exceptionally mediocre given the $8.95 cost! It’s hard to find beer on Mt Crested Butte after 9pm on a Tuesday! Not quite as many cute girls to chat with, but still a great place.

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