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ADT JOURNAL: CHAPTER 27
Crested Butte to grand Junction, CO
June 27, Sunday
After talking to every bike shop in town, Bill finally found one or two people who thought we could push our bikes through Schofield Pass. Laurie needed more convincing, especially since everyone else talked of crossing snow slides where a slip could cause serious injury and having to ford a raging stream. Discussion of the route to take went into the night. Finally, in the morning, unable to find a single person who had actually crossed the pass yet, we concluded that the best decision was to take Kebler Pass instead. With our decision finally made, we took the day off and went up to Mt. Crested Butte to see the mountain bike races. There were 1500 registrants for the festival with about 450 racers. As the racers completed their 22 mile cross country event, the riders came in covered with mud and dust, many pushing their bikes up the final hill. We noticed that we were not seeing any riders over 35 years of age. The largest entry field was the 19 to 24 age group. Big surprise! The grueling nature of this sport just doesn't seem to appeal to anyone over a certain age. After calling some horse outfitters in Redstone, we learned that Grand Mesa is probably clear of snow and passable. Our next big decision is whether to horseback, hike, or bicycle across it.
June 30, Monday
All good things must come to an end and we had to leave Crested Butte. The scenery was spectacular along our whole route today. We climbed two major passes Kebler at 10,007 and McClure at 8,900 feet. That made for 25 miles of uphill and 29 miles of down. The Route across Kebler was 31 miles of good gravel road. We passed around the edge of the Raggeds Wilderness with towering peaks around us. At times we rode through stately aspen groves and the sun shining on the white trunks really contrasted with the crisp green leaves and the green forest floor. After reaching Colorado 133 at Paonia reservoir at 6500 feet, we climbed over McClure Pass and coasted down into the Crystal River valley. We could see far up the canyon toward Schofield Pass which would have been our route had it not been snowed shut. We arrived in Redstone and crashed at the stately and historic Redstone Inn. We thought this classy place would be out of our price range, but they had a room on the third floor for only $48. We will make plans tonight for our trip over Grand Mesa, a three or four day remote trip which we know will have plenty of elevation changes to challenge us.
59.7 miles, 9.8 mph, 6 hours 1 minute
July 1, Tuesday
Today begins a new month, our fifth on the ADT. It seems we must have been pretty well prepared to have made it this far. After studying the maps again and checking the ADT route from Redstone up onto the Grand Mesa, we noted there were some extreme elevation changes for the next two or three days. Also noting that some of these trails are very steep and rough and that we would be pushing most of the way, we selected an alternate route. Bill is being careful to choose routes that Laurie can be comfortable with as he doesn't want to lose his partner (or his wife) over this trip. It is nice not feeling married to a specific route and we have enjoyed picking more suitable alternate routes in places. So, with our route decided upon, Rae Ann Hunter of nearby Carbondale, picked us up at the Redstone Inn and shuttled us back to the top of McClure Pass. Rae Ann is the sister of Mike Wingert, an A.T. thru-hiker in 1996, trailname "Wingheart". Bill met Mike and Rae Ann at ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry last December on the day Mike finished his hike. Rae Ann mentioned she'd be glad to assist us when we reached western Colorado. Hikers are not shy; in accepting these kinds of offers and we were grateful to Rae Ann for the shuttle. We coasted 6 miles back down CO 133 to Forest Road 265 which led for 20 scenic miles to a 9,000 foot pass. We passed two separate signs noting "Escalante Dominguez Expedition Route, West Muddy Creek Campsite, September 3, 1776". This was a reminder to us that the Spanish were the first real explorers on this part of the continent. After not seeing anyone for over 10 miles and upon reaching the top of the pass and on National Forest land, we were surprised to see a corral full of sheep and 5 people there. They were paint branding a couple hundred sheep prior to putting them out to pasture for the summer. Ken and Darlene Wissel have a special use permit with the National Forest and are spending 5 days here with the flock. Granddaughter, Jessica, age 13, showed off Blanca, her baby lamb, that the mother had abandoned. We continued down the Forest Service road and rejoined the ADT route on a jeep road that leads to the High Trail. Our suspicions were raised about the conditions lying ahead when we had to ford a fairly deep stream immediately after turning onto the jeep road. After 5 miles of rough going, we camped at the edge of an aspen grove and had a great mac and cheese dinner next to a small stream. We are in bear country and everyone has a bear story to tell us. A bear broke into an empty house by breaking down the double doors to get at the garbage. A bear destroyed a car when someone left the groceries in overnight. Bears kill dozens of lambs each year. We are taking the standard precautions; cooking away from our campsite, hanging our food away from the cooksite or campsite, cleaning pots well, refraining from sexual activity :-(( , and talking or making noise while we travel so we don't startle one. With these methods we have had no problems.
33.2 miles, 6.7 mph, 4 hours 56 minutes, 3075 total miles biked
July 2, Wednesday
This is Bill talking. I need to set the record straight about a big mistake, correction, make that a huge mistake, that I made. When we planned this trip months ago I studied the maps and talked to a lot of people. I felt that roads and some trails shown on the maps would be suitable for mountain bikes, even with loaded panniers. Some folks in Colorado even confirmed that this was true. We are here to tell you it is not a good idea to attempt Colorado trails and jeep trails on loaded bikes. We hereby recommend that in the future anyone who attempts the ADT in Colorado should do it on foot with a backpack.
With that said, let me tell you about our day. When we awoke, there was light frost on the ground. We were packed up and underway by 7:30 am. The High Trail would be a great hiking trail but it was far too rough, too steep, too rocky, and had too many stream crossings for bikes. At one point, Laurie's low rider panniers hit a rock and it knocked her over. Slightly scratched, she collected herself and was ready to go again in a few minutes. We crossed several boggy areas but when we got to a major stream, we took off our boots and I carried the bikes across. On later stream crossings we just waded through them. We pushed, pulled, and carried our llama bikes through all sorts of obstacles today. We must have climbed (pushed the bikes) about 2,000 vertical feet, most of it in two miles of trail. It was positively the most grueling and physically demanding day of our lives. The scenery was fabulous but we were too exhausted to enjoy it. When we reached Colby Horse Park Reservoir, we could go no further, still 3 miles short of our goal. It took us 7 1/2 hours to come 14 1/2 miles. Today, we think and hope, is the last day of severe bike pushing in Colorado.
14.6 miles, 3.9 mph, 3 hours 44 minutes
July 3, Thursday
This is Laurie talking. If we thought yesterday was hard, we didn't realize what we would encounter today. Suffice it to say, it was a good thing we camped early yesterday so we could tackle today's miles with a fresh start. We knew it was only three miles to a Forest Service campground and "improved" gravel roads. The first half mile we could actually ride on our bikes. Beyond that, patches of snow or runoff blocked our path. This was the first time we had to actually push or carry our bikes through snow. Then we turned onto the Leon Lake trail. This almost proved to be our undoing. The trail was blocked in countless places with more snow and fallen trees blocking the trail every few hundred feet. The only way we were able to get through was to take off our panniers and ferry our gear across and then come back for the bikes. We continued to leapfrog our bikes and gear for about 1 1/2 miles, in effect hiking the trail 3 times. One mile alone took us 3 hours to cover. The entire 3 mile distance took us 4 1/2 hours. This again showed us that this area would be much better if it were hiked. Another help would be to not attempt hiking high elevation Colorado until at least mid-July, giving the snowpack a better chance to melt. The saving grace, as always, was the chance to take in all the calendar quality scenery. The area is dotted with pristine lakes and spruce forests. The few people that we did see were all fly fishing. Once at Weir and Johnson Campground and the improved road, we rode 10 miles until we found a cabin to rent. Showers, a warm bed, and fresh milk all mean so much to us now. Now that we've had these, we are starting to revive and enjoy the satisfaction of another challenge met.
13.8 miles, 5.5 mph, 2 hours 26 minutes, 3104 total miles biked
July 4, Independence Day, Friday
The Crag Crest National Recreation Trail on the Grand Mesa National Forest is another trail that is part of the ADT. It is for hiking only (thank goodness) and runs for 6 1/2 miles across the highest lands on the Forest, up to 11,126 feet. Bill decided to day hike it and let Laurie rest up after the stress of the past 2 days. Bill was up and hiking at 5:45 am and reached the east trailhead by 6:15. The Crag Crest Trail is wonderfully graded and well-built. It reminded me of some of our trails back east. Once gaining the crest on a thousand foot climb, it followed the ridge for 4 miles, very much like Katahdin's Knife Edge Trail, with steep drop-offs on both sides. The ridge provided great views of the San Juan Mountains to the south and of the Colorado River canyon to the north. At one point, I heard the sound of mountain goat or bighorn sheep hooves on the rocks, but I didn't see it. After 3 hours, 15 minutes and 9 1/2 miles total including road walking to and from our cabin, we made ready to ride to Grand Junction.
We took the Lands End Road down to the end of the mesa where it drops sharply off to the valley below. The 20 mile road down to the valley included 26 switchbacks and hairpin turns and we were ecstatic to be going down the 6,000 feet in elevation instead of up. While we had started our day at 10,860 feet in cold temperatures and alpine forests, by the end of the day we were at 4,800 foot elevation and in the hot desert. You could see the vegetation change as we descended the mesa. Due to the intense mid afternoon heat we opted to stop in Whitewater rather than push on to our intended destination of Grand Junction. Bill was beat, especially, due to his early start and hiking miles this morning.
It turned out that we picked the right place to stop when we pulled into the Lazy S Motel. Dick and Toni, in their 80's, the owners who quickly told us they had been married for 54 years, invited us to their 4th of July cookout. So there we were along with two other permanent motel residents, one 90 years old and the other his son, 70, eating hamburgers, hot-dogs, potato salad, baked beans, and homemade cake decorated with flags and donut hole "cannonballs". They all spoke of their ranching days in the area. What had looked like a desert to us was described by Dick as "the most beautiful place in the world" and how lucky he was that "God had put him here". Attitude is everything and home is where you make it.
9.5 miles hiked, 43.6 miles biked, 12.5 mph, 3 hours 28 minutes
July 5, Saturday
The hill that looked so intimidating to us in yesterday's heat was no problem this morning. We got up early and rode the extra 10 miles into Grand Junction. As usual, many town chores needed to be done while we awaited the arrival of Tom and Gretchen to hike the 60 mile segment of the Colorado Trail with us.
13.2 miles, 11.3 mph, 1 hour 9 minutes
© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1997, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet