The plan: Ride sections 21, 22, and 23 of the Colorado Trail (CT). No real idea on how to accomplish this task other than that the Spring Creek Trail head along highway 149 is an access point.
I leave work and head north. Not real sure whether it’s best to do a repeat of last weekend and head up to Cumbres Pass – I know of a few nice camp spots just north of there – or to head north via 285 thru Alamaso to South Fork, and Creede and just make my way to within shooting distance of the desired goal. As I approach the split between highways 84 and 285 I turn right, decision made.
En route I notice there seems to be a smoke plume coming from somewhere north. Looks like southern Colorado, near Antonito but higher up in the San Juans. Hmmm…..
I stop for gas and a few more supplies at the Safeway in Alamosa.
As I make my way north the plume appears to move further north. Now it appears to be coming from somewhere near Monte or South Fork. As I approach Monte Vista the sky is smokey and there’s and erie red tint from the setting sun. I see a road sign stating Wolf Creek is closed. I guess they mean the pass. Mile markers are listed but they don’t mean much to me. Hope I can make it to South Fork and head north.
Get to South Fork and on to Creede. It’s dark now but with the nearly full moon the smoky sky is lit up and I can see the plumes are emanating from the hills west of the Rio Grande. Scary.
Once thru Creede I turn off on South Clear Creek road and head up into the mountains to find a camp spot for the night. It’s after 10 and I’m weary from the six hours of driving on top of the full day of work. I find a side rode and take it, finding a campable spot for the evening after 10 minutes or so.
I consult the maps over dinner and determine that if I continue up the road I can eventually hit the CT. Good deal.
Morning comes, breakfast happens, I pack up and then drive around for a while searching for the right start point for my ride. After a couple of U-turns I find a spot, unload, gear up and head out. Here’s the general vantage point. Headed up there somewhere…
After some time climbing I turn to catch a view of the smoke behind me. Impressive. Scary.
I started in that meadow that's hidden just behind the tip of the pine tree.
Finally a bit of respite from the climbing.
This route appears to be primarily an ATV track. Not my first choice but it is supposedly only 4 miles to the CT so I can suck it up and enjoy the single track when I get there.
Oh look another climb.
And just as I crested that last hill I spy another climb. Yeehaw!
Not the most pedalable surface but I suck it up.
A look back checking on the state of the fire.
More heinous climbing.
Nearing the top but I’ve been grinding for hours. No way this is only 4 miles.
Finally, I reach the pass and enjoy the view. I spy the track coming up from South Fork. Man I am up high – 13,200 ft! Yikes. Never pedaled this high before. No wonder I’m suffering.
An obligatory shot of the CT/CDT sign post. Looks real nice, too bad I suffered so bad getting up here and don’t have much left except to get me back to the truck.
While spending a few choice moments at the saddle a crew of Texas Wheel Chairs showed up. Unplussesd. One of these yahoo’s decided he wanted to see what the top looked like, the top right above the Area Closed sign. Guess the closed ATV ruts were too rough for this fella as he decided to make his own way through the tundra.
Anyway, fires still raging but the flowers are nice.
Rather than follow the same route back down it looked like I could take a detour to Heart Lake and then descend along North Clear Creek. Here’s the Heart check – fierce climbs getting up here.
Turns out the route thru was open to hiking and horses only. I probably could have gotten away with riding thru but I wasn’t 100% certain I had seen the trail coming down along North Clear Creek, and I was tired, so I opted for the known way out and back tracked to the route I had taken up.
You don’t appreciate the descending you do on your way out and this little hill slipped by my senses. Not too bad as it was sub-12000 feet!
I pretty much bombed the rest of the way down. An obligatory “selfy”.
On the final climb back up to the truck I spied a tiny bit of single track so I took it. I almost got taken out by two nasty branches on two separate occasions. The sun visors on the MTB helmets are nice when you need them but the do block your view above. Definitely cow track. Nonetheless, a nice view back up to where I had been.
I don’t recommend this route to anyone. The climbing was miserable, the trail surface was loose, dry, dusty, and rocky. Unless you simply need to explore the alpine ride somewhere else. I saw multiple groups of 4wheelrs, most of which were families getting out to enjoy the great outdoors. The others were old retired farts who probably couldn’t walk 10 yards in this terrain. I’m scared for this country. "Mechanized tourism" (Edward Abbey) shouldn't be a family value.
Da Goat impressed upon me that I needed to ride the section of the CT near the Rio Grande Reservoir but it didn't look to be an option this time around. The smoke was getting a little to close for comfort so I decided to head out and drive up to Spring Creek Pass and try my luck there. I thought there was camping right at the pass but I was confused by the signs that said Day Use Only so I dropped my rig into 4-low and crawled up the steep road which doubles as the CDT/CT and found myself a decent meadow to camp in a mile or so in. I spent the late afternoon hours reading and watching the smoke plume. Amazing place to be.
It was a bit uncomfortable being in such close proximity to this huge fire. I chatted with a group of four thru hikers doing the CDT - that's an impressive 2600 mile walk. Then another couple who were headed in for the night stopped and we chatted a bit as well. They seemed to have a plan, as did I.
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