photo by Jonathan Buchanan
Agua Caliente sits maybe 3000 feet above Tucson, a prominent high-point between the Catalina and Rincon Mountains. The trail to the top is only 4.5 miles long, so it’s steep. And like all good trails in Tucson, it’s full of chunk and rubble.
As such, it’s a brilliant place to pit feet against wheels. Which is better, which is faster, which is safer, which is more fun?
Ez and I ran up to the summit a couple weeks ago. This weekend I joined J-bake for a ride on the trail. It had been far too long since I’d pedaled up it. It used to be a go-to ride for me when I lived a little closer, but for various (weak) reasons it’s been years.
excellent skipping form by J-bake
The comparisons that ran in my head were interesting. On foot the trail felt loose, overgrown and so difficult. I wondered how I had ever ridden up or down any of this! And yet somehow it had been a favorite trail.
Maybe I’ve just lost it — whatever appetite and ability to ride this stuff I used to have.
Perhaps a better comparison for the uphill would be “hike vs hike-a-bike” rather than “run vs ride”. I can’t really envision being fit enough to run up this entire mountain, though I bet the most fit could come close. I certainly can’t envision riding it all — no way, no how.
We ran into Eszter on the way up. She had already tagged the summit. No doubt about it, going up, feet win for speed. You can just keep going and slog it out — it’s a slog that feels good.
But, oh, how I love trying to climb this trail on a bike. The bike forces anaerobic fits, light headedness and the seeing of stars. Deep breaths of life. Then you get stopped, regain composure and try the next section. Or walk your bike slowly up it. It’s harder, and easier, but definitely slower.
Notice J-bake’s patented hike-with-loppers-technique. We were slowed by some pruning and general tom foolery, both up and down.
Reward at the top — the kind of beer that tastes good.
j-bake smooths one of the trickiest spots on the top descent
The downhill is, of course, a different beast altogether. I used to fear downhill running because it tears my legs up. My weak cyclist legs can’t handle it, and I can end up with delayed onset muscle soreness that DOMinates the following weeks if not months.
Running adaptation has been taking place since mid-Sept with hikes and runs. I’ve gotten to the point where running downhill is extremely fun, and doesn’t cripple me. I can finally see it as easier than uphill running — whereas I used to think uphill was the easy part.
But coming down the top of Agua Caliente is … not runnable to me. I came to a stop in a few places, the hands came down, and I generally fumbled. I just can’t get over having only one point of contact with the ground at times. If that point of contact slips… boom! Running down the top was pretty scary, and I could only think how impossible and crazy it must be to ride.
Indeed, in previous bike runs, I’d never tried to ride the top portion. I dismissed J-bake’s enthusiasm over the top section as both misguided and based on better conditions — surely the summer rains have made the trail sketchier than it’s ever been.
Truth is, Agua Caliente is just low-down dirty riding. Rutted, grassed in, filled with rubble. There’s no dirt, no transitions, no lead-ins. If you need time to get set up or grab your composure before the next drop or the next chunky roll, too bad for you. There’s nothing pretty or well done about it. But there is something beautiful about it — rough, rowdy and scrappy. Some people are never going to get it, others love it. It’s worth the push to the top — even better if you can enjoy some of the climbing.
photo by Jonathan Buchanan
I rode a lot of the top section, with J-bake as inspiration. But also it just didn’t seem that bad. As I rolled to the lip of the steepest rocks, I felt in control. Green lights were going off in my head. On foot, it was all red! Perhaps the comparison was part of what made it easier to ride when I got there with a bike.
Sure, I’m anything but an experienced trail runner. I have no idea how fast or good I am, which most likely means I completely suck.
But on the bike I liked having two points of contact with the ground when it got loose and steep. Even though these are nutty trails to be trying to ride, it sure felt a lot safer to me.
More fun? When you factor in the rapid fire manualing session at the bottom, for sure. But I do have to admit that picking lines through the chunk on the lower stuff was super fun on feet, too. I know the lower stuff pretty well and could really let is go, both on foot and bike.
Easier? I couldn’t coast downhill for more than 2 minutes without my quads burning and giving out on me. Turns out they are the same muscles you use to run downhill. Mine are weak! And tired. Running downhill, while slower, actually seemed easier to me than absorbing all the shock this trail dishes out.
In the end, Eszter also beat us downhill, both in actual time and total downhill time. Sure, we goofed around some, trimmed a little more catclaw and threw sticks for Nana in the pond, but, still….
For now, all I know is both running and riding trails are silly fun, and that I really enjoy trails where feet and bikes are closely matched — especially when those trails are open to bikes… making the comparison possible.
What’s an interesting adventure?
It’s a question I’ve been repeatedly asking myself since finishing the Continental Divide Trail. What do I find interesting, what’s next?
For a while, not much was very interesting, adventure-wise. But the worry was that if nothing was that interesting, I must not be interesting, and what if I never find anything that captures my imagination again?
So I looked at what other people found interesting (answer: anything involving a packraft is automatically interesting, or anything involving fatbikes, or anything involving rigid adventure bikes or anything involving lots of suspension and bright colors). But just because other people are interested in it doesn’t mean it’s interesting to you. Often it wasn’t to me.
The cycle has been, variably, to try on different suits: from chunk rider to packrafter to runner to trail advocate to racer to who-knows-what. Maybe I just need more ideas, and surely one of them will ‘lock’ in and be declared interesting enough to pursue. I kept trying to look at the logic of why things were interesting to me.
And while you can dissect it in that way, explaining why some endeavor holds your interest, there’s so much more going on in our little minds than we can understand, let alone articulate. Sometimes things are simply intrinsically interesting. They are interesting to us because they are. When they are, you know it, and don’t need to list the reasons why. It just clicks.
And other times, like when you are recovering from a 4 month journey, nothing really clicks that much. It’s hard to think about what’s next in comparison to something that was so big and so fulfilling. You need distance from it, and time to process it.
Running around frantically hoping something is going to inspire you as much as the past did, immediately, is just foolish and counterproductive. The worry of unfulfilled potential is perhaps the most unfulfilling of all.
Of course, it’s easy to look back and see wasted energy and worry, now that certain things are starting to click for me (perhaps even a little packrafting, or fatbiking, or wearing of bright colors!). I can feel it coming back, and am back to wishing I had more time in this life to do all the things I want to.
But as often in life, it’s another lesson in patience. Everything passes. Passion and fire come back.
Life is just too short for patience, sometimes.
(photos from – running Agua Caliente (that one crushed me), Sweetwater trailwork, Hidden Canyon, Ruffian’s Ridge and Wasson Peak)
Some call November the off-season. Some might think after 26 days of moving time over the summer, we’d be looking for some significant down time.
Life is too short for an off-season. For me, November has thus far been for re-training.
Re-training, as in re-learning, as in reminding yourself how to do something you once could.
I can’t get that move Chad is attempting above, though I have done it before.
I can ride that one, and successfully escape the sea monster’s tentacles.
That one’s a classic and now goes for me.
Yup, that’n too. It’s coming back.
New one. Chad’s not making it look good here, but I made it look worse by not even attempting.
This was a semi-redemption techy taco ride. Compared to the first, with horrible trail conditions and even worse confidence, almost anything could be considered redemptive.
No redemption needed here. Tucson sunsets are the best.
We are so lucky to have trails out the door. When the cloud ceilings look good for pyrotechnics, it’s time to head out for a quick run!
Halloween Night ride! We ventured into the spooky woods south of Rosemont Junction on the AZT.
I know my body well enough to know I had no business racing the AES Kentucky Camp event. That event is never well timed for me, and I’m fine with it. Instead we did the night ride, camped and hung out, then ran the opposite direction with Kendall and Pocket while everyone rode.
Stickers in the shoes notwithstanding, it was a fabulous run and beautiful day for it.
We had the brilliant idea to run up a mountain the next day. I believe the quote was, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”
We took the less optimal but more interesting choice at the beginning of Kings Canyon – sand and pour-offs!
This might be the current winner in the baby saguaro contest. Can you find a younger one?
This ridgeline is the best part of the run. It’s an incredible trail, and one closed to bikes!
7 miles with 2000′ of elevation gain, we were pretty happy with how we handled back-to-back runs. We can actually run trails now!
The next taco ride was the following day, and my energy level was so low I really had no business being there.
The ride had an odd vibe to it, serving to even further turn me off to even attempting redemption. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t ride anything. It was still a beautiful day to be out on the rocks, and I appreciated it for that, but the usual zeal just wasn’t there. Normally with this company and day, I could use it to really push some limits, and I needed a little help with the push, but this day just ended up being frustrating more than anything.
Ez got a new carbon Salsa Spearfish to replace her old one, which has seen many a mile and many a harsh condition. It was ridden hard and put away wet, as the saying goes, but served well.
We were obliged to chase the evening light.
I was obliged to chase the flashy orange blur through the desert.
Same view, different bike.
The first full suspension fat bike, done extremely and surprisingly well by Salsa. It rides like a mountain bike — a big and capable one.
I don’t have enough stans in my tires, nor can I bunny hop that far
The effects of our micro running binge weren’t felt for several days. Mostly our feet were hammered, and I ended up taking almost an entire week off “the feet.”
Said feet got itchy and were longing for a big day out. Luckily we have a lovely big loop available right out the door, and though it was perhaps a little warm for it, I set off late in the morning.
Tech confidence still low, but there are ways to avoid the hard stuff while staying on dirt. Except when I got to Brown Mountain, I figured, why not?
I *loved* the “hike-a-bike” ascent from the south side, pulling off a shocking number of ledgy moves I had no right to even attempt. I paid the price, getting dizzy and roasting myself in the sun. Hard efforts are still not really agreeing with me.
I took the liberty to do some exploring on the town side of Picture Rocks, attempting to find lower traffic alternates.
I’m not sure I found long term viable routes, but I did find some cool stuff, like this rock art.
And this impressive crested saguaro. It was a good ride. Somehow I’d managed to stretch a 50 mile ride into an all day excursion. I suppose the nap at the visitor’s center might have been part of it…
Mt Lemmon eventually gets cold, and maybe even snowy. Now is the time to grab the upper chunk while you can still get it.
I figured the best way to re-train my brain for steepness, chunk and height of drops is…. practice, of course! What better way to get in a ridiculous amount of practice than on a Lemmon Drop.
Ez wanted to pedal up the Catalina Highway and avoid rocks and trail BS. I wanted to ride down Lemmon and find as many rocks as possible. We were able to strike a nice little deal wherein I drove to the top and she was so kind as to pedal up and fetch the vehicle.
I started not at the top, but with secret/1918 in order to have some uphill to warm up on, and also not miss any fall color. The leaves are all on the ground, sadly, but the organic smell of fall was quite nice.
It says AZ Trail Wilderness bypass, so I suppose I’m obliged to include all this in the AZTR route, right? (Oof)
Despite being in solo mode and despite lacking familiarity, I rode really well. Might have ridden better than last April. The trails are more resilient to big rains than some of the lower stuff, and actually in as good of shape overall as I’ve ever seen them. High time to get up there!
I started to get tired midway down Bugs. The goal had been accomplished. I could feel some major re-wiring of neural pathways taking hold.
Luckily Bugs and Prison are smooth and easy compared to the rest, and a joy to ride even roasted. I turned for the highway and skipped the beating of Molino/Millie, pedaling to meet Ez at Le Buzz.
Re-training of a different sort was next up, as we headed to the Picketpost Trailhead the same weekend as the Punisher AES Event. Friday’s goal was to scramble to the top of Picketpost itself, something that looked pretty dubious as we stood in the parking lot trying to decipher the route.
Ez is not a fan of heights (as she details on her blog), so we weren’t quite sure what to expect and were ready to turn around if needed.
Several times on the way up she stopped and declared she “didn’t like it.” I usually went to scout ahead, just in case it was the last difficult spot. By the time I got back, she was past it.
Fears dealt with and conquered. Well done, Ez!
I have to admit it was a little dicier than I was expecting. No one section was harder than I expected, but it was pretty continuously a little sketchy for most of the climb.
The way down was considerably easier, without the uncertainty of the option to turn around.
Really, we went up there?
My confidence also increased from all the practice. I relearned breaking points of traction on rock and loose gravel. I re-trained my mind for what is steep, safe, and doable. These are again things I’ve acquired in scrambles past, but are sorely out of practice in.
The sunset was classic AZ. We talked with nutcase Schilling on the eve of his 20+ hour Pulverizer ride, and met others showing up to take on Montana Mtn and Picketpost. I had planned to ride at least Montana Mountain, but my thumb had other ideas.
I’d put my hand down on a bee while climbing slickrock. Can’t blame it for stinging me. I knew the swelling likely wouldn’t affect my ability to keep climbing and hold onto rock, but holding onto a handlebar the next day was firmly out.
So instead we ran seven or so miles looping the old and new AZT out of the trailhead. Not a bad consolation at all. Various things are trying to keep me from riding too much, and I think that’s a good thing, especially when I’m making progress re-training and re-learning all the while.
I’m pretty excited to see where running leads us, as well as looking forward to a bunch of good desert rides this winter.
I have a few thoughts to get down that may be useful to future CDT riders. As always, take advice you find on the internet with a grain of salt!
Go light. The CDT is not a bike trail. But you should ride it (and hike-a-bike it), anyway! You really should. But you should go light. As light as possible. Our kits evolved from racing, and that’s almost the kind of simplicity I think a CDT rider needs to approach what they carry with. If you carry too much stuff, the hike-a-bike ratio will skyrocket, and it’s already pretty high to begin with. Stay light and be able to ride hard trails with your setup.
Full suspension. We rode 29ers with 4-6 inches of travel, and highly recommend full squish. The debate on suspension vs not can go on endlessly, I know. Can it be done on a rigid singlespeed? Sure. Is it a terrible idea? Probably — no matter how hard core you are.
Besides the general toll of riding rough singletrack day in and day out, the CDT has lots and lots of trail-less travel, or tundra travel, or meadow travel. It’s great, and beautiful at times. But: Bump bump bump! The worst kind of bumps are those you cannot see or predict (thus robbing you of your ability to unweight or adjust for them), but suspension doesn’t need to see the bumps to absorb them. Many was the time we’d sit back and pedal through open bumpy areas and be glad we had lots of squish (and big wheels).
Northbound or southbound? Tough question. We loved northbound. Loved loved loved it. But we were living in Tucson at the time, so it was the easiest way to start. Plus Tucson was getting hot, so an early (May) start appealed to us (rather than sitting around roasting in the desert waiting for June to pass).
I think I would actually recommend southbound to anyone thinking about riding the CDT. Start in late June up in Montana. This way you get the hardest stuff (MT/ID border) done first. You avoid fighting through so much snow in Colorado (or waiting for it to melt), and then even if winter starts to come, that’s a good thing in New Mexico. You just have to get out of Colorado before it starts snowing too much, but you have through September to do that.
A downside is that 80% of the hikers go northbound. You may run into more total hikers heading south, but they will only be brief encounters. When you go north with everyone else, you can bounce around, get passed / re-passed, and really become a part of the trail community.
Join the community. Speaking of that, I highly recommend embracing the CDT community. As I’ve written in many places, we found hikers to be very accepting and curious about bikepacking. The community that emerges along the trail every year is one of the best aspects of doing a long distance trail like the CDT.
Join the current year’s Facebook group if you are on FB. It’s a good way to connect with hikers you meet, and also to see and post updates on the trail. Some valuable information on fires, closures, water sources, etc gets posted there.
Also check out this site: http://thetrailunitesus.com for links to hiker blogs and other useful info (such as a group-edit current water table).
Join the CDTC. They may not encourage bicycle use, and may have no idea what to say about bikepacking, but they do good work and have done a lot for the trail. I have not yet learned of a reason NOT to support them (like actively campaigning to close existing pieces of bike-open CDT), though I fear I might.
Mt. Taylor in NM is not actually on the CDT, but a well accepted alternate
Choose your own adventure. The hikers have a saying, “hike your own hike.” It applies to any long distance trail in regards to the choices you make and the ‘standards’ you might set. But it especially applies to the CDT, since it is not a trail that is very well defined, and it is one that is full of choices.
Questions to think about:
“how closely will I stay to the official route?”
“do I need to ride a continuous line?”
“how about hitch-hiking into town?”
“am I ok with slack-packing? dayriding?”
“what about alternate routes that most hikers take, but aren’t official cdt?”
“am I ok riding road alternates when thunderstorms call or other circumstances come up?”
Often questions like these may have one answer at the start of a thru-hike, and standards may degrade or change as the hike goes on. That’s fine. My advice to any future CDTer is to not sweat it. Hike your own hike, be happy with your time out there and exercise the freedom in being human. Especially when it comes to staying on the official route, sometimes it truly doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, honestly, no one actually knows what the official route is. The gps, the maps and the signs on the ground all disagree in a few places, so it’s sort of absurd for anyone to claim they walked the entire official trail.
The majority of hikers subscribe to the standard of walking a continuous line, as a bare minimum for what a thru-trip entails. So if you hitch-hike off route, you rejoin it back where you left off. That’s about the only standard I would recommend for the CDT. After all, in the end, all anyone that has completed the CDT can say is that they walked (or rode) a continuous line, from border to border, using large portions of the CDT (and probably a bunch of other cool stuff, too).
For bikes, this is especially true. You could go to stupid lengths to get out of the way pieces of official CDT (when detouring for Wilderness) but I wouldn’t recommend it. Besides doing a pretty-true-to-the-CDT trip, there are plenty of good options to do a CDT-light tour, or a GDMBR+singletrack route. Piece it together, or make it up as you go along.
Maps and GPS. There are a few sources of data and maps. Most hikers in 2014 seemed to be using a combination of the Ley Maps (paper, printed out) and Bearcreek’s ‘official’ GPS data, mostly in the form of Guthook’s CDT app. That combo is what I would recommend, for sections where MTBers are on the CDT (or CDT alternates). Of course I’d recommend having the GPS data from our CDTbike trip for bike alternates, too. But that’s the key thing, is having data for various choices, because you never know when you might need them or want to exercise them. Ley does a great job of detailing all sorts of options. The official GPS data is a lot more rigid, and it is sometimes wrong, or doesn’t match with what’s on the ground (I sent in a half dozen or so major revisions to Bearcreek based on our trip, as well as many updates to Ley’s maps).
I never printed out any of Ley’s maps. I just put them all on my phone, using it to preview sections ahead, usually at night or in towns. That worked out pretty well, and helped me avoid printing and carrying useless maps (e.g. Wilderness). I used Guthook’s app in NM and it worked pretty well. Throwing the GPX track in an app like Gaia is probably more useful for a cyclist since you can add other options to it and follow those if needed. That’s what I ended up doing after NM. One caveat on Gaia is that it’s auto-map-download (for an area around a track) was so unreliable that I stopped even trying. I still want to find a better app for loading GPX and download topo maps. (Oh wait, how about a TopoFusion app!!! Somebody clone me and get my clone to work on it stat.)
Also key was having the official data (and other options) loaded onto my Garmin GPS, which sits on my handlebars. Having GPS data and maps on the phone is great for getting the big picture and planning, but pulling it out and seeing it in the sunlight is a pain. Also keeping it charged with the GPS running is an issue. Garmin’s are still king when it comes to runtime and screen visibility. Constantly monitoring the track and trail is the best way to stay on track, and understand the landscape/turns you are navigating through.
Two other pieces of beta are worth mentioning, too. One is Yogi’s CDT guide, mostly for her town guides. We were given some sheets from her guide from hikers and they were pretty useful for figuring out where the cheap places to stay are, good restaurants, post office, general town layout, etc. The other guide worth mentioning is only worth bringing up as a positive sign for bike access on the trail. Jim Wolf (aka the only person behind the CDT Society) is perhaps the most vocal anti-bike advocate there is. His site and updates are more about keeping bikes off the trail than they are about promoting or working on the trail itself. Slowly his voice is being listened to less and less, and his CDTS guides are, like him, out of date. Almost no one uses the CDTS guides anymore, and less and less people are still stuck in the 70’s when it comes to embracing the beauty that is multi-use trails.
Flexibility. Drop all set ideas of pacing or miles per day. Just take the terrain as it comes. Pack more food than you think it will take you. And pay attention to the next water source. They Ley maps do a pretty good job of letting you know when you don’t run into water every 10 miles or so, but they don’t always. Weather will change, fires will pop up and close sections, anything can happen! The CDT teaches you flexibility.
Hike-a-bike. Be ready for lots of it. Prepare mentally for it. It is more physically draining than hiking, or riding, but it doesn’t have to be a super unpleasant activity, if you’re mentally OK with it. You’re in a beautiful place, on a trip of a lifetime, so what if you have to push your bike and can’t ride it? It beats being stuck in an office somewhere…. (I try to practice this advice myself, but am not always successful in doing so… that is for certain). Eszter adds: do some core and upper body work in preparation. Your normal cycling routine probably doesn’t include this much pushing of loaded bikes. Arms get tired!
Additionally, a 2013 thru-hiker named Wired put together a nice page with links to trail resources as well as her own journal of her hike. Her ‘advice to future CDTers’ is worth reading as well. Her site is here: http://www.walkingwithwired.com/p/cdt-2013.html
My best piece of advice for riding the CDT is… to make it happen!
Even when you can’t do that much, you can still do some cool things.
Looking back at my photos from the last ~month of ‘rest and recovery’ it sure seems like we’ve gotten out a lot. But there haven’t been any long rides. There haven’t been any bikepacks. No new trails explored. No big techy rides. No limits pushed.
But we sure did see some beautiful things.
Much of that was due to it being Autumn.
And our timing being good.
Not really a good sign when naps are called for less than an hour into an easy ride.
But the fleeting colors make me smile, and even when dead tired, so it’s well worth it to get out there.
In between time spent with our families in Boulder and SLC, we took some decompression time in Winter Park. We climbed some dirt roads and discovered new trails in all directions. Winter Park might finally start to live up to it’s big talk about being an MTB destination if they keep building (and signing) trails…
On to Utah!
We found some color up in Logan while visiting Alexis and her new hot pink Lenzsport.
This ride just about killed us. CDT bodies only know tour pace. Anything even slightly over that is trouble. Lesson learned.
Shoreline rides can be taken easier.
Out with my dad and brother, who could easily bury us. But we wimp out of the big climbs, content to just be outside in the beautiful October air.
Got my high school friend, Phong, out for a ride on his $70 thrift store special. He’s been getting out more since.
My Grandma has the largest collection of CDTbike post cards. We brought the laptop over to give her a slideshow from the trip since she doesn’t read blogs.
On the way to Arizona we popped over to a favorite ride and layover in Southern Utah.
If you haven’t ridden there… put it high on the list.
I can’t believe it took me so long to realize it’s the perfect way to break up the SLC<->Tucson drive. This time we camped in Red Canyon and regretted it. There’s a surprising amount of traffic on the highway to Bryce, and our CDT heads were not too keen on rolling around in sleeping bags again so soon. Oh well. The breakfast in Hatch got us going for the rest of the drive south.
Back in Tucson, it was so nice to finally be settled after five months of travel.
It was nice to be home.
The energy and enthusiasm was there to go ride and explore. Back in the desert!
It didn’t last too long. Once fully comfortable, the novelty of being settled wore off quickly.
That led to some good old post-trip blues. What do we do now that the excitement is over? The project is done. We’re back home.
Working for yourself doesn’t help this situation, since it is based on internal motivation. It almost would have been better to have a forced job to go back to. Something to constrain us into 9-5 or something. I’m a little better off than Eszter in that trackleaders has events that must go off and do bring constraints. But there’s still a large component of self-motivation to almost all the work I do. Building a tracker for a big sailing race is a project, but not a big and exciting project like planning, riding and surviving the CDT. Some amount of letdown is inevitable — it’s just the way our brains work. Once you get used to a certain level of ‘high’ and satisfaction, it can be hard to move on to smaller more mundane things. Sometimes the answer is another adventure. But the body can only take so much, sadly. And then there’s that word, ‘balance’.
These are issues I think everyone struggles with at some point, and there are no clear answers. That’s part of the greatness of life, in that there are never any clear answers to some things.
One thing is for sure, you can shut off the voice of meaning in your head a number of ways. One is to get a group of friends together and go ride hard.
Or at least go ride hard trails.
I’m not much of one for pedaling fast these days, but rocks are always fun.
never seen this little chunk ridden, well done J-bake
Too bad my skills are stuck in tour mode, too. My brain keeps saying, ‘no, I don’t ride stuff like that’ when I look down at something steep and rocky. Crashing was the last thing I wanted to do while out on the CDT, so I kept it *very* conservative. I’ve also trained my muscles to the movements and placement of the Spiderflex saddle, so it’s proving to be a bit of a rough transition back to the chunk of AZ.
No place to begin but where you are. I’m fine with walking down stuff I normally ride (and getting photographed while doing so, thanks J-bake!). I’m ok with skipping B-lines I’ve hit regularly. For now.
We’ve also picked up a new little obsession. Running!
At least it seems like it is approaching an obsession level. I have little doubt that wheels are my preferred way of seeing the world. But there’s something about the simplicity of keeping it on your feet. And there are many places bikes aren’t allowed. I have always been curious if I can do long trail runs in the mountains. Seems like now is as good a time to investigate that as any. It’ll give our hike-a-bike and general MTB brutality accounts some time to receive some deposits and return to near normal levels.
It’s a good thing I’d told myself in advance not to expect much out at the 50 year trail. But I couldn’t resist a day out there, even though I knew it was going to be rough.
Luckily Chad was sort of on the same page as me after the summer. We both came out of the ride feeling a bit like this cow — rough day for her too.
Not that the classics weren’t an absolute hoot, and not that it wasn’t an absolutely gorgeous evening.
We were just all over the place. Flubbing lines we usually nail. Skipping others. Getting nearly bucked off by tropical storm ruts. Or helmets ripped off by catclaw that have swallowed entire B-lines.
We can only go up from here! Trails will get better as people ride them, and people trim them. Our skills and confidence can’t get much worse…
At least Ez and I aren’t sleeping 10 hours a night anymore. We were up early one morning and decided to hit the trail in the cool air.
Have you ever noticed that baby saguaros are difficult to find? I think that’s the new game of the winter — find the youngest/smallest saguaro you can. We’ve been looking hard, and finally found this little guy. Can you beat it?
I got the bright idea to head up Mt. Lemmon for a fall color run.
The execution of the timing was perfect. Colors are in their prime.
The execution of the logistics of the run was highly flawed and 100% my fault. We started out with a steep drop down 1918, without any warm up. Then we continued running/shuffling down Secret and Sunset to Marshall Gulch. That’s too much downhill for our little legs and with our lack of technique.
Starting out with downhill on a ride is OK. Not so on foot.
It was a beautiful run, and we suffered climbing back up, but it felt good.
The next day it did not feel good. Sore legs! 4 days later we are still feeling it and haven’t run. Lesson learned. Interestingly we are sore in completely different spots — calves for me and quads for Ez. We’re both doing something wrong, and apparently they are two different wrong somethings.
Good news is I think we are both itching to run now. And it’s getting to where we feel like moderate beginners. It’s not a struggle the entire time like all our other attempts at running have felt.
We’ll see where it takes us. Maybe to some ultra-running. Maybe to some Wilderness backpacking. Maybe to some quick injury and back to riding bikes. Never know.
From Lincoln, the official CDT is done, but there are still miles to ride. On to the Great Divide Mountain Bike route, with a huge sign of relief and excitement at some straightforward miles.
It’s not well a known fact, but Ez is a horse whisperer.
Quick ride to Ovando. Look …. [Continue reading]
We’ve been off the trail for about a month now. But we can still feel the effects of four months spent on the trail. I’m still processing the experience, and still recovering from it.
So, how has four months of bikepacking changed us? What were the lessons and insights learned? Here are a few …. [Continue reading]
It’s hard to describe the kind of fatigue that settled in during the last quarter of the trail. We could still put in big days and cover difficult terrain, but resting no longer returned much strength to us. Huge town meals were a way to survive, instead of giving us an instant boost of energy …. [Continue reading]
We spent some time in the town of Wisdom, eating and watching it rain. This would become a pattern all the way to the Canadian Border as cold storms continued to hammer Montana. They seemed to come at a frequency of one per week.
We needed rest badly, so the rain was …. [Continue reading]
We pedaled out of Lima, a day too early, as it turned out. When fatigue sets in two hours out of town, you know you might be in trouble. Luckily the first 30 or so miles are on the GDMBR, so it’s a gentle warmup.
These are beautiful GDMBR miles. Though I know …. [Continue reading]
Though I managed to keep up on daily blog posts, I fell woefully behind on photos in Montana. No matter, I’m loving going back through them now. These start at West Yellowstone, where we waited out a couple days of rain, then finally hit our first section of Montanan CDT.
I loved the giant …. [Continue reading]
May 12th to September 12th – 124 days Total mileage cycled/hiked: 3737 miles Mileage without day rides: 3623 miles Mileage without resupply runs and day rides: 3260 miles Moving time: 26 days, 14.5 hours Elevation Gain: 453,000 feet
Zero days: 26 Average overall travel speed (including zero days): 30.1 miles per …. [Continue reading]
We are done! Finished with the CDT!
Starting out in New Mexico, exactly four months ago, this moment was anything but certain. We didn’t even have a plan to make it the final miles to the northern terminus (you can’t ride bikes there), and some of the ideas to reach it were pretty …. [Continue reading]
We made it to Canada!
And it’s not just like a different country, it feels like a completely different world. These are the Rockies as I’ve never seen them. Huge, towering, majestic… and covered in snow! It feels a storybook-esque, like a fantasy land. It feels a little unreal to be finishing this thing, …. [Continue reading]
If there is one thing the CDT teaches you, it’s flexibility. The divide decides your pace and whether it makes sense to proceed or not. Sometimes we’ve busted out 70 mile days, others we struggle to hit 20. You can’t be in a hurry or have rigid plans.
It’s funny that of all the …. [Continue reading]
Well that was fairly to moderately epic! We made it through Glacier… barely. It’s snowing outside, but we found ourselves a roof and a warm bed for the night.
We woke up in Whitefish earlier than we needed to. We hit breakfast and were primed and ready for a big day. Post office 15 minutes …. [Continue reading]
Neither of us slept very well, though the night was not overly cold. Failing and turning back never tastes good. But it was absolutely the correct choice for us. Some mental demons needed a night to be worked out.
When the sun finally lit the horizon I looked up, through fuzzy eyes. Are those …. [Continue reading]
“If I seem superhuman…… I have been misunderstood.” – Dream Theater.
The CDT is long, and hard, and full of hike-a-bike. But it is not a superhuman feat. We’re just regular riders, and we get tired. We run out of patience with unrideable trail and difficult conditions. We get frustrated, we crater. We …. [Continue reading]
It was another lovely day on the Great Divide. These really are some of the best miles. If only the divide had more like them…
The highlight of the day is the closed road below Richmond Peak. It’s double track that rides like singletrack, or has deteriorated into singletrack. Apparently it’s called the Swan …. [Continue reading]
Tonight we sleep in a Jail. It costs $5, on the honor system, and has two rope strung beds. The little town of Ovando has really taken to setting up touring cyclists well. It’s really cool to see.
Besides the divide route, the Lewis and Clark road touring route comes through here. There’s …. [Continue reading]