A fleeting fall

We set up camp in the shadow of Mt. Shavano, and just outside of Salida. We needed a tiny bit of recovery after the 14ers and such, and Salida is the perfect place. We have friends to visit, there’s a friendly bike shop, a hot spring / rec center, and even my favorite dentist is in town. We worked at the library, I got my teeth cleaned, Reilly at Absolute got Ez’s bike rolling with new (chainring) teeth, and we generally basked in one of our two favorite places (the other being Tucson). “I love Salida” was uttered, many times.

Oh yes, we love Salida-town!

We fooled ourselves into thinking that we could ride North Backbone / Cottonwood as a recovery ride.

It’s a classic, but recovery it is not. Lower wash section is riding a little rougher than usual, but still tons of fun.

We reluctantly packed up camp after a few nights, motivating to head over to Gunnison. There was no way we could pass over Monarch Pass without riding the ‘Crest.’

One of my favorite ways to ride it is as an out and back — more time spent above treeline and enjoying life on the ribbon of singletrack goodness.

I came up with the idea to add a big mountain climb to the out and back.

At 13,970′ Mt. Ouray is just shy of a 14er. The only tangible difference is that it’s far less traveled.

And there’s not much of a route up it. Lots of fun (and largely lacking exposure) boulder scrambling.

Lunch date! We pulled out the pizza from Amicas the night before and enjoyed what is probably one of the best views from a Colorado (near) 14er.

Salida is down there! S-mountain! The aspens are electric in the northern canyons of Ouray.

Ouray really stands out, making the crest and everything beyond seem low and flat.

We’re addicts to this kind of ridgewalking, it’s true.

It’s surprising to still see flowers up so high.

Back on the bikes, time to flip the Crest, back from Agate Creek. Perfect way to finish of a mountain climb. We knew we’d pay for the energy spent, eventually.

We coasted down to Gunnison in the van, meeting Jefe and Rachel for dinner. A ride plan was set for the next day in Crested Butte. We camped at Hartmans.

Oh, Crested Butte, your siren song is strong.

Your views are huge.

Your climbs are steep.

Your ridgelines are the stuff of dreams.

The raw ingredients of magic.

Almost too good to be true. Perhaps it is.

Sitting outside Teocali Tamale, devouring delicious food, the scene was as idyllic as ever in CB. I think I described it well back in 2010:

“A giant burrito at Teocali’s was what Dr. Morris prescribed himself. The speakers vibrated the soothing guitar of the Grateful Dead. Beautiful girls and little kids rode by, seemingly in greater numbers than cars. The sun would shine and warm things up and just as it approached ‘hot’, the clouds would cover things up. Bikes were parked everywhere. People were smiling. Live music spread itself from the park into the streets of downtown. The mountains surrounding promised adventure and discovery, beauty and wonder.

Crested Butte seemed a utopia, the perfect place. I knew in the back of my head that this was not true. But I let myself believe and enjoy the lie. I was here, this was now, why not buy into a myth, temporarily, and one that leads to happiness?”

Why not, indeed.

A busy and lethargic morning at the coffee shop was spent working, then we pointed the van over Kebler Pass, taking dirt roads through endless gold aspens. We were too tired to ride, but I enjoyed seeing the country from the window of the van.

After a short and rejuvenating soak in Penny hot springs, along the Crystal River, we hit the supermarket in Carbondale. The goal was to pack for another big day in the mountains — this time of feet. The “Four Pass” loop in the Maroon Bells was our idea.

(sign from Winter Park)

Unfortunately, we needed a place to lay our little heads somewhere nearby the trailhead. All campgrounds were full within a 50 mile radius, and we weren’t about to pay $250 for a night in an Aspen hotel.

Dirtbag skills fail. I guess we shouldn’t have been too surprised given that it was a Saturday night. We were probably too tired to pull off the 26 (28?) mile loop on foot and enjoy it, anyway.

So our ‘making it up as we go’ style failed, once, this entire summer — or year. Not too bad, when taken in the average. Life is pretty rough when your worst problem is not being able to find a place to legally camp.

We called it a successful week in the Colorado Mountains, and were happy to return to the warmth of indoors for a night. Camping isn’t as fun, for us, when the van’s windshield frosts over, our bottles freeze, and when it’s dark at 7pm!

Rainbow tree!

I feel like I’ve gone on and on about how short and fleeting fall as a season is in the high country. The same can be said of life in general, of course. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t get stuck in a routine and watch it pass by.

At least this fall, there was more than enough to go around. More than enough for us to bury ourselves. We couldn’t take advantage of every day, even as the days continue beautiful and bluebird. But it’s a nice feeling, just going for a simple birding walk with your love, knowing you are deeply tired, knowing that you gave the season your all.

That, and we plan to head out again. The Four Pass loop and other high places continue to call… oh, and I have to go back to the dentist, so I guess we *have* to go back to Salida.

I continue to be ever so grateful for everything that allows us to do this — time, opportunity, health and an eager and awesome adventuring partner.

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