After kicking off our vacation with two days of riding in the rocky, dry desert of Grand Junction, we headed north to higher altitudes for a complete 180 in scenery and terrain!
We arrived in Park City late Sunday night and managed to find a fantastic hotel (The Yarrow) and food at 9:30 pm at the only restaurant still open on Main Street. Mountain towns do not stay up late, as we should well know! We slept in on Monday (we were on vacation!) and headed to Main Street for some breakfast. There we ran into some Boulder IMBA folks we know, including Jenn Dice, who had been in Park City for the IMBA Summit that weekend. Oops - I guess we could have synched our vacation to coincide with that. Nah,... I wouldn't trade our Grand Junction start with our fabulous friends for anything.
IMBA Jenn confirmed our ideas about riding the Mid Mountain trail via the Spiro trail. When we told her we were planing to ride our Single Speeds, at first she suggested we shuttle up to avoid the climb on Spiro. Then, when we told her we were planning to do the Firecracker 50 on our SS bikes, she said that Spiro to Mid Mountain on the SS bikes would be "good training." Training?!?!? And Bacon!
We hopped on our bikes from the trailhead (aka our hotel) and rode off in search of Spiro. Once we found it, we were treated to green, lush vegetation, unlike what we had seen in Grand Junction and even what we are used to in Boulder. Holy Moly - aspens, ferns, and flowers everywhere. All kinds of flowers. It felt like riding through someone's garden; it gave me a lot of inspiration for my Xeriscape gardening plans at home! The climb up Spiro was over before I realized it (not so bad on the Single Speeds) and we dumped onto the Mid Mountain trail, where the amazing flowers continued. The Mid Mountain trail is clearly the gem in Park City's trail system. We simply loved this trail, which wound through aspen groves, pine forests and meadows mostly along a ridgeline at about 8,000 feet. It was super fun and spectacular in the views.
At one point, the sky darkened and we started to get wet. In my head I sang,
"Rain, rain go away, come again some other day. Jen and Jesper want to play."
OK - maybe I sang it out loud, but it worked and the rain disappeared. We finished the ride under blue skies on Rob's trail. I'm not sure who Rob is or was, but we like him! This downhill through the aspens was a blast. After Rob's, we caught the paved bike path back to town.
We had a nice meal and hot tubbed it, getting to bed way too late after hanging out in the hotel bar, which had wireless, and catching up on emails.
Eat, Ride, Eat, Sleep. Repeat.
We slept in a bit on Tuesday (again) and grabbed breakfast before heading back to the trailhead/hotel. I did some maintenance on the Titus (replaced the too short cable housing on my rear derailleur cable) while Jesper researched the maze of trails up by John's trail, the Steps and Sweeney's Switchbacks. Armed with a pretty good idea of where to go, we headed off through town and up to the trails that would wind around the ski resort. We ascended up through dense and stately aspen groves. I just love riding through the tall, spartan white trunks of an aspen grove.
With numerous consultations of the map and our GPS tracks, we made our way to over 9,000 feet and tried to head up the Apex trail. It was shortly clear that we were the first mountain bikers to attempt this trail since the winter, as we encountered more and more, and larger and larger snow drifts. We finally decided to turn around and save the high altitude riding for another visit to Park City. We came down and hit the aptly named "4:20" trail at 4:19 pm! Pretty darn close! No we did not light up!
We enjoyed this ride (heck - we were on vacation and riding our bikes), however it would have been more fun with someone to guide us without all the map checking. It took away from the flow. Nevertheless, the ride was beautiful, with more of those spectacular flowers and aspen groves and our altitude provided stellar views.
After riding, we stopped at Cold Stone for some ice cream on the way back to our hotel and then ate a yummy meal in the quaint downtown of Park City before heading back to our hotel for another good night's sleep.
Eat, Ride, Eat, Sleep. Repeat.
On Wednesday we packed up, had breakfast and checked out of the Yarrow. We drove a short way north to our trailhead for the yummy singletrack in the Flying Dog area. A nice bike shop guy (Juan from Jan's Bike shop) gave us some trail suggestions to make a decent-sized loop (Glenwild to Cobblestone, to Flying Dog to 24-7 to Stealth). The flowers were yet again amazing.
Once again, we Single Speeded these buff and swoopy trails.
We ended up climbing more than we thought we would, racking up another 2,000 feet of climbing (OK - 1,945 feet, but who's counting?!?!). Following our ride, we pointed the Durango east and headed for Steamboat Springs.
Neither of us had ever been to Steamboat Springs before, so we were excited to try out a completely new place. As we drove through town Wednesday evening, we saw one "No Vacancy" sign after another. Then we stopped in a hotel and they said they were booked completely and every other hotel they knew of was booked too, except for the Comfort Inn, which might have ONE room left. We reserved this room on the phone immediately! We ate al fresco at a funky Italian place called Mambo Italiano; it was excellent except for the mosquitoes.
Eat, Ride, Eat, Sleep. Repeat.
Thursday morning, we enjoyed the free breakfast provided by our hotel and headed up into the National Forest to sample the Hot Springs trail, the Mad Creek trail and the Red Dirt trail, with a bonus of an out-and-back on the Lower Bear trail. We rode our Single Speeds again. Somewhere out on the Red Dirt trail (I think) a group of five or so riders passed us huffing and puffing on the uphill. Far from any trailhead and accessible only by a lot of trail miles, this group was a bunch of old guys in their 60's or beyond. They all had super spiffy bikes (Moots and such) and it was clear they took their sport seriously. Based on where they came from, they had ridden up a gnarly rocky uphill that Jesper and I were glad to go down (not up). I was impressed! We finished up the ride with a steep climb up the Lower Bear trail. We did not go all the way on this trail, but did enjoy the views from way up there before heading back down to the car.
A two minute drive away and $20 bucks later and we were soaking in the natural hot springs. Not a bad way to end a ride! We wrangled up a steak dinner in town and then hit the hot tub in our hotel room. Feeling like noodles, we zonked out completely.
Eat, Ride, Eat, Sleep. Repeat.
Friday morning, I awoke to a start just a fraction of a second after Jesper did at 9:00 am. Shoot - we missed the free breakfast! I think we were tired. We checked out and found a breakfast joint to fuel up at, then we headed downtown to begin our ride up Emerald Mountain. Despite the fact that Steamboat Springs is a summertime mountain biking destination, no one has found the ambition to map the maze of trails on Emerald Mountain. It would be simple with a GPS. If we had more time, we would have done so and would now be selling the maps for $10.00 a pop. Someone is missing a good business opportunity.
We rode the geared bikes again, which we were thankful for when the gravel road we took up to the top of the mountain got stupid steep. It would have been zero fun on the Single Speeds (although it probably would have been good "training"). From the top, we hit single track trail after single track trail that jutted off the gravel road. In retrospect, I would skip the gravel road the next time and just take the numerous linked trails up the mountain.
We refueled after the ride at a little Mexican place and began making our way back to Boulder. After seven days straight of riding, we were OK to be heading home to get our doggers from the Kennel and to be in our own bed.
Back home now, as I reflect back on the vacation, many things come to mind:
- It pleases me that we rode every day, even the ones when we drove from one mountain town to another.
- We only got sunburned the first day in Grand Junction. After that, we were really good about the sunscreen. I got this crazy tan line from wearing full fingered mountain bike gloves every day. My hands are white from the wrist down and my arms are bronze.
- No major mechanicals; just a cable repair and brake pad replacement. In all seven days, we had only one flat. Pretty amazing. We also didn't get injured at all, and really had no significant wipe outs. True, in Grand Junction we were riding a bit cautiously so as not to ruin the upcoming week of planned riding, but if you've seen the scars on my legs, you'll agree the caution was prudent!
- We rode 114.6 miles and climbed 17,251 feet in total over our vacation. We laughed about it because we have ridden and climbed almost that much in a one day race, as compared to our weeklong vacation. That being said, our vacation was not about riding as hard as we can (that's what racing's for). Our vacation was about spending time together as a couple doing one of the things we love best (riding our mountain bikes), enjoying the scenery, eating good food, sleeping in together and relaxing away from work.
Saturday stats (Grand Junction)
2,340 feet of climbing
Me looking supremely buff and tan, not to mention super serious!
Sunday stats (Grand Junction)
2,315 feet of climbing
Jesper negotiating a tricky section (and also looking buff)
Monday stats (Park City)
2,941 feet of climbing
Jesper climbing up Spiro in the aspens
Tuesday stats (Park City)
2,758 feet of climbing
Geared Bikes (With that much climbing, we were glad we had ridden the gear bikes!)
Jesper coming out of an aspen grove into the sunlight
Wednesday Stats (Park City)
1,945 feet of climbing
Awesome views of the Wasatch Ridge, which was too snowed in for us to ride this time (we'll be back)
Thursday stats (Steamboat)
2,575 feet of climbing
Single Speeds (good "training" for the Firecracker 50!)
Jesper high above the raging Mad Creek
Friday Stats (Steamboat)
2,377 feet of climbing
Jesper riding single track through a meadow and past some prayer flags in an aspen grove
Totals - 114.6 miles of riding and 17,251 feet of climbing.
See more pics and a write up on Jesper's web site.