Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jesper's Birthday Celebration!

August 9th was Jesper's 38th birthday. Happy Birthday Sweetie!

Jesper and I have taken a cue from my brother Jeff's play book; we always take our birthdays off and play. This year, Jesper's birthday fell on a Saturday. That's no fun taking off a Saturday! So, we took off Friday and made the affair a three day weekend!

Prior to the big day, Jesper thought and thought about what he wanted to do. Mine is easy - we ski! Finally, Jesper decided that we should head down to Salida and ride the Monarch Crest Trail. For those readers who are not avid mountain bikers, the Monarch Crest Trail is one of mountain biking's epic, must do rides. It has been on our list for quite awhile.

The ride is about 35 miles long and is supposed to take riders from 4-6 hours, depending on skill. It is possible to do the Crest from Boulder as a day trip, but it's a very long day. The drive to Salida is over 3 hours and you need to start the ride early to beat the summer afternoon thunderstorms. We wanted to enjoy the birthday experience, so, we opted to drive down Thursday night and get a room. It was nice to get to bed early and get a good night's sleep.

We awoke Friday morning to low clouds, almost fog-like near the mountains and valleys. Pretty, but not what we wanted to see. We wanted clear blue skies in the morning, knowing that clouds would likely build up during the day.

Funky, but unwanted clouds shrouding the mountains

Oh well, it was what it was. We grabbed breakfast and headed over to meet the Shuttle van that would take us up to Monarch Pass. The ride, a point-to-point, goes from the pass back to US 285 pretty close to the where we would leave our car. Although Jesper and I like to climb, we both agreed that doing the ride as a loop just looked stupid, since the entire climb up to the pass would be miles and miles of paved road. By shuttling the ride, we would ascend some 2500 feet and descend almost 6000 feet.

At 8:00 am, the shuttle guys got our bikes on the trailer, along with 5 other guys' bikes.

We brought the right bikes - FS Titus Loco-Moto for me and FS Intense Spider 29-er for Jesper

A group of three guys was a mixed bag: one guy on a singlespeed from Albuquerque, New Mexico; an Anglo from Venezuela; and some other skinny, nerdy guy. The other group of two guys was from Missouri. They looked pretty fit, but we knew with the trail hitting close to 12,000 feet, they would find the ride challenging.

As we drove up to the pass, it got foggier and foggier. It wasn't raining, but it was clear that we would be starting out in a cloud. The Crest sports some of the most impressive views of any ride, so we were hoping the sun would burn the coulds off.

We hopped on the bikes, the trail starting out as an ascent ,and soon passed the group of three guys.

Jesper heading off into the fog on the skinny, perfect singletrack

At first we could barely see 50 feet ahead. It was cool and spooky.

Jesper riding through the quartz "hail"

At one point, the trail ran through white quartz rock that was weathered. It looked like snow or hail had fallen everywhere. Fortunately, the precipitation held off, even though we stayed up in the cloud as we approached what should have been the most impressive views.

Jesper searching in vain for the impressive views

There were no views to be had. We were firmly established within a large cloud and it wasn't going anywhere. I kept reminding Jesper that at least it wasn't raining.

Jesper emerging through the fog

We arrived at Marshall Pass to find the 2 guys from Missouri trying to figure out which way to go. The route finding gets a bit confusing at Marshall Pass, since there are several trail options one can take. We let them know where we were supposed to go, but they seemed dubious about Jesper's route finding. We last saw them as we climbed up from Marshall Pass toward Starvation Creek (yikes - don't get lost there!!!!). I wonder which way they ultimately decided to go and when they finished the ride!

We descended and got below the clouds, riding through pine forests and crossing scree fields.

Jesper crossing a scree field just below the cloud line

We climbd up over a saddle and topped out, entering a lush green valley.

Nice skinny Single Track!

Finally, we started to see little bits of blue sky, although we both knew we had missed the really good views in the first half of the ride.

See - there's little bits of blue sky!!!

We were getting hungry and decided to stop and eat our sandwiches. We found a nice log overlooking the meandering Silver Creek as it passed through a marsh-like valley.

Happy bikes resting at our lunch spot

Food always tastes so good when you've worked hard for it!

We thought for sure the Missouri guys would catch us now, since we sat there for quite awhile enjoying our italian subs. But no such thing. I really wonder where they ended up going!!!

We rode along Sliver Creek for awhile and then lost the trail. I recalled hearing something about there being a place where the trail gets faint. Faint?!?! It disappeared! We tromped along next to the creek and finally came to the trail again. It appeared that the trail usually follows the creek itself, but with all the recent rain, the creek was pretty full. We wondered how the 2 guys from Missouri would fair along this section, since they seemed so puzzled by the much-less confusing section near Marshall Pass.

We arrived at the intersection of the Rainbow Trail, which we were beginning to fear we had missed. At this point some 20 miles in, riders can opt to take the jeep/gravel road down to US 285 or ride about 10 miles on the single track Rainbow Trail. We, of course, opted for more single track! I am so glad we did. That trail was magical. Although there was some climbing, the trail mostly snaked up and down through drainages. It had such flow and the vegetation made me think hobbits would pop out from behind trees or rocks. magical. So magical that neither Jesper nor I got the cameras out during the whole 10 miles. No worries, I will keep the memories forever in my head.

The trail finally came to a stupid steep downhill, which we appreciated not having to go UP. And then, we were at the road. The ride was over, unless we decided to take the eastern half of the Rainbow Trail across US 285 to Salida. The shuttle guys said it was not a good mountain biking trail, but we weren't sure what that meant. Jesper and I ride lots of stuff most people wouldn't like to ride. We debated but finally decided that it was late enough we should just ride back to the car. Good Thing! We later read that it would have been a miserable 2 hour hike-a-bike. That would have been a nasty buzz kill to our spectacular ride.

The ride was fantastic. We had four and a half hours of beautiful single track almost all to ourselves. Although we didn't get the amazing views we had hoped for, the fog and clouds made for a special, spooky ride. We capped off the ride by grabbing a beer and a snack at a Salida restaurant.

Beer is good after a long ride!

But wait - Jesper's birthday hadn't even begun! We drove back home and slept in on the actual day. Then we picked up Strelka from the kennel and took her swimming at the Boulder Res. We got in with her and she clearly thought that was super fun. Sorry no pics of that either.

Later that night, I took Jesper out for dinner at Jill's, one of Boulder's finest restuarants. We know the head chef there (he's a fellow mountain biker) and were looking forward to a yummy meal. Jill's did not disappoint. Dinner, the wine and the service was great. I managed to surprise Jesper with a gift he never expected but loved.

Jesper happy and surprised to get the Evos!

661 Evo elbow and knee guards! They were hard to find, being back ordered almost everywhere, so I was happy to be able to get them in time for his birthday! Now he can really tackle some rocks on that Spider of his!!!

We will head back down to Salida to ride the Crest on a sunny day. We've got some views owed to us!

More pictures and Jesper's short write up here.

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