Thursday, August 25, 2022

Colorado Trail 2022; Prologue


Heart fix

In March, 2021 I had a procedure done called an arthroscopic mini maze, to "fix" my atrial fibrillation. This was the fourth surgical procedure I had done to fix it, the first three being normal, internal ablations. None of them fixed it, but this one did. It also seemed to lessen my ability to go harder, have higher heart rates. It felt like it took away my zone 4 and 5, but maybe that was just the long recovery, and getting old. (53 years old in 2022, before I undertook riding the whole CT.) But, the problem was gone. I was looking forward to doing the Colorado Trail without afib! 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Bikepacking the Colorado Trail, Summer 2022, Denver to Durango

Can a recreational, middle-aged cyclist from sea level bikepack the Colorado Trail? Yes.


Read: Bikepacking the Colorado Trail, Summer 2013, segments 23, 22, 23

Read: Bikepacking the Colorado Trail, Summer 2015, segments 25, 26, 27 & 28, Silverton to Durango

That triggered the idea; we should ride the whole thing. Since 2015, Mark and I have been planning a ride from Denver to Durango. He'd be retiring soon, and I'd just take a month off. We'd ride the whole thing at a gentleman's pace - taking breaks in towns, swimming, enjoying it. That was the idea. Mark did retire. I asked my work for a month off, letting them know a year in advance. In July/August 2022, we'd ride the whole thing. It was harder than we remembered.

This is the story of that trip.

Thoughts about bikepacking the Colorado Trail

These are my thoughts, advice about bikepacking the Colorado Trail. I've done a first 2013 attempt on a subset of the later part of the trail, a 2015 trip to complete what we left unfinished in 2013, and then in 2022, the whole thing, Denver to Durango. Each time I learned something. This page is not perfect, complete, or done. I might add things, as I think of them.

Colorado Trail, 2022; Epilogue

After reaching the end of the Colorado Trail on 2022/08/07, I spent a few days in Durango, couch-surfing at Matt and Liza's house. They were gracious hosts. Mark and I had driven to Durango together, and the original plan was to drive home in his Subaru, but he'd already returned home. My first plan was to rent a minivan and drive home. I even had the perfect audio book purchased, to listen to on the drive home through Nevada, on Hwy 50 - Basin and Range, by John McPhee. But I got quotes for a mini SUV - no minivans available - from Hertz in Durango, and it was a no go; $1300 from Durango airport to Oakland airport. Budget was no better. I briefly considered buying a $1000 car in Durango, driving it home and selling it, if it made it. Lauren, had a better idea, she got me a plane ticket from Durango to SFO for $400. That left the bike and gear, what to do? I ended up dropping the bike at Durango Cyclery for shipment, via bikeflights. I was able to cram all the rest of my stuff into my duffel bag, except clothes, which went into a smaller duffel as carry-on.

2022/08/07 Segment 27 Hotel Draw Road to Segment 28 Junction Creek to Durango

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Saturday, August 13, 2022

2022/08/06 Segment 25 Molas Pass to Segment 26 Hotel Draw Road

I thought I'd finished for the day, but the campsite options weren't great, so I continued a bit more:

2022/08/05 Segment 23 to Silverton (wilderness bypass)

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Segment 23, about 3 mi from the finish

Someone went by my tent with a headlamp, playing bluegrass around 4:00 a.m. A coyote started howling nearby at 5:00. When I got up there were two other tents nearby, one of them was Pepa. I started packing up. Everything was wet, as usual. Sky was calm and clear, dawn was breaking. When he was up, I suggested the idea that I give him my food. I brought it all over and he laid his out, and after a while he agreed that it would work. I was happy to give him my food because I would be getting more, and I would be going down to Silverton very soon. It was a good solution. We talked some more, finished packing up and then we both headed out. The next rise was not bad at all and the singletrack after was very nice. The single track dumped me out on Stony Point road and then I had a climb of about a half a mile to the summit. I said goodbye to Peppa and John and Lisa, I got happy birthdays in return. And then took the descent to Silverton. While it would be nice to go fast, it's very rocky, and it's a good way to tear a tire, so I took it leisurely and took pictures. Met a British or Scottish bikepacker coming up, he had very little on his bike, looked fit, but how is he going to stay warm? We had a brief chat. I talked about how, once you climb the mountain, you can see the mountain, a realization I came to in 2013, when I first climbed Stony Point road to the CT. Getting closer to town I noticed what seemed like a lot more side by sides and RVs, like a whole camp of Texans off to the left, above town. Also I saw signs prohibiting OHVs in town. And I saw a sign advertising $20 parking for OHVs. Arriving in town, I found the post office, got the resupply box, sat in front of the post office, changed my phone from airplane mode to regular network mode and started texting with friends and family. After a while of that, I called the number Christine gave me and she gave me directions, it was a block from the post office to her house, on Reese. She welcomed me, made me an egg and cheese sandwich, was very friendly, Josh as well. My memory of it is all a blur at this point, but I was able to take a shower and do some laundry and use their Wi-Fi, hang out in their airstream, and it was very nice. Christine showed me pictures of their house remodel. The house is very adorable. I helped Josh move some wood and put some motorcycles on a trailer. I met their friend Bevan, who helped them put the house together, and also bought a house on the same street. He has a dog, Gordo, who is brother to the Fonner's dog Reese. They also have a dog Buddy, a rescue. I kind of over-did it with Instagram and my phone shut down, because it was so hot. I had to charge it and let it sit on their Wi-Fi and upload pictures to Google photos and ignore it, which was hard for me. I studied the Databook. I went for a hike with Christine and her friend, real estate agent Melissa. I met Melissa's partner, Skinny. They're both really nice, and their house felt really nice to be in. The hike took us up the side of the valley, looking down on town, the view was amazing. We talked about cult movies, Georgia O'Keefe, New Mexico, Indian tribes in New Mexico, dogs, careers, self-promotion, branding. A little later we all went to dinner at the Eureka Station, the best restaurant in town, according to Christine and Josh. Bevan joined us. I treated, the food was good. I had a beer. Plenty of water. We got back to the house around 10:00, I started packing up the bike to be ready, I had made an agreement with Josh that he would shuttle me to Molas Pass at 4:00 something, I would get up at 4:00 a.m. I made myself busy getting the bike ready and all my stuff ready, took a CBN gummy and melatonin tablet, read, but could not fall asleep. The bed in their airstream was very comfortable, I think I just had too many thoughts in my head, and the nearness of 4:00 a.m. to the hour of my retirement, something like 11 made me think too much, and I just never fell asleep.

2022/08/04 Segment 22 to Segment 23 Stony Pass

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About 9 mi into segment 22

I set an alarm for 4:00 a.m. I had trouble sleeping. The location I chose in a hurry, as the storm hit was as flat and as low as I could find, but I was laying on a slope in two axes. I was nervous about getting over Coney summit the next day, the storms probably affected my psychology. I normally eat a CBN gummy to sleep when I'm camping, I did, but I didn't sleep so I added two Advil PMs. I fell asleep at some point and then the alarm woke me. It was cold and wet and I was not comfortable waking up yet, so I snoozed it, then snoozed it again, then acknowledged it and got up at 4:30. I struck my camp, and while I did so a hiker passed me. I later realized I left my mini towel drying on a bush, oh well. I started pushing my bike with my headlamp to guide me, until the sun rose and I turned the light off. There was a surprising amount of pedaling, whoever laid this section out wanted to give the traveler a break, so the gradient isn't always so steep. I took some pictures of the beautiful views. I even had a little bit of downhill. The hardest part was the wall, I will call it. Perhaps it has another name. It's a large headland with very difficult switchbacks up onto it. That was a lot of work. I saw a hiker coming the other direction, from Durango, Bree was her name, just starting her  journey. We wished each other well. I spent a long time about 13,000 ft, my idea the previous night that I could somehow summit Coney was wrong, I would have been up there for hours. I was up there for hours this morning, before reaching Coney. I took a selfie with a timer. Once over Coney I had a really fun descent, down to the intersection of jeep roads. I remembered this from 2013. I met Sophie, a hiker who had started very early and was playing music as she hiked last night, I also met Tom from Toronto and Alex from LA, they were the ones in front of me who went up into the potential storm when I decided to stay put. They said they had to make an emergency shelter. Sophie was cautious but also on her own, admirable. 

Thus began segment 23. Segment 23 had a really fun single track descent that I immediately paid for with a very challenging climb up the right side of a valley, while Sophie and Alex and Tom distanced me. I remembered this climb. Saw moose down in the valley, pointed them out to Sophia one point. Filtered water at a nice waterfall. The trail is very narrow and there's very little opportunity to pedal or coast on a bike, so the bike pusher and the bike must coexist. This led to the inevitable damage to my shins and calves from my pedals. This continued all day long, the pins cut the skin. It's very difficult to avoid. Especially when the trail is so narrow and lined with brush. I should find out the name of this plant;  there's this bush that borders the trails high up here, it's stiff and it doesn't really admit much movement. I finally crested that valley and repeated the pattern over and over, segment 23 rolls along at about 13,000 ft. Each divide is gained by pushing the bike, for me, I imagine some super humans are pedaling up here but I am not, not very much. and then I coast with brakes on down the other side, often the descents are spectacularly beautiful, rugged, in the sense that there is not a nice clear track for a bike tire, but rather rocks, holes, mud, water, pedal catcher edges of the trail, etc. I continued doing this, getting more and more tired, having slept little and started at 4:30. I was looking at my GPS and at the Far Out app, and I could tell that I was getting closer, but I could also start hearing thunder at 11:45 a.m.! These storms are so common and today, early. They are really a limiter to what you can do. There was thunder and lightning and rain behind me on another mountain and sun above me so I continued, even though my legs and my energy were starting to fail. When I hike-a-bike at 12,000 or 13,000 ft, I will push for 10 or 20 seconds, pick some object at which I will stop, will allow myself to stop, and then I will pause and breathe heavily, trying to get oxygen back into my body and my pulse to slow. It's really like Sisyphus, slow movement. Sometimes I look at my GPS's elevation profile to see how bad it will be, other times I just know I have to get up it. As it got closer to noon and then 1:00 I was scanning for flat spots in case I had to throw a tent out. This is a good habit. I had also filled extra bottles in the bag for my water filter at the last water stop, so that I could do a dry camp. It was getting closer to two, I had less than 4 mi to go to finish the segment. Once I finished the segment, I had an 11 mi downhill to Silverton where friends of Erik, Josh and Christine Fonner had offered to put me up. I have never met them before, and I was already so grateful. I was fantasizing about finishing segment 23, getting to Silverton, getting warm and clean and eating yummy food and being around people. I faced two final climbs; a climb, descent, a further climb and then I'd be at Stony Point road. Thunder had been behind me for more than 2 hours at this point. Then I felt my first drops. I quickly put on rain jacket and pants, I already had on my regular long sleeve hoodie top, my Houdini jacket, both of which are very thin, summer issue, I put the pants over the shorts I had and put my shoes back on thinking I would March through the rain to the end of the segment. Then lightning struck nearby and that was that. I was at 12575 ft, a low point in the trail, about to begin a push up to something above 13,000 ft, and lightning would be a high risk at the next rise. So, I threw out the tent and got in it, basically in a bicycling outfit with a raincoat and rain pants on top. I thought I would try waiting it out. The rain suddenly hit very hard and I hugged myself to stay warm and just waited. All my gear was still on the bike, I had grabbed the backpack and put it under the rain fly. I began shivering and I continued to wait, hoping that the rain would let up and the sun would come out. It was only 2:00 p.m. Lightning struck close by, many times, one time so close and so loud that the third sensation of touch was involved, I could feel the thunder, the percussive wave. It rained and then hailed, the hail piled up like snow outside my tent. I continued to shiver and wait. I don't know how long I did this but perhaps an hour. Finally, I was getting so cold that I said I would wait for a gap in the rain to grab my gear, then warm up. When a slowing of the rain occurred I quickly grabbed all the gear off the bike and brought it back under the rain fly and then shivering, I pulled off all the clothes I had and put on my warm and dry clothes. Capilene underwear, capilene/wool long underwear, wool long sleeve shirt, Patagonia puffy jacket, hat, then I inflated the Thermarest Neo Air mattress and pillow, the mattress has a reflective coating on one side that keeps some of your body's warmth from reaching into the ground, doing all this inside a one person tarp tent is not elegant, but I got the pad inflated, flipped it around underneath me, the pillow too, then pulled the sleeping bag and liner, got into them, pulled everything tight around me and dozed for a few hours. The rain and hail continued, and continued, and continued. I was tired, and it was a way for me to warm up. I didn't sleep, but I was definitely dozing. About 6:00 p.m. I realized I should do something for food and drink, so I squeezed all the water out of the water filter into the pot, making just enough boiling water for a two-man dinner, shepherd's potato stew with beef and then enough left over for some bone broth, which always makes me feel better. There's all these things I do at the end of a day in a tent that aren't really worth describing, but here they are. I sent a message to my wife Lauren on the Spot tracker, letting her know I was caught in yet another storm close to finishing a segment, but not close enough. I charged the tracker, I had already charged the Garmin during the ride, it starts to show low battery warnings at about 5 or 6 hours. Then I read. I'm reading Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams, and waited for the food to rehydrate. 

Soon I will eat a CBN gummy and then fall asleep without an alarm set. Tomorrow will not be a productive day, I don't think. One of the hikers told me it's supposed to rain all day, which is not good for my plans. (It didn't, I'm fact my next day, very little traveling was sunny, with afternoon sprinkles.) I will get on a bunch of warm and dry riding clothes with as much warm and dry protection as I can, finish the two pushes to the end of the segment, in the rain if I have to and then drop down to Silverton, pick up a box from the post office if I'm not shivering too much, and then find Josh and Christine. I imagine tomorrow will be a day off. Tomorrow is my birthday, I will be 54. I originally had fantasies of arriving in Durango on my birthday, but that will have to wait. At this point I still think I could get there by the 7th, four more segments, 2 days. There is this dumb idea, I could leave all the bags at the Fonner's, then do the ride to Durango in one day maybe, but then I'd have to come back and get the bags, and it would be a hard day. I think I'll just stick with the original plan, get to Durango when I get there. If I arrive on the 7th, I will still have a week of downtime before I have to start work. I will spend that down time working, on the van but that's another story.

After the storm abated, about 6:00 or 6:30 I heard "Is that Morgan?" outside my tent. It was Peppa. We talked about the crazy storm, he got caught on a high point in lightning and hail and had to crouch down and protect his neck from hail and hope he didn't get hit by lightning. He made it to the same dell I was in and the it his tent. He mentioned that he needed to go down to Silverton to resupply, because the weather had slowed his progress. He also said he had to fly out of Durango on the 9th and it was a pickle, having to go down to Silverton and still complete the Colorado Trail on the 9th, he might have to miss a segment. He'd have to hitch down to Silverton or walk down. We said good night. Later I thought about it and I realized that I have to go to Silverton for the wilderness bypass, and he doesn't. I have food that I'm not going to need, because I'll get a resupply in Silverton. I realized that I should just give Peppa my food, and that way he can continue and finish his CT, and I get to do something nice for my birthday.

2022/08/03 Cathedral Ranch Cabins to Segment 22 Spring Creek Pass

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Wednesday, August 3rd - slept somewhat fitfully in the trailer at Cathedral Ranch Cabins. I wonder if perhaps I was imperfect in my water filtering methods, as I had a lot of gas in the night and then an urgent need to go poop in the morning. This happened yesterday morning as well. Alarm went off at 5:00. Quickly prepared, was nice to have clean clothes, made oatmeal and coffee in the trailer with water from the bike packer lounge. I think I was prepared and ready to go at 6:30. Brad pointed out a moose in the valley, I shot a short video of it. It was beautiful. Hugs and handshakes with Annette and Brad, then rolling out after goodbyes, I had beautiful sunshine and a downhill start. Soon I was riding along the beautiful valley floor, flat terrain, wondering at the beautiful sights. It really is a pretty country. Then I began to climb.  It was a long dirt climb. Saw another moose. Put my thumb out for any cars or trucks coming from behind me, there were three, all politely declined. I was about 10,000, then 11,000 ft I felt no stronger but surprisingly, I didn't tire as much. Maybe I am getting acclimatized. After a long time, 3+ hours I reached highway 149. There's no shoulder on the highway. I waited for about 10 minutes, figuring I would put my thumb out for the first three cars that came by, and if none of them picked me up, I'd start pedaling. Well no cars came from the direction I needed them to come, so I just started pedaling. Because the traffic was so infrequent, I didn't feel unsafe with the lack of a shoulder. I crested and then descended, losing all of that elevation I'd worked so hard to get on the dirt. Whenever a car came behind me I would put my thumb out, but none offered to pick me up. I surprised myself by pedaling, very slowly, to Spring Creek Pass. I paused and one of the people who had declined to give me a ride was there, I think his name was Paul. He apologized that he had no room in the car, and I could see that the whole Subaru was full of boxes and containers. There was another guy, Scott. They were both in the parking lot standing by their cars, they didn't know each other but we all started talking. One of them, I believe it was Paul offered me freeze dried food, and I told him I had a lot of that. He offered me freeze-dried cheesecake, which tasted nice, but required a lot of moisture to enjoy, moisture I didn't feel I had plenty of. Apparently, all of that stuff in the back of the Subaru was freeze dried food. The other guy, Scott offered me a mini Coke, and boy did that taste good. I don't know why, but Coca-Cola is so good when you are tired, thirsty, out in the middle of nowhere. I never drink it at home. We had nice chats, Scott was talking about climbing some 14ers, Paul was talking about the Colorado Trail, and segment 22, and the wilderness bypasses. I let them each pick up my bike, and they were impressed with how heavy it was. Then I began the slow grind up the jeep road. Even though the elevation was high, 11 and 12,000 ft, I was able to pedal a surprising amount. There was a little trickle, not quite a creek across the road and it ran down one side of it. I filtered water there, filling up my bag, bottle with the Nuun tablet, and keeping the filter bottle full. I figured the storm could come at any time and I wanted to have enough water to dry camp. I leapfrogged with a guy named Peppa, I asked him if it was like Peppa Pig and he said, same spelling, but different. Funny guy. He kept talking about pineapples just around the corner, tequila, malteds. He would get ahead when it was hike-a-bike and I would get ahead when it was pedalable. We reached Jarosa Mesa, I believe it is called. It got really rocky. I had to push uphill on the rocks, then I got to level ground and was able to sometimes pedal over the rocks, sometimes push. There were lots of sheep hoof prints, some horse footprints and a lot of sheep poop. It was hard to dodge both the sheep poop and the rocks. Eventually I got a little bit of a downhill and discovered that by bringing my speed up and sort of running the rocks like a rapid, I could keep some forward momentum. My bike and I were bouncing like crazy over these jagged rocks. The rocks look different than the previous segments, like maybe basalt this time, where before they had been what I might call slate, or chert, or some other form of rock. These were different. There was also a bit more dirt and grass, and when the rocks would give me a break it was nice riding. I caught up to Peppa, who was FaceTiming with his mom. I didn't realize what he was doing at first and was talking to him. I guess he had signal, I did not. He was showing his mom these thousands of sheep arrayed across the Mesa. 

In 2013 I had an experience with a sheep dog protecting its herd that was pretty terrifying, until the dog realized I wasn't a threat and leaned hard against me. I had AFib at the time and couldn't have gotten away if I wanted to. It was a moving moment when this animal that had been threatening me, realized that I was not a threat and just leaned on me so I would pet him or her. I'll never forget that. That was also on this part of the Colorado Trail, segment 23, which is where I'm headed next. 

I was poised to take a downhill run toward the herd. I was a little anxious that there might be more of these sheepdogs, they're very fierce, but I had no choice. I told Peppa that I would run D for him and so I went forward, with my timber bell dingling, and the animals dispersed. I found it humorous the way they all sounded like they were saying 'Meh.' I shot a video of the experience on my phone, until I hit a rock and almost tipped over. No sheepdogs. I made it through the end of the herd and then continued on the jeep road. I was able again surprisingly to pedal much of the jeep road. This segment, 22 is so much easier because there's some hike-a-bike, but quite a bit of ridable trail. I gained some altitude and then found a single track which brought me to a broad meadow with some creeks in it. I was eager to find the yurt, because in 2013 that was the furthest west we got, and it was also a critical point. 

In 2013 we were soaking wet, tired, hypothermic, I had atrial fibrillation, it was a rough period of time, but Mark knew the yurt was ahead of us and so when we found it, we got inside, nobody being there ahead of us, and we fortified ourselves with hot chocolate and recovered. The next day Barry joined us. minus Chris, and then we returned to Silverton, again in a significant rainstorm. 

So the yurt was a big deal for me, and I wanted to see it again, take a picture of it. I somehow missed it in this valley. I kept going past it, confirming with two hikers that I had passed it, and so decided to continue climbing. This was a critical mistake because that was the last water opportunity before Coney summit, and while I did have a full filter bag and a bottle, my packs hydration bladder was probably 2/3 or 1/2 full. I should have filtered, filled my bag, drunk a bottle, filled a bottle. I climbed above the tree line to a kind of scrub landscape at about 12,000 ft. At this point I could see Coney Summit, the highest point on the Colorado Trail, six miles in front of me. Sun was out, it was warm, but there were also clouds. As I progressed I saw a few tents. It was about 2PM. I figured these people were sheltering for the day before the storm came, and I thought about joining them. There were some nice flat spots and some trees. But then I saw some hikers in front of me going up the slope, I debated with myself whether I should continue. There was sunshine, and also dark clouds. The variety of clouds in the high country of Colorado is immense, varied, fascinating. I did not know how to read them, I don't. I had again found myself climbing away from water sources without a refill. I saw my third moose of the day, this time only about 50 ft away in the scrub. I had the timber bell dingling, shook my bars to make sure it heard me, it looked over at me, I looked over at it, neither seem to care very much so I continued, head checking regularly to make sure that it was not following me or charging. I had enough water for a dry camp. I debated with myself, until I felt the first raindrops. This time I did not delay, like I did two days ago when I got cold and wet. I immediately threw the tent out on the nearest available flat ground, I think on some moose droppings, but flat space or nearly flat space is hard to come by in this spot. I grabbed all the gear off the bike and got in the tent. This was a much more successful strategy. 

My day ends here, in the tent. There has been much lightning and thunder, some of it very close by. Hard rain, maybe some hail. The tent is doing a great job. I do occasionally feel a tiny droplet of water, I think the tent needs to be resealed, it actually had a small puddle that I put my mini towel in. I'm in here with all my belongings, a few are outside of the mesh portion under the rain fly, but the food is in here with me, everything is in here. I'm quite happy with how far I got, the rest of the ride from Cathedral Ranch Cabins to Spring Creek Pass intimidated me, it had a pretty big climb, actually two climbs to a high point of 12,000 ft, I really was thinking I would just get to the first campsite at mile 2.7, potentially the second campsite at 5.7, or ideally the yurt at 8.7. I think I'm about 9 miles in now, and if I wake up early I could knock out Coney summit, descend and I think get all of 23 done tomorrow and get to Silverton tomorrow by end of day. It has rained off and on since I stopped riding at about 3PM, this is going to be a cold, wet start tomorrow. I have an energy bar and a leftover chicken bean stew two-man dinner for breakfast. I don't have a lot of water in my bag, and I have to go at least 9 miles to refill, unless I want to go off the Colorado Trail to some possible water options beforehand, but I would have to do that in the dark because I'm setting my alarm for 4:00 a.m. 

2022/08/02 Segment 18 to Saguache Park Road to Cathedral Ranch Cabins (wilderness bypass)

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2022/08/01 Segment 16 Sargents Mesa to Segment 17 Hwy-114 to Segment 18

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2022/07/31 Segment 15 Foose's Creek to Segment 16 Sargents Mesa

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I set an alarm so I could get an early start. I had a lot of respect for how hard the Foose's Creek climb would be. It turned out to be more rideable than I thought until about mile 8. I saw two through hikers going the opposite direction, young, Pocket Snacks and Washer where their trail names. We had a nice short chat, they thanked me for my positive energy. Once it got steep, I was in survival mode, all of the hike-a-bikes are the same for me, since I'm from sea level; I huff and puff, go a few feet, stop, take a break, press the sweat out of my helmet, drink some water, continue. This thing was super steep. At one point I passed the horse back rider, camped. I also passed a Colorado Trail foundation work site. Later, I heard voices behind me and two young guys, Mike and Sam passed me. They were much stronger than I was, we did some brief hellos and they continued up the hill. Soon after the horseback rider and his pack horse passed us all. The pack horse had a very wide load, he asked me to step back because of it. Think about the etymology of the phrase "wide load," it's from horses. Sam and Mike disappeared up the trail, I could still hear Mike's voice. Finally we got to an open area and I could see the final pitch. So steep, the steepest section of the Colorado Trail in its entirety. I could see the tiny trailhead sign at the top, Mike and Sam struggling up, riders at the top looking down at us. This one was the same, 10 ft, pause, let heart go down, 15 ft, pause, let heart go down. I finally got to the top, after motioning for some downhill mountain bike traffic to go ahead. Not long after I got to the top and caught my breath some shuttled riders asked me if I would take their group photo. I did. It felt weird. One of the riders, a woman asked me if I was bikepacking. I told her about Denver to Durango, and then we had a brief talk about bike tours, and then she offered me some olives. I was quite pleased, and said yes. She gave me a little packet of olives in lemon and rosemary. I thanked her. I should have asked her name. I said I would have them with my dinner. Mike and Sam were there, and their friend Shan from Australia was there as well, he had gotten shuttled up. He had some sort of altitude problem like Mark did. We talked briefly, Mike mentioned that he used to work at a winery in Sebastopol. I asked him which one and he said Joseph Phelps, and I said Mitzi and he said 'Yes!' And then we talked about Mitzi Inglis and Curtis Inglis, Curtis's bikes and his car hobby. I took his picture and sent it to Mitzi later on. We talked about continuing, where we might camp, I was hoping to get into segment 16 and 17 and maybe camp at Baldy Lake. Mike was talking about going even further, getting halfway into segment 17. I began riding left on the Monarch Crest Trail. It was beautiful, very nice. Probably worth a shuttle. There was still some climbs, and I saw Mike and Sam stopped, making GoPro videos. I joked that they should keep doing that for a long time so that I could keep up. At one high point there was a group of riders, one of them in really colorful clothing, and a young kid. The kid said 'have some of this water, it's from a spring' and I foolishly said 'no, not yet' or something like that. Turns out I had my mile numbers off and that was the spring at which I intended to fill. I passed it without filling and was in water danger. I descended the rest of 15 with that group, stopping at the end to say hellos. It turns out they were from the Oveja Negra bike bag company. They commented on my Porcelain Rocket frame bag and said I should get one of theirs, and I agreed. We talked for a bit more, I scouted for some water I thought would be near the beginning of segment 16, and failed to find it. It was hot and I was worried about water. I heard and saw the Mike, Sam, Shan group roll off. I began 16 climbing. 16 was not fun. Hike-a-bikes, moto trail usage, water, cows, mud, a dry segment with not much water. I filtered at the first trickle I saw, met  Kate / Badger from Seattle and her dog Nora, who had foot problems and cute little booties. Kate had been on the trail a long time, she got COVID at the very beginning and spent several days in a tent, sick. Young woman. Talked about how my partner had dropped out. Then Charlie and his dog came from the other direction. Kate was coming from Denver like me, Charlie was coming from Durango with his dog. Charlie's dog food was running short, he was doing long stretches between resupplies. I gave them each some gummy bears and continued on. 16 was rough, I don't have fond memories of it. I got to Tank 7 Creek, and it was flowing. The Mike, Sam, Shan group were finishing filtering. there was a mother and son at the creek as well. On my way to the Creek I had passed a woman, and she walked up, a hiker. We had a nice conversation, Dana from Lawrence, Kansas. We talked about our children, the Bay area, Lawrence, bikepacking, all kinds of things. She was nice. I was beat. I had a little snack and was debating whether to continue, my body was so tired and the section was so demoralizing. But I needed to continue, I needed to make progress. I felt the pressure of completing this thing after almost giving up on segment 15, I felt so much more had to be done and I was definitely in the accomplishment mindset, not the fun mindset. There were nice campsites at Tank 7 and Dana suggested I stay and continue the conversation. The family was right next to her camp. Dana was going to meet up with her daughter and do a segment together and then get picked up by her husband. I decided to say goodbye and do the long, three mile climb that finished segment 16. I mostly pushed up those final three miles, my body was empty, I had no strength left. Hike-a-bike really depletes your ability to pedal a bike. Again, the altitude was killing me, it was only 1300 feet, but the high point was 11618 ft and I felt it. It was cold, getting late, Sargents Mesa was grim, windy high plains with cattle. I wasn't very interested in the Soldier Stone monument, and didn't see it, and didn't look for it. My computer said that I was going to reach a high point and then I would go downhill and so I just kept going until I got to that high point and descended, passing a bunch of cows on rocks. rocks. rocks until I got a few hundred feet lower and found a meadow full of mushrooms on the left hand side. I camped there. I felt that bears wouldn't be a problem here and didn't see a place to hang food. I amazingly had some internet and posted some stuff on Instagram, and talked to my family. That helped me a little. I was again feeling really challenged, really low, unsure of whether I had what it took to do this ride all the way through. It was cold, I needed all my warm clothes and the bag liner. Those olives that I got at the top of Foose's Creek were so good with my meager rehydrated dinner. They brightened my day. 

2022/07/30 nero day, Foose's Creek to Poncha Springs to Segment 15, South Fooses Creek

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