Colorado Trail Day 4: Notes on Humility, Honor and Heart

Day 4: Bolam Pass to Durango

Our 4th day was our final day, but it was not intended to be our last day on the trail for this trip. Our intention was to ride from Bolam Pass, get ourselves over Indian Ridge, and have a final evening of camping and a big-starry-sky night at Taylor Lake.

(Forewarning: Ed captured 1 picture before Indian Ridge -- and ALL of the remaining pictures are from Indian Ridge.)

We started the day knowing that this was a 'big' day by our trip standards (not big by all the crack head standards). We knew that we would have one stretch of 'dry' trail where water re-supply was minimal. And we knew we'd have to really scoot in order to time our crossing of Indian Ridge to miss the potential afternoon storms.

I kept thinking of my girls racing this route; Ez and Cat (and LW even tho she's not raced it yet)... their pace and their PUSH kept me as in AWE as I was the views I was flying through. How DO they do, what they do, with the grace in which they do it?

True to form, the day started off like a Frieght Train for Ed, a spinny light crack-ramp-up for LW, and a grunty but over-excited push for me. And, true to form, I had a major mechanical within the first hour.

Ed and LW off the front, I started having serious issues with the drive train. Most of you, I'm sure, are not surprised. What do I get for turning my SS into a 1x9 the day before the ride? Just what I deserve, of course!

Pedaling became impossible. My chain would not stay on the front chainring AT ALL. It would not withstand a single full pedal rotation. JOY.

I yelled out loud in complete frustration and LW must have heard me, because around the next corner I found her waiting for me.

I'd bet money that my race girls would and have yelled out loud. But they also would have been prepared ;)

We stopped and inspected the Pony. Turns out, I twisted my chain somehow, and I bent one of the front chainring teeth. Fun stuff!

So I quickly ripped out the chaintool, and took out the affected twisted chain pieces. I put it back together, and fiddled with the chainring. Lucky little me, LW handed over her trusty Leatherman Multitool, and I gently bent that bent chainring tooth back closer to 'normal'.

Without her and her gracious offer of a tool, I would have been hosed... and likely would have resorted to trying to pound the thing back into shape with a rock.

I fixed it. However, shifting into granny was no longer an option. I was OK with this. All the gears were too tall for me anyway, and so I just kept my mind centered and accepted "PUSH FFING HARD" as the standard pedal stroke.

What was more frustrating was that any time I leaned the bike to the right for a bit of sweet-turn, the chain would fall off. And, if I took a messy bit of trail fast (because that is what I do), the chain would fall off. And, if I tried to spinn too fast on the down/flats, the chain would fall off. And, if the bike could tell that I was thinking about it too much, the chain would fall off.

Do what the race girls would do: ride on and just be happy about it. And so I did. I was SO FFING happy. Truly, deeply, all through my soul. (My legs not so much).

So it was 'mash-mash/gentle-pedal... mash-mash/gentle-pedal' for the day. I sucked it up. And rode on. Yet MORE behind the crack head (LW) and the freight train (ED).

Ed was off the front -- soaring his way through true high-country bliss on his loaded down rigid SS. How DOES the man do it? Ed was giddy. And sick of waiting on me ;)

Once into the grove of pedal-pedal-pedal, fix the chain, pedal-pedal-pedal, fix the chain, we just powered our way along the magical trail. Ed or LW off the front, and me and the other hanging in the back. LW and I got into a nice game where I'd be forced to power-pedal ahead. Stop and rest. And she'd just come spinning up along side me, whereupon I'd have to giddy up and go to power-pedal ahead and then stop and rest again.

Until I just blew to pieces before Indian Ridge -- at which point, I just slowed to a crawl (walk) and let them both fly along ahead.

Indian Ridge blew my mind. Plain and simple. I put the GoPro on the head and walked/power-pedaled and just kept moving.

The girls do this at night!!?? After race-pace riding for DAYS? On how few calories and HOW little SLEEP?

I KNEW that all I had to do was get over this beautiful long ridge line, and I'd be able to break into dinner foods, comfy sleeping bags, and my hat. I knew that I could stretch out and feel entirely satisfied with my effort for the day, and grateful for the lessons being handed to me. I knew that I could sit still and REST. I knew this so deeply, that I just put it all out there to get over/along this ridge. I may have been slow as molasses in January, but I was still trying very hard ;)

Turns out that you can know something in your bones, and be absolutely wrong.

Two high-peaks from the end of Indian Ridge, the sky turned black. The clouds came in from a different direction (never a good sign in and of itself), and it got downright freaky.

Ed got serious and tried his hardest to make sure we all got off the ridgeline in time, safely. Thank you, Starling.

Ed and LW blasted off the front. I did what I could. I could see LW far ahead on the next climb, stopped to put on her bullet-proof wetwear. I saw Ed zip up his wooly shirt (huge effort for him;)), and then they both continued to blast along.

It was scary on the ridge. The lightning and thunder were present. The sky was black. And we were in the absolute WRONG place.

Go Team!

I threw on my rain jacket -- and put my head town.

And then the hail started fall. Like tiny lead pellets. It hailed on us, drilling us with marble-sized ice balls and pourrrrring freezing rain.

It was so much fun!

And I was scared scared shitless and totally over excited and happy to be RIGHT in the midst of totally getting Epic'd.

Lucky for us, we reached the final corner up on the ridge, and looked down below us right at Taylor Lake. HUGE relief for me, as I thought we had one more massive drop and climb ahead of us.

We started down the long drop -- but were unable (unwilling) to ride the trail as it had become a river of ice and water, and the ground was moving below our feet and tires. I had no hands left and started shaking pretty solidly. LW was in front -- and soon jumped under a thicket of bushes. Ed and I followed suit. I'm not sure it did us much good. But it was nice to even try to take cover.

We made it to Taylor Lake.
And there was no way in hell that it would be a safe place for us to camp for the night.
The ground was flooded in standing water and an inch of floating ice balls.
We were all soaked.
Decisions had to be made.

The ONLY call we could make was to continue on. And so we did.

Ed and LW shot ahead while I fiddled enough to at least get some knee warmers on. I shot off to catch up with them and had THE fastest, strongest mile of riding (for me) for the whole trip. My legs were so frozen there was no longer any pain and suffering feel in the legs. So the pedals turned over with power and strength and I quickly caught up with them.

There was a moment here, watching the other two take off that it hit me...
I couldn't stay out here in this state even if I wanted to. What do I DO -- if I were here, alone.
I hit me that I didn't know. It would take me more than the 5 minutes it took LW and Ed to come up with a plan, that is for certain.

It was so much fun. I just had to laugh.

As we passed a large group of people who were taking shelter in large tents (below Kennebeck), LW yelled back to Ed and I: "we have GOT to get lower and get warmer and dryer, come with me!!!!".

So we continued on the Colorado Trail, up and over Kennebeck Pass (not nearly as big as I thought it was going to be), and we dropped down the other side.

LW's brakes were singing a wild song the entire way down the hill.

Ed lost use of his brakes entirely. That was horrifying to watch while riding behind him.

I just huddled into my own private little inner-fire world, and begged the universe for to keep us safe.

I had also thought: well hell, we're so close to the finish, let's just get this thing done and go find a nice hotel, a nice long shower, and some hot ffin' food.

Up and over Kennebec, we dropped onto the road that cuts the CT right at the base. LW stopped and started piling on her clothes. She said her brakes disappeared somewhere down the trail. Ed was relieved because her brakes were no longer singing. Ed stood there and watched while LW and I put on every stitch of clothing we had. (The man does not get COLD!!!)

We all decided, unfortunately, that we were cold enough, blown enough and ready to be in town enough to skip the last 21 miles of the CT, and take the roads back down into town.

And I was a little sad to see that I was so willing to just take the easier way 'home'. But it was smart. And I knew what decisions Ez and Cat would have made in the same situation... and I was proud of them.

I started to bonk the second we started rolling. I started eating whole candy bars in a matter of seconds. And I'm pretty sure they didn't do me an ounce of good.

We rolled and rolled and rolled on the dirt roads. With all of the mud and ice and dirt on my drive train, the chain actually STOPPED falling off. Of course. And, I could finally shift into gears that would allow me to keep up on the downhills! WOOHOO! Had I known that more trail junk would have made the drive train behave better, I would have happily given her a mudbath hours and ours earlier.

We dropped into town.

I felt disappointed, relieved, proud, defeated, hot (ha!), and really, really weird.
LW started off for Cat's place.
Ed and I started off for the Strater, hoping that they'd have a nice room for us downtown Durango.

In the 2 miles between when we left LW, and the front door of the hotel, my vision had pulled me into some sort of tunnel. I stopped being able to speak clearly and efficiently. I could not keep my mind straight enough to put words to anything. And I just had that far-away, almost out-of-body feeling. I actually thought that I was just going to pass out and disappear and I would no longer exist. Yeah, that is what it felt like, I felt like I was just going to cease BEING, right then and there on the steps of the Strater. Poof-buh-bye!

But Ed got a nice room. The bell man took our absolutely MUDDY and naughty ponies and packed them away somewhere safe and warm. I practically fell into the hot shower. And that was the end of me.

We found food, and I could not eat. Ed found his way through 2 appetizers, a salad the size of texas, a burger and a massive plate of french fries. Go Team!

Ez and Cat ride the whole CT in HOW few days?
Crack Bunnies! 

I slept HARD.

The following day, we did the car shuttle between Durango and Spring Creek Pass.  And we returned to Durango for a few more days of Heaven.

And I found my appetite.

And I thought about LW, Cat and Ez, and just the magical depth of power, strength, courage, and raw ENEGRY that they all posses.

And lucky for me, I got to ride with all 3 of them before we left Durango.

See how lucky we all are. Talk about the fly girls. Thank you, girls, for all of your inspiration and motivation -- in all realms of life.

The CT portion of our trip complete -- and the re-orientation process underway -- Ed and I enjoyed our last few days of vacation. More on that in a bit!

Thank you, Ed and LW -- for the magical trip! You both fill my heart up with so much love!!



Buzz said...

"Turns out that you can know something in your bones, and be absolutely wrong."

And in the end ..might what we endure via own sensibilities be the grandest and most important thing?

You are F'in awesome Spacecowgirl...endure and persevere

Tom Purvis said...

Jeny and Ed. Wowsers. All those photos of Indian Ridge bring me back to my experience there a month and a half ago. I knew as I was trudging through that section that I need to go back someday and experience it when I can even remotely appreciate it. Amazing how similar your experience with weather was to my own. When I looked down at Taylor Lake I was at the edge of panic, the trail had become a river of ice and water, there was standing water all around the lake, brakes were being consumed at an alarming rate... crazy.

Thanks for the story. Now you've made me run late getting out of the house to work!

Lynda Wallenfels said...

I love you and your blogs JJ. My crystal ball tells me there are many more in our future :-) XXXOOXXX