This is a continuation of Neil’s Colorado Trail bikepacking trip report. Get caught up by reading about Days 4-6 here.

Day 7

This was by far the coldest morning and neither of us wanted to get out of our sleeping bags. It was also one of earliest starts, as we woke up at 4:45 because we wanted to make it over some exposed spots in the San Juan mountains. My watch said it was 32 degrees in the tent and it had to be a few degrees colder outside. We slowly got our things together and hoped daylight would come soon. We got on our bikes and climbed toward the sun.

Once we reached a sunny spot both of us got off our bikes and just soaked it in, as our toes and fingers were numb. Back in the saddle, we got to the top of Pinos Pass and started a decent in the shade. After that we warmed up with a prolonged climb to Highway 149 and then up to Spring Creek Pass.

While riding on the highway, I was passing a parked RV while a man was getting refreshments (beer) from his cooler on the outside of the RV. We chatted and he offered Mike and myself some cold sodas! We both had one and chatted about our travels–the RVers came from Seattle and were heading to Creed. They gave us a Sprite for the road and we parted ways. I’m usually not a soda drinker, but on this trip a soda is an instant energy boost so I never declined one.

We asked some other folks at the trailhead about the weather after noticing high clouds starting to build. Mike and I were nervous since we were going to be at or above tree line and would reach the highest point on the Colorado trail soon at 13,271 feet. Luckily the folks said the next two days would be rain-free. This was the best news we had heard in a long time! Not dealing with rain on exposed ridges was ok with us.

We tugged along up and down saddles, gradually making our way. At Spring Creek we decided not to fill up on water, which we would regret–all the other creeks the guidebook suggested were dried up. Were we really going to go above 13,000 feet without water? It seemed that way until Mike noticed a small, high alpine pond down about 200 feet from the trail. We were relieved and we hiked down to the pond and filled up on water. While tackling two more climbs I kept thinking how surreal it was to be riding a bike at 13,000 feet.

The views were spectacular–we were on top of the world! We descended down to Segment 23 where we would camp down beside a beautiful lake at 12,250 feet. We had a small little fire, saw a very large porcupine, and biked 58 miles on the day. Tomorrow, Silverton!

Day 8

We started in good spirits since we knew we were going to make it to Silverton around early afternoon. My achilles tendon started to become very sore and the hike-a-bike sections really started to hurt my body. Luckily the segment was not all that difficult and it turned into one of my favorite parts of the trail. Not a tree in sight, it felt like Mars.

Stony Pass was a very welcoming sight as cars and tourist were out walking around. Here we started our fifth and final detour. Weminuche Wilderness detour would bring us down to Silverton. We started our long and very steep decent into Howardsville and eventually into Silverton, passing historic mining areas. It was a crazy sight to see mines on the sides of the steep San Juan mountains.

We arrived in Silverton and asked a local where we could get a good burger and she suggested The Black Bear. We grabbed a burger and fries and planned the rest of our trip. We figured we would be in Durango in a day and a half and we started to really get excited. After a visit to the gear and grocery store and a horrible milkshake later, we started our scary climb up Molas Pass on Hwy 550.

There is absolutely no shoulder on either side of Molas Pass and Hwy 550 in general. So we raced up the pass as fast as we could and said goodbye to our last Wilderness detour as we reached Little Molas Lake and the beginning of Segment 25, Molas Pass. The beginning was more like desert riding, climbing our way into high alpine riding, a great mix. Once we reached the saddle the sun was going down and we had a few miles of downhill.

On the way down my tire got punctured which left me a little frustrated. Luckily the Stans filled the puncture and we kept riding down to Cascade Creek where we would camp for the night. Another productive day with another 43 miles accomplished!

Day 9

We woke up at 7am but we weren’t on our bikes till 9am. Nice and slow, we knew our pick-up would not be in Durango until Friday around noon so we really had no rush. We took it easy the first part of the day, which was good on my aching Achilles tendon!

Blackhawk Pass was the first highlight of the day; not only was the climb fun and fully rideable but at the top we met some day hikers. They gave us loads of food, which was great because we were kinda running low on snacks. The view from Blackhawk Pass was great as well and we sat there for a while just soaking it all in. The older ladies who gave us the food made me reminisce about all the people we met on the trail and how nice everyone was. It is strange what the trail does for you. Both of us had the final climb on our minds all day, yet we didn’t talk about it. We both knew we would do it, we just needed to keep pushing.

We started the long climb and Mike continued to have issues with his rear tire. It was so bad we could hear air leaking out of the sidewalls–the tire had used up all the Stans. The leak was slow so we just kept chugging along while pumping the tire up every so often. After a few hike-a-bike sections we reached Indian Ridge. Wow, sketchy section! I would not want to do that in the dark. One missed step and you’re dead.

We reached Taylor Lake after a gnarly decent and set up camp. We ate the rest of our food and Mike put a tube in his rear tire. We were almost done with the Colorado Trial and it felt good. That night the wind kept growing stronger and stronger. There was truly no protection anywhere around us as we were still right around the tree line. The wind gusts had to have been 30-40 miles per hour. We had to anchor the tent with large rocks so it wouldn’t fly away.

At around 10pm I got up to go pee and I saw some eyes staring at me from the bushes. I told Mike and I ran back in the tent holding my pee. A few hours later with the wind still whipping over the ridge and down over the lake, I still really had to pee. Still awake from the wind, I got back out of the tent. Those eyes were there again; I shined my headlamp toward the animal and it moved. I didn’t get a real good look at it but the eyes were large and far apart making me think something was stalking us–a mountain lion?

I slept on and off, waking with every heavy gust. Four hours later I get out again to pee and replace a rock on a stake. Again, the same eyes in the bushes were looking right at me. I ran back to the tent and told myself I’m not going outside until the sun rises, because something was watching us. After maybe a total of 4 hours of sleep and thoughts of an animal stalking us, the sky brightens and all I want to do is get the hell out of Taylor Lake!

Day 10

We packed up quickly as we were both pretty upset about our sleep situation but also very excited that we would be finished with the Colorado Trail in just a few hours. We descended 3,000 feet in about 6 miles. The trail was fast and we just kept moving. The map said we had one more major climb left. As we were climbing all I could think about was the gratification I would have once we reached Junction Creek; I know Mike was thinking the same thing. This was no easy task and we truly had no idea of the trail ahead of us the entire trip. We just kept riding, which was our mantra–just keep riding! After one final quick, steep decent we made it to the parking lot, smiles on our faces, a high five, and a hug. We did it, 500 miles of biking in the books. Now it was time to stuff the face with fried food!

This was one heck of an accomplishment. Not even last year at this time would I think to bike the Colorado Trail. We fell in love with bikepacking during this trip and it would be hard to go back home. Not to take anything away from backpacking but bikepacking is just more efficient if you’re a mountain biker.

Either way, hikers or bikers, it is no easy task to thru-travel the Colorado Trail. We put ourselves in some hairy situations–some situations we have could avoided, others we couldn’t. We had to be tough, wise, and use our common sense to make good decisions. With a little bit of luck and passion, the goal became a reality!

I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in this expedition. Mike was a real pleasure to have on the trip. Sure we had some ups and downs but we pushed through them, which led to a strong friendship. Just thinking about the doing the CTR solo is overwhelming; having a partner through the whole trail took away the whole element of loneliness and excessive thought.

The last thought I have about the whole trip was the timing. As I reflect, I love that we truly enjoyed the trail. Sure some spots were worse then others, but by “enjoy” I mean, we didn’t punish ourselves. We stopped at beautiful vistas, we took our time in the mornings and in towns, we joked and laughed a lot. This was no race and as a first time thru-biker of the Colorado trail we did it right. I can always punish myself at next year’s Colorado Trail Race… we’ll see!

Check here for 500+ pictures that were taken between Mike (blue shirt) and myself (green)! You can also check out our route here.

# Comments

  • mtbikerchick

    Nice job! What an accomplishment…sounds like you had some great moments and some not-so-great ones, but it also sounds like it was well worth it. Thanks for the write-up!

  • dgaddis

    +1 Great write up!

    How about a post on your gear? What worked well, what could have been better, etc?

  • skibum

    Done already?

    A healthy congrats to you both!

    I’d also be interested in more on the logistics of this endeavor. What did you haul along that you maybe could have lived without and what did you not bring that you wish you had?

  • AJ711

    Been eagerly awaiting each segment of this blog. Nicely done!

  • jeff

    I love the shot of you guys at the end toasting sodas–clearly you had a blast!

  • GimmeAraise

    Hey guys and girls,

    Thanks a lot, it was truly a fun trip and cant wait to do more bike-packing in the near future!

    What worked well:
    ~My bike was amazing, I was super happy I had a full suspension bike on this trip. However i do believe a hardtail 29er would work, especially if your racing it! If i do the CTR next year I might consider bring my stumpjumper comp carbon 29er. FYI my fuel ex was XTR rear everthing else was XT

    ~My Tires were beasts!!!!!!! WTB Bronson 2.3 Am TCS up front and the Wolverine 2.2 AM TCS in the rear were amazing. Mike had Continental xKings and his side walls were in rough shape! This was probably my best last minute purchase. Tubeless=the way to go!

    ~Another last minute purchase was my ultralight Clearview Big Agnes sleeping pad. I save weight but mostly save lots of room in my saddle bag. oh and its 2.5 inches thick!

    ~Headlight, as I mentioned before I bought a brand new headlight, if we didn’t have this light both mike and I would have been walking our bikes at night!

    ~Down jacket! I got a New Mountain Hardware 800 fill Jacket and it was amazing! I slept in it most nights and it packed down super small! well worth my money. Especially living in a ski town!

    ~Blackdiamond Mega light (aka Megamid) was great for two of us! plenty of space inside and super light! if I went solo I would have used a bivy. Only rained on us once while we were sleeping (4:00 am the night of day 6), so a bivy would have worked well!

    ~food worked out great we had ramen and potato flakes most of the nights and then Backpacker pantry twice on our trip! Snacks such as trailmix, cliff bars, and cliff shots/blocks were the staple of my diet! I experimented with a lot of gu’s and chews but noticed Cliff worked the best for me!

    Logistic Wise:
    ~We photo copied the detours from the guidebook and put them in our little databook! that worked well and save the weight of the guide book!

    ~There are enough towns on the trail that we got lucky enough to re-supply without running out of food! It would be hard to mess this up! We just knew we had to carry a bit more from Buena Vista on.

    What didn’t work so well:
    My saddle bag was frustrating because I held my crocks on the side of the bag. Thus resulting in the straps to get loosened. It was nice to have crocks but if I would do it again I would just ditch the crocks and hope the saddle bag straps would hold up. It also could have been the fact that I held so much in the bag. Maybe a small frame bag would have helped to distribute the weight a little better.

    ~My handlebar bag leaked at the seams, I should have put seam grip on the seams before the trip like I was told. but that thing rocked other then that!

    ~ I brought to much extra clothes such as pants I never wore, regular bibs that I wore very little! I could have gotten away with using my 3/4s bibs the whole time, thus making my knee warmers useless. I now know how to pack better in terms of clothes!

    ~Completely my fault but, I should have replaced my break pads before the trip! I got a full tune on my bike prior to the trip but that was the only thing I did not get done!

    Logistics wise:
    ~we should have had a more structure route plan. We probably could have avoided storms while going over mountain passes but, we were just riding along no real rush! I wish I drew up a tentative Itinerary!

    I’m sure I’m missing something, ill let you know…. but all and all we went very light from the start!

    Word on the street is that the CTR is from Durango to Denver next year! just a rumor but Mike and I kept saying how we would have hated riding it the other way! Come to think of it, I don’t think it would be any more difficult, But there are a few crazy steep climbs in that direction.

    Happy Camper IPA not soda!

    Also if you have any questions please just ask! I love talking about this trip, it will never get old! I have committed to the Arizona Trail race 300 version and most likely will do the CTR. Maybe another trip next October in Arizona.

    • zanger

      So I am curious: In adjusting what you would pack — can you post a list of exactly what you would pack for clothes? I always overpack when it comes to clothes, and with your experience of already riding the CTR — I would love to see what your list would look like now

    • GimmeAraise

      Not sure if your asking hypothetical but that’s what ill do here.
      What I would wear:
      3/4s bibs
      Shorts (extra protection ans warmth)
      Pearl Izumi Base top (sleeveless)
      Socks tall
      Pearl Izumi Headband
      bike shoes

      Layers I use any given day:
      Arm warmers
      Pearl Izumi barrier jacket
      Rain coat
      Smart wool head cap

      What i pack:
      Long johns
      warm socks
      base fleece
      Down jacket
      regular hat and gloves

      this would be my CTR set up however I did not ride the CTR this year.

    • ambreunig

      Pretty sweet trip man. i was wondering if you or if anyone could tell the best time to hit the CT? I was thinking the beginning of May, but there might still be a lot of snow up there above tree-line and/or really muddy. this and the beginning of August is the only time I can go..

    • Greg Heil

      Hey man, there will be WAY too much snow in places during the begin of May. On the flip side, August would be the perfect time of year to do it!

    • GimmeAraise

      In previous years you could do it in the end of May with some snow patches. This year you will need to wait till July, and there still will be snow patches. The Colorado Trail Race starts on the 11 of August this year, nearly 2 weeks later then usual. The race organizer want to try and avoid the monsoon season, bur honestly…ALWAYS preparer for rain.

  • MarcS

    What did you guys use to purify your water? I see you wrote some of it may have been bovine poop soup. Did you use a filter, iodine, both, ultra violet?

    • GimmeAraise

      We used Aqua Mira, its chlorine based. We never felt sick except from the last day our stomachs both felt a little off. Probably form these little red micro guys swimming in Taylor Lake.

  • stumpyfsr

    Awesome trip! You guys did it very well and were prepared to any challenge.
    Bikepacking is absolute fun, especially if you go in your personal comfort pace.
    How does your stove performed at high elevations?

    • GimmeAraise

      We used the MSR Pocket rocket and never had any issues. Maybe we used a bit more Isobutane higher up but we had nos issues and it boiled our water very fast!

  • Jared13

    500 miles in 10 days? That’s awesome!

    Thanks for answering all the questions also. All the questions I had have been answered already. 😀

  • Johneblz

    Great trip! Well done! Im just wondering what you packed in each bag. It doesnt seem that you brought that much looking at the pics..some great photos by the way.

    • GimmeAraise

      -Up front the Revelate Design “Sweetroll” handlebar bag held:
      Big Agnes sleeping bag
      Mountain hardware down jacket
      REI lightweight fleece
      Knee warmers
      -Next was the front Planet Bike top tube bag Held:
      Cliff bars
      Cliff shots
      Cliff blocks
      Spot device
      -My rear top tube “Jerry can” from Revelate Design:
      Starbucks via
      Honeystinger waffles
      Justin’s almond and peanut butter packets
      Aqua-Mira water purification
      -The “viscacha” from Revelate Design held:
      Black Diamond Mega Light tent
      MSR black light pot
      MSR pocket rocket and Fuel
      All my extra clothes, gloves, and hat.
      And rain coat at the end for easy access.
      -Osprey Raptor 3L held:
      Bike tools such as;
      Extra derailleur cable
      Extra Stan’s
      Bike lube
      Duck, electrical, and athletic tape
      Heavy duty, nylon string and needles
      Super glue
      Arm warmers
      Pearl Izumi barrier jacket
      Smart Wool cap to fit under helmet but over ears
      Clear and yellow replacement lenses
      10 speed quick link
      Note pad and pen
      Extra AAA’s
      Cash, credit card, and ID
      And my trash!

      We went as light as we could. I still think I could have ditched some stuff but we did pretty good considering it was our first bikepack.

    • Johneblz

      I like the set up. Seems fairly manageable and light. Any problems with weight shifting or steering?

    • GimmeAraise

      I biked with the weight three weeks in advance! I was we’ll used to it, that was key! Sure weight shifted and it took a little more to steer! It was also important to balance out the weight on the bike!

  • trouttrunnell

    You guys are animals! I am inspired to do the CTR now after reading your account, it may take me a few more days though! Excellent stuff!

  • Bryan_S

    Came across this report doing some research on bike packing the CT. Great information, nice trip. My son and I are contemplating doing a portion this summer to celebrate his HS graduation. It would combine two of our favorite things to do together.

  • GimmeAraise

    That sounds like a great idea, feel free to personal message me with questions! I’m doing the colorado trail race this year so I’m continuing to do my research as we speak!

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