Heading out on Lime Creek Road
Isaac and Dave promptly dropped me on the initial Lime Creek climb. Four days in, Hill Junkie's legs were tired and motivation was low. At least the scenery was quite nice to take the mind off the suffering. Most people ride Molas to Coal Bank section of the CT by shuttling it, either by spotting a second vehicle or hitching a ride back to the start. Very common. I've met people on the trail that plan to hitch a ride back, saying it is easy to find motorists to give riders with bikes a lift back up Hwy 550 to Molas Pass. But they miss the 12 miles of solitude riding through the Lime Creek gorge.
Line couldn't move fast enough
Upon reaching Coal Bank Pass, I needed to purge more of the massive quantities of food intake I've needed on this trip. Unfortunately, there was a long line to the single restroom at the pass. The women's was closed. I'm probably eating about 6000 calories per day out here, at least 30% more than Dave, and probably 50% more than Isaac, who is smaller than Dave and I. Isaac thought it was pretty funny I had to anxiously wait in line and snapped a photo.
Starting out on the CT. Engineer Mtn on left of image many miles away.
The scenery on this section of the CT is surreal. I'll let the photos do most of the talking. While the Monarch Crest lets riders cruise on the continental divide at 12,000ft, giving a top-of-the-world feeling, the CT from Molas to Coal Bank immerses you in beauty and the feeling of being "out there." The lack of air makes you loopy and adds to the surreal experience. As I've said before, kids pay good money to feel this way. We "grown ups" get it the legal way by pedaling our bikes up to 12,000ft.
Junction with Engineer Mtn trail, where we met group of three others
En route to Rollings Pass on the CT
Climbing towards Rollings Pass
View from near Rollings Pass summit
Another view from near Rollings summit, looking north
We turned off on White Creek Trail, new to me. Topo showed this as contouring. Immediately, there were dismounts and hike-a-bike sections. It was much less manicured than the CT, and I wondered what I was getting Dave and Isaac into. But fears were quickly put to rest. The trail leveled out, popped out into the open, and flowed oh so sweetly through meadows. It felt just like riding Trail 401 in Crested Butte. More elevation was lost, so I knew this flow would come at a price.
White Creek Trail. A lot like Trail 401 in CB.
More White Creek contouring
One thing I notice is altitude seems to impact me more than Dave. I wonder if there is a fast-twitch/slow-twitch thing going on here. Could a supposedly fast twitch guy like me be at a bigger disadvantage at altitude than a slow twitch guy like Dave? I'll have to research this a bit.
We reached the final apex of the ride at Engineer Mountain. From here, it is a 6mi/3000ft descent back to the car. Almost no pedaling, screaming fast, rutted, hammer your wrists into oblivion descending. It is a great way to finish an epic ride. I was so trashed upon reaching the apex at Engineer Mountain that all I could do is flop on the ground. My body was blubber and I feared I would make reckless mistakes on the plummet.
The Hill Junkie was slain by this ride
We finished the ride with 42.5mi, 7100ft and 5:40hrs on the Garmin. The White Creek extension puts this loop over the top. Have to think hard about doing this loop again. Climbing at altitude imposes a huge penalty it seems. Everything happens in slow motion. Maybe instead of coming back to Engineer Mountain, the route could continue a bit further to Cascade Creek Trail, which cuts a bunch of hike-a-bike climbing out. Next time...
From Engineer Mountain looking north
For dinner, we went to Steamworks in Durango. Wouldn't you know it, Ned Overend was there too, waiting for a table. He was with a group, so we didn't talk with him, but it was interesting to see him two days in a row.
I've gotten a couple days behind on posting. Internet access is crap at our hotel, plus sleep is more valuable than blogging on trips like this. I'll have to finish post on the last two days of our trip next week.