Wednesday, September 6, 2017

CO Day 4: Lupine, Paradise Basin, Trail 401, Tony's MTB Loop

Crested Butte is my favorite Colorado town for trail riding. It is far from any population centers. The many hundreds of miles of trails accessible right from town are never crowded. The trails and terrain perfectly match my riding style too.

The air was super smoky getting up this morning. The wind is carrying smoke from numerous, large northwest forest fires over the whole state of Colorado. Visibility was only a couple miles in places. No bluebird sky photos today! Should probably be worried more about what that is doing to my lungs. Can't say I really notice it, but there are health advisories posted across the state.

The hotel in Gunnison doesn't serve breakfast until 6:30am. That gave me an excuse to sleep in. I desperately needed extra sleep. I sensed adrenal fatigue coming on after three physically stressful days in a row.

My legs were utter garbage starting out up the bike path in CB. I thought adding more air to the tires would help. Nope. It was all me. After just a few minutes on paved bike path, Lupine Trail is picked up. This was built a few years ago and is a fabulous route out of town high up on open meadows.  It's crazy how good the views are after just a few minutes of pedaling.

I've never ridden the Gunsight Connector extension to Lupine before. It's always been close/roped off when I've been here. Not today. The descent through the large aspen grove was dreamy.

Slate River Rd is then taken up to Paradise Divide. I've been up to the divide only once before in 2010. Other times I cut off on Trail 403 before reaching the divide. 403 kinda sucks. So rutted and such a waste of vertical. Death grip on brakes the whole way, only to have to climb it back on gravel in the next gulch anyway. Paradise divide goes higher and offers spectacular scenery even though you are on a jeep track. On this weekday, I think only 2 or 3 motor vehicles passed me in over an hour of climbing. The view down Paradise Basin into the Maroon Bells Wilderness makes all that 12-18% climbing worth it.

The descent pops you out right at Shofield Pass around 10,700ft. For many folks, this is the shuttle drop-off point for Trail 401. I don't know why anybody would shuttle this with such a fine jeep road climb to the pass. There were a couple other dudes hanging out there before jumping on Trail 401. Talking about the smoky haze, one of the guys was like what smoke, as he lights up a bowl. What a riot!

You first climb on 401 to back above 11,000ft before the fun begins. I pondered if my old, tired legs were going to clean all those switchbacks. So steep, so little air to breath. But I know the steep parts so well now to recover where I could. It helped that the trail was as hard and smooth as concrete too.

You have to ride Trail 401 to get a sense of the experience. Pretty much zero work, smooth as butter, just like your soul is drifting through paradise. And no, I didn't imbibe at Shofield pass either. Mid-401 there is another spanker of a 500ft climb before resuming the descent. Sometimes I wonder if that last part is worth it. Eventually you must pop out on Gothic Rd, as the wilderness area encroaches right down to the road.

It's not all downhill back to town. Dirt Gothic Rd has some climbing, then some more again picking up the last bits of trail, Upper Loop and Tony's. Love finishing on Tony's, a lot like finishing on Kitchel at Kingdom Trails.

Clouds did move in like forecasted, but the rain stayed just to the south. Another perfect day in short sleeves start to finish. Ride went 39mi with 5300ft of climbing in 4.8hrs moving time. That's about 25,000ft in four days. How come I'm not dead yet?

Wild fires and smoke map. Whole state of CO is in path.

Crested Butte from Lupine Trail. So much smoke.

Heading north on Lupine Trail, looking up the Slate River drainage

First time on Gunsight Connector. Many hundreds of feet vertical lost through this grove at high speed through switchbacks.

Slate River Rd

Slate River Rd

The switchback to head up FS734. Where the climbing starts.

Looking back down to Slate River and the switchback

Looking into the Raggeds Wilderness. Probably Cinnamon Mtn on right and Treasury Mtn further back in distance.

Looking back down 734 and my hypoxic weaving track 
Paradise Divide just visible right of center

About 2500ft net gain from town, unfortunately most of it gain in last four miles.

Paradise Divide

Looking down into Paradise Basin

Heading down Paradise Basin

Still some flowers left in Paradise Basin

Paradise Basin with Maroon Bells wilderness beyond. Hiked in there last trip.

Shofield Pass 10,707ft

Top of Trail 401 looking north

Trail 401

Trail 401

Trail 401. Mt Crested Butte barely visible through smoke. Normally it is very prominent.

Trail 401

Trail 401

Gothic Mtn from Trail 401

East River from Gothic Rd

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