Last year after World Championships we took a day to enjoy Quebec City after the race and it was very rewarding. This year after Nationals we Mann sized that concept. We didn't have a plan (imagine that!) but we did have a full week of vacation time and everything we would need to spend that time in the woods/mountains crammed into the little white TDI. So immediately after watching some Short Track action we headed North and paid for a camp site next to Red Fish Lake. We had a map purchased from the Specialized dealer in town and had some trail beta for a good back country loop. We didn't know what to expect for the next day, let alone the next week, but we were prepared for whatever might come up...
Day 6 Monday July 18, 2011
While attending SDSU Allison and I went on an organized camping trip with the Recreation Center. I am pretty sure we got some sort of credit for the trip. It wasn't the most amazing getaway, but there was one thing that I remember the instructors/leaders saying, "Camping is all about good food." I took that message to heart. Monday started out with Allison's Amazing Oatmeal and a Jetboil full of local coffee. Money.
We packed up camp as we did not know where we were going to sleep that night, but we had no intention of paying for a second night in that location. We drove a short bit south to a day-use spot near the river, next to Hwy 75. The plan was to have a fun ride and then cook some food. We had discussed options for what to do after that, whether we would drive North into Canada, West to check out Oregon, or make a long trip South to return to our beloved Crested Butte but we were far from settled on what the next leg of our trip would look like, only that we were looking for stellar trails and free camping.
The ride started with a 1 mile spin south on 75. We turned left up a dirt road toward Boundary Creek. The real adventure started here...
The trail was good and steep. There was some dead fall that forced us off the bikes, offering a chance to catch our breaths.
Allison mentioned near the top that we had ridden less than 5 miles, and had climbed over 3000 ft.
We were both still feeling the effects of the hard race weekend. The views kept us distracted, at least a little bit.
After a bit of hiking up a wicked steep single track we topped out on the Casino Lakes Trail. There was still quite a bit of snow in places.
The descent was quite interesting. Every time I stopped to wait for Allison to hike down a section I thought to myself, "This is extreme back-country chunk!" Allison wasn't having the best time of things. She was having to hike both up and down sections of trail, and I think maybe having the backpack on contributed to her going over the bars at least once. I was struggling with my rear tire, it kept leaking down and I really didn't want to put a tube in it. It seemed to leak faster when I stopped to wait which was frequently.
Finally near the bottom of the descent I decided to put a tube in it. As we were laboring to put a tube in, a nearby tree crackled, and then crashed to the ground. I looked at Allison and asked, "If a tree falls in the woods..." Definitely makes you think twice about widow makers in the forest!
The last five miles or so of the descent really changed character. We started shredding and trees whizzed past as we sped down the single track. When we reached the bottom we already had 2.5hrs of ride time and we knew we had a long climb ahead so we filled our packs.
Honestly we had no idea how hard things would get. I dubbed the next 1500 ft of climbing on Little Casino Trail "Up Down Splish Splash". The trail zig zagged across a rushing stream. We would go through a BB deep crossing, climb straight up the far bank at an un-ride-able steep pitch, level off for just long enough the get on the bike and clipped back in, then drop back down through the stream followed by another un-ride-able steep pitch... and so on. I have no idea how many times we crossed that stream. The repetition wore on us. I kept begging for some real elevation gain. Even if it was HAB. Just to keep from having to cross that darn stream again!
Finally it happened. We emerged from the repetitious stream crossing into a wide meadow. Then the trail disappeared. The map had forecast this.
"Route vague" was definitely what we encountered! It amazed me that several times a well worn and reliable looking trail would simply vanish leaving us hunting for another section of trail to follow. My GPS track showed how I hunted around for trail, found it, then was again lost, and again.
Little Casino trail might also be known as Big Confusion. Honestly it was not that bad, it definitely added to the adventure! Once on the trail again the final climb began. This section was pretty brutal. The climb was at first fairly steady, then it consisted of wicked steep climbs and short false flat sections. It was like a giant staircase. The climbs were almost ride-able in pitch, but when you add in the many loose fist-sized rocks it left us both doing quite a bit of this...
Finally we reached the top and descended back down Boundary Creek. It was a fast fun descent and I called out to Allison that "I could have just ridden up and down this trail all day and been mostly happy!"
After 5 hrs of ride time on the Garmin (good thing I had the 705 for navigation this day!) we got back to the car and set about making a delicious dinner.
After stuffing our faces we headed south. Along the way we stopped to drop off some garbage and ran into some really cool locals who said that we had to go ride more trails in the area. They confirmed that the trail suggestion we had heard of from the bike shop was indeed worthy and that we should be able to find camping on Corral Canyon Road and we could do the ride from there so we continued south. It was after dark when we set up camp and hit the hay so we were not so sure of our surroundings other than that we could hear the nearby creek.
Unfortunately I didn't get much sleep. It turns out we set our camp in the middle of some deer feeding frenzy. It was wild. Deer were grunting and farting and gnoshing on something all around our tent. I tried several times to scare them off but they kept coming back and making all sorts of noise. Crazy animals.
Finally sleep came. I would need every bit of it for the coming days' activity!!!
To be continued...