Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alpine Loop Bike Trip

Christian and I embarked on kids-free mountain adventure yesterday when we biked over the Alpine Loop. This 55 mile loop encircles the mountains between Lake City, Silverton, and Ouray. Here's a little synopsis for those who want to know:

We left at 6am, with all of the kids still sleeping. Oh, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, Ross and Mindy Smith, who watched all three of our kiddos. We climbed the 9 miles to Capital City, which was once the proposed capital of Colorado. We watched the sunrise here and ate a peach and some trailmix.
We climbed another 5 miles through the aspens and up a hill to the Empire Chief Mine, where in 1920 or so, an avalanche killed several miners. The historic mine was destroyed in another avalanche a couple of years ago. Up past Rose's Cabin and the road turned steep and rocky. 
We stopped for another snack at Thoreau's Cabin, a lovely home perched on the mountain with a suspension bridge entrance. If you're interested, it is for sale for $700,000. This is where we first saw a car, and about where the road got serious about kicking our butts. 
We stopped to admire the view of the peaks and said howdy to a high altitude shepherd and his doggies. Most folks do this loop in a jeep or ATV (for you Bama folks, that is a fancy way of saying four-wheeler). So, they wouldn't notice that the sign for Engineer Pass (the big exciting summit), is actually a lot lower than the summit. So I was saying "whoopie" a little too early. From Engineer Pass down to the town of Ouray (aka little Switzerland) is only 10 miles or so. We seriously considered cruising down and soaking at the hot springs and getting a room! But, sticking to our plan, we turned toward the gnarly part of the road and pointed our trusty titanium steeds downhill.
Now, I read somewhere on the internet, that from Engineer Pass the road went downhill and then back up to Cinnamon Pass. This is mostly true, however the downhill was so steep and rocky and held so many switchbacks, that it did not feel like the break for which I was hoping. 
We stopped above Animas Forks, a mining ghost town, for lunch and a nap. For all of you wondering, yes there's gold in these here hills, and silver. In fact, one of our friends now manages a mine here that is the largest gold ore producer in the country. Christian has milled some support beams for the mine...but we didn't get too much gold for that. The top photo is from lunch, notice the wildflowers and the marmot.
After lunch, I spent a while being obsessively thirsty, tired, and hungry. I had been training for this...but not at altitude. The two passes are 12,800 ft and 12, 650 above sea level. So, I was loosing my cool a little. I found out, to my complete joy, that I could walk and push my bike uphill as fast as I could ride it...So folks, I did.
After a long climb up Cinnamon Pass, drinking some creek water, crossing my fingers about the creek water...we pointed downhill for the rest of the trip. After we were down the steep stuff, around American Basin, ahhhhhhh....the road felt like butter. Of course it was still dirt and gravel, but not river rock and vertical!  We had a blast cruising down the road hitting the pot holes and riding the boulders. We passed some locals who were fishing an ATV off the cliff of the "shelf road". I guess this caused a little stir among our family who heard only "a couple went off the shelf road." Thankfully, it wasn't us, and the couple lived to tell the tale of their cliff jumping experience. To make a long story short (too late)....we raced home to find our kids playing at the park. We fed them and put them to bed, then took a shower and went to bed ourselves. 

What does the day after look like? Well, Christian was lifting 200lb logs all day, as per usual. And, after 11 hours of sleep, I felt fine enough to take the boys in the bike trailer up to Alpine Gulch trail head and hike a ways while Priya was in school. I love this mountain life. The price for all this adventure? One completely, utterly, totally messy house. Don't judge me, folks, I just have different priorities.