Woke up to my alarm yesterday at seven a.m., I was planning to get an early start to a long day of solo riding. Three minutes later I got a phone call from Sean.
“Dude, do you want to take the bus up to Ned and ride down? I thought we could catch the eight o’clock bus but I have a couple things I need to do and I need to download some GPS data. Meet me at the station for the 10:10?”
Even on a cell phone minutes after waking, Sean’s enthusiasm was infectious. Of course I’d be on the 10:10, I’d just as soon go on an adventure as ride flowy manicured trails. Over the past year it’s become apparent to me that it’s fairly common for epic ride-seeking mountain bikers based in Boulder to take the bus to Nederland, a small town nestled 20 miles into the mountains and, more pertinently, at an elevation about 3000′ higher. This bus-powered elevation gain translates into a mountain bike ride with much more descending than climbing.
Aside from a ten mile road ride at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have necessarily known that we had early on gained a bunch of altitude. I’ve done the bus-shuttle twice and both times my friend/host/guide has chosen a route that begins with a substantial aerobic workout. Which is totally fine with me. From Nederland, after a few brief stops to chat with friends of Sean, we climbed up Forest Service Road 505, an ascent of 2000′ over eight miles.
From that high point (10,246′) Sean (along with Google Earth) was my leader. We stopped many, many times to ascertain whether we were near (or on) a trail which would take us along the contour lines of the mountains whose ridges gradually lead toward Boulder. As we made our way along infrequently traveled trails mushrooms were everywhere – we couldn’t not see them – and on one dirt road we passed several parked cars with plastic buckets scattered about.
This was not the most fun ride I’ve ever been on. But riding where a trail isn’t clearly marked, feeling our way along (“A lot of this is going to be Braille,” warned Sean early on), the thrill from engaging in the slightly illicit, and simply being on a bike for six hours — all this amounted to a hugely satisfying day.
Not that there was a lack of pure enjoyment, even moments of giddyness. At one point we were riding along a significant paved rode and Sean veered suddenly into the wide grass shoulder. A “No way,” escaped from me involuntarily. After not much searching we dropped over a heretofore unseen edge and left the well-traveled road behind, at least for a little while.