I had one more epic in me before ski season starts, so last Friday I embarked on a ride that has been on the “list”. Enjoy the read, thanks for reading it. Enjoy the pics.
ASPEN TO BASALT MUni
The weather has been outstanding here in the Rockies recently. We all know, that any day the ground will be covered with snow, and the unicycling season will become very limited in scope. The mid country is still excellent for riding, as long as you wear some bright colors. Golden leaves still hang on precariously. The ones that have fallen to the ground make for a wonderful crunchy colorful trail to roll on. I had two days to plan for this sizeable cross-country ride, no need for more?
Clear blue sky’s mixed with cool dry air bring on the new day. I make sure my camelbak has all of the necessary gear for a long day and a potential night out. This ride is long and is very remote; miles from help and or water. I bring my water pump, wishful thinking at best. Temperature is in the low 30’s, just above freezing, as I begin my journey. I had called an avid bicyclist friend of mine to get the beta on this ride. I usually take twice the time that strong bicyclist take. When he told me it took him 5 hours, I was floored. Yes, I would be in for a long adventure.
I’m finding the climbing is unusually hard as I work my way up from the valley floor. The city lights begin to fade away as the early morning light takes over. I make it the “platform” on Smuggler Mtn.; stop to take a couple of pics, and then head into Hunter Creek Valley. A red tail hawk surprises me when he takes off from a low hanging branch, and flies in front of me. A good omen early in the ride, yeah. Some smooth downhill singletrak ease the mind a little. The sun rises over the Williams Mountains and warms my body, as I cross over the 10th Mtn. Bridge. I do my sun salutation, take a layer off, and prepare for the next good climb out of Hunter Creek valley; up to Four Corners.
Reaching the Four Corners in good time, my body is warm, and my legs are loose. The shady singletrak leading to the next valley floor has me smiling from ear to ear. I reach Lenado checking my camelbak for water. I have consumed very little water so far, so decide not to pump. This is where the biggest climb of the day would begin. Over 2,200’ in 7 miles, 671 meters in 12 kilometers. Not a steep climb, but sustained enough that after 2+ hours of mostly climbing already, it would hurt. I still had not seen a person to this point; this was somewhat unsettling; I was heading into the most remote part of the ride.
Pushing the pedals over and over, I found myself in a nice rhythm. This makes the climb fun and enjoyable. The 29er is cranking up this hill at a good pace. I do stop and take some pics, as the colors are just too beautiful to pass by. Majestic aspen groves come and go as I wind my way to the top of the climb. Civilization is getting further away with every rotation of the tire.
I stop to take in the views of the Elk Mtns, and where I live. Unbelievable how amazing this place is, I can see multiple 14er’s, four ski areas, and not one piece of humanity. Life is good standing here taking it all in.
I was told the route finding from this point on would be my biggest challenge. I pay extra special attention to all signs and trails. I am looking for FR 513 when from my left a gaggle of wild turkeys dart in front of me. They scare the crap out of me, and I nearly fall off of my wheel. 4 hours into the ride, 20 miles- 32 km, complete, and there is FR 513. Now I have to look for Arbaney Kittle singletrak, no signs, but I have an approximate mileage to the start, and a rock cairn was placed there a couple of weeks ago. Bingo, I find it, yeah. I am in unknown territory, and now I am way out there.
For the next 4 hours I ride, walk, hike, and fall through some of the craziest MUni trail riding that I have ever done. I have to use my GPS and Nat. Geo maps for route finding. This is no place to get lost; it would be a night out for sure. At times I am on a ridge that is only two feet wide, separating two major drainage’s, and am exposed sometimes to “fall you die” terrain. Most times though, I am riding through heavenly aspen groves with buttery smooth singletrak. I put on the IPod occasionally to pass the time. Frustration sets in when I can’t get into a good rhythm due to ruts, bumps, trail to narrow, trail too much uphill, or just to steep to even try to ride. The trail at times is at best a game trail. These are very challenging miles; the only option I have, is to keep moving down, (or up) the trail.
Stopping after an intense stretch of trail to catch my breath, I pull out my Nat Geo map again. I am 8 hours into the ride, and it appears I still have 10 more miles – 16 km, to ride. The contour lines look more favorable to enjoyable riding. I check my camelbak bladder and I have 20 oz’s- .6 liters left. The fluid is now hot and taste horrible. Air temp has risen to the 70’s-22C, and my core temperature is pretty warm. The only shade is an occasional juniper tree, or scrub oak, which I curl up to every so often. I take tinny sips of water, and immediately I have cottonmouth. These are tough conditions; still no sign of anyone, and the miles are not coming easy.
The trail curves in and out of different valleys. When it goes one direction it is downhill with the sun at my back, which feels really good. The other direction, the temperature rises, the trail climbs, and I have to walk some of the steeper sections, which does not feel really good. Views are still so awesome; this helps tremendously with my attitude. Also, I can see how far I have traveled. Basalt Mtn. finally gets closer, so I know the end is coming. My Garmin tells me
34 miles-58 km’s traveled so far. I am still way above the valley floor, at some point the trail must head down.
Sure enough, immediately the trail takes a sharp right hand turn and I bust through the scrub oak onto a wider well-beaten track. I ride this until it is to steep and loose to ride any further. Running the wheel down the trail now I see people, 9 hours 15 minutes later. My next sip of water is my last; I officially suck that 100 oz-3 liter bladder dry. I ride some of this section, and then it’s too sickly steep to ride, so I walk. More people, and dogs are on their way uphill and I am on my way down. I spin the wheel into the trailhead parking lot and am so thankful that I made the journey. This cross-country MUni ride might have been the hardest ride I have completed. I am whooped, both mentally and physically exhausted, and starting to feel dehydrated. The town of Basalt is still 2 miles away, but all I have to ride at this point is a paved bike path. By the time I make it to Basalt, it had been an hour w/o water. I went directly to a convenience store and drank what must have been 4 glasses full of Ice Cold Sprite/Coke mix. That stuff never tasted so good. Wow, what a day on the 29er.
Total Mileage 38.67 miles – 62 Kilometers
Ascending 6,355’ - 1,937 meters
Descending 7,726’ - 2,354 meters
Time out 10 hours 5 minutes
Time in saddle 8 hours 30 minutes
Average riding elevation 9,700’ - 2,956 meters
Average heart rate 142 bpm
Maximum heart rate 172 bpm
People seen on trail 0 for 9.25 hours
Weather perfect – from 2 C to 22 C, 34 F to 76 F Blue skies
Percent ridden 85% maybe 90%
Nat Geo maps #’s 126&143
Latitude 40 map Aspen/Snowmass
Trails ridden in order – Smuggler to Hunter Crk cutoff, to 10th Mtn Bridge to Four Corners, to Tinpot, to Larkspur Mtn, (FR 103) to FR 508, to FR 513, to Arbaney Kittle. All dirt.
1st pic - Sunrise on the old mining town of Aspen & Elk Mtns
2nd pic - Common scene on ride