Crested Butte Cruise
Its no easy task to ride at 11,000 feet when you live at sea level. As I climbed the 2,500 feet of elevation between the town of Crested Butte and the trailhead at Schofield Pass my lungs screamed in agony, my legs joined the chorus and I seriously began to wonder if the crawl up this gravel road was worth it. When finally we reached the top of the pass, I paused to drink some water and recollect my dignity. Oh snap. This place is gorgeous.
The sticker covered sign marked the top of the pass, but not the top of our climb so on up we continued. Not to worry this time, at least we were finally on trail. I'm of the opinion that if I'm going to sweat it out on a climb, I'd much rather be on trail than road. Trail 401 is classic Colorado singletrack with stunning alpine views and a wide variety of trail that covers long, beautiful miles. We finally topped out in an alpine meadow above groves of white, papery birch trees. No pictures and no words can ever fill in the space of everything that the eyes can take in. Perched on a ridge in the Rockies, and my whole focus is on heading back down again, as fast as possible.
If you think the climb up makes your heart race, just wait until the descent starts. The terrain varies between fast flowing trail through fields of wildflowers to root filled rock gardens tucked in between groves of aspen and birch. A straight, smooth trail with a sheer drop off on one side will suddenly bend around a corner to a flow of gravel where snow melt has slowly eroded the mountain side to just a rocky wash. Bright alpine wildflowers and long strands of grass will snap at your legs as you fly by and just as suddenly you are keeping your bars from nicking a tree as it narrows down and you hop between rocks. A punchy climb over exposed roots leads past a herd of cows that moo loudly, either in encouragement or admonishment at having their grazing disturbed. In the sunny spots, snakes bask in the heat of the day, apparently ambivalent about your fleeting presence.
Nearing town again, small lakes dot the bottom of the canyon below, the trees become more frequent and the ground becomes lusher. The mountain and town of Crested Butte come back into view, a picturesque scene that could have been stolen from a postcard of Switzerland.
The screaming of my lungs is long forgotten, replaced by pure stoke as we cruise the final miles. I'm trying to stop smiling as we kick up dust but finally give up and embrace the grit. At the end I hop off my bike, momentarily more energized than when I started. Sometimes I'm just so damn glad that I ride bikes.