I saw this while riding through Sargents Mesa and thought it was pretty cool.
I made it through Sargents Mesa and rolled into Apple City at 2 in the morning to a bikepacking convention. There must have been 10 rigs laying there. It was bivy city. It was also freezing cold in that valley. I bet it was 30 degrees. I put my bivy out and crawled in and it was like laying on ice. I shivered uncontrollably. I got up and grabbed a camp chair and climbed into my bivy and sat in the chair so I wouldn't be laying on the un-insulated ground. It helped but only a little. At about 3 and with no sleep gained, I decided I was better off to ride. I left and made my way through the next 12 miles before hitting another detour. Even when the sun came up it was alarmingly cold out. In this picture I've now been up and riding for at least 24 hours now and you can see my eyes getting swollen. I now know this is one of the early signs of sleep deprivation.
This is part of the detour on the way to Dome Lake. In this picture I am only about 30 minutes away from where I quit in 2009.
No clue which direction this is looking towards but it's still on the way to Dome Lake. Once I got to Dome Lake, I organized my stuff again and kept pedaling. It was far too cold to try to sleep.
Not long after Dome Lake, my old buddy Kurt would catch up to me. He was actually staying at Apples when I rolled through. In this picture we are on a detour (La Garita I believe). This is about 60 miles of fire roads with a load of climbing thrown in at the end. Very beautiful in this area.
This is still on the detour and after we had been climbing for a while and had many more climbing miles to go. I had gone up the road a bit in front of Kurt and another rider (Jeff?) that we met to stretch my legs a bit and look for a place to make a pitstop when I glanced to the left and saw this bull moose. It's the first moose I've seen in the wild. It was awesome. Wish I could have gotten closer.
After hours and hours of climbing, we finally made it to the start of the 30ish mile stretch of high alpine riding in sections 22 and 23. I was terrified of these. There is very little cover if a storm whips up. Because of this, Kurt and I decided to knock it out at night. This picture was taken at around 6 p.m. while we were putting layers on.
You can see how faint the trail is up here. Navigating was much easier in the rockier terrain. Riding on this stuff was even difficult. Cairns are visible maybe every couple hundred yards or so and you basically leap frog from one to the other while usually pushing your bike.
A look back from where we came.
More hardly visible trail. At night it's almost easier to shine your headlamp to the sides and use your peripheral vision to look for the shadow that gets cast down in the depression of the trail and follow it that way. An interesting thing about section 22 is that there is a South American herder (Peruvian I think) who has a flock of sheep in this area. Last I heard there were about 1700 sheep all together. He has a small camper that he lives in during the summer months. We rode right by his makeshift home.
I guess by now I was awake for about 36 hours and not feeling too terribly.
We actually rode into section 22 for 8 miles and camped in a nice little grove of trees that offered good protection. We made it there at about 8 and our plan was to start at 10. I tried to fall asleep and take a nap but I couldn't. I organized gear and checked my bike over until about 9:30 when I convinced Kurt that we should head out.
Much of the rest of the this night and the next day is a blur to me. This is when I began to notice problems so I'm sure that Kurt was seeing a difference in me earlier in the day. Some of the terrain was very technical and I'm lucky I didn't fall off and hurt myself. Here on the GPS you can see we had covered 12 miles in about 3.5 hours and topped out just over 13k. I led most of the way through these sections and would stop frequently to shine my lamp and look at things. At one point, I saw a white animal above us. It appeared to be following us as we moved along the ridge. I shined my light a bit further above and saw maybe a thousand pairs of eyes looking back down at us. Kurt said, "Elk". I said, "Nope...sheep....and the white thing is one of the dogs." Then if we listened we could hear the bell on the lead sheep as they moved about. It was really neat.
Not long after seeing the sheep is when I began to really have problems. I was no longer able to ride in a straight line. I constantly weaved and would hit the sides of the trough of the trail that exists up there and get hung up and sometimes even crash. It was very hard for me to clip into my pedals. Sometimes I could get one in and then fall over trying to get the other foot in. Everything was moving (almost like the sensation you get when you're dizzy). I began to see faces in rocks that littered the trail. As much as I would shake my head or rub my eyes, they still appeared. Rocks began to move. Sometimes I would stop and tell Kurt to look at the Mountain Goats. Kurt would just tell me those were just white rocks. I think we even lightly argued about it once in a while. I think I recall seeing more Moose in a high alpine lake. At one point, Kurt suggested that we bivy up and get some sleep. As tired as I was, I kept feeling bugs crawl all over me and they kept me awake. We lay there for maybe 45 minutes before moving on but I didn't sleep. Kurt was so supportive. Always telling me how great I was doing. Always telling me how proud he was of me. Always telling me we were going to make it.
Without a doubt, the hallucinations were worse at night so I was pretty happy to see the sun coming up again. I had no clue where I was or where we were heading to. Sometimes I had no clue why I was riding my bike. I remember, at one point, telling Kurt that I had this overwhelming sense of deja vu. I had seen all these trails before. I think I asked Kurt if we had ridden these together. Of course we had not and I had never been in this area before.
It was almost like we were riding on another planet. How the fuck did all these Cairns get here?
I've wanted to ride the San Juans for years. These pictures are the only memory I have of them.
This is one of my favorite pictures.
It's steeper than it looks. I know that towards the end of 23 I began to get irritable with Kurt. It was here that I began to have the sensation that I was lost. Kurt didn't know where the fuck we were. I think I asked him constantly how much farther to the end? I am so sorry Kurt.
After pushing to the top of each mountain, there would be endless more visible.
I saw this on top of one Cairn.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to Stony Creek Pass. Or at least that's what Kurt told me. We had to push up to the top of the Pass and then ride a downhill into Silverton that lasted forever. My arms and wrists have never hurt so badly. My feet were numb from standing up on the way down. We made it into Silverton and wanted to eat. We found a bar and were told that all the power in the town was out but that we could help ourselves to what was left over at the breakfast buffet. We went over to see eggs, sausage, bacon, all kinds of fruit, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, etc. I got some of everything. I got a beer, orange juice, coffee, water, Coke and ate like a savage.
I kept looking at the bartender. Finally I said, "How do we know each other?" She said we didn't. "No...we do. Have you ever been to Woodland Park or Colorado Springs?" She said she had not. "She's lying," I told Kurt. "Why are you being untruthful to me?" I think Kurt told me to settle down. At least a dozen more people passed by and I recognized all of them and told Kurt. I knew all the people walking by the window. It felt like some big game.