Originally, I started writing these "days" up in terms of riding segments divided by sleep but then "day 4" turned out to be quite long. In addition, Heather says the early days (written not long after getting home) don't make a helluva lot of sense. So I don't know what to do at this point. This entry covers when I checked into a motel in Silverton, to when I made it to my wife.
After eating mass quantities of food and freaking the bar staff out in Silverton, Kurt wanted to go take a nap in the grass somewhere and push on for the finish. I'd be lying if I said that this didn't bum me out. We had ridden together a long while and I was enjoying his company but I knew he wanted to get done and his time just didn't mesh with my mine. We said goodbye and I went to look for a hotel room. I found one and got out of my clothes and then looked into the mirror. I could not believe how badly I looked. My face was swollen. My thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and toes were huge. My knees reminded me of those on singlespeeders that I had seen in years past when riders weren't used to the climbing. In fact, Ian and another guy stopped by my room on their way to Molas and asked if I was riding single.
Why the fuck had my tongue felt like it was on fire and bumpy for the last 2 days? I took this picture and sent it to Heather and she claimed they were stress sores. That made sense and I was glad to hear she didn't think it was Herpes. When I slide my tongue on my upper lip it felt like corn on the cob.
I made a few trips to the grocery store for food and drinks and demolished most of it. I organized gear. I think I slept for about 3 hours but I couldn't say for sure. I know it wasn't more than that. I contemplated whether I should leave then (about 6 at night) or midnight, or 5 in the morning. I talked to several people about the plusses and minuses of each. I wanted to see Heather and I didn't wanna make picking me up a huge pain in the ass. I wanted her to see me arrive at the trailhead and I was planning on that taking 24 hours at this point. I wanted to try to have the best weather. There were many variables on my twisted mind and I didn't know the correct answer but as I thought about my options I began to see riders going past on their way out of town. I noticed many of them from a day or two prior and was a bit frustrated to see them leap frog me yet again. I started packing up but it wasn't until probably 9 or 9:30 that I left the room. I stood there with my hand on the door knob for 30 seconds thinking about my options. Do I leave now or do I leave in the morning? Then I pulled the door closed.
I took my time heading up 550 to Molas Pass. Once back on the trail, I was actually looking for a campsite where I thought some racers would be bivying around camp fires. I never saw them although, I thought I heard people quite often. I was amazed at how sketchy the trail was when I looked at it. In some spots it dropped right off the side of the mountain. Not sure if it really is that way but I learned quickly to not shine my headlamp off the trail. The night was full of weird things. I kept hearing dogs barking and people yelling and cows well....mooing. Even way above treeline I would hear these things. At one point, I think I was yelling back. I began to look behind me. I recall bivying up at one point because I simply could not keep my eyes open. I slept for 30 minutes maybe and was startled awake by what sounded like horse hooves galloping by. I quickly threw my bivy off me but there was nothing but darkness. And cold. I packed up and started riding again.
This is Blackhawk Pass. I remember being in really good spirits pushing up this because I had told Heather that when I got here to start heading down. I knew that soon I would see her.
I wasn't sure if she would recognize me but I was so excited to see her. It's odd how swollen my face is here. I could feel it becoming tighter.
This is looking down Blackhawk Pass. Sometime around here I was pushing my bike and looking at the ground and saw something in between all the faces. I stopped and took a few steps backwards. There it was. It was a small rock. It looked exactly like a heart. It wasn't flat on the backside but the front was and it was the exact shape of a heart. I reached down, picked it up and put it in my gastank bag. I was now more excited to see Heather. Even with my head down I just kept pushing. One step after another. Ignoring the multitude of blisters on my feet.
Most of the pictures I took here are beautiful and so are the ones that have been thrown up over on bikepacking dot net but I can't tell you anything about them. Sadly, I don't recall them at all. All these years I have wanted to ride in the San Juans and I'm not even sure if I was really there.
I think this is in section 27. The miles barely came in this section. I would ride for 30 minutes and then toggle to the computer on my GPS and see that I had gained 3 tenths of a mile and be crushed. This went on for hours. I wanted nothing more than to quit. The only problem was that I had no clue where I was. There were times when I didn't know why I was even riding. What city was close by? Why the fuck had I not seen a road all day? Where was I yesterday? Where am I going? I saw a few people in this section but I don't know what they said to me. At one point I saw a kid in front of me riding uphill with shin guards on and strapped to the back of his backpack was a cow elk skull. When I passed him he said, "Hell yeah brah...cheers mate." This irritated me. The one thing I was convinced of was that Stefan (the person that came up with this whole idea) was fucking with me. Why was he having me ride in circles? I knew I had seen that same stump and that same rock at least a dozen times today. Was he somewhere sitting in a chair watching my SPOT and laughing his ass off? I think I even stopped to think about this once in a while. I would say, "I've met Stefan and ridden with him a few times. He didn't seem like a jerk." Then I would think, "Wait...Stefan didn't build the trail...he just came up with the dumb idea to ride it all in one effort." It was like Groundhog Day allllllll day. I'd swear I'd passed that rock hours ago and go right back into that same discussion with myself.
No idea where this piece of high alpine singletrack was.
Not sure where this was.
Finally the miles creeped up to 17 or so. Where the fuck is Kennebec Road??!! At one point I came up on a guy and asked him where it was. He said, "Oh you'll get there." Ya think??!! Then I realized that to get to that road I would have to go over Kennebec Pass which would be above treeline. Those closing miles to section 27 put me deep in the hurt locker but I know I covered them very quickly. There was a storm moving in and I did not want to be above treeline so I was moving. Once I made it to the top I saw it. "Oh fuck." I knew of it and had seen pictures of it and knew we were going to ride it but had forgotten all about it. Indian Trail Ridge is a knife edge that drops off on both sides and a miscalculated step would see someone hurt at the very least. Possibly unaccounted for. I walked it all. Coming down off that is very technical. Then I thought I was going to have a 20 mile downhill on a road into whichever town I was heading towards and into the arms of my wife. Then I realized that it was a trail I would be going down. I seriously thought I was losing my mind.
I started in on the downhill and was making good time. There were a few instances where I would glance down at the GPS and not see a track and worry that I had blown a turn. I'd turn around and walk back up and find no turns and then see the track again. I'm still not sure if it was the track or me. At about mile 7 the trail crosses a nice bridge over Junction Creek. It was here that I stopped. I couldn't see a track on the GPS. I started to panic. I thought I was lost. I started to cry. I wanted to see Heather so badly. I was convinced I was lost. I decided to walk down the trail a bit more and saw the beautiful creek turn into a wash. I saw junked cars, and all kinds of shit piled up. I knew this couldn't be the Colorado Trail. I turned around and walked back up and past the bridge. This didn't feel right either. (Amazing to think that I had arrived at this spot in the trail and yet, neither direction was correct.) I stopped. I heard voices. I got off my bike and walked towards the creek. They were on the other side. I began yelling for help. They just kept talking. Never yelling back. I walked up to the brush at the edge of the creek. Yelling. "Why won't you fucking help me!!!" I could see people sitting in chairs. Then I realized they were tree stumps. I'm going insane! I walked back down the trail with my bike. I saw houses on the ridges above me. They had decks. On the decks were people. All looking down at me. None of it existed.
Finally I heard someone. I looked up on a ridge and saw a guy peering over wearing a helmet. He asked if I was a racer. Then he told me to stay put and he would come down. A few minutes later he came down with his friend. They looked familiar. He said they had seen me eating in a bar yesterday in Silverton. Yes!!! I did eat in a bar yesterday!!! They said I WAS on the Colorado Trail and headed towards Durango. I put my head in my hand and mumbled something about going crazy. They asked if I could ride and I said yes. We started making our way down the trail. Through the junked cars. They didn't say anything when I mentioned them. Several minutes later it started to pour and not long after that, the lightening came. We stopped to eat and put on layers. We were pushing up hill now and it seemed to take forever. I was still seeing and hearing things but I was not hysterical or in a state of panic. The two riders I was with were touring the route and now they began to try to communicate with each other without me knowing. I became almost insulted and told them not to play games with me and shoot me straight. The one said he thought I should press 911 on my SPOT. I said I disagreed because we were making headway and there was no way they were going to get into this area to get me anyways. I figured they would either run/walk/ride in and then deal with me. Eventually they talked me into it. But then we kept going and I don't think that's really how it's supposed to work.
Eventually we hit a downhill and it looked to go on until the end. I had been running the same brake pads since Denver and the mud was eating up what was left of them quickly. I stopped to adjust the brakes but soon, there was no more pad. Instead of fumbling around with a repair, I decided to jog with my bike. I was probably 8 miles out now and it was about this time that both of them told me to just keep going straight and everything would be fine. Then they left me. Within 20 minutes I was hysterical again. It was getting dark quickly. I felt like I was having a horribly bad acid trip. With the darkness, came increased hallucinations. At one point I saw something big and it's head moved in my direction. I looked down and away and kept walking. Every few steps I would look at it and it would still be staring at me. It scared the shit out of me. It wasn't until I was right up on it that it became a downed tree.
Soon I came to an intersection with another trail. It appeared to be marked well but I stood there for a long time before making my choice. A bit later and I came upon another intersection. I was in full on panic mode at this point. Screaming my wife's name. Screaming for help. Dodging things. I had no idea how close I was to the end but feared that my bike was slowing me down. I wanted to hide it. I walked back to the last intersection. I looked at the name of the trail. Then I walked about 40 yards off the trail and hid my bike in some scrub brush. I grabbed my GPS (although I no longer knew how to work it). I thought my phone was in my gastank bag but when I opened it up I couldn't find it. I got back on the trail and started running. I know I wasn't running very quickly because my legs were swollen and I had so many blisters on my feet. I was hyperventilating from panic. I didn't make it far when I fell on my knees sobbing. "I'm not gonna make it. What the fuck have I done?" I screamed at myself. "You fucking idiot!! You are going to give up EVERYTHING for this!!" None of this had been fair to Heather and now I thought I was going to lose her. Or her me. She deserved better. I made the decision to stop trying to find my way out. I thought my focus needed to shift on trying to come up with a way to survive the night. I knew I had a bivy that I could cut in half and make bigger and I wanted to be able to build a fire under it. I looked for trees and couldn't find anything that worked. It was still raining. I walked a bit further down the trail and saw these huge boulders. I started shining my light in between them. There was one spot on the side that faced the trail that was big enough for me to slip into. I thought I could cut the bivy in half and keep it in place on top of the boulders with big rocks and be sheltered from the rain. Then I found dry pine needles and leaves and sticks between the boulders and knew I could get a fire going. I was inside the space gathering things when I thought I heard something behind me.
I turned around and saw someone standing there with a bike. The bike had bags and the person was wearing rain gear. He asked if I was building a fire. I said yes. I also said that I was in trouble and asked that he please not leave me. I think he thought I was out of my mind and I begged again and told him who I was and that I was a racer. He looked at me and asked my name again. I told him. He said, "Chris I know you...we rode together a few times over the past several days. I'm the guy that broke my chain going up Fooses." I said, "Oh....I remember that! Please do not leave me Paul (Bosworth)!" He said he wouldn't. I told him what had happened but it all sounded so fucked up coming out of my mouth. I was worried he would leave me. He asked if I wanted to call my wife at the trailhead. He had one bar on his phone. I heard Heather's voice and started crying all over again. She said she was scared. She told me that Search and Rescue was waiting for me and had been getting organized. Paul told her that he had me and that he was going to walk me out.
A while later, we were met by a medic for Search and Rescue. His name was Leo. I told him I had seen him before. He asked me a few questions and we started hiking out. At one point Leo was telling Paul that he and I were going to exit at an earlier trailhead so that we could get to his vehicle. I think it was Paul that asked what kind of vehicle he had. Leo said he had a Honda Pilot with a roof rack. I asked if it was maroon in color. He said yes. I can't explain that at all. A short while later we made it to the trailhead. I will never forget seeing Heather. Days later she would tell me that she didn't even recognize me. Search and Rescue asked me more questions and determined that I did not need to go to the hospital but that I did need lots of rest, calories and liquids. Heather and I drove to a hotel and I screamed at her about nearly hitting so many people on the way. I told her how freaky this trail was and how many statues and ornaments were hanging in the trees. We got to the hotel. I tried to not look at anything. I just stared at the carpet but it had faces and skulls in it and they were terrifying. Once inside the room, I wanted to get undressed and get into the hot shower. Heather had to cut off my socks because my feet were so swollen. While she was doing that I told her that I hadn't noticed all the weird designs in them when I bought them. She said, "Your socks are black sweetie." I cried. After I showered, Heather went out to get me food. I laid on the couch wrapped in a towel. She came back with McDonalds. I remember taking a bite and being so tired that it would fall out of my mouth and the burger would fall out of my hand and hit the floor. Soda kept falling out of my mouth. Here I am right after getting into the hotel room.
Eventually I just wanted to get into bed. After a night of sleep, I heard Heather say my name and then she asked if I knew where I was. I looked around the hotel room and it took me a while to put things together. She said I cried and screamed all through the night. It was 10 in the morning. We talked about going to look for my bike. I said, "I can't wait for you to hike up there with me so you can see the gnomes and statues and stuff." She told me I had hallucinated all of it. I balled. We left to go get food. I had a cup of coffee, water, half a breakfast roll, 3 breakfast sandwiches, a smoothie, a muffin, and a cookie. I wanted my bike back. We went to Velorution Cycles to talk to Joey Ernst. I told him what happened and we looked over some maps. Heather said she didn't think I had a clue where my bike was but I knew I did. I told Joey about the intersection with the trail that began with an "H". He showed me the intersection and it was 4 miles in. He told me that the area was a really popular day hike and that he would be surprised if the bike was still there. We hauled ass up to the trailhead. I got out, put on my mountain bike shoes that were filled with dirt. I had no socks and knew that my feet would be seriously damaged after the hike but I didn't care. We started in. I wanted to jog it but Heather was frantic about me getting lost. I walked quickly but once out of sight I did jog and even ran at times. Sometimes I would start to cry. I passed one guy riding and he asked if I was ok. I kept going. I kept asking people, "How much farther to the switchbacks. How much farther to the boulders? How much farther to the first intersection?" After 30 minutes, I rounded a corner and saw the intersection with the Hoffheinz Trail. I stopped. I turned around and walked a bit back down and then looked to my right. There it was. I walked back into the brush. All the stuff that had spilled out of my gastank bag was just as I had left it 12 hours earlier (including my new ipod that I had just bought before the trip). The ipod was broken. My Colorado Trail data book was soaked. Aside from having some food on it, the heart shaped rock that I found was still just fine.
I got everything together, dried my eyes again and started down the trail. It wasn't long before I ran into Heather and gave her a big hug. We stopped on the way down to get a picture of the boulders. We got the bike loaded up, the dog in the car and started heading home.