CULTURE BLOG

ADVENTURE BY BIKE®

Birth Of An Idea: Loop Of Fun

Where do ideas come from? Do they develop in your subconscious as your body goes through the stages of sleep? Do they come in the form of a daydream as you take a mental break during your workday? Are they inspired by the accomplishments and achievements of others? Are they born out of your own previous experiences, which allow you to conceive of something you wouldn’t have otherwise? Regardless of their origins, ideas are just ideas until you act upon them and turn them into action. They are the first step to creating a goal and then taking the steps to turn a strand of thought into something real and tangible—to create a product, service, or experience.

During the spring of 2011, an idea began to take shape as I climbed steeply out of Moab, Utah on the Kokopelli Trail. I was in the midst of training for a ride of the Great Divide Route and was doing a three-day out and back of this famed trail. As often happens when I am pushing my body ever upward, my mind begins to wander from the pain in my legs and lungs…I begin to daydream…

Time for an adventure...

Jeff and  I departed my Durango home at 7:30 AM.  It was already drizzling with the skies threatening to downpour at any moment. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. During the Colorado monsoon season, our mornings are typically clear and dry with building clouds and thundershowers popping up in the late afternoon. It was going to be a wet, soggy, and muddy day. Was this an omen of what was to come in the coming weeks?

We quickly dispatched of the relatively flat pavement riding and were soon listening to gravel crunch under our tires as we began what would be the mantra of the day: Upward and Onward. Our bikes were fully loaded with the gear and provisions we would need for the next four days. My Fargo, which has been my trusty steed on so many big adventures, was once again being called into service. My Revelate Designs Viscacha Seat Bag was packed with its usual items (sleeping bag, extra warm clothing, toiletry kit, etc.). My homemade frame and handlebar bags were full as well with everything else I would need for the first part of this adventure.

Jeff enjoying some of Colorado’s famed singletrack...

…As I reached the La Sal Loop Road and began the steep descent into Castle Valley, I began to question the saneness of my training ride. On my return I was going to have to climb up this road. Why didn’t I pour over the maps a little longer and see how I could devise a loop that involved riding from and to Moab utilizing the Kokopelli trail and other byways? That would be more fun than riding to Loma, Colorado and then turning around to return by the way I had just ridden…

Wetness—the theme of the day...

We reached our camp for the night in a cloud of rain. We had been on our bikes for over eight hours—climbing 7111 feet over the course of 49 miles—the first ten of which were on an easy paved road. The remaining 39 miles were on a combination of sloppy singletrack and puddle ridden forest service gravel and Jeep roads. With cold hands we quickly pushed the lone tent pole into our shelter forming a dome with a single door and no floor. Now where did we pack our stakes? They were essential for keeping our shelter erect. As the falling rain added urgency to finding the missing stakes, we resolved ourselves to quickly making some out of the soggy downed limbs littering the forest floor. Before long we were lying exhausted on our sleeping pads listening to the rain pelt the nylon above our heads. Day one was in the books…

A soggy, but beautiful camp one…

...Soon after riding the Kokopelli trail I found myself on another training ride. This time I was climbing out of Durango on a forest service road to connect with a section of the Colorado Trail to ride it back into town. How cool would it be to ride from Durango to Moab? Climbing up and over the San Juan Mountains to the high desert country falling away from the Uncompaghre Plateau, and then up and over the La Sal Mountains into Moab. After a resupply in Moab, I could ride the Kokopelli Trail all of the way to Loma, Colorado—linking together nearly 370 miles of off-road riding through incredibly diverse landscapes. What if I could then find a way to ride off-road all of the way back to Durango? This could be a great bikepacking loop encompassing over 500 miles of some of the best terrain that both western Colorado and eastern Utah has to offer. Hmmm…

Day 2—another start of a wet day…

Day two began once again in the clouds with the surrounding forest dripping with moisture. The early summer threat of wildfires had definitely been doused by the recent, abundant rain. It was good to see droplets of water clinging to every plant and feel the undergrowth of the forest saturated with the life-bringing moisture. We quickly packed our bikes, strapping our soaked shelter on the outside of my handlebar bag—a little extra water weight would only help keep my front tire in contact with the steep trail ahead—or so I convinced myself. Upward and Onward would once again be our mantra for the day.

Intersecting the Colorado Trail we began climbing up to our first pass of the day. Once at the top of Rolling Mountain Pass, we received our first rays of sunshine of the trip. To our south was a wall of clouds, but to the north were blue skies with only a few lofty clouds. Wahoo! Maybe we could dry out for a bit. After the obligatory photos at the pass, Jeff and I began our descent into sunshine and into a field of amazingly colorful wild flowers. The terrain quickly fell away under our bikes and we were soon beginning the climb up to our second pass of the day. The weather was holding. Maybe we would get lucky and be able to get over our third and final pass of the day without mishap or a drenching.

The Fargo taking a break on Rolling Mountain Pass…

…It wasn’t until the spring of 2012 that my mind wandered back to the possibility of a big western loop starting at my own doorstep. I began pouring over maps of the area from Loma down to Ridgeway—from there I knew I could easily connect trails and forest service roads back to the house. Now, how was I going to get to Ridgeway?

During this same time period I paddled my first packraft. Several local adventurers had been utilizing these versatile crafts for the past couple of years to complete all sorts of crazy forays. From mountain biking to rock climbing to paddling, these guys were devising and completing extraordinary adventures. Having spent a lot of my life paddling rivers, I was extremely interested in trying out one of these mini rafts. From my first paddle stroke I was sold on what these crafts could do. My mind was racing with ideas on how and where to use them. I knew my future involved adventuring with a packraft…

Descending through a kaleidoscope of color…

…At 2:30 PM Jeff and I began the long grind up to our final pass of the day. This would be the highest pass we would climb to and cross for the entire trip—topping us out at over 12,800 feet, with a great deal of time spent exposed well above tree line. As we left tree line, I glanced to the south to see the first rain shower of the day. It was slowly heading our way. Nervously looking at each other, Jeff and I continued to push/pedal (ever so slowly) our loaded bikes towards the pass. At slightly above 12,200 feet, the first lightning strike of the day was seen and heard on a ridgeline only a half mile away. That was close…too close. With nowhere to hide and electricity starting to permeate the air, we quickly dropped our bikes and descended down a drainage to get away from the ridgeline above us—a likely spot for a lightning strike.  We spread out and assumed the lightning position—my least favorite bodily position. This was too close.

After watching rocks being pulverized by strikes all around us, we descended further to tree line where we sat cold and wet in a stand of trees while Mother Nature let loose with hail, wind, and rain. After an hour and a half of sitting with our chests to our knees attempting to stay warm, there was a break in the weather and we quickly hiked back up to our bikes. Hoping to get over the pass during the lull, we began pushing upward once again. Two minutes later we were back on our bikes and descending back the way we had come nearly two hours before. The rain and hail were back with deafening thunder and lightning. With safety as the utmost importance, the goal of getting over the pass was going to be unattainable. It was time to adjust plans and live to pedal another day. Day two was going to end with us off our intended route and soaked once again under our floorless shelter. This was shaping up to be a grand adventure.

Mother Nature’s Fury quickly approaching…

…Staring at the maps for seemingly the nth time, my eyes started to stray away from the continuous black and dashed lines to the blue lines…what if I reversed my intended route? Instead of riding my loop clockwise, what if I rode from Durango traversing the San Juan Mountain Range to the Uncompahgre Plateau; rode across the plateau; and then descended to the small town of Delta, Colorado? Once in Delta, I could inflate a packraft and utilize both the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers to make my way to Moab. From Moab I could remount my mountain bike and climb up and over the La Sal Mountain Range; across the high desert country sandwiched between the La Sals and the San Juans; and then circumnavigate the Lizard Head Wilderness back to my home mountain range and my doorstep. The “Loop of Fun” had been conceptualized. An idea was born…

The origins of an idea…

Day four dawned clear with sunshine lighting up the valley floor below. Wahoo! After day two’s forced detour we put in big miles on day three to regain our intended route. All along we were dodging thunderstorms and riding under threatening skies. Our third evening ended just like the previous two, as we sat listening to thunder boom around us with rain pelting our shelter. We definitely had developed a healthy respect for the very active monsoon season. Now it was time to descend nearly 5000 feet over the course of 33 miles to the town of Delta, Colorado and the Gunnison River.

Descending towards phase two of the “Loop of Fun”—Packrafting…

The descent to Delta was well earned as we had climbed over 18,000 feet throughout our first three days. We took our time enjoying the transition from high aspen groves to low-lying arid farmland. Once on the river we would enter canyon country, and hopefully have decreased chances of stormy weather. By 11 AM we were in Delta and attempting to get in touch with the uncle of a friend of mine from Durango. On an earlier road trip in July, I had dropped our packrafts, PFDs, paddles, and other related gear in Delta in order to avoid having to carry them on our bikes during the initial bike segment of the “Loop of Fun.” With all of the wet weather my phone had succumbed to the moisture and was useless. But with a little help from the local grocery store we were soon meeting Colon and inflating packrafts to carry our bikes, gear, and ourselves down river for 170 miles to Moab, Utah. Let the paddling portion of the “Loop of Fun” begin.

Loaded and ready to hit the water…

....TO BE CONTINUED...

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Brett Davis Explore Fargo Mountain Biking Skills

Share this post:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brett Davis

I grew up in a military family where we moved 13 times before I left for college. Consequently, I have the continual urge to explore and travel having climbed, kayaked, and biked all over our amazing planet. My passion for the outdoors drives me to seek out adventures which often times combine multiple modes of travel or activities (i.e. biking to a wilderness area and then backpacking in to climb a high peak). "Keeping life simple" is a guiding motto of my life and for me, bike travel epitomizes simplicity.

COMMENTS (3)

Chief | October 1st, 2013

Thanks for the fine start on another absorbing saga.  Your pictures and narratives just keep getting better and better!  Can’t wait for next excerpt. You certainly have teased us with your packraft pix ready to go!

MA | October 1st, 2013

Enjoyed the journey, and now I’m hangin’ on…...  :)

SWbackcountry | October 2nd, 2013

Nice work Brett.  Like it a lot.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.