Dark and early, 3 relative strangers, Stephanie Surch, Ryan Campbell and me, Chelsea Luttrall, met at the trailhead for our first single-day attempt at circumnavigating Pikes Peak. Our mission was to utilize as much of the Ring the Peak trail system as it exists and connect it logically to create a giant single-push loop around Pikes. Our route would use a bit more trail than the unofficial bike race that is held annually, and would start and end on the RTP trail.
We started the trip from the trailhead carrying our bikes up 2 flights of stairs (Intemann to Iron Mountain Trails) - a good preface to several hike-a-bikes to come. And at the top of the stairs, before most of the city had even awoken, we got to eat delicously swoopy singletrack for breakfast over Manitou Springs. We caught the incredible glow of sunrise right before ducking into Rattlesnake Gulch for the long intro climb to Ute Pass.
Stephanie would later report that the Mt. Esther climb was the most difficult section for her as her height made it difficult to shoulder the bike without the wheels catching on the giant and awkward boulder steps. I know I had a tough time, and I know a few inches shorter and that would have seemed a monstrous task! She was strong, stuck with us, and we peaked at the top.
After the top of Mt. Esther, I got to introduce my two new friends to some of my favorite singletrack in the area. After some hoots and hollers, we popped out at the Crystal and North/South Catamount Reservoirs where we picked up some more fantastic single track on the Limber Pine trail.
The aspens were still beautiful and the day was shaping up to be a great one. ...only 40+ more miles and over 6000 feet to go!
The watering hole is a spring next to the road. The water comes up through a pipe into a large trough. We filled up on the deliciously clean water, and gorged on the calories we were deficient in, and headed back out.
Along the road, past fields of horses and creeks, golden aspens and panoramic views with all sorts of majestic beauty, we encountered our first bike trouble. Stephanie had gotten a metal piece stuck in her tire. The hole would not seal, so she changed her inner-tube. While holding her bike, I just couldn't help but be overtaken by the gorgeous yellows and golds of the aspens on the South side of the peak. I wish I had taken a picture, but I didn't. So this much better picture that some fantastic photographer took will have to do.
AND we'd finally earned it! 20 miles of pure mountain downhill! Down some of the fastest, squirliest, most monumental trails in the area. Some call this section of the ride "Jones' Downhill" and they shuttle up to ride down. I took the time to air up my broken shock (I started with it broken) before descending and then let loose. What an incredible downhill! And even better, my front shock didn't blow up during some of those fierce drops!
And boom! After a sick downhill....after all that hard work of going up hill, we were back in town.
Following that downhill, I began having difficulty with my breathing from my asthma. But luckily, we only had a few more miles to go. Even if I did the uphills slowly, I knew I could finish this. We did our last 10 miles of Section 16 to Intemann trail and the trail spit us back out at our car. A long route choice to get to exactly where you began, but what an incredible day on the bike with 2 incredible people! I can't wait for next year's Ring the Peak trip!