Have you ever seen an animation of a scent trail? Pigs hunting truffles. Bloodhounds vacuuming a timeline of past creatures by crossroads. Digging into your mind further; how about snakes seeing in infrared? Bats using echolocation. All evolved traits for navigating their environments. What leads you to your adventures? Not the travel agent's itinerary... the unscripted and random ones.
I was trying to get a camera shot. Just a sweep with my GoPro and gimbal on the way to Leadville. There sat a monolithic horseshoe ridge with a small lake in the foreground to my left. My vehicle rolled past a dilapidated trailer in the parking lot and some signs providing information. "Ghost Town" "Abandoned Mine" "Jeep Trail." Sold. Never mind the ephemeral plans in my head. Think I will set up camp here tonight!
After crawling my truck up three miles, I found the best campsite of my trip! Not so far. Of this trip. Be forewarned: You will cross to your right a crumbling wooden shack on broken stilts that, should a rodent wedding reception erupt, it's wiping away whoever happens to be in its path. I was outside the perimeter of an abandoned mining settlement. Crazy weather was mixed with phenomenal views. Stoke meter maxed!!!
No limit exploration come morning. Hikers started coming by my tent. They really liked my Arabic lanterns. (Glam car camping has its advantages) Tree line wasn't too far up. Pedaled and hiked to snow in July! Kept going until the white stuff blocked my path. Once I was up as far as I could safely go (might be different for some of you), I took in the surreal vista. Next I dialed in my shocks, pressed the camera on, and let 'er rip.
Joy. Solitude. Beauty. Shhhhhh. The air going by your ears as you shred past snow and stone. Oh my, the alpine hike was worth it! Grass. Vegetation. The streaks of white and gray gave way to green. Smooth gliding. Loose aggressive small dog! Shit! Aaaargh! Bike suspension saved me as I crossed into a ridiculous rock garden to avoid it. Campground. Safety. My eyes lit up as I surveyed the other rim trail and started that way.
After the amazing adventure that was Mayflower Gulch, my tires forwarded towards Keystone. I received prime advice about free camping close to the resort. Score! Stopped into Wilderness Sports in Dillion for more beta. In no time, I was on my way with more ideas. A couple free days were present before meeting a group for the down hill park. From my camp site, plenty of trails branched off Peru Creek Road. When I heard the road ahead wouldn't let SUVs pass, it was time to get my truck. Maturity saved me once I was deep inside Montezuma Loop. Imaginary pictures arrived of a large tow bill and explaining to everyone why I had to do some 5 star off-roading at this point. I'm going back when the time is right!
Keystone Bike Park has a stout reputation of being highly technical. My friend assembled a wicked crew for this outing. I quickly realized they all had years of experience above me. No matter; I was dialed in and ready to learn! After warming up on 'Eye of the Tiger' and 'Wild Thing', the group was hungry for some burly features. 'Milky Way' seems like a soft and fun name. As we rolled out from the top, I saw the double black diamond sign, the adrenaline spiked, and I bailed on the group with a shout out.
With Austin's own 'The Sword' slaying demons by way of heavy metal, I started carving down the single blacks of 'Motorhead', 'TNT', and 'Punk Rock'. Wow, it was a cornucopia of speed, rock gardens, technical obstacles, and fun. After getting comfortable with those, I ran across one of the gents from our group earlier. I explained why I bailed (not wanting mandatory big air moves I wasn't ready for) and he offered to run point and give me information as we'd go. I just had to follow.
Cowboy'ed up and did 'Milky Way'. Rolled over the giant jump with wide eyes but stayed on my bike the entire time. My heart rate might have been atmospheric. Just sayin'. I was extremely happy and soaking up what I could. I was finally wearing upper body armor and it came in handy plenty of times. Fell off that amazing bridge section on 'Sanitarium'. Ate some shit on 'Jam Rock'. 'High Speed Dirt' was way cool. The runs were intimidating but, with the right mentor, I felt the courage to push myself out of my comfort zone at this point. The falls didn't hurt and my ego didn't scream when I rolled over crazy features. Surviving with smiles is how the afternoon turned out for me as we crossed off trails from our list.
I was still scared about catching air on jumps. With new found inspiration, I drove over to Frisco's public bike park the next day. Carrying my book and armor, I suited up and started taking the jumps in small steps. Table tops of three feet to five feet. The advice I was getting was jumps are similar to rollers. You're doing the same motions but you can psyche yourself out. I was paying attention that day in Keystone how I was going over rollers. At the park, when I was popping up, I relied on my muscle memory and started experimenting with what was comfortable. How were the wheels landing? Was the bike or me absorbing most of the impact?
I left Summit county looking forward to the next bike park. My park pass was used to ride that day but I will gladly pay full price for a day's admission to do Keystone again. Fabulous place to ride, build up skills, or take your game to the next level.
From The Column: TGR Trip Report Picks
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