Bikepacking CT 1 and 2

Last week was one of those weeks where you start to hear rumblings about the upcoming forecast, words brandied about like “arctic”, “front”, “polar”, and “vortex”. A recent trip back to Buffalo Creek area trails whet my appetite for camping and being out there. Add these two things together, and you gotta get out there while it’s still good.

Bikepacking on the Colorado trail

It’s been a while since I got in an overnight bike packing and with the season wrapping up a bit, I decided to take on the Colorado Trail’s (CT) segment 1 and 2. Initially, I had even thought about riding from my house, potentially leaving on Friday night after work, but I lucked out on not doing that. Waterton Canyon, the first stretch of CT 1, has been closed during the week and it looks like the light rain that came down during Friday night was snow up in some of the north facing slopes of the CT.

Saturday, Waterton was a bit soft but fun cool cruise. There was a bit of headwind, but I just kept the pedaling soft and enjoyed it. In classic fashion for that section of trail, I had a stand off with a Bighorn as it wanted to move down the canyon. Or maybe he just wasn’t sure why I had so much stuff. As you enter the first bit of single track, I could tell the shifting on my bike was definitely not “right” but it seemed to be more noisy than in danger of breaking, so I pressed on.

The CT from Waterton climbs up to Lenny’s Rest, a bench and trail intersection with a trail to connect to Indian Creek trails. Then you bomb into the Bear Creek drainage and back up along this steep, rocky canyon. You hit the first proper hike-a-bike section (yes, people ride it). The climbing is unrelenting until you hit a techy section along the creek. There’s a few forced hikes here too. After climbing to a ridgeline, you get a bit of respite in a more rolling terrain. About 4 miles out you hit one of the best overlooks I’ve seen. As I descended through this section a rider passed me on his way to do 1 and 2 and back all in a day!

Then you get a magical, switchback friendly, descent down to the South Platte River. I stopped here, ate some food, adjusted clothing layers, and started out on segment 2. Segment 2 east-to-west is pretty much a climb the entire way. From the river, I encountered tight switchbacks which eventually gives way to just some steady climbing. At times I hiked through deep, steep graded patches of decomposed granite. Bike packing is more akin to backpacking at times than people may realize! After a wooded section I ran into a group of riders who I had met briefly back in Waterton who were shuttling segments 3 to 1. We chatted a bit about bike packing and it was good to have a bit of company after pedaling for 4+ hours almost alone.

Nearing the top, I ran out of water in my hydration pack and so I knew stopping at the firehouse was going to be in order. At the start of the ride, I’d made my first snafu. Originally I planned for taking my hydration pack (100oz) and two water bottles (64oz), but I figured between the river at 16-odd miles in and the firehouse, I wouldn’t need it. When I got to 126, I rolled down to the firehouse and searched for the water spout. I couldn’t find it. Dejected, I rolled back up to the CT and rode the last few miles to camp. I had 32oz of water to get me through the rest of the day, cooking that night, coffee in the morning, tending a fire, and then back down to the river. I had enough (too much?) other food with me that didn’t require cooking, so I made a plan to skip cooking and coffee to save water. There was an small stream about a mile away that I could filter, but it was downhill from where I was camped (and so it would be back up hill to get to camp), so I just didn’t go. I made my fire, snacked through the night, and read. That night, I slept in my bivy, but my sleeping pad wouldn’t keep air so this made a fitful night of sleep.

In the morning, I tore down camp and headed to the Little Scraggy lot before eating breakfast. As I made breakfast there, a few people came by and chatted. One asked if I needed anything and when I asked if they had any water to spare, I got an extra 32oz of water from them. I now had about 40-odd ounces of water to get me to river which made my day.

As I rolled out towards the start of segment 2, I saw some elk and deer, rolled down one of my favorite portions of singletrack. Crossing Raleigh Peak road, the trail drops down through lots of terrain I had hiked the day before. You hit one steep tough climb and then the rest of the way is almost entirely downhill. Surfing a weighted bike through the decomposed granite was a lot different than riding down without bikepacking gear. My legs felt like bricks, but could handle steady output of power. Any sudden peaks of power were difficult. I reached the river in a little over an hour and half, pulled out my water filter, and got some more water. This was the first time using my filter so it was a bit of learning process … but it went pretty well.

The river is the second major low point of these two sections, so that meant climbing back up. It’s almost 4 miles of climbing up some rocky, power hungry sections. I ended up walking a few places where I just didn’t have the might to get through rocky terrain while climbing. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was finally peaking by the time I got to the top. Then I ripped through a rolling section of single track that really made me feel like I was truly mountain biking, not bike packing. As I worked my way back to Bear Creek, I saw my first person (a trail runner), then a couple groups of mountain bikers. I rode much of the technical features on the way through the section, which was surprising given the weight of my bike. Hitting the climbs back to Lennys was difficult and the shifting was definitely starting to complain. I pushed up to Lenny’s and was finally there. All down hill from there!

All in all, that’s about 56 miles and 7,700 feet of gain in two days. Both sections have really great trail and really difficult trail. There are places that are going to require at least some pushing, even if it is just around tight switchbacks.

Gear

  • Bike: Spearfish
  • Sleeping pad, attached to handlebars
  • Saddle bag (Revelate Pika): sleeping bag and bivy, sleeping bag liner, stakes, some extra clothes
  • Frame bag (JPaks): tools, tubes, first aid, riding food
  • Backpack (Gregory): clothing, stove, one 32oz water bottle, 3L bladder, tarp

The bike bags are nearing maxed out with the loadout they have. Currently my spearfish won’t fit a bar bag, which would get pretty much everything on the bike. I think for overnights, the Spearfish will still work great. They can be loaded out better but I’m looking into a new bike for 2+ night trips, letting the Spearfish still be a general MTB and overnighter when I want it. The backpack load that I had was very manageable (especially when the 3L of water was empty!) so it wasn’t problematic.

Using jsdom and mocha for testing

The JavaScript space for testing code, and specifically browser-based code, has been changing quite a bit recently.  There are more options now than when I recently was working on a project, but I found a pretty simple way to test some jQuery functionality while in Mocha.

First, the code:

Second, the caveats:

  • As you can see in the code comments, the module is using a module and not referencing it. This isn’t ideal. We’re adding jQuery via the global namespace. I haven’t found a way to reference jQuery in the module if it’s not defined yet, but that would get around this sticking point.
  • Using jsdom to run the tests like this, you need to build/populate the DOM objects you want. For my use case, it works out OK, but may not work for bigger testing demands.
  • As mentioned, there are plenty of other options for testing full browser pages and testing within different browsers. Be sure to use the things you need for your project!

Gear testing: new sleep system

For years and years, my camping sleep system consisted of a one or two-person tent, sleeping bag, and inflatable pad. Eventually I added a hammock to the mix. Recently I’ve become more interested in bike packing which puts a premium on weight and also pack-ability. My sleeping bag especially didn’t really fit this scenario. It was time for something new.

This weekend was my first test run with a new system:

The Palisade is a open back sleeping bag or quilt design bag. The concept is centered around the idea that compressed insulation doesn’t add much (if any) warmth, so get rid of that and you have a lighter and just as effective sleeping option. Not only is the bag crazy light (claimed 17oz), but it packs much smaller which will be awesome for bike packing.

Red Mountain and Hoosier Ridge

This Saturday I went for a mountain bike ride and then drove to McCullough Gulch (near Quandary Peak) to camp. Unfortunately, it was super windy in the gulch and raining for part of the afternoon. I also had a bit of elevation sickness kick in which wasn’t helped by camping over 10,000 ft. Since the weather was calling for potential rain/snow, I opted to setup my Big Agnes solo tent without the tent body (fly, poles, ground sheet) and then bivy inside of that. Warmth wise I slept in pants, warm socks, a short sleeve shirt, warm “down” vest, jacket, and hat. I probably could have ditched the jacket with a light fleece, but it added warmth for my arms with all the wind that never died down the whole night.

I setup the bag with pad in the foot box and the simple cords tie-downs around the pad. This made the foot box a bit cramped, but warm. Next trip I’ll probably just setup with the pad on the outside. The small-seeming foot box was actually nice and the adjustability of the bag was awesome for a side/stomach sleeper. And since the wind kept going all night keeping me awake, it was nice being able to move around. The bag also has a simple snap closure around the top that I used when the wind would really pick up and instantly the whole setup got much warmer!

So far, thumbs up to this setup. I look forward to trying the bivy out in the open or just under a tarp. And hopefully getting in a overnight bike trip before winter arrives.

How to sneak away and spend a night in the woods

The plan: get in a camping night without waiting for a weekend day (and the snow storm that was on it’s way…). After a recent trip out to Buffalo Creek trails, I realized that the area was only about an hour from work (depending on traffic) and with sunset already at 19:30, I could get a bit of day time riding as a bonus. Then in the morning I’d have to wake a bit early to get back to the car and back to town, but it seemed very simple timing wise.

So I grabbed my camping and riding gear (more about that in a minute), went to work, and as soon the bell rang I jetted out to the mountains. As I rolled out of the parking lot on my bike, though things went a bit wrong: the chain on my bike sucked up into the frame nearly ending my ride. I rode around the parking lot trying to get it fixed, tightened the cable, and eventually realized it was mostly fine if I was in an easy gear. That wasn’t going to be a problem as I was going to ride up a 4 mile climb first thing with a full pack …

I had picked going up Nice Kitty trail as it was close, but also because I had long been thinking the trees around the Buffalo Burn trail would be a prime camping area. With the timing, it also seemed like it would work because it would amount to enough riding on both days without being overkill. Bonus was that I got to ride around these trails that I normally ride in morning/afternoon around sunset which was spectacular! After a slow climb up the hill, I reached the treeline and scouted around for a bit settling on a few trees for my hammock. I grabbed my food, stove, and a can of suds and headed out into a good spot to catch the sunset while I cooked dinner. Afterwards I set up my hammock and settled in watching it all transition from day to night. The moon was fairly bright so even after dark you could move around the hillside without a light.

Buff creek sunset

As the evening wind picked up, I ducked into my hammock and adjusted the rain fly to block some of the wind. All in all, it wasn’t too windy that night which is nice. There are plenty of places I could have moved to had it gotten too bad (further into the woods or down a little meadow). When my alarm went off in the morning it took a while to make my way from the warmth of my sleeping bag into the cold. I made some coffee, snacked on some breakfast, and tore down camp. I had planned on cooking some breakfast but hadn’t been too hungry and decided not to bother. Luckily, because I was short on time.

I turned on my headlight as the sky was starting to brighten (the ground was still dark enough that it was better that way). When I got to the top of Nice Kitty again, I could see a heard of deer moving along the ridge in front of me. Further down the trail I found a herd of elk. One of the elk would stop and see if I was following them and then bound off with the others. Down at the car I loaded up, defrosted the car, and drove back to down (right into rush hour traffic unfortunately!).

Sleeping gear: I used my Eno Hammock with profly for shelter, a sleeping pad, and my older Sierra Designs sleeping bag (with a light liner). This system was warm and comfy … though using a sleeping pad is still not exactly bulletproof with a hammock. The sleeping bag also packs a little larger than I like. But I may get a bag or two for my MTB so that I can offload other things from my pack and have more room for my sleeping bag.

Stove and food: since this was a very simple trip, my food setup was really basic. I brought an MSR dragonfly stove, an MSR pot for cooking, and an smaller pot/mug for coffee. Food wise I brought up some pre-cut veggies, salt/pepper, olive oil, and tortillas. I had a few snack food items too, coffee grounds, and an MSR coffee filter. I also had a camping spatula (folding) and titanium spork. I could have cooked dinner with just the spork, but had the spatula for the eggs I planned on cooking in the morning.

Water: I carried one bottle on my bike which was good enough for the short ride up, down, and a bit on the drive in the morning. I had two 32oz bottles with water but only used part of one. So I could have gone a bit lighter with only one extra bottle.

Bike gear: two tubes, a multitool, a few CO2 and inflator, a small pump, patch kit, and extra chain links.

Clothes: I rode up in a jersey, base layer, bibs, and arm warmers (which weren’t needed since it was 60-odd degrees out). At the top I changed into tights, an old long sleeve baselayer, a warm vest, and a hat. I also wore the arm warmers once the sun went down. In the morning, I threw on a light rain jacket and some warmer gloves than my normal riding ones. It was still pretty cold and I was glad it wasn’t too cold to take the gloves off to handle some packing. I also had some Keen sandals for around camp (camping in riding shoes isn’t so great!).

Links:

AntiEpic 2014

There’s an immense network of gravel and dirt roads to the southeast of Denver. The endless undulations of “West Kansas” are a prime home for many of the front-range gravel ride with beautiful country side, dirt roads everywhere you turn and views that stretch from more country to towering peaks. And it is home to the front range’s most difficult gravel grinder: the AntiEpic 160. Proof that you can pedal up hill all day long while starting and ending in the same place!

Last year’s race started in the Greenland area between Denver and the Springs, but this years moved further south gaining a bit of mileage and a bit of climbing (but the gravel crowd rarely complains about this … until a ride is done at least!). Once again the day’s start was under a clear, pre-sunrise sky. After getting back over Monument Hill, the fields were covered in a good amount of snow, but the roads were clear and dry. The fast guys had attacked already although for a time I would draw back one group by bombing down the downhills. That didn’t last too long though.

When headed towards Highway 86 for the first time, I worked with a couple people while I could. After getting onto Commanche Creek I felt a bit like I was riding with a cold, just a bit nasally, a bit achy for only 40 miles or so. There wasn’t much to do but to keep pedaling. Once you’ve made your way a dozen or so miles up the road here, you’re options are to turn around or maybe to head east … but no real options for cutting this loop short if you wanted.

A few people came by and I felt a bit like I was just pedaling squares. Eventually I could see one rider about half a mile to a mile ahead of me. Where Commanche Creek turns into Co Rd 149, he turned left and I thought it odd since the course heads the other way. But I had no way to signal him and kept pedaling. I also thought it was odd that I passed another rider that I’m pretty sure didn’t start with us. I pedaled on.

2014-04-05 16.08.33 copyAfter finding Qunicy Rd rather pleasant (last year it was a sandy washboard that felt like it could snap a bike in two), I turned and found another rider pulling up with me. I changed up my cue sheet and we chatted and then headed out. JB, who was the rider I saw previously, and he had set out to do 120 miles but decided to finish up the 160. We rode together and he hung with me while I changed a flat on Co Rd 42. As we approached Deer Trail (the halfway point and only place to get water/food), we found another rider’s wife was providing a bit of water for riders. We filled our bottles happy not to head down the hill to Deer Trail (and then back up to get back on course!).

My legs were feeling heavier as the day went on. I tried to drink and eat but really failed here. For a long time I felt like I was holding JB back a bit (I was) but eventually he started to suffer too. After we climbed out of an open range area, he flatted on a cattle grate. I waited for him and then he realized he had put the wrong tube into the tire and sent me ahead. I figured, particularly now that I was feeling a bit off, that I would see him shortly. I stopped at a turn that I thought I had marked wrong (it was marked correctly but the road sign didn’t have the state road number on it). I grabbed an old fence stake and put an arrow on the ground hoping that JB would see that in case he was confused.

Again I found the “SAG” vehicle and chatted with her a bit and assured her that her husband was still ahead of me if he was still on course. I told her I was arranging a ride back to the car but she mentioned they could give me a ride if her husband was stopping. Turning the pedals. I was on Ridge Road which has several climbs and I briefly would feel better and then feel tired. A friend was able to come get me so I picked Kiowa as a nearby place that would be easy for giving directions (seemed better than “I’m on the corner of a dirt road and another dirt road by a fence”). Just getting to the highway was nearly the end for me. I walked two short steep hills and eventually made it to the highway.

After I had pedaled maybe a mile or two of the highway, the SAG vehicle came by and offered to give me a lift. They stopped and I found they had two guys in the back who had tried out the “b-road”, found it muddy and opted to head back to town. So with four bikes loaded into the back of the truck with two guys, a dog, his wife, I got a lift down into Kiowa. Not long after grabbing some provisions my friend pulled up and was able to give me a ride back to my car.

I hate ending a day like that but I was approximately 50 miles from the finish with the hardest hills and a difficult B-road. If I was already bonking on hills … getting back to the car on my own power was going to be pushing 13-14 hours.

Gear Notes: this year I rode the familiar Stans Alphas with Clement MSO 40s. The tires were very comfortable on the dirt/gravel roads and felt like I could fly through downhills and turns. I did have one flat from a goathead so I was slightly disappointed in the puncture resistance but it was also in a situation that would be tough to avoid. I also realized a bit of reorganization of gear would be good: I had two feedbags, a framebag, and a hydration pack. For the AE you have to take a bit more with you for the entire ride than rides like DK200 where you have aid stations but there were a few things to move between the feedbags and framebag. I’d also be interested in trying a Gas Tank bag instead of the feedbag(s).