Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mountain Biking from Carbondale to Grand Junction - 10/18-19/10

Peter and I discussed a backpack from his family's place in Carbondale to his place in Grand Junction, which eventually morphed into an overnight mountain-bike ride. I haven't mountain biked for years, and ended up taking a too-small Trek that my father-in-law loaned me. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, which can be a good thing - especially as there were no crashes, no mechanicals, and only one flat (which I got a few blocks from Peter's house). We slept out, and carried pretty light packs. Not knowing any better, I just took my standard pseudo-lightweight setup sans tent, which worked fine.

It's a beautiful area, and one I don't know well. I've driven down I-70 many, many times, and there's the big Grand Mesa to the south. And I got to see a big chunk of it all at once. The highlight for me was the High Trail #515, which traverses a wild section of the Mesa far from pretty much everything:



My other photos here.
And Peter's photos here.

High and wild, but as Peter says, it's a "working landscape." There were hundreds of hunters roaming around on ATV's, gas wells, power-line corridors, etc. I wouldn't have been struck by this except that a few weeks ago I was backpacking in the massive Sierra wilderness corridor. So I went from an area of solitude to an area of eating dust from numerous vehicles. My main issue with this are the ATV-track "roads." These things go straight up and down hillsides:



and cause extensive erosion. The local OHV clubs are maintaining these as they can, but some of the maintenance looks more like damage control than improvement. Here, some rocks were put down in a boggy area to prevent additional damage/braiding of the road:



I suppose this works, but it's a pretty rude fix. Interestingly, we met a hunter who grew up in the area and said some of the ATV-tracks were once roads, and better maintained. It goes to his, and my, occasional frustration with the federal land-use agencies.

I like the concept of the ride-camp, if for nothing else that I get to coast down the hills rather than walking, and will do this again - but for a shorter distance. I also like the "when in Rome" approach of using wheels in the places where mechanized travel has been deemed appropriate (like Grand Mesa) and using feet in the places where only hiking/horse travel has been deemed appropriate (in wilderness). One of the things I find silly about thru-hiking the big trails (PCT/CDT/AT/etc.) is all the hiking on roads, through peoples' backyards, etc. - it smacks of stubbornness and (undefined) principle.

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