Monday, September 20, 2010

Gettin High, Goin Big and Takin it Back to the Beginning

"He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door"

Or at least that's how the late great John Denver puts it. For me, it was 22. Back in '95, my good friend Bryan and I road tripped (with bikes, of course) from Nebraska to Boulder over Labor Day Weekend. Bryan had lived in CO that summer so he knew his way around the Front Range relatively ok. One of the goals for that long weekend was to hit up a ride that Bryan had described as legendary, or something to that effect. It was Jenny Creek to Rollins Pass and back from Eldora. I was on my Tange Ultimate tubed, Judy SL forked ParkPre at the time and Jenny Creek was about as gnarly a trail as I had ever witnessed. Technically, JC is not a trail but a Jeep Road, but it's still something to be respected. I came away from that ride in love. In love with Colorado. And in love of a strange new way of riding. Hiking up boulder fields and root gardens to get the great view at the top. And then to bomb back down in the saddle. Ahh, memories.

I think it's safe to say that without that ride, without Jenny Creek, and without Rollins Pass, I may not have made it to Colorado. Definitely a game changer. How did John Denver put it? Oh yeah, "Comin' home to a place he'd never been before, He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again." That pretty much sums it up.

Over the past 15 years (has it seriously been that long?) I've managed to make the pilgrimage up to Jenny Creek every few of years. We've done it quite a few different ways, even starting in Nederland. Bummer about that one, as starting in Ned involves a poach on private property now (well, technically it always did, but we didn't know, and now the landowners cares). Unfortunately, I think the last time I was up to Rollins Pass was probably about 5 years ago.

I started getting the itch a few weeks ago. When I get the itch, I start pouring over maps, even though I know the route. It gets me hyped up, almost to the point where I can't get it out of my head. I know, I know, I'm and addict. Admitting is half the battle, right? :)

My time came today. It was a rare occurance where all the moons aligned for me. Kid's in school and at playdates til 3, then time for Z's dance class. I can do all that and still be home by 3, right?

The ride starts right at the gate of Eldora Ski resort. Why they don't build some trails for bikes to ride in the summer is completely beyond me. They could have some great riding there, even lift accessed. But I'm not going to rant on that too much today.

After a short grunt of a climb, a nice and beautifully rocky singletrack leads from Eldora Resort over into the Jenny Creek drainage.

After not too long on Jenny Creek, a spur trail goes up the Guinn Mountain Hut. I've actually not ever been up that one so, always having a mind for adventure, I decided to climb it.

The sign did not lie. I had to hike about 1/2 of the trail. But it was great. I finally made it to the hut. A quick trip thru a meadow and I dumped out on the pipeline trail. It's not really an official trail, but it follows the gas pipeline from Eldora up to the divide. It's narrow and wonderful and super steep. Not technical, just steep. Almost to the top...

And then views! Yankee Doodle Lake below. The tallest peak in the background is James Peak.

And the Needle's Eye Tunnel that collapsed in the 80s. Rollins Pass was, at one time, intended to get a little bit more traffic than it did.

From there, it was a major PUSH up to the twin trestles road and over to Rollins Pass. Probably not a good ride for folks that don't mind hiking thru scree filled old and closed jeep roads. Probably not a good ride for folks having issue with vertigo or heights, either. Or rickety old structures that creak eerily when you ride across them.

And FINALLY to Rollins Pass. After all these years, this area kinda feels like home to me.

I actually made it to Rollins Pass ahead of schedule, which meant I had time for more riding! The thought had crossed my mind earlier in the week, but I honestly didn't think I'd have time to do it. Rodgers Pass. The start of the Rodgers Pass trail was only a few miles down the road and I had never done it, even though it had been on my list for at least the last 10 years. There's no time like the present so it was down the road and past Mount Epworth and Deadman Lake. Outstanding views towards Winter Park, too.

Rodgers Pass Trail starts on the East side of Riflesight Notch. This is one trestle that is anything but safe these days.

Once on the Rodgers Pass trail and up out of the trees, the view towards Rodgers Pass was heartbreakingly cruel and discouraging. Nothing but a looooong, windblown and rocky switchbacked climb up the side of the mountain. I entertained thoughts of turning around. The one thing that kept me going, though, was that it had taken me over 10 years to get to this point and it would likely be another 10 before I made it again. Up! The final stretch to Rodgers Pass. That's James Peak again, too. Closer now.

And finally Pass Number Two of the day - Rodgers Pass, 11,860'.

Big Big views. Heart Lake.

And James Peak was looking pretty damn big at this point.

By now, of course, I was under the impression that I was running late, so I forewent my beer and lunch and made onward progress back down the mountain. And back down the Rodgers Pass Trail to Corona Road.

And back on Rollins Pass Road heading towards the trestles. It was easier to make time going down than up and I was quickly back on schedule.

A quick stop for that Dale's Pale Ale, then back down the pipeline.

This time, after rolling by the Guinn Cabin, I opted for the "other" Guinn trail back to Jenny Creek Rd. This trail went the less direct way and would allow me just a bit more enjoyment of Jenny Creek Road. It was all too short. A quick climb out of the Jenny Creek drainage (which felt way steeper on the climb out)

and I was back to the resort. Goodby Eldora,

and thanks again. My urge for the pilgrimage had once again been satisfied. I felt fulfilled like I had not been in a long time.

Oh, I made it home by 3, too. Everyone was happy with that one.


The Evil MGE! said...

Love that ride Dave! Last time I was up there I discovered the Pipeline to the Guion Mtn Hut on the way back from the Trestles.Good stuff, so much more I want to ride before the snow hits and I'm afraid, I won't barely scratch the surface.

BTW: Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park ruled!! Dunraven Inn sucked!! 2 hour wait and food poisoning.

Wanda - Bikes said...

Good stuff! I continue to enjoy reading these posts