Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

First Bikepacking Trip on the Adventure Bike

I started building my camping bike back in March of this year, after I finally bit the bullet and gave up on trying to modify a standard frame to do what I want. (See the post here.) This past weekend, I finally got a chance to use it for what it was intended. Up to then, I had merely commuted on it and run errands in order to get my position on the bike dialed in and test the various bags I had mounted to it.

I got up early on Saturday morning and loaded the bike into the Chick Magnet, then drove to the Ride-Share lot at the I-70  Morrison exit to meet Danny Mac. We were headed up to what he had described as a rough cabin, sometimes used by hikers and hunters, on public land somewhere near Breckinridge. I brought my hammock, bivy and tarp just in case it was too tumble-down to sleep in or already occupied when we got there.

Once Dan rolled up, we loaded my bike onto his bike rack and took off to the west. As we drove, I became more and more excited to be on a camping trip. I counted it up and realized that it had been at least five, maybe six years since I had slept in the woods.

Once we parked the Rover and got the bikes off of the rack and loaded up, we took off. The initial part of the ride was up a pretty well-maintained, yet rugged, Forest Service road open to vehicular traffic.

There were a number of people camped in the designated spots along the road, and we began to worry that the cabin might be occupied when we got there. Even though it is a spot known to a relatively small number of people, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for some of that group to have beat us to the spot, or for someone else to stumbled upon it.

As we climbed, the road got rougher and the density of campers decreased, somewhat. Once we turned onto the trail (gated against motor vehicles) that actually led to the cabin, we were beginning to relax about being beat to the punch. We saw no tracks, from foot or tire, along the trail and figured we would be alone in that neck of the woods.

This is a lot steeper than the photo indicates!

Once at the cabin, we were relieved to see that no one was there. I was impressed with the outside appearance. I was anticipating something much rougher than the Spruce Lodge turned out to be.

Inside, it was quite nice ... more so than Danny even anticipated. The floor had been replaced since his last visit, and few niceties such as the chairs in this picture had been added.

We stowed our food in the cooler (more to keep the mice out than to try and keep it cold), threw our sleeping bags inside, then...

...popped open a couple of beers. Riding in had been thirsty work.

After a bit, we decided to hike around the area surrounding the cabin. Danny wanted to show me the neighborhood.

 This is more the condition I was seeing in my mind's eye, but with a roof, when Dan described the cabin to me.

As we hiked, I spotted some bear scat on a log. As you can see, it was quite fresh. We kept an eagle eye out for our ursine neighbor, after that. It was obvious that he was not too far away!

A view from the hillside above the cabin.

After awhile, we headed back to the cabin. We could see storm clouds gathering in around us, and we wanted to get back and get a fire started before it was too wet.

I wanted a nice campfire to sit around, if it wasn't pouring down rain (in which case the wood stove in the cabin would have to do), if for no other reason than to enjoy the bottle of Law's Four Grain Bourbon that I had recieved for finishing the long course at the inaugural Golden Giddyup, last
September. I had saved it for a special occasion, and I figured that this trip qualified.

One of those things I pride myself on is my ability to build a fire, quickly and efficiently. So, I gathered up fine tinder and started the process.  But, as they say, pride goeth before a fall.

I have never had as much trouble starting a fire, in my life. After a week of rain, the normally moist ground and wood in the area was soaked. The ground in the fire pit was so wet that even after I resorted to burning pages from my pocket notebook to start the kindling, steam would come up out of the wet ground make the paper smolder, rather than flame. (Next time, I'll start working on a piece of aluminum foil, or somesuch, to avoid that problem.)

Then, it started to rain. Not a drenching downpour, but a steady shower.

Finally, after much huffing and puffing (and way more matches than I ever thought I would use at once), I got the fire started. Danny split wood as I worked, and I added his splits onto my burning starter, and we eventually had a roaring fire

The rain moved on, and we settled into the evening. Dinner was cooked and eaten. Whiskey was opened and drunk up. We wandered up to the mining road/trail we had ridden in on and watched shooting stars for awhile, then moved back to the fire for more story telling and whiskey drinking.

Late in the evening, this little scamp ran into the cabin, then came back out. Not long after I took this picture, the fox returned and stole some food we had foolishly not secured well enough. It was a lesson well-learned, especially considering the bear scat we had seen earlier!

About midnight, we moved into the cabin. I shoveled some of our campfire coals into the wood stove, and added a few sticks of wood. By the time we went to bed, the inside of the cabin was toasty. I actually had to get out of my sleeping bag, for a while, in the middle of the night!

I got up at about 6:30, the next morning, not feeling particularly good. I figured it was the whiskey and the late night, so I  set about starting a fire in order to make some coffee and breakfast. The fire starting was a lot easier due, I think, to our previous night's fire drying the ground out under the fire pit. The tinder was still damp, but I have dealt with that before.Within a half hour, I had a mug of Kaladi coffee in my hand, and Danny came out of the cabin as I started working on coffee for him.

Camp coffee in my camp mug/whiskey glass...

Keeping my coffee warm as I cook...

I had shelled a half dozen eggs and frozen them in a plastic jar, for the trip, and they had thawed overnight. The yolks didn't really want to blend with the whites as I scrambled them, but they tasted just fine.

I knew something other than the late-night carousing was affecting me, though, when I was unable to finish my breakfast. The spicy deer-meat chorizo sausage that Danny brought was delicious (I ate it the next night, for dinner), but I had no appetite once I had eaten some eggs. It finally occurred to me that what I was suffering from was a classic case of altitude sickness. I haven't spent that much time over 10,000 feet elevation in years and, combined with a slight dehydration from riding and drinking, I was feeling the effects.

So, we packed the bikes and made a reluctant farewell to Spruce Lodge. As we rode back to the car, I was impressed with how the bike handled the baby-head rocks and water bars on the closed trail, and the off-camber dirt of the Forest Service road while still pretty heavily loaded. The bike had impressed me already, on the climb, but the speeds were pretty low on that leg of the trip. The 3.25" tires soaked it all up and allowed me concentrate on the beauty of the forest, rather than having to white-knuckle the ride like I imagine I would have on 2.35" tires.

The Gorilla Cages and bags on the fork worked excellently. Even though they had a quick-release feature, they remained rock-solid for the whole ride.

Once in the car and headed down from the Eisenhower Tunnel, I felt progressively better as we dropped in elevation (though I was quite sleepy). By the time we got back to town, I felt fine.

Danny and I parted ways, and I headed home. After a shower and a nap, I unloaded all of my gear and stowed the bike away, as I started planning my next trip, in my head. I can't wait!