Women’s Bikepacking Clinic Campout – Fort Collins 2017

Well, that couldn’t be a more boring title now, could it? I just do that because there have been others, and there will be others, so future versions of us can remember what happened this year.

The women’s bikepacking clinics always culminate in a bikepacking trip.

You have to. Otherwise no one’s dreams come true. Also, it’s far too easy to continue with weekends-as-usual-probably-car-camping-or-sleeping-in-your bed if you don’t set DEADLINES. I love a good deadline. Really makes you feel like the time is now.

In case you didn’t know, myself Amanda DelCore, and Jillian Betterly, held bikepacking clinics in Fort Collins and Boulder in the summer and spring of 2017, respectively.  So a week after the Steamboat Ramble (which is a supported bikepacking party of sorts), all the women of the pack got together for a weekend in the mountains.

This is the story of how we made an absolute adventure out of a 44.2mi round-trip route overnighter. We started from our front doors.

We had a crew of the usual suspects plus a few brave new babes. As it was the first time pedaling a loaded bike up a canyon for some, we aimed for a casual and fun afternoon.

When you do short routes, it’s all about finding the excitement in the little, everyday things. Stop at the cafe, stop for the  flowers, stop at the river. Because you can, and you usually never do. So that’s what we did.

We stopped at Noosa cafe, we took some dirt road, we hung out in the Poudre river, we stopped for ice cream sandwiches.

Until we finally got to Hewlett Gultch.  We rode, foot-dabbed, or walked our not necessarily fit-for-trail bikes down some singletrack aka hiking trail. If we couldn’t ride it, no sweat. Camp was a mere 1.5 miles away.

We successfully navigated some death-defying creek-crossings, skated across gravel pits, and eventually found a big tree with an old fireplace nearby. (Well, I scouted this spot, so it was kind of planned.)

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What happens next is primal and beautiful:

Everyone somehow naturally finds a job to do. Without any prior training or agreements, tents are up, everyone has a camp chore, and hors d’oeuvres hour is a few minutes away. It happens every damn time we do one of these trips, and it’s magical.

This is what happy hour in a woodsy field looks like:

We women in the front range like our cheese and wine in the wilderness, thank you. We nearly always have an abundance of appetizers before dinner.

The late afternoon faded as we explored our little camp area, talked about bikes, and read from Shakespeare. As the the sun dropped, the fire grew, and we imagined some elaborate tale about the family who once lived in this very spot. (There was an old foundation and chimney near to where we were camped.)

Night dropped, a million stars came out, and slowly but surely, we trickled into our tents and sleeping bags.

The next morning, two adventurous, mountain-bike-loving ladies (myself and Elaina) did the Hewlett Gulch loop, which includes approximately 7 water features, some ominous-looking crags, one long gradual climb, and one rad ridgeline descent.

Hewlett Gulch is a sweet mtb loop… I never knew!

Packing up camp meant a slow morning of coffee, granola, and maybe some leftover cheese.

After pedaling uphill on a loaded bike, sleeping outside, and having too much fun around a campfire, cruising down a canyon road always feels like victory.

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The road home was swift and cool. We looked back on all the places we struggled on the way up and laughed. We stopped to marvel at some daring slackliners in the Poudre canyon, but that was about it. We were of course, hungry, because duh – we’re bikepackers – lunch burgers were in order.

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All in all, another great women’s bikepacking trip. Nothing like getting out of town on your own two legs with a bunch of other wild women. Yeehaw.

If you’d like to join us for next time, contact us!

Also, you can follow us on Instagram if you just want to spy on our adventures.

Author: Amanda DelCore – Amanda leads bikepacking clinics in Fort Collins. She enjoys long bike rides in Horsetooth Mountain Park and bikepacking both epic and teeny routes. She won’t be caught on a bikepacking trip without a water filter, first aid kit, and a little bit of whiskey.  Instagram, website

My First Real Bikepacking Adventure

My first real bikepacking adventure was in September this year.  It was a 70 mile, 2 night, 3-day ride outside of Nederland, CO. 

I flew to Colorado from Minnesota on an early morning flight, arriving in Denver at 7am. Upon arriving at my partner’s apartment, I arranged the gear I had brought into my bike packs; a JPaks SeatPak, H-BarPak and RukSak.  I successfully fit my sleep pad, Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt, 2 outfits, wool socks, gloves, winter vest, sunglasses, coffee mug, wet-wipes, toothbrush/paste, hairbrush, face buff, phone, and charger. My partner, Greg, graciously carried the stove and food in his packs.  

We caught the bus to Boulder and then from Boulder took the bus to the Magnolia stop, our official starting point.

It was our intention to get around 15 miles on that first day.  As we ascended Bummers Gulch (appropriately named), I could feel the elevation changes start to affect me.


I had been at Minnesota elevation just a few hours ago and now I was reaching close to 8400 feet.  Six hours of traveling and then two hours of relentlessly climbing over 2400 feet had seriously kicked my ass.  When we arrived at the Switzerland Trailhead, just 6 miles into our trip, we set up the tent rain fly to rest under. After a short nap, it was decided we’d camp there for the night. 

Over dinner, we talked about whether or not I would be able to complete the ride.  A small sense of doubt had crept into my mind and body after suffering through that climb. We had only gone 6 of the 70 miles and I was not feeling it.  I had been planning and training for this trip for months. As I stared out into the mountains ahead and could feel the determination rumbling through the doubt. “I can do this ride,” I told myself… “I just need some sleep”.  


The next day I felt much better, my body had acclimated to the elevation and I could feel the energy I had lacked the day before. We set off down the Switzerland Trail.  Stunning views, an amazing partner and mountain air made for one of the best days of riding I had ever experienced in my life.

We biked up through the small mountain town of Ward, and hit up their general store for some snacks. Then we continued on to the Sourdough Trail. 

The Sourdough Trail was perfect. This was the bikepacking trail I had envisioned…rocky singletrack in a dark forest. About 2 miles into the trail we stopped to rest, sitting with our backs against a fallen tree on the ground.  I glanced over my left shoulder and there, about 20 feet away, a large mountain lion was strolling past. He was looking straight forward, completely ignoring us. We sat still and quiet while he passed, knowing he knew we were there. After about 3 minutes we realized he was hanging around about 50 yards away. We slowly got up, walked to our bikes, and got out of there.

We ended up getting 27 miles in and camped at Rainbow Lakes Campground that night.  Now at 10,000 feet, we woke up to snow! (See attached video)

Video Link: https://instagram.com/p/BZHGXgngtf-/

The next day we headed down the 505 to Nederland. Another gorgeous stretch of trail …with some obstacles. 🙂

When we arrived at Nederland, we refueled on beer and pizza and continued on. We had about 10 miles left of climbing but then we enjoyed 20 miles of descending.
All downhill from here! (Near Wondervu)

That final day we biked 40 miles into Golden and caught the light rail back to Denver.  What a treasure right outside of Denver! I can’t wait to explore some more.

 

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Bikepacking outside of Nederland

My first real bikepacking adventure was in September this year.  It was a 70 mile, 2 night, 3 day ride outside of Nederland, CO.

I flew to Colorado from Minnesota on an early morning flight, arriving in Denver at 7am. Upon arriving to my partner’s apartment, I arranged the gear I had brought into my bike packs; a JPaks SeatPak, H-BarPak and RukSak.  I successfully fit my sleep pad, Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt, 2 outfits, wool socks, gloves, winter vest, sunglasses, coffee mug, wet-wipes, toothbrush/paste, hair brush, face buff, phone and charger. My partner, Greg, graciously carried the stove and food in his packs.

We caught the bus to Boulder and then from Boulder took the bus to the Magnolia stop, our official starting point.

It was our intention to get around 15 miles in that first day.  As we ascended Bummers Gulch (appropriately named), I could feel the elevation changes start to affect me.
3 miles into the 6 mile climb

I had been at Minnesota elevation just a few hours ago and now I was reaching close to 8400 feet.  Six hours of traveling and then two hours of relentlessly climbing over 2400 feet had seriously kicked my ass.  When we arrived at the Switzerland Trailhead, just 6 miles into our trip, we set up the tent rain fly to rest under. After a short nap, it was decided we’d camp there for the night.

Over dinner we talked about whether or not I would be able to complete the ride.  A small sense of doubt had crept into my mind and body after suffering through that climb. We had only gone 6 of the 70 miles and I was not feeling well.  I had been planning and training for this trip for months. I stared out into the mountains ahead and could feel the determination rumbling through the doubt. “I can do this ride,” I told myself… “I just need some sleep”.
Switzerland Trailhead in the morning

The next day I felt much better, my body had acclimated to the elevation and I could feel the energy I had lacked the day before. We set off down the Switzerland Trail.  Stunning views, an amazing partner and mountain air made for one of the best days of riding I had ever experienced in my life.

 

 

The stream in the background filled my CamelBak.

 

We biked up through the small mountain town of Ward, and hit up their general store for some snacks. Then we continued on to the Sourdough Trail.

 

The Sourdough Trail was perfect. This was the bikepacking trail I had envisioned…rocky singletrack in a dark forest. About 2 miles into the trail we stopped to rest, sitting with our backs against a falling tree on the ground.  I glanced over my left shoulder and there, about 20 feet away, a large mountain lion was strolling past. He was looking straight forward, completely ignoring us. We sat still & quiet while he passed, knowing he knew we were there. After about 3 minutes we realized he was hanging around about 50 yards away. We slowly got up, walked to our bikes, and got out of there.

 

 

 

 

We ended up getting 27 miles in and camped at Rainbow Lakes Campground that night.  Now at 10,000 feet, we woke up to snow! (See attached video)

 

Breakfast in the tent to stay warm.

 

The next day we headed down the 505 to Nederland. Another gorgeous stretch of trail …with some obstacles. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we arrived at Nederland, we refueled on beer and pizza and continued on. We had about 10 miles left of climbing but then we enjoyed 20 miles of descending.

Climbing out of Nederland

 

 

All downhill from here! (Near Wondervu)

The route:

That final day we biked 40 miles into Golden and caught the light rail back to Denver.  It was a ride of a lifetime and one I will never forget.

Spirit of Discovery A Seven-day Adventure on Bikes

Three-and-a-half years of planning, training, failing and learning from our mistakes have come to this moment. My vision is reduced to the gravel road directly ahead, sweat is dripping in my eyes. I can barely hear the crickets above the sound of my lungs struggling for air at this high altitude. My nose is filled with the smell of the pine forest,  and the slight tailwind pushes me up the hill and cools me off. All that matters is to keep peddling, keep moving the bike forward, up the hill to the next hut.

The Plan

Colorado and Utah are well known for their mountain bike single-track trails. My husband and I are weekend warriors who have ridden multi-day mountain bike trips such as the Kokopelli Trail and the White Rim Trail. But these trips were supported by a vehicle. We were interested in a more self-supported bike trip, to get away from civilization. San Juan Huts was the ticket, with two different hut-to-hut routes. Both routes are 215 miles long, split between 7 days of riding, but we chose to go with the Durango-to-Moab route for the bigger challenge.

Each day there is the main route to travel between the huts, with alternative single-track trails to challenge you. Day one of the Durango-to-Moab route starts at Purgatory Mountain Resort, 25 miles north of Durango proper. In 2013 we decided to start in Silverton to take the alternate route, climbing over 5 miles on our bikes via the highway to the trailhead at Molas Pass.

The cool August drizzle in Silverton turned to a consistent rain with 40 degrees F at the Little Molas trailhead. For over 10 hours we followed the Colorado Trail for 20 miles as it crossed the Continental Divide over Rolling Pass, never descending below 10,000 ft elevation. With at least 6 major creek crossings, and hours in the saddle, our bodies and spirits were destroyed. We arrived at the first hut after dark, with all our gear soaking wet.

After a sleepless night filled with rain, we decided to call it quits and ride back to Durango (over 45 miles away, but mostly downhill). It was a tough decision, as we still had to get back to Moab where our vehicle was waiting. Fast-forward to 2016, the year we would again attempt this trip – this time better prepared, and only attempting the alternate routes if we had good weather and fitness.

The Shelter

When you call San Juan Huts to make a reservation, you are reserving space in six huts in succession, depending on when you start your trip. Part of the adventure is finding out who you will be spending the next 7 days with on the trail and in the huts. Dave and I wondered who we would meet at the first hut. Our fellow adventurers arrived in the late afternoon on that first day, after riding the single-track alternative route on the Colorado Trail. They were tired but happy to be at the first hut. Joe and Jason drove out from North Carolina for their adventure of a lifetime. Thankfully we all got along and had plenty of space in the hut to spread out our gear.

SJH placed their first hut in 1987, but it looked like most of the huts in this system were installed in 2005 or later. They are made of two ‘tuff-shed’ sections on towable trailers, placed on site, leveled and then finished out together.

Inside you will find food storage, 8 bunk beds (four pairs), and a minimalist kitchen. Those huts at higher elevations have wood-burning stoves for heat, and only one hut has a kitchen sink. Each hut has a composting outhouse a few hundred feet from the hut. Each hut is placed far enough from the main roads for privacy while giving the best view from the kitchen windows.

SJH stocks the huts every three days during the busy season. There is plenty of food to snack on, and to make decent meals. Fresh food such as butter and eggs is kept in the large cooler. Water is kept in those blue 5-gallon jugs commonly used for car camping – SJH requests riders ration their daily water intake to two gallons per person.

Calling this trip a ‘bikepacking’ trip is generous. Each night there is a warm, dry shelter to call home. Granted, they aren’t very big, and you have to share space with up to seven of your now closest friends, but each day you are looking forward to getting to the next hut. They are a beacon in the wild landscape. Each morning you close the hut to say goodbye, and each afternoon arrives to unlock the door to come home.

The Gear

One lesson learned from our ill-fated trip in 2013, was to use gear made for bikepacking. This year I purchased a seat bag to carry the heavier stuff (extra food, tools, etc), while the new handlebar bag would hold the lighter-weight clothes. It’s essential to keep the weight off of your back so your bottom doesn’t get sore. I had to rearrange my gear to take the tools out of my backpack because my seat was uncomfortable.

During the trip, I was amazed at how well my body adjusted to pedaling the extra weight up the hills. Prior to the trip, I had switched my bike gearing from a 3×10 to a 1×10, and removed my dropper post and heavy leather saddle, to reduce the weight of the bike. The 1×10 worked well in the long run, but I regret having switched to a very uncomfortable lighter-weight saddle. By the last day of the trip, I was looking forward to the downhill so I could stand!

Additional and essential bags included the two ‘mountain feedbags’ on either side of my stem – one to hold snacks, and another to hold an extra water bottle. Rounding out the gear was the top tube bag I used for maps and more food storage.

Dave had an additional, custom-made frame bag for his hard-tail bike (made by Dirt Bags in Laramie, Wyoming). He was able to carry the extra bike parts and keep the weight low on his bike.

The Discovery

Whether you are trying to get away from it all or looking for your next adventure with close friends (or soon-to-be close friends), the Durango to Moab hut-to-huts is for you. Each day we saw beautiful scenery – the overlook on Bolam Pass on day 1 with a view to Lizard Head Peak. The more time we spent away from ‘civilization’, the more we felt in touch with the schedule of the sun – watching the sunset before going to bed, and waking to the first light. Some days were harder than others – the 18 miles, 5,000-ft climb to the last hut in the La Sal Mountains forced us to dig deeper than we thought we could. Some days tested our navigation skills and trust in each other – route finding in the lands of the Gas Roads while trying to avoid the mud on the main route. A majority of our memories will be of the happy moments while on the bike, pedaling one circle at a time, and watching the world roll by.

Taking a vacation like this allows you to step out of your current reality and take an assessment of what really matters in life. I find myself appreciating the little things I see every day – the butterflies and bees harvesting the pollen from the blooming rabbitbrush at the trailhead, the sound of crickets behind the office building, the quiet of the forest as I ride my bike up a dirt road with the sun beating down on me.

“Congratulations you rode the San Juan Hut Systems’ Durango to Moab Route, and that ain’t no small task! We hope you enjoyed the hot, cold, ups, downs, laughs, views, trails, adventures and misadventures along the way. Remember, some days you have fun, others you build character, we hope you did both between here and Durango and will be back for another bike, ski, or hiking trip with us!” – San Juan Huts

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