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)
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.