It's the Journey not the Destination
A true friend is one who overlooks your failures and tolerates your success! When reaching out beyond your limits, it is always best to do it with true friends. This trip was no exception. None of had attempted something like this and while some who read this will bust our nuts for staying in a rustic cabin vs. laying on the hard ground in a tent. Nonetheless, this adventure was not about the destination, but the journey.
I knew these mountains well. I have ridden my horses up here for nearly twenty years, I have biked, camped and hunted, and even run Boyscout Trips, but all supported by a vehicle. The dirt roads, the double and singletrack all looked different when on a bike pulling a trailer. The smells, the sounds; also all different. Sometimes people don't see what's right in front of them. Bikepacking slows things down, you are disconnected from technology, from the city, from people. It's just you, man's greatest invention and God.
Pike National Forest, is home to America's Mountain - Pikes Peak, a 14,114 foot beast of a mountain! Has over 1 million acres of trees, rivers, lakes, and is home to some fantastic wildlife including Mountain Lions, Bears, Rocky Mountain Elk, and massive Mule Deer.
As mentioned, our route took us on dirt roads, doubletrack and singletrack which ran through some fantastic scenery. This was the shorter of the two days and led us in a loop around a small peak to the cabin all at 9,200 feet above sea level. There are many places in Colorado were these old cabins still are used for the stray and weary. Some of these cabins were built for the Cowboys to use when moving cattle some for the railroad workers bringing out silver and gold. A lot of them have an interconnected trail system linking them to each other so that hikers, bikers and even snowshoers can create trips that utilize them. Today these trips are called Hut to Hut Adventures, back in the day they were called a lifesaver!
It's a stretch, but on adventures like this you can't help but think that you're a part of something bigger than yourself. A 150 years earlier these same mountains, trails, and cabins were used by families heading west, homesteading or just trying to survive the brutal winter or an attack from native Indians. Like I said, a stretch, but you can't help wondering what took place here all that time ago.
This cabin's amenities were simple; a wooden box to keep us dry and warm, bunks with a 1/2" pad, a picnic table, a grill, and a firepit. That was it, nothing fancy, but home for the night.
Dinner was also simple. My experience packing with horse taught me that a hot meal will always set better than PB&J or cold cuts - blah! Packing proper and light is the key and making sure you have a great meal doesn't hurt. That flask you ask, yup, three old fat guys in a wooden box, you'll need a little Captain in ya to drown out the snoring!
Mornings in the mountains are crisp and dry, and the mist on the lake as the sun rose was absolutely breathtaking! Breakfast was simple, packing was quick, and we were on our way out. This leg of the trip was over 40 miles in length. While we started at 9,100 feet or so, we climbed up to 9,400 feet before heading down. But it was not all downhill, in all we climbed 1,500 feet during the 3,500-foot descent. Everybody thinks going downhill is easy, I'm telling you it's not. There is a lot of work to be had, especially with an additional 25 pounds of trailer and gear chasing your ass behind you.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together! That statement has a lot of truth to it. As a downhill racer and cycling competitor, I used to go fast, and I did it alone. Now that I am a bit older I prefer going a bit slower and thus farther; you'd be amazed at what you now will see and hear; learn to enjoy that peace.
This was a trip with good friends, and one will not soon forget.
Some logistics to consider about being in these mountains:
There are three officially designated Wilderness areas lying within Pike National Forest. Two of them so huge they extend into neighboring National Forests; Buffalo Peaks Wilderness, Lost Creek Wilderness, and Mount Evans Wilderness. A wilderness area is a region where the land is in a natural state; where impacts from human activities are minimal. Under Federal Law, the following are prohibited: Possessing a using a wagon, cart, motor vehicle, motorboat or motorized equipment, using a hang glider or bicycle, the landing of aircraft, or dropping or picking up of any material, supplies, or person utilizing aircraft, including a helicopter. In a lot of cases, entering or being in a designated Wilderness as part of a group of more than ten people or twenty-five heartbeats (dogs, horses, lamas, etc.).
Yes, no bicycles and Colorado is a "fence out" state meaning that landowners have the inherent right to fence their land or leave it unfenced. In the early 1880's the Colorado legislature passed a "fencing" statute. This statute is commonly referred to as the "open range" or "fence out" statute. "Open range" is a definition of land, not a law. Why is this important, because that also means they don't have to post No Trespassing Signs and it's the responsibility of the individual in those areas to know those land boundaries. Trespassing is against the law.