Peak(s):  Mt. Evans  -  14,268 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2020
Date Climbed:   07/07/2020
Author:  HikesInGeologicTime
Additional Members:   TallGrass
 Bikewalks for the Blithering   

I suppose I'm lucky in that whenever I start coveting things others have, it's never about their wealth (sure, I could always use more spending money, but I'm pretty comfortable as-is), their romantic lives (tried that a variety of different ways with a variety of different partners, and I'm simply incapable of seeing what the fuss is all about), or their families (I've been allergic to children ever since I was one myself).

No, whenever I get on a kick about how "I want whatever they're having!" it's always about their wackiest time outdoors. When I saw a picture on Reddit a couple years ago of a dude who'd biked to the top of Mt. Evans, then, my first thoughts weren't about how I hated Mt. Evans so much the first 1.5 times I did it that I vowed never to go all the way up it from Echo Lake again unless it was in my car, nor about how I can barely ride a bike on totally flat pavement, but how sweet it would be to be able to say I biked one of Colorado's highest mountains myself.

I quickly pushed aside my desires for a soundly upvoted Reddit post of my very own, however. Evans, after all, really was my First True Hate as far as fourteeners go - that 400' elevation re-gain right before Echo Lake! After a 17 mile day! Some of which, if you're not going back over Spalding on the descent, you have to share with multi-ton metal objects controlled by drivers suffering from altitude sickness! One of whom you might have to catch a ride with if you and your then-BFF summit later than you would've liked, and you only wish that altitude sickness were all that driver was suffering from! Plus the several miles of Neverending Forest below Lower Chicago Lake!

Additionally, I am not engaging in (as much) of the usual levels of hyperbole thrown in as a bonus gift with my English degree when I say that I am truly an abysmal cyclist. I earned my driver's license years before I learned how to ride a bike, and I suspect that there's a certain threshold of maturity + distance to the ground that, once you age above it, means you'll never quite be working with a full toolkit for any physical activity you try and pick up thereafter.

All of which is a very English major-y way of saying that I personally cannot pedal a bike up anything steeper than a 1.5% grade - the maximum grade of the Rails-to-Trails routes I used to ride when I lived in Maryland, home of railroads that date back to when the trains that utilized them had extraordinarily limited power - and so had accepted that my major accomplishments on two wheels were going to maybe consist of biking the entire Highline Canal Trail someday, in segments, minus that part around Colorado and Hampden where it gets all weird and confusing and perhaps I'm the only one who can't seem to find where the trail supposedly cuts east from there, I dunno. The point is, while I can somewhat realistically dream of achieving mediocrity in other athletic endeavors I undertake, such as hiking and skiing, I am a sometimes-literally lost cause when it comes to cycling.

Not the high point of the Northern Central Railroad Trail (now officially renamed the Torrey C. Brown Trail). Another mile north, the trail tops out at a whopping 827'.

Which I believe I tried to point out to TallGrass when he, apparently having learned nothing from having had to pull me up Teakettle and being prepared to do so on Dallas, suggested a follow-up outing of making glorious use of the closed-for-2020 Mount Evans Scenic Byway to make what would otherwise be a boring checkmark (for him) into something genuinely fun (...also for him). And by "tried to point out," I mean I'm pretty sure I actually did...sometime after I blurted out, "That sounds AWESOME! I've been wanting to do that myself!"

It took a couple days to secure a bike for him and fix up the one he'd found as well as Bluebell, the one I've had for twelve years - the first I've owned! - that I'd wrecked after taking a low-speed-but-still-painful tumble over the handlebars on a wet patch of gravel back in April. I spent that time convincing myself that this ride was going to be different from previous rides where I'd tried going above and beyond my ability levels: my legs were stronger, thanks to all the climbing I'd done in the past month! My lungs were as well! And the road might've been the highest paved one in North America, but compared to other manmade paths winding above 14,000 feet, this one maxed out at a single-digit grade!

All of which got me maybe half a mile above the gate barricading the road to cars before I determined that, even pedaling in the lowest gear, I could take in exactly enough oxygen to keep my legs going, but not the rest of my body. I walked my bike up to Mile Marker 1, where TallGrass had stopped to wait for me, then MM 2 for the same, then the closed and boarded-up Dos Chappell Nature Center, where at least the benches were still free for weary travelers' use.

He examined my bike, looking for some way to adjust it that would magically turn me into a decent rider. "You grossly underestimate my incompetence," I informed him, then followed up with the good news that, in the time it would take me to push the bike up to the summit, he would likely be able to get in his own projected goals of tagging the summits of Evans, West Evans, the Sawtooth, Spalding, and Gray Wolf. And if I did have to wait at the summit for a bit, at least there was shelter of sorts up top, and no doubt I'd be happy to have a long rest after my 14.5 mile stroll.

My estimate, however, was based on my usual slower-end-of-the-bell-curve fourteener climb times, which have otherwise been on trails that top out at far less forgiving grades than the one I myself had mentally promised was NBD, really. I couldn't help feeling vindictively gleeful (vindictively against whom, I can't say) when I reached Summit Lake, 9 miles from the car, just under 2h45m after we started. Granted, I had biked a bit of that portion - the road does go downhill in short spurts, after all - but I was haulin' compared to my usual stats!

If Blubell ever needs to set up a bike-dating profile, I'd pick this as the main picture.

I took a break there to get some dramatic shots of my bike in front of the lake and the herd of goats who must be having a confusing summer. I took another break when I really felt the effects of the hike and the altitude catch up to me around MM 13, then another half a mile after that, when another herd of goats included an adorable baby relaxing in the downbound lane. I then had to apologize to the herd after my bike, neglected and upset over it, toppled over loudly onto its side. But I suppose these goats are used to the even louder cacophony of humans' four-wheeled conveyances, so after their initial startle, they mostly resumed snuffling for sustenance in between posing for pictures.

I may not be the biggest fan of human small fry, but I think other mammals' babies are SOOOOOOO CUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTE! <3 <3 <3

I caught up to the weather already swirling above the peak at the same time I caught up to TallGrass, who, despite having stayed on rather than beside his bike during his ascent, had only made it far enough ahead of me to have tagged Evans' summit and started down the hikers' trail toward W. Evans and the rest. He temporarily abandoned his other plans to join me in the ruins of the Crest House as well as the other structures between it and the observatory, due in no small part, I am sure, to the ferocity with which the heavens were unleashing their icy fury right at that moment.

When the skies cleared and we finished our detour, I examined the last set of switchbacks between the parking lot and the summit and mused, "I've pushed this bike the rest of the way up this mountain. Only seems fitting that I push it all the way to the top, doesn't it?" He giggled in a way that really should've discouraged me but did the exact opposite.

Maneuvering my poor hybrid street bike up, over, around, through, and [other prepositions I've blocked from my mind] the rocks pocking this last obstacle between me and my third summit of the Front Range's third-highest peak made me reflect on what a wonder of the modern world asphalt is, and lifting it onto the boulder that bears the USGS benchmark made me reflect on how upper body strength training is also a modern miracle that I really need to take greater advantage of. I did spend a minute or two clutching furiously to the front wheel as the wind gusts decided to toy with me before I cautiously backed away to capture Bluebell's triumph for a well-deserved two minutes of Instagram fame.

I contemplated leaving my Insta post un-captioned so that I could let the followers who don't know my (in)abilities too well wonder how I managed to ride Bluebell all the way up that boulder.

One of the disadvantages to having been faster than anticipated was that I, unwilling to exhaust myself with an excess of repeats, had a while to wait before my partner returned from his summit tour with all but Gray Wolf now under his boots. Sure, I had enjoyed my nap - right up until that altitude atmosphere decided to kick into gear and deliver three seasons' worth of weather in the span of an hour.

Those white flakes aren't dandruff...I think.

The sun, however, had by and large returned by the time TG did, so it was time for the moment that would make it all worthwhile: the downhill downglide. At least, I hoped it would all be worthwhile; one of the downsides of having virtually no uphill experience on a bike was that I was just as unaccustomed to working with gravity as I was fighting against it.

I took my sweet time swinging around the switchbacks and felt my confidence increasing incrementally with each one on which I managed to avoid a repeat spill of the sort that had put Bluebell out of commission for most of three months. By the time TallGrass pulled over near MM 10 to remind me that we had a pretty straight stretch going into Summit Lake, followed by a bit of the dreaded uphill, I was ready to take my fingers most of the way off the brakes...even though I did wind up pedaling anyway. This was, however, closer to the sort of gentle East Coast early-railroad grades I was used to, so I once again found myself spurred by a touch of vindictive gleefulness as I caught up to and then passed my buddy before the road resumed its descent.

The rest of the ride down exhilarated me to the point where even my curmudgeonly internal fiction editor accepted that it was in no way pushing my suspension of disbelief to see a rainbow in the sky off to the east, and while TallGrass won the race he declared two miles from the bottom, my personal-record-setting descent time led me to conclude that every fourteener should be bikable.

I suppose spending time in Colorado requires a baseline suspension of disbelief.

I therefore further conclude that I should probably continue to stay off Reddit, lest someone's picture of them and their mountain bike on top of Capitol give me any more suspect ideas.

But there should be no limit to the number of baby mountain goat pictures circulating through the world, if you ask me!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Nice report
07/23/2020 00:28
Congratulation and wonderful pictures, especially the baby mountain goats.

Very cool
07/23/2020 06:56
Did you see lance Armstrong shooting up there too? Lol I like your idea of easy ways down mountains

Great read
07/23/2020 07:58
You could do this for a living, I'm sure.

Thank you, all!
07/24/2020 17:50
@ltlFish99: Baby goats for all!

@Gandalf69: While I did (understandably) get passed by everyone who came up from behind me, no one was going fast enough to have been doping. :p And as delightful as this descent was, Iâd go on to prove only two days later that I can only manage it with nice, gentle pavement, which seems like it might detract from the natural beauty most fourteeners have, alas.

@12ersRule: Extra thanks! Not to blow my own trumpet too loudly, but I have made almost $15 off sales of my novel!

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