A True Epic

Posted by on Nov 14, 2011 in Daily Blog | Comments Off

It is one of the most spectacular rides in Colorado. It extends for over 20 miles, crosses a pass at 11,700 feet, drops about 100 feet in an 1/8th of a mile, rolls through scree fields, and ends with a screaming single track. Where you start the climb on the Kennebec Pass ride through the La Platas to the top of the pass is up to you. I usually launch about half way up the dirt forest service road. That makes picking up the truck easier on the tail end of the ride, but adds several miles of riding, climbing nearly 2,000 feet of elevation on a loose dirt road before you get to the top of the pass. Once you’re at the top you descend through a scree field to a pine forest and finally to Junction Creek. Then climb again for 4 miles before you get to 11 miles of kick ass down hill. This ride offers challenges in fitness, squaring up against the weather, and making sure you have enough food, water, and tools. This ride is remote almost from the launch.

Summer was wrapping up and snow threatened the high country. It had been two years since I had ridden Kennebec. I felt the need to get lost in the backcountry for a few hours so I started calling my riding buddies. The ride is intimidating, and if you haven’t been on your bike just the amount of miles entailed can steer you away. I was able to round up two solid friends to hit the trail with. At some point in our discussion of rides we should do some shorter options were tossed around, but I needed this ride.

We met in Durango, set up the shuttle at the Dry Fork trail head, parked half way up La Plata Canyon and schlogged to the top of the pass, with a minor detour up a side canyon (not on purpose). The scree field on the initial descent was loose and soft making steering hard but we made it through without incident. Thunder pushed us onward. You don’t want to be above tree line when the lightning starts. The rain started to come down as we entered the pines. The roots got slick but, as luck would have it, the rain stopped before water was running down the trail.

We stopped at the bridge at the bottom of the first descent and fueled up. I have to admit a craving for Clif Shot Blocks even on a short ride, but I got to try Clif’s waffle thingy’s on this ride, and they rock!

Loaded up on sugar and carbs we started to climb. We had already been on the trail for about 4 hours, making the climb feel a bit like punishment. You are on the bike and off again, the whole time trying to ignore how sore and tired your legs are.

Once you are at the top the final descent starts. The riding is fast and fun, but you are tired and response time can be slowed so the trick is to not let the bike out run you.

This ride takes endurance, skill, and an enthusiasm for self imposed torture, but it offers some of the most consistent fun riding in Colorado. In some ways it reminds me a bit of my wife’s pregnancies. In the middle of the ride I often wonder how I convinced myself that it was a good idea. Months later I can only remember the fun and have a yearning to go through it all over again.