A Long Strange Trip
Some road trips start out with a strange foreboding feeling. You get the sense that you should not be journeying to the destination you have in mind. All parties involved seem to have catastrophic vehicle failure immediately before disembarking. You seem to get stared at by every rough looking local in all the small towns you stumble through. There is the sense that you should most certainly not stick around for too long. Real life seems to resemble the start of some strange horror movie. This was the start of a trip to Winter Park Colorado.
I should start with what sparked the notion for such an adventure. Jeremy, a good friend of mine both on the bike and off, was presented with an offer from the Winter Park chamber of commerce for free accommodations and a chance to ride at Winter Park’s bike park known as Trestle. Of course we decided the 8 hour drive was more than worth it. We have been having a monsoon season in Utah rendering most of our trails muddy for days, and who would not want to experience a new bike park? It took a while before we had picked a date for the trip but as soon as we had we were pumped. Until both of our vehicles seemed to want to sabotage the situation. The brakes on my rather old Subaru wagon decided to go into full lockdown mode. Much like a like an old, used, and abused Avid Elixir, those pistons were not going to budge any more. Jeremy’s car was not faring any better, he was slated for new axles and a suspicious rattle that seemed undiagnosable. Jeremy’s Honda CRV was still going to be the go to for our adventure we figured it had much lower milage and was actually ready in time for our trip… unlike my stubborn vehicle.
Friday afternoon we finally set off on our adventure. We started seeing the familiar sights of Utah alpine slowly give way to desolate desert. You travel through several small towns in the eastern reaches of the state, and some of them are quite obviously unwelcoming to outsiders. You catch the sideways glances and feel that at any moment you may be chased away in a manner similar to the townsfolk absconding Frankensteins monster. In all of our uncomfortable towns we passed through we without a doubt decided on a certain oil town in Utah to be the one place that gave us the heebie-jeebies and were very ok with not passing through there again. After several counties where driving anything other than a diesel monster truck was shameful, things finally turned around when we reached beautiful green Colorado mountains.
After several winding mountain passes we finally neared our destination. We found our lodgings with some difficulty in the darkness of the night and found that we were staying in a 1940’s ski lodge.
The building itself was certainly older and had a lot of character. After negotiating tight twisting staircases and awkward hallways we finally found our room. It was a nice room, with a theme in keeping with old rustic mountain ski lodge. We quickly noticed that showers were going to be a touch difficult and that the door to our room would not even close.
The place certainly had a lot of personality. After a drive filled with scornful glances, and settling in to our new digs, we needed beverages. We found a local micro brewery that seemed quite promising. The food was delicious and much needed. After a few beers, however, It was quite obvious that we were not nearly “cool” enough to be patrons here, and everyone there seemed to know that.
With a strange day of driving, drinks, and dining we decided to hit the hay and start fresh the next morning. We knew that everything would be much nicer in the light of a new day. Everyone knows a day riding bikes is always a good thing. And much as expected, the day started off great. We had breakfast and coffee with some of the nicest people you could meet at Mountain Grind (great food, great coffee, and tons of sweet treats). After waddling away from breakfast in much of a food coma, it was time to hop on the bikes. We were heading to Winter Park’s lift accessed downhill park, Trestle.
Riding at Trestle was the main purpose for our journey. Having seen so many good videos and the tantalizing photos of the Winter Park race for the Enduro World Series we knew we were in store for some great riding. Like any good downhill park there is a good variety of trails for everyone and anyone to find something that they enjoy. Flow trails definitely seemed to be in abundance at Trestle. While I am not typically a fan of many flow trails, a lot of the smooth, buffed-out trails here allow for a rider to really lay it all on the line.
Shy Ann and the Long Trail are perfect examples. On some of the open ski slopes you easily found your self two wheel drifting without any fear as you knew the massive berms would catch you and spit you out the other side at full speed. Some of the wooden features scattered about Trestle are brilliant.
There are several wooden additions on many of the flow trails that add quite a bit to the whole experience. Almost the entirety of the trail Jury Duty is set up on a wide elevated bridge that flows and rolls through the trees. Trails like Boot Camp and No Quarter had wooden senders and massive banked wall rides that were all expertly crafted and made the trails very unique. I think that Trestle had some of the most interesting wooden features I have ever seen.
What may just look like a set of wooden rollers to some riders becomes a massive double to others. Most of the man made features (on lower level trails) are even completely rollable so that more cautious riders can scope out all the trail features slowly before hitting anything at full speed. My favorite trails, of course, are more natural ones. Double Jeopardy was definitely where I found myself heading most of the day.
We had plans of exploring some of the other riding that the town of Winter Park has to offer but the terrain at Trestle was so much fun that we decided to dedicate our whole day to their trails. After hours of non stop shredding, pigging out on pizza and sleeping seemed to be the more important thing to do.
The next day we decided to drive south for our return trip. We were going to grab a mid day ride in Grand Junction before finally making our way home. Heading out of Winter Park you come across this huge mountain pass where you are driving right at the tree line and there are picturesque views all around. The whole time we were driving we kept looking off in one direction or another wondering what hidden gems these mountains hold. I know that I want to go back and explore more of that valley.
We rolled into Grand Junction at the hottest part of the day but were not going to sacrifice a day of riding to the heat. We were heading to an area called Tabeguache.
Tabeguache offers a little bit of everything that makes desert riding a blast. There are one way freeride trails, easy family friendly climbs, as well as some long super technical rock crawls.
The route that we had initially expected to be taking was up the main Tabeguache trail until we found Widow Maker up to Holy Cross. Holy Cross was the trail we were looking forward to. From reading about it it boasted a lot of proper single track with out a whole lot of messing around in between the goods. We started up on the climb to find lots of heat, as well as some very rain worn trails. It was obvious that a lot of wet weather had put the hurt on this trail system. We found that all the rain ruts, and exposed roots and rock edges that were not meant to be there actually made the riding infinitely better.
What used to be a flat corner, was now an off camber, wheel grabbing, just hope you do not hit the brakes, technical masterpiece. Getting distracted by so many different technical trails in the area we soon lost sight of our initial route and just wanted to keep smashing the techiest lines we could find. We found plenty or rocky descents that would bury our forks deep into their travel and stair step climbs that even Rocky Balboa would struggle with.
Eventually we accidentally happened across the Holy Cross trail, and it surely did not disappoint. We were met with plenty of single track and still had plenty of rock features to blast off with reckless abandon. We eventually had to make our way back to the car as water was running low and we did have to eventually return back home and back to reality.
It was not until finishing our ride in Grand Junction that we discovered what the aforementioned rattle in Jeremy’s car was. The sound was the death rattle of his AC compressor. We were slated for a long drive across southern Utah, with no air conditioning other than the 98 degree breeze flowing in from the windows. This made for a trip home much like our trip began, shaking our heads with nothing else to do but laugh. What a long strange trip we had just been on, and it was amazing.