Having made all our plans, gathered our "necessities", and weighed down our bikes with a plethora of gear, it was nearly time to hit the road. The week prior to our departure seemed something of a scramble with not only the usual final preparations and running hither and yon gathering items that suddenly become an absolute necessity, but also dealing with a few additional revelations about the trail routing itself.
I'm clueless and smiling:
Being a fan of the Colorado Trail Race, I was following various posts and and stories about their preparations for departure just a couple days before we were to leave. They'd be running south to north this year, the opposite of us, so I knew running into at least some of the front runners, was a good possibility. I ran across some tidbit that mentioned a "southern detour" route. Digging deeper into it, I found that our route had a significant bike route detour around a section of wilderness smack dab in the middle of section 4. As biking and even possession of a bike in national wilderness areas is forbidden (and punishable by a hefty fine), there is a road route around the affected portions of trail. The chatter on the CTR sites was that the normal route using Highway 285 was not really enjoyable due to the traffic volume and lack of shoulder on most of the road while you're climbing for 2 hours solid. The new reroute to the south utilized mostly fire roads and a lower traffic highway, but was also 50 miles longer.
In retrospect, while we had a trail guide for planning, it was an older edition that was missing all of the biking reroute information. Definitely a bit of an oversight on our part. After a fair bit of back and forth, between Kyle, Taylor, and I, and me downloading both versions of the route onto my GPS, we finally decided that the normal 285 route wasn't going to be that bad. We'd just deal with the highway and traffic versus adding 50+ miles each direction to a route that already seemed like it was ambitious. That hiccup being settled, we got down to finalizing our escape plan from town and figuring out some benchmark distances for the ride.
Final routing- 200ish mile roundtrip with 26,000'+ climbing.
Our basic plan was to leave town at 8pm Monday, drive overnight arriving early Tuesday, grab some breakfast, park at a friend's place in Littleton, gear up our bikes, and ride to the trailhead. For the first day, we were shooting for 70 miles on the CT (Colorado Trail) plus the 10-15 miles it was going to take us to ride to the trailhead. Basically, that was the distance on the CTR that would put us at the end of the 285 reroute and back on the CT with water available at that location. Our 2nd day would be much shorter, but a big push over Georgia pass before descending upon Breckenridge. I figured it would be pretty ambitious to hit 70 miles on day 1, but it also gave us a lot of leeway in being able to stop at a shorter distance and still being able to make it up the next day and getting to Breckenridge for a resupply and hopefully a hot meal and shower as well.
We'd camp overnight in/around Breckenridge on night 2 and if we were there early and feeling ambitious, we thought we might be able to catch a short ride sans our gear on some of the more fun trails we're familiar with having ridden numerous times in the area. Day 3 would have us turning tail for home with a familiar route now in front of us and a downward trend towards are riding that would hopefully help with a couple solid days already in our legs. We figured the distance on day 3 would be dictated by how we felt and just how taxing the climb back over Georgia pass would be. After the pass its a pretty solid downhill effort for quite some time as we'd again hit highway 285 back to the end of segment 3 of the CT. From there, we'd hopefully hit a solid but again downward trending day back to the trailhead and then onto our waiting vehicle on Friday. We arranged for a friend's floor to sleep on for Friday night followed up with some local front range riding on Saturday morning before beginning the trudge back to reality.
Something we definitely were thinking about was the somewhat unpredictable mountain weather. All signs pointed to overall decent conditions temperature wise and most likely some rain to deal with. Mid 80's/low 60's in Denver to mid 70's/low 50's in Breckenridge were the temperature ranges. Afternoon rain showers are almost a certainty this time of year in the mountains as well so we were anticipating that we'd find at least one wet day on the trail. For our gear, I think we all were packed anticipating possibly cold and wet weather being a much higher probability than sun and heat. After all, it's summer in Iowa, we're much more acclimated to being hot and sweating than having cold rain pouring down our backs. Little did we know...