Settle

Settle: The word sometimes comes with negative connotations, especially in the competitive circles I associate with, but settling isn’t always a bad thing. Settling can be good. Settling is happening all over the Rockies at the moment; leaves are falling in more of a stampede than a flutter. The change of colours happened so fast this year.

The weather broke briefly at the beginning of September, but the hiatus of 90 degree days was so short that perhaps only the trees noticed it. They responded though, in all their magnificence. Just 12 months ago I enjoyed ten full days of progressive brilliance in southwest Colorado with Frank and Vicky. This year the viewing window decreased to a week at most. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go high enough to find the Gold.

The leaves are certainly more settled than I am at the moment. Living as an immigrant in a country which really does not like immigrants is one problem. Determining the long term is a whole other problem, but the solutions are intertwined, so I’m just focusing my energy on deciding what I want, and hoping the where comes along later. Anyway, this autumn is going to be all about long rides in beautiful places.

fresh air = fresh mind.

Classic

Within three days of moving to Colorado, I was made aware of Kenosha Pass. For a while, it held a magical place in my mind; only ever mentioned with the most amazing of cycling experiences. Each person that had been fortunate to have ridden its hallowed dirt came back with stories of above treeline wonder and 360 degree beauty, coupled with a mountain biking experience to live and die for.

Each opportunity that presented itself to ride the Colorado trail from Kenosha pass had, until Sunday, been missed for reasons probably not worthy enough. Finally, there was a perfect Sunday with no barrier to trail heaven.

I had company. Jamie, through no fault of his own, suffers from a debilitating condition called boulder-bike-delusion. Its a simple but agonising condition with a geographic restriction to those residing inside the bubble. Its cause is known, but no treatment is yet to be found. Quite simply, the sufferer socialises almost solely with pro athletes, or other exercise maniacs. They are strong riders, but they will always suffer from a stunning sense of self-depreciation due to the tilted spectrum of fitness that resides in Boulder.

Knowing Jamie’s’ disability, I had enthusiastically invited him to ride with me. On the drive up, the symptoms were apparent. “I hope I don’t hold you up” and “I haven’t mountain bikes for a while” were spouted. I ignored his delusions.

We arrived at the car park and kitted up in record time. We were both excited and eager to get riding. With a holiday weekend, we were certain the trail would be a zoo of people and bikes, but less than 10 cars had beaten us to the start. We snaked in through the first Aspen trees, sensing the beginning of their colour change from green to orange.

Jamie took to the front, after a little encouraging. And this is where the symptoms of his delusion began to show. The pace was high; he cranked down on the pedals, over the rocks and the roots. My legs strained. My lungs complained at the lack of oxygen found above 3000 metres. His worry that he would hold me up led to a blistering pace for the first couple miles. My respite came when his enthusiasm threw him off the end of a switchback. I took to the front and tempered the pace, caught my breathe and we began our climb through some of the most amazing scenery in the state.

Our timing, the first weekend in September, was impeccable. The lower Aspens had the merest glint of yellow among their foliage. As we climbed, the hues slowly shifted towards ochre and bronze. The trail bed had a rough scattering of leaves that picked up as you pedalled over them and danced around your ankles before settling again for the next rider. We were in heaven. The reputation held; this trail is amazing.

On the lower slopes of the real climb up to Georgia pass, I finally managed to cure Jamie of his condition. We caught rush hour. We passed perhaps 25 people in the space of 15 minutes. Bodies and bikes strewn across the single-track, grinding noises emanated from the machines being un-gently thrust up the climbs underneath sweating and heaving masses of tired human. We shouted ‘on your left’ and were greeted with friendly smiles; riders finally finding an excuse to stop and take a breather. Our momentum was high, I turned the pace up a couple notches, and Jamie just kept on following.

We stopped and caught our own breathe after a particularly steep section. We had passed all those people who started before us, and were on the boundary of treeline. I knew I didn’t have to say anything; he knew, suddenly, that when you’re not in Boulder, your relative fitness jumps through the roof. Suddenly you’re the fittest and fastest and most able.

Cresting Georgia pass under the broken sunshine and clouds, we had the most magnificent view. Sat in front of us were the mighty slopes of Mt. Guyot (Guy-ot, or guy-oh??), and in the distance was the entirety of the ten mile range stretching its way towards Frisco in the North. The backside of Keystone ski area, and the rougher sections of Arapahoe basin were also in view.

We took a short break at the top, but really we both were just in a hurry to get on and get back down the trail we’d earned on the way up.

I’m really happy to put a tick in the box next to Kenosha pass, and do it at the perfect time of year as well.