The Monarch Crest trail is supposedly one of the most iconic in all of Colorado, so it was a must do for Aaron and I. After talking to numerous bikers around Salida, picking up a detailed map of the area with all trail options, and reading a bit online, we still could not decide which route to take after the Monarch trail section.
You can pay $20 a person to take a shuttle from Poncha Springs (4 miles from Salida), where they will drive you and your bike to the top of Monarch pass and let you ride the almost 40 miles back to your vehicle in town. (http://www.monarchcrest.com/maps.htm) Or you can drive your own vehicle to the top, ride one of the many trails down, and hitchhike back to your car.
We decided to drive ourselves to the top. Reading again our choices on the way up the pass, we finally decided to do an out and back, almost 20 miles total. That way, we could avoid the whole hitchhiking scenario.
It was a little chilly at the top. Aaron wore his sleeves and I put on my rain jacket. And off we went.
After some climbing but more descending, Aaron and I got to the point where the guide book said to turn around (if you were doing the out and back option). The scenery was awesome, but the thought of turning around and climbing back up wasn't as appealing as continuing down and seeing 30 miles of new Colorado. We had heard Silver Creek was a bit sketchy and loose, but knowing it is the traditional route down that is part of the "must do" sequence, we changed our minds (we do this a lot) on the fly and decided to keep heading down. The price would be having to find a way back up to our car. The payoff: more downhill and fresh single track.
Here's the profile.
Although the profile of the route is downward, and the day starts at over 12,000 feet and ends at less than 8,000 feet, there was some significant climbing. For us, anyways. We ended up climbing about 3,000 feet before it was all said and done. Here I am, moving so slowly my wheel is going sideways.
Silver Creek was (I'm running out of words for beautiful, gorgeous, awesome, breathtaking). It was all of those. I realized what the locals were saying about the loose and technical parts. A few sections you are literally riding on a trail made of rocks, like the ones you can see in the background of this picture. There are also a few fairly steep switchbacks on loose dirt. But there are also fields of wild flowers. And moose.
I walked over to a guy pumping gas into his maroon jeep and asked him if he was heading north on Hwy 50. "Yes, to Maysville anyways." I then asked if he would be willing to give someone a ride that far. "Sure" he said. "Ok, my husband is going to go with you if that's ok." The kind gentleman took Aaron all the way to Monarch pass, even though it was out of his way.
So we had survived and thoroughly enjoyed the day. We topped it off with a pizza and salad at Amica's. I love this state.