Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Salida, Colorado: Wilderness Trek and Rainbow Trail

I'm at the Wilderness Expeditions headquarters in Salida.  Aaron is somewhere on Mt. Antora right now with a group of boys from school on a Trek trip.  I'm hanging around town getting ready for the upcoming SilverRush50 race in Leadville on Saturday. 

 On our way in from Texas, we stayed in Raton, New Mexico.  We were just in time for the hot air balloon festival!

This is the Wilderness Expeditions "base camp."  We're staying in the cozy bunk houses on the left.  This place was used as a dude ranch many years ago before Tommy and Kristi purchased the property.  

Here is a good view of Salida from the north, on the top of Tenderfoot mountain.  The Wilderness HQ is on the south side (off the left side of the picture), at the base of Methodist Mountain.

Aaron is ready to rock 'n roll!

 Daniel Anderson leads the group in a "Trek warm-up."  Here 3 different groups prepare to head out to their different mountains.  Daniel is one of the guides with our group.  He has been doing this for a long time...they are in good hands.

The boys are climbing South Antora. They took off from Middle Creek trail head about 60 miles southwest of Salida.  The mountain is not far as the crow flies from where we are staying, so it is cool to see the mountain and know they are somewhere up there.

 Anxious to get wheels on the ground after seeing the boys off, I took a short jaunt outside of town in the evening.  Salida sits around 7,000 feet altitude, so it is a nice middle ground to prepare for the Leadville race, which will be at elevations between 10,000 and 12,000.  This picture is kind of dark, but the skyline is cool.  Most evenings, Salida has been enjoying some brief rain showers.  As in Texas, rain is always welcomed.

I took a road that heads up the base of Methodist Mountain.  I only went up a few miles before I saw sights like these.  You have to look closely in the picture below, but there are three mule deer bucks in velvet that were traveling together.  While I was looking at them, a huge red-tail hawk flew right if front of me (too quick for the camera).  This is why I love riding.  You never know what you will see.
 I also saw on the end of my "intro to Salida" cruiser, once back in town,  2 guys who were competing in the Tour Divide race.  I recognized them by all the gear they had on their bikes and the weary looks on their faces.  I rode for a few blocks with Bruce (his buddy Mark was a little ahead) and he told me they had started at Breckenridge that morning, a mere 96 miles ago.  They had crested a 12,000 ft. pass at some point as well.  He said sometimes on the ride you "just get tired," but that you also see some amazing things.  I imagine in the 2,745 miles that it takes to get from Canada to Mexico, they see a lot.  To check out this amazing race, go to  There's also a documentary from several years ago you can find on netflix.  We actually met the girl featured in the film, Mary, when we were at the local bike shop in Idyllwild, CA, in June.

Absolute Bikes is a stop some of the Tour Divide riders make on their journey.  I had asked at the shop if any riders were passing through.  They said some had already come through and others were still on their way.  It was that evening that I ran into Bruce and Mark.

 One of my favorite parts of Salida is the local eateries.  I'm trying to limit myself to one meal out a day, but it's not easy.  The first morning I went with the ladies (2 moms and their daughters who are also hanging around base camp while their sons are on the trip) hit up Patio Pancake for breakfast.  Other favorites are Amica's pizza and the Ploughboy farmer's market.  The espresso shop, pictured above, has become my favorite spot in the mornings.  For $1.50 I can fill my coffee mug and hang out.

 This week I'm trying to stay rested for the upcoming endurance race, but also ride enough to get my body used to the altitude and the up and down nature of the trails.  (Uh, Toto, we're not in Texas anymore.)  One trail I had to do was the famous Rainbow Trail.  There are miles and miles of it, so I  picked up a trail map and talked to some locals.  I ended up doing a 9 mile section as an out-and-back that included the beloved Bear Creek.  That part was awesome, with fairly mild undulation and gorgeous views.  The last 3 miles to Howard Creek had me off my bike walking some of the uphill sections that were too steep to ride.  I kept thinking as I went down, "I'm gonna have to get back up this thing at some point."  A few times in the 3 mile section I almost turned around, but I was afraid I might miss something.

 I started from the Methodist Mt. trail head just south of town.  I actually had to put Aaron's truck (he doesn't know yet) in 4x4 low to make it the last several miles.  That was an adventure in itself!

 The Bear Creek section has a meadow at the 1 and 5 mile mark that serve up some fantastic views of the town.  Tenderfoot mountain is at the right hand side, north of town.  The Rainbow Trail crosses Methodist mountain which is off the left of the picture, at the top of all the pine trees.

 In the middle of the 3 miles between the Bear Creek and Howard Creek, there was another meadow where I stopped to refuel and stretch.  The picture above is from the top of the meadow, the one below is from the bottom.  True "mountain" biking at last.  The highest point I hit for the day was around 10,000 ft.

     There were a few "don't look down' sections.

The day was amazing.  Now I know why so many people love the Rainbow Trail.  Oh yea, I also saw a Western Tanager.  I had to look up what it was when I got back, but you can see from this picture I snagged off the internet why he was hard to miss:  (from

I forgot about this place when I was mentioning local joints earlier.  I had a chicken sandwich, grilled vegetables, and sweet potato fries at the Riverside restaurant.  Not a bad way to end a great day on the trail.

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