Red Feather Riffing

Red Feather Riffing

Red Feather Road looking west

Red Feather Road

About a month ago John and I planned a trip: First night we would hit Lone Pine State Wildlife Area, second night we would hit somewhere around Red Feather Lakes, and then we would make our way home down the Poudre Canyon on the third day. Neither of us had been to any of these places, ridden on any of the roads, and didn’t really know what to expect. We had a rough estimate of mileage, elevation gain, and spots to camp. The trip ended up being a lot more than we expected. Bottom line, we suffered a lot…and that’s a good thing. We exceeded our own expectations and saw some incredible country.  In all we rode 102.5 miles, climbed 6,466 feet, sat in a tent for about 5 hours during a storm, crossed a creek, and ate 12 Clif Bars.

Day One- Fort Collins to Lower Pine Unit of Cherokee Wild Life Area: 30.8 Mile

Mile 5.4: A big knife that is easy to access is a must.

A big knife that is easy to access is a must.

 

Mile 11.5: Halo of blue sky above us

Halo of blue sky above us

 

Mile 12.6

Colorado Countryside

 

Mile 18.2: Junction of Highway 287 and Owl Canyon

Junction of Highway 287 and Owl Canyon

 

Mile 21.7: The Forks at Livermore is a historic point that used to be a roadhouse for loggers in the late 1800s

Mile 21.7: The Forks at Livermore is a historic point that used to be a roadhouse for loggers in the late 1800s.

 

Mile 21.7: First Clif Bar eaten

First Clif Bar

 

Mile 26.7: Red Feather Road

Red Feather Road

 

Mile 30.0: Maxwell Ranch Road at Lone Pine. Peace sign means we made it to our temporary home

Maxwell Ranch Road at Lone Pine. Peace sign indicates that we made it.

 

Mile 30.5: Maxwell Ranch Road jammin'

Lone Pine

 

Abandoned Cabins and Cold Creeks

Old Cabins are like the Sirens. They call to us, singing a beautiful song, reeling those outdoors into its walls, calling passersby to inspect the history that lay within.  We hear the song and will trek in by any means to get to the structure only to find that it isn’t what it seems.

After getting into Lone Pine, we heard the siren’s call. On the other side of Lone Pine Creek was this cabin. The only thing that separated it from us was about 50 feet of rushing water. There was a designated crossing, but the water was still pretty fast there. We tried to look for an easier crossing point, but couldn’t find one. The choice was clear, either camp east of the creek and miss whatever that cabin had to offer, or ford it. We chose the latter.

Mile 30.7: Just hangin' out by the creek

The Gate Keeper of Lone Pine Creek

John waded out into the water with a big stick we found to get the creek’s depth. It was just under waist level. We figured the smartest thing to do would be to take our bags off our bikes and carry everything over piece by piece. We also thought it would be a good idea to strip down to do it. We wanted no wet gear what so ever. This may have been one of the hardest parts of the trip. Fording a river naked with a bike over your head isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world to do. Though hard, we made it across (largely thanks to John who has a solid background in Outdoor Leadership. He seriously coached me like none other across that creek). We were naked, cold, wet, and mentally drained, but we made it. We dried off, tossed clothing back on, put the bikes back together, and went to check the cabin out before we set up camp.

The stoic mountain cabin we thought was across the water had turned out to be a bleak structure. Nothing was proud in it or around it. The floor boards dilapidated, the walls were rotted, an old bed frame lay rusted and broken in the corner, a soot ridden stove lay in the other corner. It had a harsh life. There was a sense of desperation in the cabin. You could feel its abandonment. Though the cabin called us into a tough situation with the creek and possessed some kind of evil vibe, it was all worth it.

Mile 30.8: Lone Pine Cabin

Lone Pine Cabin

MIle 30.8: Base Camp at Dusk

Base Camp at Dusk

Mile 30.8: "Its not delivery, its DiRibes"

We made “pizza bowls” on night one: “Its not delivery, its DiRibes.”




Day Two – Lower Pine Unit to Bellaire Lake Miles: 21

Mile 30.8: Full Nuke Sunrise

Full Nuke Sunrise over Lone Pine

 

Mile 30.8: Breaking down camp

Breaking down camp. Note the gear tanning of the sleeping pad.

 

Mile 31.0: Lone Pine Wildlife Area is home to one of the worst bathrooms in the Western United States. It is a portal to hell.

Lone Pine Wildlife Area is home to one of the worst bathrooms in the Western United States. It is a portal to hell… or maybe even to a place worse than hell. We didn’t stay long enough to find out.

 

Mile 40.2: Literally the only photo from the ride to Red Feather. It was awful. Both of us were climbing too hard to take pics.

The only photo from the climb to Red Feather. It was awful. Both of us were too zoned out to take pics.

Climbing and the Soul

Climbing is a hardening thing. It’s a cardio-metaphysical experience. Your lungs wheeze, your legs ache, and your heart pounds. You zone out. You lock into the road ahead. The top of the mountain is all that is on your mind. Just you, your bike, and the road.

In our case, we had 20 some miles of this on our second day. It was hill after hill, false summit after false summit. The ride seemed endless. But on the last descent, we made it to Red Feather Lakes.  It’s those moments that feel the best. We faced more climbing on the third day, but then had 50 miles of nothing but downhill. Climbing on a bike can be put into a larger context: You have to suffer to the top to enjoy the descents.

Mile 46.8: The Sportsman's Cafe. Our sever was a nice dude named Justin who told us about gold panning, "foodie pictures," and his mountain bike.

Mile 46.8: The Sportsman’s Cafe, Red Feather Lakes- Our sever was a dude named Justin who told us about gold panning, “foodie pictures,” and his mountain bike.

 

Mile 48.3: The Potbelly. We heard they had beer. After our day of climbing we earned a few beers.

Mile 48.3: The Potbelly, Red Feather Lakes- We heard they had beer. The peace sign indicates we happily drank our beers.

 

Mile 49.9: Manhattan Road

Manhattan Road

 

Mile 49.6: Manhattan Road

Manhattan Road

 

John Ribes on Suffering

Why do we suffer? More importantly, why do we put ourselves through intentional suffering? I’m not talking about your classic “cut off your finger and start bleeding everywhere” suffering. I’m talking about the hard stuff; the “4000+ feet of elevation gain” you endure while riding a 70-some-odd-pound bike up some mountains. Maybe you could type in “inspiration quotes” on Google, or look at a poster at your job that says “Perseverance” to get the answer on why we suffer.

To me, there is no real substitute to just doing it. Trail by fire. You’ll hit rough spots on your trip…Yeah? Well you committed to this thing (like a true newbie) and now you have to finish it. While your sanity and bodily functions slowly succumb to the suffering, your mind becomes acute to that exact moment. The feeling of desperation, the feeling of not wanting to die. You gain tunnel vision and focus on your one goal. In our case, it was to get up those damn mountains just to say, “we should probably sit in the tent for a few hours just to brace it from the hurricane winds outside.”

Eventually the pain subsides and you celebrate your accomplishment with a Chipotle Burrito, knowing that all of that pain was worth that delicious guacamole. Intentional suffering and putting yourself into an uncomfortable situation creates a breeding ground for growth. Harness that like the beautiful flower you are. Resistance to suffering is failure. Suffer to survive.

 

Mile 51.5: Bellaire Lake

Bellaire Lake

 

Mile 51.5: Base Camp Night Two: Peace sign means we are the only people camping up here.

Mile 51.5: Base Camp Night Two: Peace sign means we are the only people camping up here.

 

Mile 51.5: Lakeside Chillering (Feel free to sponsor us Crocs and Poler)

Lakeside Chillering (Feel free to sponsor us Crocs and Poler)

 

Mile 51.5: Literally....literally the best photo ever taken of me. Thanks, John. I owe you my life.

Literally….literally the best photo ever taken of me. Thanks, John. I owe you my life.

 

Mile 51.5: Lakeside Chillering

More Lakeside Chillering

 

Mile 51.5: Bellaire Lake

Bellaire Lake Croc Shot

 

Mile 51.5: Lakeside Chillering

Lakeside Chillering (note those tanlines)

 

Mile 51.5: Organizing camp before we got hit with a rain and wind storm

Organizing camp before we got hit with a rain and wind storm

 

Mile 51.5: Rain and Wind put us in the tent for a solid 5 hours. We almost lost our minds.

Rain and wind put us in the tent for a solid 5 hours. We almost lost our minds. Shout out to Black Diamond for making a solid tent that kept us dry.





 

Day Three- Bellaire Lake to Fort Collins:  50.6 Miles

Mile 51.5: View from Camp

Rock formations at Bellaire Lake

 

Mile 51.5: Puffy on, knife in hand, breakfast eaten, vibes set, ready to go.

Puffy on. Knife in hand. Breakfast eaten. Vibes set. Ready to go.

 

Mile 52.7: Manhattan Road

Manhattan Road

 

Mile 53.8: Manhattan Road. This was at the highest elevation we hit at 8,864 feet.

This was at the highest elevation we hit at 8,864 feet.

 

Mile 54.6: Dirt droppin'

Hot Action Dirt Droppin’ down Manhattan Road.

Manhattan Road

Manhattan Road connects Red Feather Lakes to the Poudre Canyon Highway. There ain’t much to say about Manhattan Road other than it is one tough son-of-a-bitch. Coming from Red Feather, the road isn’t too bad: a few gentle climbs, a few turns, lots of camp spots along the way. Then you hit the top. From the apex, you get some good descents, some sharper turns, and beautiful views of the mountains. The road levels out at a spot called Goodell Corner where the mining town of Manhattan used to sit. The place was bustling during the 1860s. Around 2,000 some folks lived there. They had a school, a theater, bars, everything a good mining town should have. Unfortunately, the gold mines began to get sparse and people began to leave. It was almost empty by the 1900s. In the 1930’s the town burned down, leaving nothing but a few logs and some foundation. The grave yard and a hanging tree still remain.

Mile 57.5: Picken's Point

Mile 57.5: Picken’s Point

After you climb another nasty hill out of Goodell Corner, you hit about 4 miles of hellish switchbacks, 14 degree grades, and rocky gravel. This is what made Manhattan Road a Level 5. There is a lookout off of the road called Pickens’s Point where a few headstones sit looking west at the Poudre Canyon. The switch backs and grades begin to mellow towards end where the road connects to the Poudre Canyon at Glen Echo.

Mile 59.7: Glen Echo on the Poudre Canyon Highway

Mile 59.7: Glen Echo on the Poudre Canyon Highway

 

Mile 59.7: Hydration

Hydration, light, and Old Glory

 

Mile 62.6: The Poudre

The Poudre Canyon

 

Mile 65.1: The Poudre

The Poudre Canyon

 

Mile 77.5: The Mish

Mish, bro.

The Red Zone

We hit the Mish, had one Clif Bar left each, one gel shot left each, and one picture left in the cameras. We ate all of it, and took this picture. It was about 25 miles left until we were home. There was a marathon in the Canyon that day so we basically had no cars behind us. John and I said more than ten words to each other from Ted’s Place to the Chipotle on College and Laurel . We were so close to home. We were hungry. We were dirty. We were dead set on finishing.

The self-reflection that followed included the obvious and not-so-obvious. The ride taught us that we can throw down 4000 plus feet of climbing on loaded bikes in a day, that granola and peanut butter mixed in a plastic bag is a tasty breakfast, that people still gold pan, and that people love to talk to you about your travels when you are on a bike. More importantly, the trip taught us that we are stronger than we think. And that was the biggest take home of them all.

Strava

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