Colorado bike camping trip in the middle of January: rad concept, even better practice. I have been getting cabin fever this winter…like really bad. The trainer is no fun, the bundled up rides are alright, and the dream of warm weather and long days seems to be forever away. Luckily, the Winter Ralleye Bike Series exists. The Ralleye rides were started in 2003 by Subculture Cyclery owner Jason Shellman, and then taken over by Colin Pinney of Kelpie Cycles with the purpose of getting people stoked on winter riding and to have fun while doing it. The rides take place once a month, and for January, the ride is a camp trip to Ansel Waterous Campground in the Poudre Highway, dubbed “Two Days of Cold Toes.”
We met up at Swing Station in Laporte to “carb up” before we headed into the Canyon. It is always fun meeting up to see all the different bikes and pack styles each person has. I rode my single speed 29er with a soft bag set up, just taking whatever to keep warm with out hauling too much weight. After a few beers and catching up, we rolled out.
The ride up the Canyon was super nice, bluebird weather and no head winds. We stopped after a little climb to eat some snacks, grab a beer, and hang out for a second. Now, this is the best part about the Ralleye rides. Everyone is out to just have fun and to, well, just ride for the sake of riding. There is no pressure and always someone who will ride by your side. The Ralleye rides put you back into the mindset of why we started riding bikes in the first place. Its more about getting stoked and experiencing whats around you , rather than getting KOMs or PR-ing a segment.
We all split from the break spot and headed past Poudre Park towards camp. In all, it was about a 22 mile ride from town. We left a bit after noon, so its not like we were in a rush. This gave us a chance to enjoy the scenery and take our time setting up camp.
After we set up camp and cracked some beers, a few of us crossed the river and went for a little hike. The river was frozen over and kind of a trip to walk across! We hiked up to the top of this ridge where on the other side was a waterfall. It was a nice little surprise that the guys who have done the ride in years past found. The waterfall was a little iced over and not rushing by any means, but it was still rad to see. Some dudes split over to the other side via this rock formation. I stayed back and watched the highway from the ridge for a little while. It was a good spot to just watch and listen. There are all those quotes you see about stopping to take in the moment and shit, so that’s what I decided to do. Totally worth it, especially with the sun starting to drop into the twists and turns of the canyon. I snapped some shots, finished my beer, and headed down the ridge back to camp.
The night began to fall and we lit the fire, cooked some food, and the party started. Possibly one of the coolest parts of the trip was watching the moon rise. It was something that a picture could not do justice for. The soft glow of the moon illuminating the rocks and the ice capped water hit our camp leaving some of us standing in its awe. We see the sunrise every now and then, catch a sunset while heading home from work, but seeing the clear moon rise and light everything up is something special. As it began to peak and the stars settle for the night, some of us decided to head up the road to the Mishawaka to snag some beers and food. The Mish is a Northern Colorado mainstay. It was built in 1919 by Walter S. Thompson who homesteaded the property and decided to set a little roadhouse up there. Over time the Mish became a popular spot for travelers. Today, the Mish is still a little roadside restaurant and bar, but also a venue in the summertime.
After the Mish, we rode back to camp and hung by the fire. Now, here is where my night got weird…I had some ultra-vivid dreams and weird half-sleep hallucinations all night. Not sure if it was the full moon, the cold, or the Peppermint Schnapps in my hot coco, but something had my brain all wigged out. I am pretty sure it was the full moon… There was a bunch of other people the next morning who said they had really weird dreams and stuff happen in their sleep too. Regardless of whatever it was, it was kinda rad!
It was tough getting out of the sleeping bag in the morning. When you are all bundled up and warm, the last thing you want is to step outside in to low 20 degree temps. Luckily, a kind soul started the fire early and the sun was beaming down. This was first episode of cold toes I experienced. Everyone left at their own pace in the morning. I ate my protein powder laced oatmeal, re-packed, helped tear the tent down (shout out to Mary Taylor for bringing a tent to share), warmed up and hit the road.
The ride home was chilly, but pretty much all down hill. We had nice weather again which was solid. All in all, I only had cold toes once and I am not complaining! It was a perfect way to spend a weekend: Two days of fun riding, a warm fire, cold beers, good buds, and really, really weird dreams.