Art, photos and words by Sarah Zoey Sturm
The premise of this trip was simple, three friends wanted to ride trails we'd never been on and right in our back yard mountain range. Oh, and we wanted the route to highlight some of the best descents around. Over 4 days, through the heart of the San Juan Mountains, we gained 11,723 feet in elevation, rode 53.7 miles and descended enough to make anyone squeal. More importantly, the three of us came together from our busy lives to simply ride our bikes in the mountains and have some laughs.
Every bike trip is different, depending on where you go, whom you go with and the amount of suffering your crew is ready to endure. The trip takes on it's own personality that's a combination of the people that are participating. Our mishmash adventure squad covered all bases, from comic relief and berry picking to serious navigation and mechanics we had all we needed. When you're riding in the back country where seeing other humans is a rare occurrence you can't help but feel immense appreciation for the specific adventure crew you've assembled to conquer the ride.
On a ride there are so many things you can’t control, like the weather, flats, crashes and mechanicals. All are pretty significant parts of a ride. Perhaps that is what makes mountain biking so appealing for some. For those addicts of detail, the lovers of control it's a space where you can only prepare for the anticipated hunch of possible failure. As adventurers, it's the space of the unknown in which we seek. In addition to the physical, emotional and locational challenges, it's the acceptance of the unknown and the company present for it that is the true beauty of adventure. What you can control is whom you suffer up hills with, who cracks the right joke amidst the brink of a breakdown and who opens a beer at the summit of a climb as 7:30 AM. Most importantly, you want to choose the people who are capable of making the most wicked fun descent even better.
Teal and Sabina taught me how to ride mountain bikes, they were the cool girls who raced on dirt and I was fresh off of the road bike. I still feel like I'm indebted to them for showing me the beauties of the single track. Since then we have all gone our separate ways pursuing our different careers in geology, bike racing and art. This trip brought us back together, even for a short 5 days. In planning, we each brought something different to the table, Sabina mapped our routes, Teal got us bikes and I made us custom Vans (a necessary item for a bike trip). Sabina's route showcased single track winding through aspen groves, steep climbs to summits you can only dream about and ripping 30 minute descents through roots, loam, rocks and berms.
The trip was like nothing I had ever done, every single trail we touched was "the best trail ever". We rode tracks that really aren't ridden by many bikers and felt like we had discovered some secret of the San Juans. We got to reconnect through the best scenario ever, riding bikes and seeing new places. Even with 4am wakeup calls there were jokes flying left and right. Chamois were put on backwards, allergic reactions were had, beers were cracked and memories were made. You know you’re doing something right when the last climb of the trip is passed by planning more trips, and man, I can’t wait.
Thistles may look pretty but they’ll make you bleed. Worth it for the amount of fun we had descending into Bear Creek.
Picking wild strawberries in our custom Vans
Our last night of the trip was spent at the Opus Hut where Bob, the builder, owner and chef pampered us with home cooked meals and maps.
Where the magic happens. A chilly, dark, pre-ride morning was made more enjoyable with the care of Bob.