In 2016, seven years later...we decided to go on a honeymoon. I mean, call it what you want, it was really an excuse to get my main squeeze to spend almost two weeks of uninterrupted time with me. Yeeehaw! Up until that point, the most time we had spent alone together was maybe five days. I was so stoked to hit the road and share this new experience together. Looking back, I'm wondering what I really planned out other than mountain biking because we pretty much winged the entire trip. The unfortunate thing was that Jessica caught a cold right before we left. Thankfully she's a stubborn one, so it wasn't even a thing..... and we were off...!
We dropped the kids off early in the morning and started crusin' down 35E. Our first stop was Denver to see family and then onward to Salida, Colorado to ride the The Monarch Crest. If you enjoy ripping around on two wheels, this is a must-do and should be added to your bucket list. The drive to Denver was all gravy but by the time we were en route to Salida, the hours behind the wheel were starting to wear just a little. If I remember correctly, we went to bed that night not speaking (perhaps due to my driving?). haha.
We took the 8am High Valley Bike Shuttle in Poncha Springs up to Monarch Pass. The climbs weren’t too bad (short & punchy) and the views were, of course, unreal. The latter half of the ride is where the downhill fun starts. Silver Creek into Rainbow and out was a lot of fun. We rode roughly 40miles in total and reached 11,963ft. I don’t remember how much climbing we did, but I would guess around 3,000ft. The juice is worth the squeeze!
Monarch Crest - MTB Project: Link HERE.
We wrapped up riding the Monarch and regrouped at the truck. Whatever we were bickering about the night before had long dissipated. There's room for nothing but happiness when you're in paradise.
From Salida, we took off for Crested Butte. We stopped in Gunnison, CO for the night and checked in at Big Al's Bike shop early the next morning to have a couple of things fixed on the bike and to ask a couple of questions. The folks here were awesome and super helpful. Not wanting to waste daylight, we were out the door pretty quick to get up Gothic Road.
The 401 was an awesome rip for our first ride in Crested Butte (not including the grueling 6 mile climb up fire road. Then again, maybe it was only tough for us considering we were coming off a 40-miler the DAY BEFORE). Had we known it was so amazing, we would have allotted more than a single day to ride there. It's so beautiful it's almost tough to ride. You want to keep your head on that swivel while at the same time keeping those eyes on the single track before you. You can read the whole write up on the 401 at MTB Project, here.
It was a pretty short drive up to Fruita from Crested Butte, only 3-ish hours. The thing is, when you come from the midwest you are used to pretty flat driving. Once the rockies are in sight, I could drive all day, every day. I love it.
It was July and it was scorching in the Fruita desert. Our initial plan was to camp down near 18 Road, thinking the temps would drop over night. But it didn't break below 85 degrees until 4 or 5am, so we opted for a hotel. We knew we were going to spend two days riding in Fruita and we needed to let our bodies recover from the previous days' riding. The plan was to ride Horsethief and the Kokopelli trail loops.
It was hot so we made sure to be down at the Rustler's Loop Trail Head at the crack of dawn. We rode for a few hours before making our way back to the truck for some lunch. Instead of riding the rest of the afternoon, we decided to head down to Moab and explore Arches National Park.
"How far of a hike is it to the Arch?"
"Which one? There are over two thousand..."
We made our way winding through the park and stopping at a few different arches, such as the Double Arch, and then hiked up to the Delicate Arch. Our Utah obsession had only just begun, so we really had no idea what was waiting for us at the end of the trail. It was hot and the sun was brutal but it was worth every step and drop of sweat. The Delicate Arch is truly a sight to behold.
The following morning, we were up at 18 Road as the sun was coming up. We spent the morning riding as much as we could. I have to say that riding Zippity Do-da was the highlight for me. The review on MTB Project was pretty spot on. Riding up on the spine of these huge rollers was better than any roller coaster I have been on. The hills were steep, but just sit back and roll. You won't stop smiling.
From Fruita, we decided to head up to Park City, UT. The next morning we planned on riding the Wasatch Crest from Park City.
We were up bright and early as we began our Wasatch Crest ride from Park City at 9 am. We found a weird cab driver that took us up to Guardman Pass. He said that he has the patent for the North Shore Rack. After sharing some of his business plans he changed gears and moved into conspiracy theory. After a few close encounters we made it to Guardman Pass and ripped it from there. This is another one of those rides I feel you gotta add to your bucket list if you love rippin around on two wheels. It's a IMBA Epic ride and easily a top 10 ride. Puke hill wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think we only made one stop to catch our breath. That elevation has a way of reminding you that you are nature’s bitch. I am not entirely sure, but I believe we were riding at around 10,000ft. Views were gorgeous and 360 for most of the ride. We met a lot of awesome people.
The drive home was filled with surreal scenery almost the entire way. From Park City, we continued north into the Grand Teton's National Park. "An ethereal mountain landscape where jagged peaks tower more than a mile above the Jackson Hole valley, Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming just south of Yellowstone National Park and just north of the town of Jackson.” No bears, but there was quite a bit of wildlife running around. We hiked around Jenny Lake. Jenny Lake seemed to be a starting point for a lot of overnight hike/campers. It was absolutely beautiful. I cannot wait to get back and spend more time there.
From the Tetons we continued into Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, we hit the south east corner and bypassed Old Faithful among other beautiful sites. The drive was gorgeous. We stopped several times, but only briefly.
The final stop on the way home was Badlands. I had no idea what to expect. It is not often we make the drive through South Dakota as we typically are heading up I-35 through Iowa. The stop was well worth it...we were both blown away. One minute we were driving through open prairies only to have the earth open up right in front of us. I can’t believe it was my first visit through the Badlands. I am pretty confident it will not be my one and only visit. We saw a few Bison, bighorn sheep, a lot of prairie dogs and one coyote.
And before we knew, we rolling into Minnesota. It was an incredible trip filled with memories I will never forget! So thankful for the experience. I believe that every time you hit the road to travel you become a grander version of yourself. You continually learn in such an expedited way, while simultaneously... completely inconsiderate of time. I've come to realize that home is not a four walls with a roof kind of a place. It is a feeling. Something about the mountains, the forest, the ocean, the giant canyons, water falls...that evoke such a feeling of home. Solitude is incredible and needed but sharing these experiences with someone that you are mentally, spiritually, physically connected to is an out of this world experience. The energy exchange is one of continual mutual benefit and growth rather than draining even in the slightest. Get comfortable with silence. It is beautiful. We aught to speak only when we feel what we have to say is more beautiful than the silence. Just a thought.