Skip to main content

Crested Butte Trip Walrod/409

   We sat in comfortable camp chairs at the base of Whetstone mountain and sipped our beers. The last rays of sunshine had just raced up Crested Butte mountain and then jumped off the peak. We were looking across the valley at the large golf course and surrounding mansions that make up the Crested Butte Country Club. I was sitting with my friend Kevin, the groundskeeping manager of the country club.

   An idea crossed his mind, and he pulled out his phone. " We just installed a new system that will let me fire off sprinklers from my phone. Should I try it?"
Let me take a minute to explain that Kevin and I are part of a group of friends who lived in C.B back in the 90's. As a group we established that, if someone is ever asking for encouragement to try something, the answer must always be, "Yes."
"Should I drink this? Should I ride off that? Should I go talk to her? Should I try to gap over that? Always, it was our duty to respond "yes."
Now, this is by no means good advice. In fact, we were often setting each other up for spectacular failures. But never once in the time I lived there did I ever hear someone say. "that's probably enough." or "maybe we should turn back now."
So, Kevin keyed in the code and we watched as he remotely triggered sprinkler heads to come on at various greens on the course. It was like a little on-demand fireworks show. Granted, there wasn't much risk, but I was happy that my knee-jerk response was, "Yes! of course!" and not, " I dunno, what if you soak a golfer by accident?"
This is a kind of theme you'll notice if you spend any time in Crested Butte, nothing is done half-way. None of the locals 'dabble' in kayaking or mountain biking. People here are committed no matter what the activity might be. With that in mind, we hopped a shuttle into town and rallied a crew to go hit some of the bars on Elk Avenue.
It was about ten when we stepped into The Public House. The upstairs has a nice classic look with dark wood and  stamped tin ceiling panels. With drinks in hand, we then went downstairs to witness stage lighting, blasting music and a full-blown lip-sync contest in progress. A group of girls were on stage bouncing to "Baby Got back." The girls finished with a cheering audience and the MC came out on stage. He was dressed as an 80's hair band front man who then proceeded to harass everyone and challenge the crowd to get wilder.
Three dudes in black t shirts came on stage next and began singing to the Pennywise punk anthem 'Bro Hymn.' I quickly set my drink down and headed for the dance floor, glancing to my side I saw that Kevin also knew what was about to go down. We reached the center right as the first chorus rang out, "Whoa Oh Oh Oh!" and the place ignited into a mosh pit in seconds.
A few hours later we were in down the street in Kochevar's, a truly classic Crested Butte bar. The bartender cupped her hands to her mouth and yelled, "If your name is not Amy, Dave or Marshall...then get the hell out!" We walked out into the cool night air as the other bars were similarly shutting down. So far, it felt like I was on track for a proper C.B mountain bike trip.
The next morning we walked from the house over to the Gas Cafe 'Eat here get gas.' This place has great breakfast sandwiches that work really well at absorbing alcohol. Pay attention to the bonuses when you order. You don't want just a standard egg and bacon sandwich, when you could get one that also has a hash brown stuffed into the middle. While the food did its job we stopped in the Handlebar Bike shop and visited with Jeff the owner. This shop has a full rental fleet that can handle anything you might get into. The Handlebar also rents split boards and other backcountry gear for winter adventuring.
The past winter had left all the high country still piled with snow. Trails near town were open, but the rest still had a few months left before they melt out. On our drive into town Kevin was craning his neck and scoping the ridge lines above C.B. South. He had a hunch we'd find clear trails there, and Jeff at the bike shop agreed. So we waved goodbye to town and headed down valley. We made one last stop to visit with friends in C.B South. Hanging out in a crawl space wine cellar seemed like the right thing to do, then we watched a quick unicycle demo.

By this time we were ready to ride, it was show-time! We drove a short way up Cement Creek and parked. Like every Crested Butte ride we started with a long grueling climb. Rocky switch-backs eventually gave way to smooth loamy trail as higher and higher we climbed. My guide pointed out the lift line to the abandoned, Pioneer Mountain ski area and explained the best ways to access it for backcountry skiing.

Remnants of an abandoned ski area

The trail broke into an aspen grove, little purple and white flowers dotted the ground. Something about aspen groves just feels magical. The way the sunlight speckles through the leaves, the contrast of the white tree trunks against the green background, all of it came together perfectly. Most of the trails around C.B. will have at least some section of aspen grove, it's one of the signatures of a C.B. trail.

Another signature feature has got to be the traverse across a massive exposed face of a mountain. Trail 401 and Teocalli are two of the best examples of this, but we found it on this ride too. I was riding along narrow singletrack, and if I looked to my right, the mountain fell away at a consistent grassy pitch all the way to the valley floor. If I looked to the left, the mountain climbed upward at the same pitch before angling out of view and heading for the summit.

As we climbed higher, the Walrod trail joined up with trail 409.  The Walrod loop was a pretty easy ride, Kevin explained that it is usually busy with hikers, but 409 was a different story. The trail became noticeably steeper and more technical. Before long we made our first creek crossing. The trail we were riding began to get rougher, I looked down and realized there were only one or two other tire tracks on it. The snow here had just recently melted, and the trail had barely been ridden. The creek crossings began to come more frequently, and we started hitting sections of trail with water running down it. After skirting around a few of these muddy sections, we realized we were effectively as far as we could go.

Typically, every trail in C.B. starts with a long climb, then there is a distinct top of the climb. Usually the designated spot has some rocks to sit on and a nice view. The top is a spot to chill out and get acclimated while resting before a long descent. Since we didn't actually make it to the top of 409, we had to improvise. We still found a nice spot with rocks and a view. After resting for a bit, we headed down. The ride down was fantastic, and proved to be worth every part of the grueling climb.We mad a brief  stop to check out a rock outcrop that offers a couple entrances into a small cave network.

Then we pounded out the remainder of the downhill and skidded to a stop back at the car on Cement Creek road.I love riding in Crested Butte and this trip checked all the boxes. I had a fun night on the town and a challenging high country trail ride. If you get a chance, get out to Crested Butte this summer and experience it for yourself. Fat Tire Bike Week is annual an event offers guided trips to many of the classic C.B. rides, go check it out.


Popular posts from this blog

You only have to be the best until the best show up

   a tabletop   I still make dirt jumping part of my life.  There’s really nothing like it. I've been doing it for twenty years now and I kind of feel like I've earned my place. I love pushing my bike into the line-up.  I always greet the other riders just to check the attitude. A dirt  jump session should be an inclusive and positive scene. It’s one of the few times in life that you are really putting yourself out there. It’s not like a party or work or any situation where people can talk about how good they are. Nobody fakes their way through a dirt jump line.      I have a mantra I use at the park. You only have to be the best until the best show up.   And I love it when the best show up! Kickass riders are awesome to watch. I can usually spot one in the drop-in line as I roll up. They won’t wear any gear except a helmet.       It’s great when the best riders are fun and friendly. Sometimes they’re not. That’s fine. If a guy is throwing down sick tricks he  can be withdrawn

The Signs

The tale of the Left Hand Canyon trail signs is a story about art. Art in the woods, and corporate timewasting. I had become hopelessly addicted to Left Hand, and I had access to a sweet welder. I thought the broken shovel design fit with the asthetic of the trail system. A system dug by hand with sweat and shovels. My signs would be a tribute to the guys spending their free time out there digging. I started with Indy and Bon Scott since those were the existing trails, quickly followed by Deadass and the RZA GZA sign. The early signs were kind of crappy as I developed my technique. I eventually decided the best way to make the letters was a multistep process. I would lay down a layer of weld, then grind the top smooth, then lay another bead and repeat. I actually carried some of the originals down off the mountain and applied more weld to bring them up to the new standard. Also the first ones were unpainted and nearly invisible to a passing rider. The new trails started coming fa

A letter to the rider who just crashed hard...

        A friend in California was telling me about one of his weekly surf sessions. He said that a shark had been spotted at his regular beach. Then he explained, "A shark only swims about 15 miles an hour, so we went to a beach 25 miles up the shore. I figured that would give us a solid hour before the shark could even get there."     I know his math is faulty, and yet, I understand his logic. Every thrill sport enthusiast creates their own twisted logic to convince themselves and others that whatever they're doing really isn't that dangerous. I mean seriously, you can get hit by a bus just walking across the street. Yet, if I jump my mountain bike from this dirt pile to that one over there, it's impossible that I will be hit by a bus. Therefore dirt jumping is basically safer than walking. Me and my old friend, The Ground    Surfers have sharks. Backcountry skiers have avalanches. Sky divers and mountain bikers have the ground. As an antagonist, the earth doesn