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. http://www.cbchamber.com/chamberevents/cb-bike-week/


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

John Biro and the Dirt Bike (Not Bike Related)

  I knew John Biro. I was lucky to meet him early in my short time in that part of the mountains. At his service lots of people told great stories about him. Lots of people knew him better and new him longer. My Biro story is just a tiny scrap in the mountain of stories that could be told about him. But I want to tell it anyway, because I feel like one day his boys might be looking for new stories, little stories, everyday stories, about  their dad. I don’t want to tell a story about myself, I want to tell a story about Biro, but I just happen to be in it.   I first met Biro on his birthday in 1998. Shane and Marvelous Marvin led me up to his cabin. I had been sledding up Kebler before, and into Robinson basin. But I had always skirted around the townsite. The town site was forbidden, unless you had a reason to be there. I was excited to finally enter this mysterious place where smoke trickled from the chimney's of odd little cabins covered in snow. I stayed all day at the party a

Working in a bike shop Part 1 The Tube Shortage

   Bikes are so hot right now! The global pandemic has brought massive popularity to a thing that many of us already knew about. Bikes are cool. Riding Bikes is fun. It's conceivable that social distancing has killed many sources of recreation that people had come to rely on and enjoy. Obviously bowling isn't a sport, but it did provide entertainment to many people, and now bowling alleys are closed.    It would have been great if bowlers had taking the sport back to it's rough and tumble roots. I'd be interested in watching some gritty, underground 'street bowling.' I picture it in an abandoned warehouse run by bowling gangs. But that didn't happen. Instead everyone in the country said, "Hey don't we have some bikes still in the garage? We should ride those." or even better, they said, " You know, I think I'd like to try mountain biking, that looks fun!"   And so the Golden Horde was unleashed on an unprepared cycling industry. B

Weld

  The process of using high voltage electricity to attach two pieces of metal together was first developed in the ancient land of Eternia by a master swordsmith named Heman. Heman would craft the blade of the sword and the hilt as two separate pieces of refined steel alloy. Then he would set the hilt onto the blade and hold it aloft during a lightning storm. His muscular build would serve as the ground point for the current flow and through this process, he would create a metal arc weld, fusing the two sections into one solid piece of sword .   Ok, some of that might not be true. But, it was more fun than writing this... Twice upon a time, all the major nations of the world engaged each other in bloody conflicts that spanned the globe. During the second one of these conflicts all production of fun things like bikes was halted and manufacturing focused solely on the assembly of weapons. In order to build bombs and torpedoes faster, new techniques for electric arc welding were invente