Summer Sunday: Invitation To Ride The CT

Summer Sunday is sponsored by Telluride’s Jagged Edge, professional gear for mountain lifestyles.

Summer’s endless light, warm mornings and clear nights begs us to linger, to take our time and to stay out a little longer – regardless of what we are doing. It promises us that we won’t get caught in the dark. It’s the perfect time to check off the longer bike rides and hikes that we don’t always have time for the rest of the year.

And the magic of a place like Telluride is that no matter how long you have lived here, for every peak you’ve bagged and trail you’ve ridden, there are hundreds still left to explore. Some of us even have lists of those nearby trails we’re dying to explore and we slowly check two or three off each summer. The goal becomes to ride, run, or hike something you haven’t.

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For the past few years, riding the Colorado Trail from Molas Pass outside of Silverton to Engineer Pass toward Durango has been on my list. The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile trail that goes from Denver to Durango. It is open to bicycles except in the six wilderness areas that it travels through as bikes are not allowed in National Wilderness Areas. Cyclists can detour around these areas using a network of Forest Service trails and road making the cycling journey on the CT a 535-mile adventure.

Locally however there is 75-miles of the Colorado Trail between Molas Pass and Durango, and one of the more popular 22-mile segments begins on Molas Pass and ends at Cascade Creek. From Telluride the ride requires driving over Ophir Pass to Silverton, shuttling a vehicle to the ride’s end and making enough time to après at Silverton’s Montanya Rum Bar after. In short, it requires the perfect summer day.

However the day we planned to go was not the perfect summer day. I woke up at 6:00 am to light grey skies with patches of darker grey skies over Telluride’s surrounding peaks. The weather report showed a 90% chance of rain around 11 am – by my calculations right when we would be at our highest point on the trail above tree line.

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I reluctantly got in the car and continually looked at the weather on my phone. Three miles from my house, at the Conoco at the end of town, we picked up two more friends. I reached for my bike shoes and told my husband that I was going to take my bike off the back of the car and ride home. He looked at me skeptically and I stalled. The kids were with  grandma; we had a posse of eleven cyclists already in motion. It’s hard to stop a moving train. We’d at least drive to Molas and assess there.

We made our way over Ophir Pass as the sky continued to darken. Yet, there were no raindrops. Each time the rocky 4WD road became steep, three of us had to get out of our Honda Pilot so the car could make it up. Earlier that morning I had convinced by husband to take the Pilot instead of the Tahoe because it had XM radio. Ooops. Next time, we’ll take the truck.

We arrived at Molas Pass, elevation 10,910 feet under heavy cloud cover, but it didn’t look threatening. We would definitely ride and assess as we went. The beginning of the trail from Molas is a whimsical cross country before it begins its first serious ascent, topping off at over 12,000 feet. The trail weaves in and out of high-alpine forest before going above tree line, and crossing glorious meadows littered with wildflowers.

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Sometimes the mountain gods look after you, sometimes karma works in your favor and sometimes you just get lucky. Perhaps we had a combination of all three. The weather held; it never rained. We we were able to complete the ride, finishing with a 2,500 feet descent in under five miles to Cascade Creek.

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Obeying the laws of summer, we stopped at Montanya’s Rum Bar in Silverton for handcrafted, artisan rum drinks before making our way back over Ophir Pass, getting out again on the steeper sections, so the car could make it up. I got what I wanted – no rain and a ride I had never done. But, I also got what only summer can offer—the invitation to take my time, to stay out all day — in short, to linger.

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