Judd’s Trail Across Colorado

It started out as a race on the Colorado Trail. It quickly evolved into a tour of the greatest state in the United States of America. 

What Really Happened:

I rolled out of the starting gate, Individual Time Trail Style (ITT), at Waterton Canyon. No problems for the 1st 15 miles. Then I hit the barren, dusty and hot hills of Segment 2. Geez. this was my 3rd time on this route in 1 year. I was not happy. I rolled into Bailey in a very foul mood. What the HELL was I doing? I just survived 45 miles of BORING trails and the 1st half of the Bailey bypass. I had to jump onto Hwy 285 and get my A$$ up to Kenosha Pass. Well, I didn’t. I hung around Bailey and thought about it, for the night.

In the morning I pulled my gigantic head out of my A$$ and rearranged my attitude. I was back in it. I could make up the time and still achieve my goal to finish between the 7 and 8 day mark. All that was required was 3 or 4 long nights on the trail. I could do that. THEN…. my GPS failed. I have no idea how. I lost all tracks and waypoints. The GPS was still working, but no data existed – the data I needed for late night navigation. It’s like my 4GB Micro SDHC memory card failed. But it didn’t. My maps were still there. Just no data. Weird. But this happened before. It happened during my phatpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.

So that threw me for a spin. If you’ve been on the Colorado Trail you know that it is very well marked. But if you’ve spent any nights traveling on the Colorado Trail you also know that confusion happens. Especially when you’re brain is all twisted like mine. AND my brain is really twisted once the sun sets. Sure I could make it to Durango on the CT in 10 days…. in daylight. Did it before, basically. But I didn’t want to see the same stuff the same way and labor through it at a 10 day pace. I needed that GPS data for late night navigation. So I was screwed.

I almost threw in the towel. I decided to call The Padre. I planned to get my phatpacking gear and spend the next week on a solo trip through the wilderness sections of the CT. BUT I called that off. I decided to make the failed race into Judd’s Trail Across Colorado. And that’s what I did. The definition of Judd’s Trail changed on a daily basis, a function of my attitude. All I knew was that I’d be in Durango one way or the other. And I made it to Durango via the ‘other’ way.

hanging close to 13,000. Lake San Cristobal, near Lake City, is in the background

in the end – it’s about hanging at the Back of the Pack…
and laughing your A$$ off at every possible moment

The Route:

The route is pretty basic. Start near Denver and end near Durango. My track is Blue. The Colorado Trail – the bike friendly / legal route – is red. The Train ride from Silverton to Durango is Yellow.

I traveled a marginal 407 miles with 44,940 ft of vertical. That’s cool. I was hoping for 500 miles, like in 2011. But every year is different, every trip is different.

Below is my favorite section of Colorado, the area where I grew up. Once I transitioned to tour mode I decided to hit a few key trails / roads – a successful trip would be claimed if I made it to: Segment 22 and the high point of the Colorado Trail AND Engineer Pass. The other trails, roads, sights were just a bonus.

the simple profile, if you care. I’d call it a high altitude tour of Colorado as I crossed 12,000 ft many times.

Lessons Learned:

  • When you are caught trapped between massive thunder storms on Kokomo Pass you start to think about the Speed of Light versus Speed of Sound. Well I do.
    • The Speed of Light, in a vacuum, is 186,282 miles per second. AND the speed of light is not a constant, seriously, unless you are in a vacuum. Ain’t that cool?
    • The Speed of Sound is 768 miles per hour in dry air and 68 deg F.
    • If you see lightning and count until you hear the thunder, then you can gauge how close you are to danger. So, do the math….in standard conditions sound travels 1 mile in 4.688 seconds. And there is no delta T, because in these short distances the delay of the light from lighting is irrelevant. Right.
    • If you are standing near Kokomo Pass and lightning is all around you and hear thunder less than 5 seconds after you see each flash, you know that a) you better get moving cuz the lightning is less than 1 mile away, b) you better hope the storm is rapidly moving away, c) if you’re all out of hope and the storm is moving towards you – then you better figure something out.
  • If you stay at the Snowshoe Motel in Frisco Colorado don’t be surprised if a pack of Marlboros fly out of the sheets. Seriously.
  • The price of a hotel room is inversely proportional to a probability of 2AM drunken rampages. I’m just glad my room wasn’t the room that ‘bubba‘ was trying to break into.
  • Road bikers in Colorado are pretty cool for the most part. They all wave and say hi. Only a few snarled at me – but I bet those ‘roadies‘ were from New Mexico.
  • Riding downhill into a 15 mph head wind is not a whole lot of fun. And keeping a 10mph speed is a bit of work – especially when I was hoping to coast for a few hours from Taylor Reservoir to Almont
  • Ghost towns are called Ghost Towns for a reason. Trust me. When camping above Animas Forks, I heard footsteps and conversation around my tent. AND I wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating, I think.
  • Who ever knew that there are Free Range Sheep in the San Juan Mountains. AND a huge flock of Free Range Sheep kinda of sounds like ghosts and demons when camping above a GHOST TOWN. Seriously.
  • To get to Engineer Pass, at 12,800 ft, you must 1st climb through 12,945 ft. Yes, the pass is not at the high point of the road. Funny stuff, really funny. Yeah, I was laughing. Not really.
  • If you need a beer AND a tattoo, go to THAT BAR on East Main in Buena Vista. Awesome…. beer and tattoos. 

The Gear:

Below is the ‘weigh out’. I didn’t do the ‘weigh in’ prior to the trip. 32.26 pounds? That’s gross. And a backpack that’s 14.32 pounds. Damn. Oh well, this is a full set of gear with water and 2.5 days of food. This is a full set of gear that will get me through nearly every disaster that I could possibly encounter and have a chance of living through.

And for standard bike packing routes the total weight is much less. I normally don’t ride with much food, I keep it simple when I hit towns on a daily basis. If you wanna know what I carry and the weight of each item, I can send you an updated list. Maybe

The Ugly Truth: 
When I rolled out on July 25th I really had no issues with the solo bikepacking trip. I did it last year. All was cool. But this year, while traveling many of the same trails / roads, I realized that solo bikepacking just ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s boring, to say the least. 
Some people like the solitude. Well, I got that everyday. (Except when I’m earning my salary at the local prison camp.) Some people want to do ‘soul searching’. Well, I know where my soul is and I know where my soul is going, especially since I sold it a few years ago. Some people want to ‘find themselves’. Well, I’ve never been lost. I know where I am and where I’m going. 
In the end, if you roll at the Back of the Pack, you do so because you dig the friendship and camaraderie that you have with all the other hooligans. And I think that is a significant element missing in my 2012 tour.
But with all that being said, who knows what I’ll do in 2013. It’s hard to line up the hooligans for a 10 day trip. Yeah, who knows, maybe I’ll sell all my bikes and become a surf bum. Haven’t done that before – a surf bum that is – I’ve been a bum most of my life.

What I Really Missed:
Some people say ‘I can’t go without my coffee in the morning’. Other people say ‘I can’t sleep without my pillow’. Still other’s say ‘I gotta be connected with the friends’. Well, what did I really miss while out on the 9 day tour? I missed Pandora’s Mickey Avalon Channel, because the music cracks me up. 

Career Change:
One reason why I took a detour, or two, off of the Colorado Trail is my love for Colorado history. Specifically I totally dig the old mining roads, the mining towns – ghost towns, the beauty of the high country and I love thinking about what life was like back in the late 1800s. (That’s late eighteen hundreds, like late 19th century.) If you think there are tough dudes and dudettes in the 21st century – damn, think about what these miners & families lived through day after day back in the 19th century. Those MOFOs are the definition of tough.

Anyway, with all the hours and hours that I had to think about all stuff – I finally figured out a career path that may help me achieve my life goals. (Yes, I have a few life goals, and I ain’t telling you unless you buy me a beer or two.) And as much as I love history, the life of a historian with a focus on Colorado ghost towns won’t pay for my titanium addiction. 

So, I think I need two seasonal jobs with real paychecks, small but real. Oct – Mar I should be hanging in Antarctica, doing something for the good of nothing. April – September I should be working on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Just because, I dig trains. 

I wonder how I’m gonna make this happen. Gotta get rid of this death mortgage – wanna buy my Palatial Palace? That’s the only thing holding me back.

What’s Next:

Well, the Lt Col and I are headed to 24 Hours in the Sage. I may actually race it – meaning I may actually ride through the night and log serious miles. Then again, who really knows. It’s 2012 and nothing goes according to the plan.

Then, in the fall, Mad Rhino and I may bikepack the Arizona Trial. I’m hoping. That’ll be a blast.

After that, a fat bike race down in Tucson. The Sandbox Showdown. Just because.

And then… I have no idea. And everything will change between now and then. Seriously, it will.

The Movies:

just some pics with some tunes.

a face that only a mother could love. and I threw in some of my favorite pics – just to deal with the timing issues associated with the music selection. get it? get it!

and if you know me, like only a few do, you’ll catch my perfect execution of the chin extension / neck extension / head tilt. a few know what I’m talking about. only a few.

if you are really really bored, you might watch this. i wouldn’t, if I were you. but if you must, just listen to Johnny Cash tell it the way it is.

A Few Pics:

it’s a trail – in Colorado – if you haven’t heard of it

a final farewell? at Waterton Canyon Trailhead

the sign at the start

it’s a canyon and a river

a boardwalk near Breckenridge

a sunrise at the west end of Leadville

Cottonwood Pass – just wanted to go over it – don’t as me why – I don’t know why

Cannibal Plateau – yes, people were carved up and digested here by Alfred Packer

hanging at 11,500 ft on Segment 22, above Spring Creek Pass

cruising up Cinnamon Pass

hanging above the Animas Forks, a mining town, a GHOST TOWN

just hanging out at the Top of Engineer Pass – I had nothing better to do

looking towards Ouray

my dream house – Animas Forks

I dig trains, I really dig the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train
just because

4 thoughts on “Judd’s Trail Across Colorado

  1. Well, I was checking in on you and Tedd…where is he in this adventure, anyway? I was hoping to hear of some mad comeback. Kudos, friend….I would loathe to ride across anywhere by myself. That is what tandems are for.


  2. Yo. Thanks for the comment. No one EVER leaves a comment, or two. The TeddNeck is a very responsible individual and is just flat out busy. Yes, life is always better when The TeddNeck (Corporate Tedd, The Morale Chairman) hangs at the back of the pack. But reality says that life must go on. So maybe in 2013 The Brothers Rohwer will conquer a 10+ day bikepacking trip. Until then, I gotta roll solo if I'm forced to roll solo. It's hard, it's boring. But you gotta do what you gotta do.


  3. looks like it was an awesome time. I swear I'll go exploring the CT everytime I'm there, but my family always has different plans for me. curious how a sea-level resident will fair pedaling around at those altitudes. So for now, I check-in to see what hijinx Back of the Pack is neck deep in. poor grammar, I know, but keep up with what your doing. We right coasters enjoy it.


  4. (a) Rent out your place, problem solved (b) Raytheon hires for Antarctica. Almost got there myself. (c) Join me for a one-weeker bike trip somewhere other than the U.S.?


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