Dry altitude and ramps in the headlamp shine. Cass is ahead billowing up dust in what was a half hour ago a spiky cold cold enough for the shell, now just sweat running down my wrists gulping air and prowling for out of the saddle traction. Pleasant, setting out on a trip in the dark, we’ll ride a couple of hours this way, camp. Tomorrow sunrise into a big day pedaling up into light air and out West wispy clouds.
Singletrack is smooth, sometimes a bed of pine needles, other times just winding meter wide dirt with ledges that call for some body english. We’re riding front to back wheels close enough to chat, our voices bouncing around the tunnel of illumination. I am on a rental again, this time a plenty capable Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops. The good folks at Broken Spoke show sense and taste in their rental fleet, this one with 3.8 Nates run split tube tubeless.
In town for my mother in law’s 70th birthday, small balloons and enormous ones were part of the celebration and cheer. Then enough time for a two nighter. Brought a small duffel of essentials and attached a Tangle, seat bag, top tube bag, and harness. Switched the bottle cage to a fork mount and borrowed another for the other side.
Didn’t bother setting up the tarps and I stare up from my bag at the high pitch twinkling stars, all the trees’ silhouettes parallel signals upward. In the morning we pack up quickly and are rolling, we’ll ride for an hour to reach water and have breakfast streamside.
For a little while we’re on a pebbly steep road ascending not much faster than a walk, columbus day leaf walkers with rucksacks ambling upward by our sides, we go past answering questions about the fat tires and the camping gear. Pointing cameras at yellow leaves and the blue backdrop, they and the trees finally thin out, our gasping and pushing to the top and wilderness boundary for lunch. The world falls away from the twelve thousand feet.
People keep asking us where we’re headed, and the answer—Raven’s Ridge—is met with have you done that before isn’t it a little steep make sure to lower your saddles I did that once, and other gentle skepticisms. We just smile and I’m getting a better sense that the descent will be drop wild fun, which it is. Point the laden rigs off the peak and it’s steep and marbles under the wheels, avalanching through the turns until we get in the woods. There the folds and lips are puzzles to be solved, mostly low speed balance scanning ahead.
Happy hours of curling through aspens and pines, crunching sticks root camber step hop step hovering over the seat bags and judo with the bedroll laden bars. For a bit we rocket down a trail that goes along a barbed wire fence, alarm bells whenever the drift is close. Into evening and a short break and map check, fingertracing where we hope to get to.