One of the great things about working at an outdoor gear company like Osprey Packs is the necessity to become an expert regarding the product you sell. One of the ways that Osprey encourages team members to keep their product knowledge sharp while at the same time gaining some important rejuvenation time in the outdoors is through the Osprey Outings Program. Team members receive paid hours to get out in the field and use packs and/or travel gear for real world product testing. With the explosion in popularity of Osprey’s line of cycling specific packs and new cycling packs on the table for Spring 2012, we decided to put together a bikepacking trip on the Colorado Trail to really spend some quality time with a few of the larger cycling packs.
Five of us left from the East Fork Trailhead near the top of Lizard Head pass in Southwestern Colorado early Friday morning. After a short climb and then a screaming fast but brief descent, we settled in for a long climb following the East Fork of the Dolores River up to Celebration Lake and then continuing to climb on the Colorado Trail to Blackhawk Pass. The weather cooperated and we were able to spend some time taking in the spectacular views from the pass without the fear of lightning strikes that normally dominates any time spent above 12,000 feet during a summer afternoon in Colorado. Descending from Blackhawk pass was one of the trip highlights as we swooped down the singletrack quickly dropping from the alpine tundra back into the spruce and aspen forests all the way down to our campsite. After setting up camp and enjoying a well-earned dinner of BBQ sandwiches, mashed potatoes and coleslaw, it was time to kick back and enjoy amazing views of the Needles and Grenadier mountain ranges as the sun gave way to a rising full moon.
Saturday’s ride started with a climb out of the gate to get the blood flowing as we worked our way up Orphan Butte and then on to Cape of Good Hope, affectionately nicknamed as “Cape of Last Breath”. There were times when it was hard to focus on the trail as the trail traversed the high ridgeline with each bend offering a more incredible view of the Weminuche wilderness in the distance. Eventually, reaching our high point on the Highline Trail, it was time for one last lunch stop before dropping into the uber-steep descent down Grindstone Trail to Bear Creek and back to our awaiting car.
This loop has to be one of the most scenic and enjoyable mountain bike routes I have ever ridden. There are definite challenges that make it not for the rider who doesn’t enjoy some difficult riding and lung-searing high altitude climbing, but the payoffs justify all of the hard work. So how did our pack testing go? During one stop, I asked everyone how comfortable their packs were and the replies were “I totally forgot I had it on”. That was exactly the answer we were hoping for.