Art Pepin’s story
Art Pepin,Dan Murray, Wolfman Tucker, Rupert Dance ,Matt Leighten,
Billie JO Thompson, Jessica Murray, Trygve Halverson, Al Guibord. Gilles Trepanier
In all Wolfman took 11 bikes out to Colorado this year.
On Saturday we decided to take our rookies for a “shake down” ride.
Right off the bat we blasted right up Ajax Mt, one of Aspen’s big ski areas. It was great to look up at the gondolas full of tree huggers. There were tons more tree huggers hiking up the trails, some of them blocking their ears as we passed.
20 miles of jeep roads later we stopped in Taylor Pass to take in the sights.
We then took off for Crystal Peak. Crystal Peak trail is nothing more than a goat path carved into the side of several mountains. The mountains are shaped like a bowl. The trail goes around the inside of it for 14 miles, it has steep drop offs and it’s above the tree line. Pucker factor of 7. This proved to be a bit of a challenge to Gilles Trepanier, our AA rookie, who wasn’t prepared for the steep drop-offs on either side. At this time I informed him that there would be more trails just like this one. He adjusted very well.
We exited the peak via “Slime trail” , oh the fun locking up both brakes and sliding uncontrollably for about 300 feet. We hit a few miles of gnarly single track which gave Wolfman a rear flat. We stopped there and replaced Wolfman’s rear tube with a front. We spent nearly an hour trying to get air in his tire.
After changing the tube we took 25 miles of Jeep roads back to Aspen via Ajax. On the way down Ajax another tree hugger blocked his ears. I had my engine off while he did this. I yelled “am I really that noisy???” ( I wish I got a picture of that)
Day 2 (Sunday)
Sunday was sign up day. That took longer than expected so our riding plans were screwed up. I was planning a ride to Timberline trail which takes most of the day to complete. Instead, I took Rookies Gilles. Al, & Trygve for a ride to Taylor Pass to take pictures.
Monday is officially “day 1” of the ‘500, but what were we supposed to do all weekend? We didn’t come here to sit around the hotel, we came here to ride. On this day we will ride from Aspen to Crested Butte.
No one from our group wanted to ride “all single track” all day long. Not even Gilles, our AA rookie. He didn’t sleep well the night before.I wanted to ride as much single track as possible so I found Joe McCammon, a dude from Pennsylvania who has ridden here for the past 18 years and is very familiar with the trails…..Perfect..
Joe and I started out at 7:45, 45 minutes before the police escort promised to us by the Aspen PD. We knew we had a long day ahead of us. The ride began the same way as the previous two days, Up Ajax, across Taylor, and into Crystal Peak. This time we took a goat path over the top of the peak to the other side. Look carefully at the pic below, you can see the aforementioned goat path. I gotta say, OMG! the trails are incredible on the other side. Once we were over the top the trail became a fast and flowing path down through meadow after meadow after meadow. I was like “WOW” the entire time. After a few miles we ran into “Double Top Trail” (Trail 405). Double Top was as equally as flowing as the previous trail except it was on a much steeper meadow at times.
Then we came up to a “high pucker factor” spot, perhaps a 9 on the pucker scale. It was a series of rocks and roots on a corner with a steep drop off in the order of 500 feet + to the left. Joe went right over it as if it wasn’t there. I needed Joe to guide me past it.Here it is from the other direction.
We left Double top and headed for Dead-Man’s Gulch. Again, more fast and flowing single track than should be allowed. When you reach the top of Dead-Man’s you begin a descent down a very steep hill and your thinking Oh crap!, I’m gonna die! But then you hit the first switch back and then about 30 more before you land on Cement Creek Road. We rode into Crested Butte South and got some gas.
After gas, we rode up Cement Creek Road to a place called Reno Divide. From there we took the Reno Ridge trail back to the top of Dead-Man’s. From there we headed to “Roaring Judy”, this was about 8 miles of tough single track over a mountain called Judy. On the other side we bailed at “Jack’s Cabin Cut-Off” onto a dirt road. We headed to another dirt road called “One Mile Road” which is misleading because it’s really 10 miles long. Towards the end of OMR, we took a left on a quad trail that headed for Fossil Ridge. Once there we were greeted with 14 miles of the rockiest single track around. I had to stop a couple times and let the 570 cool down. While stopped, I heard thunder. Oh crap!! I gotta get below the trees. Thankfully, the storm never arrived and we pushed on. After another 20-30 miles of trails and dirt roads we were in Taylor Park getting Gas. We were at mile 120 now.
We left the gas stop and headed to “Dr. Park (Spur)” trail. This was perhaps the most fun I had all day. This trail is very technical and very fast and lasts for 24 miles. At the other end we ran into a bunch of familiar faces. They were lost and needed our assistance getting to civilization. They followed us down to Spring Creek Road. Right after that we lead them back up over Dead-Man’s and down the switch backs. I was flying down them…..until I lost my rear brakes. No crash, I just had to gear it down a bit and use engine braking to get me there.
After Dead-Man’s, the lost group went to the hotel via 17 miles of road. Joe and I went back to work on some single track. We took the “409 and a half” trail towards Crested Butte then rode 5 miles of pavement to the Hotel and ended our day with 176.9 Miles. It was 6:36 PM, not 8:36 PM as shown
The Hotel was really nice, it had an indoor-outdoor pool. You could enter the pool from the inside and swim outside.
Day 4 (Tuesday)
Tuesday we ride from Crested Butte to Ouray
Tuesday morning started off with a huge breakfast sponsored by Team 44, I believe they are from Ohio. During breakfast we discussed our plans for the day, “which way are we going to Gunnison?”; “Who wants to ride the Alpine?” Gunnison is where the lunch stop is located. We decided to bring Joe along with everyone else mentioned earlier. We hit the road around 8AM.
With a large group you have to take some of the “easier” trails in order to keep things moving, we were looking at least 150 miles that day and couldn’t waste time waiting around. So we headed down Highway 135 towards Crested Butte South. There we’d hop on Cement Creek Road and head for Reno Divide. Basically went from pavement to dirt road to cart road in 35 miles. We regrouped at the Top of Reno then took off one by one up another cart road, this one had gates that needed to be closed behind us. A couple miles we suffer our first casualty. Rupert quickly discovered the Colorado tree’s roots were just as slick as their New England cousins. He went down pretty hard. I pulled up to him, saw that he wasn’t making an effort to lift his bike then tossed my bike against a tree to help. After a couple minutes, the remaining riders were sitting there waiting while Rupert collected himself. I could see he wasn’t feeling good about it so I headed on to inform the rest of the group. After waiting a little longer He and Joe caught up. Joe offered to stay with him the rest of the day, even if it meant taking easy cart roads to Ouray. We took off via a trail called Reno Ridge, it was a short section of fast and flowing single track. After this section I decided to pack my coat in my back pack. Once we were all together again we took off down Dead-man’s Gulch trail, not the switchbacks but the rest of the trail heading the other way. We took Spring Creek Road for about 10 miles and turned onto One Mile Road. At the other end of OMR we took another 10 miles of dirt roads to Gunnison. In Gunnison we stopped at the local KTM dealer , who was also a Yamaha dealer, to see if we could get Billie Jo a new radiator hose. Yesterday while I was off riding with Joe, her hose reached out and touched her exhaust pipe. They MacGyver’d it out of the woods the day before. We came up empty on the hose.
While there I picked up some antifreeze and some EBC Red brake pads. I didn’t think my pads would make it through the week since we encountered a lot of water and mud, the antifreeze was to replace what I lost the day before at Fossil Ridge.
This year gas lunch was at the Mesa RV resort in Gunnison. Upon arrival we pulled up to the pumps. They offered 85 and 87 Octane gas, no “Super” to be had here. We filled up with the 87. I went inside and bought this round of gas as well as a meal ticket on my credit card since I didn’t have any cash. The cashier hand wrote the meal ticket. Cool! I wouldn’t have to bum any more money off of Gilles. The 6 bucks gets you a burger, chips, store brand “Oreos”, and some Orange flavored sugar water. I washed it all down with a protein bar just to make sure I was nourished.
After lunch we split into two groups; those who want to take it easy and those that want it rough. Gilles and I made up the entire “rough” group. We headed off through 10 miles of desert. It was “two-track” and you could really move on this stuff.
After the desert Gilles and I took Highway 149 for the next 25 miles. We then stopped at a dirt road marked “868”. I was pretty sure this was the road to the Alpine Trail but pulled out a map anyways. We located road 868 on the map and saw that it headed to the Alpine Trail, Awesome! We were now committed to torturing ourselves. Another 10 miles of dirt road and we found the trail head.
Once we got down to the bottom we had to do it all over again. In the Alpine Trail there are two peaks with a combined total of approximately 137 of those pesky switchbacks. On the second peak both Gilles and I were stopping occasionally to let our bikes cool off. Nothing like a face full of radiator steam while climbing the world’s steepest trail.
We hung out up here for about a half hour then headed down the back side. The switchbacks were just as steep as all the others. What kind of person makes a trail like this? Who knows? All I can say is the view on the top makes it worth every bit of energy spent getting there. Do the Alpine if you get a chance.
Day 5 (Wednesday)
Since Ouray was a much smaller place, the Colorado500 was split amongst several downtown hotels. I landed in theTwin Peaks Hotel.
Wednesday would be an easy day for sure. We planned on riding to Silverton via all the “passes” as a group, stopping here and there to take pictures. We would start off by taking theMillion Dollar Highway out of Ouray.
About 5 miles up the road we came to the entrance of Corkscrew Gulch. There we would find 85 year old Ted waiting with his 1977 Penton. He had set up a deal where you could nominate one of your buddies to take a spin on Ted’s Penton for just $20. Your buddy could opt out for another $20. The money collected went to the Colorado 500 Charities.
Once we were finished with Ted’s bike we moved on. Our next stop was the top of California Pass. We took plenty of pictures here.
After everyone took turns with their cameras we moved on. The next stop would be a visit to a real ghost town called Animas Forks.On the way there we had to weave through a rather large heard of free range sheep. They were grazing on both sides of the road.
About the time we reached Animas Forks light rain began to fall. While there we met a nice couple on a 4-wheeler who was willing to take our pictures with all of our cameras. I ‘m pretty sure we took their picture as well but I don’t have one to show.
The rain was really starting to come down but that was ok because it looked like it was moving away from where we were headed. Our next stop was about 20 miles away in Silverton.
We had an appointment with the Silverton School System to make a cash donation on behalf of the Dallenbach family and the Colorado500 Charities. We made sure we got there early enough to have a nice lunch at Handlebars Food & Saloon.
After lunch we joined several other groups in front of the School. There we were met by a local newspaper photographer as well as a hand full of school officials. Jim Nash presented a check to them in front of the school. This year the money would go to their athletic department to purchase items like uniforms etc. There must have been at least 50 dirt bike riders standing behind him during this. This is a great thing for dirt bike riding as well as the school. After the crowd dispersed we topped off our gas tanks and headed North on Highway 550 towards Black Bear Pass.
The next few miles would bring us some spectacular views of Telluride.
This is the highest “pucker factor” spot on the ride. It’s not nearly as bad as your told. I think your psyched out by all the hype. You go in thinking the factor is a 10++ when in reality it’s probably a 7.
Since we ate lunch in Silverton we didn’t stop in Telluride. If we did we would have stopped at the Floradora Saloon. They seem to like us. To get to Ouray from Telluride you take Tamboy Rd. towards Imogene Pass. On the way up we passed by several “tour busses” full of thrill seekers riding up into the mountains.
From Imogene we rode another 20+ miles of jeep/dirt roads back into Ouray. We were in the hot tub my 3pm.
Day 6( Thursday)
Around 8am we all started to gather in front of the Twin Peaks Hotel office. The Colorado 500 was leaving Ouray. This would be another long day as we were headed back to Crested Butte.Since our group was not quite ready to go at 8AM, I decided to grab Gilles and Al and take them to Poughkeepsie Gulch. This is a place popular with 4×4 trucks and Jeeps. The even have winch points to help them pull their rigs up ledges. For us it was just another rocky uphill. I just wanted these guys to see it.
We didn’t stop because we needed to be in Lake City by 10:30AM to make another monetary Donation.The ride to Lake City was half jeep roads and half dirt roads. We arrived there around 10AM, plenty of time to go get gas and have a snack. At 10:30 we cruised on over to the school and met the recipients of this year’s donation. They were very grateful for us. Some locals were driving by and shouting “Thank you Colorado500 – We love you!!!!!” as they drove by. It felt great to be a dirt biker today.At about 10:45 more dirt bikers began to appear, including the one carrying the money.Shortly after that Wolfman presented three different checks each for $750. The Lake City Emergency medical response team, the Lake City Medical Center, and the Lake City Community School would each get a check. Again, it felt great to be a dirt biker today.
Once we were done in Lake City Gilles, Al, & Myself broke away from the group and headed towards Gunnison. The plan was to take a detour via Cannibal Plateau. Cannibal Plateau is a location where Alfred G. Packer was an American prospector who was accused of cannibalism during the winter of 1873-1874.
This trail is a 13 mile long two-track trail through high meadows commonly used by quads and dirt bikes, no jeeps. We passed a few fellow Colorado 500 riders while in there.At the end it dumped us right back on the same dirt road we were on when we left Lake City. After another 20 miles or so of dirt road we came upon Crystal Creek Road. This one would lead us through a place we call Powderhorn. It’s a fast and flowing two track road about 10 miles long. It has sharp turns, big hill climbs, and a few gates to close behind you. I sent Gilles and Al in first. I caught up to them at the first gate where I told them to keep going and let me worry about the gates. While closing the gate a rider from the Georgia Trail Mafia arrived. I waved and took off.It was starting to get really dusty so hanging back and closing the gates worked great for me.On the other side of Powderhorn was Highway 149, we turned towards Gunnison. After a few miles Al went straight on Highway 149 while Gilles and I turned into the desert. Again, there were gates and dust. Either way, we’d all end up at the lunch stop.
At the lunch stop we met the rest of our group. It was the same lunch as Tuesday, Burgers, chips, fake Oreos, and some orange sugar water. It hit the spot.
We left Gunnison the same way we came in on Tuesday, through a desert and then One Mile Road. Just before One Mile Road my seat fell off. Wolfman stopped to help me, while stopped he noticed he forgot his tools at the gas stop. We called Hunter Floyd back at the gas stop but no answer. Because of that Wolfman decided to head back to gas. He would take a different way back. I went ahead and met up with the remaining riders. When we reached the end of One Mile Road we took Taylor road towards “Jack’s Cabin Cutoff”, the road was currently under construction and confused the heck out of me. I made the entire group stop while I asked Dan if I was crazy. He too was a bit confused since they changed the layout of the road to make Jack’s Cabin the “main road” and not a cutoff.We moved on.
A little further up on the right was another trail head. This one would take us over Roaring Judy in the opposite direction that Joe and I took on Monday. A couple more of our riders decided to take the roads back to Crested Butte and call it a night. For the rest of us it was another 8 miles before we’d stop again. I sent Gilles in first and then went in “hot pursuit” to try and keep up. Needless to say I only saw him for a half mile or so. The first half was made up of gnarly trail through rock gardens. At the half way point the trail intersects with Rosebud.I saw Gilles blasting through a meadow, he was moving right along. I returned to “hot pursuit” mode.
The second went through off camber meadows and fast/flowing woods sections.When I got to the end Gilles was waiting. After a few minutes other riders that we passed along the way started to arrive, then the rest of our group. The other riders took off as well as Billie Jo. She decided to forge ahead and wait at the bottom of Dead-Man’s Switchbacks.At this point we broke up into even smaller groups. Gilles and I went down Dead-Man’s and the rest took Reno Ridge Trail. At the bottom of the switchbacks we called it a day and rode dirt roads back to Crested butte. The total mileage for the day was around 185, it was another epic day.
Day 7 (Friday)
After a huge breakfast, Joe, Gilles, and I met out by the bikes. It’s the last day of the Colorado 500 and we were going to hit some single track on the way back to Aspen. We took off just after 8AM. Our first stop was right down at the bottom of the hill at the Gas Café. I took a splash of gas, a power bar, and some chocolate for the ride. Now we’re ready.
Just outside of town we took a left towards Brush Creek. This is a paved road that quickly turns to dirt. After a few miles we stopped near a gate. Joe opened it and in we went. I took right off so that I could get the next gate ahead and let Joe and Gilles through it. At the second gate you gotta watch your step. There are plenty of cattle in the area and they have left their calling card near the gate.
Gilles went ahead first then me then Joe. I was in “hot pursuit” mode now because Gilles was way ahead of me. About a mile in Gilles took a “go around”, I’ve been here before, there’s nothing in there to go around anymore so I went straight.At the other end of the “go around” I saw Gilles getting back on the main trail. Cool, I caught up to him.For the next couple miles I kept him in my sights. We reached an intersection; it was Double-Top trail. Not sure if we were taking it or not we decided to stop and wait. Joe caught up and pointed towards Double Top, off we went.
After a few miles of steep off camber trails we came up to a sharp right turn. This is the trail towards Cement Creek Road. We stopped, regrouped, and took that trail. For the next couple miles it was fast and flowing trails, what a way to start your Friday! At the end there was a steep rocky downhill into a two track road. Across from us was another single track trail, it was “one way” and we were pointed in the right direction so we took that trail too. At the end we hooked a left onto Cement Creek Road and headed to Reno Divide. At Reno Divide we ran into the rest of the group from NH. It looks like they may have been taking their coats off and perhaps a few pictures. Let’s all smile and look at the camera!
They headed off down “Lower Italian” which is a cart road. We decided to head towards “Upper Italian” which is also a cart road. The joy of Upper Italian is that you get to ride through a really rocky section that claims a 4×4 once in a while. It’s basically mountain of rocks and you ride around its side. If you dare look down to the right you will see one of its latest victims.
The next 5 or 6 miles would be easy cart roads up towards American Flag Mountain. Many riders stop there to pose next to Old Glory but we didn’t; we were headed for more single track. Just beyond American Flag, we took a trail called Star. If you watched the video its not us and it doesn’t do the trail any justice. Star would prove to be one of the gnarliest trails yet. There were rock gardens, root gardens, and “rocks and root” gardens for the next 14 or so miles. We didn’t have all day and now I was starting to worry about time because after Star Trail we were planning on Timberline Trail. We needed to be in Aspen by 3PM at the latest. I’ve heard only bad things about Timberline so I know it will take lots of time to complete.When we reached the end of Star a couple of motocross bikes went whizzing by us on the dirt road.
Our plan now was to use a section of Dr. Park “Spur” trail to get us into Taylor Park for another splash of gas. While in Dr. Park, I suffered my first crash of the trip. I tried to go around a tree at speed but my worn out front tire had different plans. My front end washed out, hit another down tree and I went over the bars. Nothing broke so I got up and got going. That fun section was about 5 miles long. We stopped at the Taylor Park Trading Post for a splash of gas. We didn’t want to fill up because we were almost to Aspen and wanted to ship the bikes with as little fuel as possible.
After gas we took the road towards Tin Cup, Colorado. We stopped a couple times to “verify” our position. Joe was trying to find a cutoff that would put us on Timberline Trail a few miles in so we could save some time. Perhaps he was sick of me complaining about time. When we found the cutoff we sent Gilles in first, then me. It got really rocky really quickly. After about 3 miles of this crap Gilles and I came upon the “end” of the trail. How could this be??? Timberline is in the order of 30 plus miles long. Joe catches up and makes us turn around. Oops, we blew past a turn. Now we gotta do that crap again. Once in the trail it became obvious to us were the missed turn was. I whined about time again. Joe assured me that we would be OK, we moved on. After a mile or two I began to wonder why people roll their eyes when you tell them you’re taking Timberline Trail. I thought it was supposed to be tough! Other than the first section we were supposed to skip the trail was FANTASTIC!!!
It was rather smooth and fast. Every now and then there was a rock garden, sketchy drop off, or lone hiker. I was in trails heaven. No way did I want to miss the rest of this. At the next intersection Joe offered me a way out but I said if it’s anything like the last few miles then I’m staying on this trail. We continued. The hillside became a little steeper and the trail a little hillier but it was still a blast. After a good solid hour of trail Joe found a bail out spot. It was a dirt road through a logging site. It seemed longer than the trail itself, I was getting tired. When we got to the bottom of the road a guy on a Honda wanted to chat with us about riding. He was looking for someone to ride Timberline with him. Joe offered to come back tomorrow and ride it. Joe is staying a few more days to ride some more.
We took Taylor Road for another 10 miles or so. It was a dead end road which means we would be on the trail shortly. The next trail was sort of a twisty-turny thing. It brought us up to an intersection near an old cabin. That was the trail where Wolfman got his flat tire on Saturday, we took it. This time the nasty roots where the flat tire occurred weren’t a problem. We just sailed on through. By now I could taste the Fat Tire Ale that waited for us in Aspen. We had less than 30 miles to go.
From there we’d head to Taylor Pass, it’s the shortest distance to the Fat Tire Ale. A guy called “Pickle” was waiting for one of the chase trucks to arrive. Joe stopped there to talk to him, Gilles and I took off. We were both tired so I took Gilles down express creek road. It was a rocky dirt road that brought us down to pavement. From there it was another 20 miles to the hotel and the Fat Tire. When we got to Aspen the rest of our group had just arrived. We didn’t hold them up by taking the long way and we had a couple minutes to spare. 130 miles, Thanks Joe, you’re the man!