It was ambitious. I know it was.
Three bikes, a bike seat on the back of Mandy's borrowed bike, rack and panniers on mine with the kid trailer loaded with camping gear behind...
It was all loaded in the car, we drove two hours south to the Cheyenne Canyon Trailhead at Gold Camp Road just west of Colorado Springs. We got into the parking lot at 11:00am and at 11:30 to my surprise I had everything loaded and we were ready to head off into the unknown. Thirteen miles yonder we knew we'd find Wye Campground, a free USFS campground high in the foothills south of Pikes Peak.
Three miles up Gold Camp Road we turned back. But I'll get to that.
When we started off I discovered that pulling the immense load up a slight grade was not really as difficult as I had anticipated. Oh, I was creeping up the road, but I didn't feel like I was gonna have to stop before nightfall. But we did stop...a lot.
Gold Camp Road follows an old railbed contouring below Stove Mountain and St. Peter's Dome. Man, those trains must have been nuclear powered...
The grade reminded me of the Virginia Creeper Trail, but on that one we coasted downhill for 17 miles in about an hour and a half. On Gold Camp we were grinding slowly up the old railroad path at a steady 0.1 mph.
The first problem was that the trail surface was at times deep pea sand-ish stuff. Boone couldn't get going and once he finally did he'd lose it in the heavy stuff within a few pedal strokes. The poor little guy, he really wasn't feeling good anyway. He's had a runny nose but has insisted he's felt fine and he really, really wanted to go camping and do the bike ride to the campground. He just really wasn't having fun fighting the gravelly sand.
The second problem came in the form of a natural obstacle (on account of our ob-stacles). I had read that there were old tunnels you would ride through along the trail and that sounded really cool. After a mile or so we encountered the first tunnel. It was barred. Closed. Sealed. Oh, there was a trail that bypassed the tunnel. It was a steep, root entwined, rocky goat path up and over the ridge spur that the tunnel had been cut through.
On the far side after we had labored over the crest we found a rocky creek crossing just before a steep and rocky path back down to the road/trail.
After dragging my bike and the trailer over the torturous path we stopped at the small stream to filter some cold water into our water bottles. We rested a bit and then moved on.
Immediately after our detour/ordeal Boone started whining about lunch. Well, it was 1:00. So we went a few hundred yards on up the trail and stopped in some deep shade. It had been scorching all day and we had been sweating and baking for over an hour and a half.
I waved off a second PB sandwich that Mandy offered, knowing I'd just puke if I filled my belly too full before dragging our rickshaw deeper into the foothills.
Once we were back on the trail the grade seemed to ease, but despite the relief Boone seemed to drag more and more. We encouraged and aided him as we went along. At one point I even draped his bike across the top of the trailer and labored on entreating him to walk along side as I snailed my way onward, but even walking unencumbered was too much for the little guy.
Mandy and I were beat. We were frustrated with his frustration and we knew we'd never make it to the campground at the pace we were setting. We struggled on for another quarter hour before giving up. We had tried. We had seen some amazing scenery and realized that as a day ride or as a Chris and Mandy No Kiddos kinda trip it would actually be pretty fun.
Boone was bummed that we weren't going to be camping, but he had a grin on his face as we turned the bikes back east and cruised back down through the heavy gravel/sand to the tunnel and the climb back over the ridge.
We stopped at the bottom of the goat path and stopped cold.
I ambled over with Lily to check out a little waterfall and then over to where Boone was examining the closed up entrance of the old train tunnel. I was delaying the inevitable.
It took much more effort to return our gear across the ridge the second time around. We shuttled, we grunted, we heaved and hoed. After quite awhile we managed to get everything safely on the other side...the same side of the ridge as our car.
A quick coast down the last mile brought us once again to Forester Gump, our trusty Conestoga Station Wagon. In another half an hour we were loaded back up and rolling for home.
I'm beat. I'm sore, stiff, tired, only slightly bummed that we didn't make it. I hate that my family was miserable, but everyone seems to be in pretty good spirits now and everyone is still talking to me. The kids wanted to go camping, but we've had to reschedule for next weekend.
I kept thinking that our futile endeavor today was nothing compared to the struggles of those that crossed this country on foot, horseback and in wooden wheeled wagons to settle the wild west. They couldn't order pizza at the end of the day to soothe their battered egos.
The whole affair was less of a bike ride and more of a hike with bikes. It reminds me of the time some friends and I tried to paddle the Upper Red River Gorge in July. It was a hot, miserable hike in wet shoes while carrying canoes.