The Bristlecone 200

Virgin River Rim Trail views

What: a 207 mile self-supported grassroots bikepacking event.
When: Grand Depart 6AM Sep 17, 2021
Where: western trailhead for the Virgin River Rim trail near Deer Haven campground, Dixie NF. This is east of Cedar City off of Hwy 14.
More info:
historical discussion on bikepacking.net 
active discussion in Facebook group
2021 Trackleaders signup 

The Bristlecone 200 is 207 miles of spectacular variation in the mountains, high plateaus, canyons and hoodoos of southern Utah. It originated in 2011 as a combination of the best of the Dixie 311, a more rugged and challenging adventure and the Dixie Lite, an intro to bikepacking.

Navajo Lake loop

Fast forward to 2017: the Brian Head fire raged through much of the area, wiping out key sections making a loop impractical. Trail work in 2018 made possible a revised route that I think is even more compelling than the original. It features new trails, added trails, and a taste of the Sevier Plateau. In a final twist, the route is now oriented clockwise.

The rebuilt Sydney Peaks trail
The rebuilt Bunker Creek trail is destination worthy
Ghosts left behind by the Brian Head Fire
Seldom traveled sections of the Grandview Trail
Scenes from the Pole Canyon descent
Sevier Plateau E of Panguitch

Route Info

The 2021 route is identical to the 2020 route.

Garmin Connect route. Use to sync with a Garmin.

Bristlecone on Gaiagps.com

Download the route GPX here. 

View route and water source images on ridewithgps.com.

Water beta

Approximate course mile, location, potable and on course unless otherwise noted. Campground water access normally ends 1 or 2 days after labor day.

This waypoint file contains locations of Swains creek (off route), Hancock spring (off route), Casto Canyon, Hillsdale Canyon, unnamed spring prior to Proctor on the Grandview and a water spigot in Bryce Woodlands. Note this waypoint file does NOT contain all sources, just a few in important locations that are off-route or possibly hard to find. Te-Ah, Burger Barn (outdoor sink in front), Panguitch, Red Canyon, Long Valley aren’t in this file but you will want to use those sources.

0  Deer Haven CG
9, 20, 198 (yes 3 passes!)  Te-ah CG
39  Castle creek (filter)
50  Bunker creek (filter). Many crossings along the trail.
55  Panguitch lake
69.7  Panguitch creek (filter)
80  Panguitch (major resupply)
100.1  Hancock/Casto intersection (filter, just a trickle, high bovine use)
109.5  Red Canyon CG (roughly .3 miles off route via paved bike path)
126.4  Hillsdale canyon (filter, image: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/waypoint/b8c7d02e-6632-45d3-9e9a-00c7558ffb25/?layer=usfs-roads,esriusgstopo&slideshow=true)
130.9  Piped spring that fills a trough. Great water. Can’t miss it. Filter it.
148  Bottom of Pole canyon, you’ll see a spring. I’d filter it. NOTE: this was dry in 2019. 

149.6 Red water spigot next to the road in a large park/picnic area. Easiest, best source in this area.
160  Long Valley Junction – Tod’s Country Store, gas station with a lot of food and drink choice
177  Swains creek. 1 easy mile off-route. Head down Swains Creek valley on the dirt road, you’ll see a wooden fence enclosure, ride to it and you’ll hear the gurgling. It waters a lot of cattle so have a good filter.
198  Back to Te-Ah. Long Valley to Te-Ah is what I’d consider the longest section between water, 5+ hours.


The rules are simple. By lining up you agree to honor your fellow bikepacker by following them. This is your honor code. I will not mediate rules issues as I implicitly trust all who line up. Ask for clarification on FB or bikepacking.net if they are not clear.

  • Complete the entire route under your own human power.
  • No pre-arranged support with one exception: teams of any number of riders are allowed. The rules apply to the team as a unit; the finishing time of the team is that of the last member to finish. Team riders may share items but otherwise no cached or pre-arranged support is allowed.
  • It is the responsibility of the rider to determine whether or not he/she has finished within the rules.
  • GPX file submission or Trackleaders tracking is required to claim a course record.

2 additional temporary rules for the 2020 event:

  • wear a face covering in any public shared space such as stores, gas stations, restaurants. 
  • bring and use hand sanitizer after using any public service or business.



This year featured record heat. Course was slightly longer than 2019 – new singletrack bottom of  Bunker Creek and a new neighborhood detour to avoid all of Hwy 14.

Dana Ernst 1:13:16  

Bob Saffell

Gregg Dunham 4:06:17 ITT late Sept
Brad Keyes left route at VRRT  
Lynda Wallenfels
Heidi Volpe
Michael Darter
Left route at Bryce Woodlands Team
Steve Bird Left route at mile 130  


Dana Ernst 1:11:47 New course record

Jensen Werner

Dave Harris

1:17:51 Team category
Chris Kuzdas 2:07:46  
Geoff Lane 2:10:29  
Brian N 2:11:04  
Evan Solberger 2:14:42  

Spring break bike binge slideshow

Here’s a wee slide show of 8 days of fab riding Dave and I did north of Moab at spring break. We rode some trails we have ridden mtb’s on before near Moab then headed further north to White Wash and traveled over some amazing new-to-us terrain. Fantastic scenery and riding.

Most days we ran into sections on the trail that were too difficult for me to ride and we had to turn around. This moto game is not like mountain biking where you can pick the bike up and carry on over something too difficult to ride. I need to build moto skills!

Camp V6.0 Surviving the Queen Stage on Day 3

Day 3 Arizona Strip gravel grinder – 107 miles

This day is the serious training day. Have a plan for this day! For those of us doing long events in the next month like 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo solo or Iditarod, the full route is perfect. For those coming out of the winter closet not so much.

  • Sunrise is 7:45, sunset is 5:50. This gives 10 hours of light with the 8AM start time. Expect to take about 8-10 hours moving fast with few stops. If you think you may take over 12 hours a pre-dawn start is recommended.
  • Lights are recommended for anyone planning the full route.
  • If riding SS 32×18 (29er) is the minimum gearing recommendation.
  • We will be in some remote spots. Be ready. There is no cell service in some areas.
  • Coyote spring is at mile 55. It’s reliable and piped but needs treated (probably). Lynda thinks it tastes bad though and shuts her gut down so be wary.
  • After Starvation Point the route takes a figure-8 course out on the Arizona Strip. Click on the map below for the route visual and directional arrows. On the first part of the figure-8 choose the north side. In the middle of the figure-8 there is a 0.7 mile section of road you will ride twice, both times through and in the same direction both times through. First time through (mile 41) choose the left turn to sweep south to Joe Blake Hill. Second time through (mile 76) choose the right fork to sweep south again and back over to Starvation Point. In 2009 a group rode the second loop in reverse. I think it is harder/slower that way but they had fun!

Shortcut options:

  • Shortest option is to do an out-and-back ride to Starvation Point. Starvation Point is 20 miles from the start. 15 easy fast miles plus a 5 mile climb up to the point. The view at the top is big.
  • River Road bisects the first part of the “figure 8” twice. River road makes a beeline N for town, this gives 2 points, one at mile 34, the other at 83, where you can exit the route and get back to town pretty quick.
  • Another option is when you exit Warner valley at mile 72. Turn right/north here into town instead of left/south to stay on route. It’s all pavement to town from here, about 10 miles. Here’s a link to the Warner valley to town track and the River Road waypoints: Camp Lynda Day 3 shortcut from Warner valley to town

Click this for the visual.  The orange route is the full course. The red route is the Warner valley exit.

We did this route in 2009. Finisher list here Dave Harris has the male record for this route 7:47, SS 34×15 (26er), Lynda has the female record for this route 8:35, SS 32×18 (29er). Some others got an early pre-dawn start and took 12+ hours.

Coconino 250 race report

I raced the stage race format of Coconino 250 Oct 5th – 8th. Quite a bit off the back with this blog post but life has been moving fast since then!

I initially preferred the concept of the ITT (non-stop race format) over the stage race format (official stopping points on course for the night where the race clock stops ticking). I hadn’t raced a bikepacking stage race before and by experiencing new things I learn things from the athlete perspective which makes me a better coach. The stage race format is flexible and each day you start when you decide. I put a few thoughts about the stage race format on bikepacking.net.

I am taking a motorcycle repair class at the local college. I didn’t want to miss my Thursday evening class so I decided to drive to Flagstaff on Friday morning and start late on day 1. In retrospect I would make a bigger effort to make it to the recommended start time. I missed out on meeting and visiting with everybody before the start.

Stage 1, finish time 6:35. The 5 hour drive from home to the start plus the riding felt like a long day. About 5 hours into the stage I finally admitted I was feeling really bad. I felt like I had a fever and no power. I couldn’t eat. The only calories I got in were some unflavored Tailwind sports drink I was testing. That stuff got me 5 hours in before I cracked. I got off my bike, sat down and quit the race. I was sick – bleh. DH had been sick most of the week and I hadn’t been feeling well all the day before but was in denial. I was low on water so I got back on my bike and rode up still on course to the ADOT water spigot. I lay down there for a while contemplating my options. I could hitch hike back to Flagstaff and get a motel – bleh. I could ride up to camp 1 and sleep there as it wasn’t far. I did that. I felt awful but was stoked to get to camp before sunset as it was tremendous.

Here is me feeling like I have the flu.

It was quite the view and I was so happy to be standing there in the fresh air feeling like crap looking at that fab view rather than in a motel in Flagstaff

The sun set over Mingus mountain which was the end destination for stage 2.

Stage 2, finish time 11:00: I slept hard all night and woke up after the sun had risen in the morning. I was really hungry and had a good chow down. I hadn’t eaten much the day before and had a lot of food left. I felt pretty decent so decided to continue on with the race. I hadn’t strayed off course so my quitting and unquitting was all in my head!

I bombed down to Sedona and skipped all the resupply points because I still had so much food left! Keps’ Balls are my magic ride fuel.

Sedona was going to be a challenging day as my GPS was not working and I had been confident enough in it that I had not printed out any cue sheets – oops – lesson learned. I was slightly familiar with the route from prior riding in Sedona. I caught up to Michael Braun and had a blast riding with him for a couple of hours. Up to that point I had been riding lazily as I wasn’t feeling very well. Michael was rocking the technical trails, he has skills! I picked up my pace to follow him. It was much faster than I had been riding, woke me up and was very fun.

We parted ways on the Lime Kiln trail when Michael decided to stop for a snack and I decided to hightail it to Cottonwood to find a bike shop before my rear tire exploded. I noticed in Sedona a missing knobby and a slash in the sidewall. This race was turning out to be a comedy of errors on my part! I had been riding this tire since early May and I raced Grand Loop on this very tire. Lesson learned – get some new tires before a 250 mile race – that was a lazy/cheap/dumb move for me to race on an old tire. At least I had refreshed the Stans and I made it to the bike shop without a hiccup.

However the bike shop was closed. Drats… I pondered my next move when a guy rolled up in a truck with a bike. He was a friend of the owner and called him – no answer. Then another gentleman rolled up on a bike. He had keys to the shop Sultana Cycles. He let me in and I helped myself to a new tire, stans, and their air compressor. I was stoked to get a WTB TCS tire which I have had good luck with in the past. I gave him all the cash I had and an IOU note to the owner. They were so nice to let me bust into their shop and help myself to what I needed!! Thanks Sultana Cycles.

Next up I hit Safeway, bought way too much food cause I was still hungry and rolled out of town with happy new rubber on my rear wheel.

The ride up Mingus mountain road was super and I looked forward to the single track part. The single track was unrideable and a stupid place to be with a bike. It was a drag. It was hard to hike even. Loose footing and big ledges led to my only crash of the race – a hiking crash! I heaved my front end up a ledge but the bike didn’t stick on the ledge and rolled back down again. The momentum of catching my bike pushed me backwards down the trail. As I tried to stop it, my left foot slipped into the air, off the edge of the mountain, my ass quickly followed along with my head and bike. We tumbled down about 20 feet off the edge. I came to a stop sitting up looking down at a nice view of Cottonwood in the valley with my bike on top of me. I was grumpy getting my loaded bike and myself up out of that mess of scratchy bushes and back on to the trail. No real damage sustained other than a significant dent to my friendly demeanor.

I arrived at camp 2 at the top of Mingus mountain as the sun was in the tops of the trees and the air was starting to cool. Ray had a nice fire going already and it was very welcoming. I liked that a lot and the suffer of the hike-a-bike faded. I had a ton of food still with me so I decided to eat as much of it as I could because I was tired of carrying it. I think I ate 2 dinners before sleeping that night.

Stage 3, finish time 10:12. I felt the best of the race so far. No flu and good legs. I started after most everybody else so I had lots of tracks to follow. I was having fun following tracks and navigating using the “force” seeing as I didn’t have maps, a working gps or cue sheets (that would be a triple dumb…). I missed out Coyote spring because of this however this turned out to be a dumb luck move as the spring was yuk green with a dead rat floating in it I was told later. I got a few Stans showers off my front wheel as it shed goat heads. I was glad I put in a double dose before the race and some extra at the bike shop in Cottonwood too. Stans is amazing stuff and it plugged up everything. Never ever ride in Arizona without it.

I filtered a full load of water at Verde River, visited with Jay, Keith, Les and Jill and left with a belly so full I was burping for an hour. I felt great on the climb out of the Verde river valley. I love to climb and it was hot – just how I like it. I went back and forth with with Keith a few times, then for a while our pace matched and it was nice to chat and ride. Keith stopped and I didn’t. I only stopped one more time that day for a little sit down and snack before the finish. The trail up and down Bill Williams mountain was surprisingly rideable and enjoyable.

I rolled into Williams and ran into Dave See, Ernesto, Dave and Michael all checking into the hotel opposite Safeway. I did the same. Safeway deli served up a very nice dinner.

Stage 4, finish time 8:11. I thought staying in a hotel would make getting going the next day easier but it was quite the opposite. I was less efficient with my stuff spread all over the room and the bed was warm and comfy! I started out much later than I had planned. My GPS had started working again after I dropped it on the bathroom floor in the hotel. I put the cues on my iPhone and I had a map and track on there too. Things were looking up for me to actually finish this event!

After some flat roads out of Williams stage 4 hit Sycamore Canyon. Wow! This was the race highlight for me. So pretty.

Any remote semblance to racing vanished and I turned full tourist. I took photos and hiked out to every view point to look down into the canyon. The trail was super fun too. Tech enough to be interesting and easy enough to stay on the bike. Perfect.

On some flat roads after Sycamore canyon I caught up with the California crew of single speeders, Ernesto, Dave and Dave. We had a casual stop at the Texaco with Jay sitting in the shade chatting for a while. Jay set out then shortly after I rolled off while the CA boys were still relaxing. Then my GPS stopped working again and I rode off course again – gah. I made lots of wrong turns but figured most of them out thanks to a nice set of Specialized Captain tracks. When I couldn’t see the Captains I knew I was off course. Having the cues this day helped a lot too.

Just before the final descent was a crew of Coco racers who had dropped out of the race for various reasons cheering – that was pretty cool. Rich Wolf took this great photo of me and caught me in my happy place. Just 5 miles of super sweet descending on the Arizona Trail and a few wrong turns were between me and the finish-line. I was actually going to finish this one despite my far from perfect execution.

Race results are here. I set a new female course record of 35 hours and 57 minutes.

I do recommend this route and race even though the hike-a-bike up Mingus mountain is ridiculous. Beautiful scenery the whole way and the final descent is such an incredible grand finale it is the best finish prize I could ask for.

Sub-24 bikepacking with a twist

…a twist of the throttle that is! My newest pony goes VROOM!!

I have not owned a motorbike before. One of friends mentioned my mountain bike riding skills should show up when I hit the dirt on the motorbike…well I’m still waiting for that to happen! I’m a huge chicken on the motorbike so far.

I am excited to learn all about it. Not only how to ride it but also how it works and how to fix it. I have never changed the oil in my car and when I work on my mountain bike it is usually like an episode of the amateur mechanics show.

So far I have changed the oil, cleaned the oil filter and the air filter on my moto all by myself. I’m pretty excited about that.

Next Tuesday I start a short term intensive training evening course at the local college called Motorcycle/ATV Repair/Maintence. Mucho learning will be done. I hope I am not totally in over my head. I suspect there won’t be too many other 43 year old ladies in the class.

Late afternoon DH and I threw duffle bags on the back of our motos and took off camping for the night. So much easier to pack a moto for camping than a mountain bike!

We headed west of Gunlock and hit some sandy roads

Riding the sand on the main road was fun! I was excited to be able to do it. We turned off the main road onto a smaller road looking for a camp site which was narrower, twistier, rockier and sandier. I ran out of skills, went too slow in the sand and fell over. DH was ahead. I managed to pick up my bike but was super squirelly getting started in the sand and almost immediately fell over again. On this second fall my leg landed on the bikes exhaust pipe. BIG lesson of the day – motorbikes have very hot parts that will burn you.

Branded. This time my bike landed differently and I couldn’t pick it up. It’s a wee bit heavier than a mountain bike…My leg was beeping where it got burned and I couldn’t pick up my bike and I was kinda pissed about that!

DH came back to find me. He asked if I was ok and I pouted and said no :-(  DH ended up riding my bike up to the campsite and I walked. What a newbie.

We slept late and lazily started the next day.

In the morning we did a nice hike and played with the new Panorama app on DH’s iPhone.

These pic’s are a 360 view. Pretty cool. On the left horizon is West Mountain and the big one on the right is Square Top with Jackson Peak behind and to the right.

This one I moved around while DH was taking the photo. Weirdness!!!

My owie

Then we buzzed home getting back less than 24 hours after we left. Sub-24’s are a fun way to get out without giving up the entire weekend. I’d like to do more.

Colorado bikepacking bliss summer 2012 trip

JJ, Ed and I completed a simply awesome bikepack trip along the Colorado Trail. The pace was casual by racing standards but I’m just not sure you can use the word casual for riding at 13,000 feet on alpine singletrack. Spendiferous is a better word. JJ blogged better pics and words than I could ever come up with so I leave you with a links to her extra special mtbliss SpaceCowgirl blog. Howzat for lazy blogging :-)

Colorado Trail Day 1: Notes From a Daydream Come True

Spring Creek Pass – Cataract Lake

Colorado Trail Day 2: Notes on Happiness

Cataract Lake – Silverton

Colorado Trail Day 3: Notes on riding into foreverland

Silverton to Bolam Pass.

Colorado Trail Day 4: Notes on Humility, Honor and Heart

Day 4: Bolam Pass to Durango

Pre-Dixie 200 course recon

Dixie 200 starts on June 23rd so DH and I spent last weekend pedaling around checking out different parts of the course to confirm water sources and trail conditions. We started off with a quick jaunt on the Markagunt plateau to check the Sydney Peaks trail and Dark Hollow. Awesome trail conditions, zero snow and only a few trees to navigate over.

The rest of the weekend was spent roaming around on the southern end of the Paunsaugunt plateau. It has been a while since I have pedaled around up there and I was awestruck and wowed multiple times – so beautiful. By desert standards there was water everywhere so the course checks out nicely. OK maybe not RIGHT on the course but most are short easy detours off course. If you plan carefully you won’t be thirsty in Dixie 200.

Here are a random batch of pics of the Paunsaugunt to feed stoke for Dixie 200 racers:

First stop was Robinson Guzzler. I’d call this desperation water. Even filtered I would guess it will taste skanky – I didn’t try it. This one is 350 yards off course.


Next stop Robinson Canyon trailhead. There are great maps at most of the trailheads and clear signage on most of the Paunsaugunt plateau. It is an easy place to navigate.

Dixie 200 passes this trailhead

The dust on the ground at Robinson Canyon trailhead is littered with these Paunsaugunt paw prints.

Bear Paw

On top of the Paunsaugunt sunset cliffs looking at the Markagunt plateau. For Dixie 200 racers this is looking back over the 90 miles ridden.


More sunset cliffs.


Straight Canyon trailhead. The Dixie 200 comes through here.


Looking down on Grandview trail from Straight Canyon trailhead. Dixie 200 comes up this trail.


Tasty flowing water in Swapp Canyon 1.4 miles off course (from Straight Canyon trailhead take upper Straight canyon to Swapp Canyon).


Rubbly decent on Paunsaugunt trail 003 to Mill Creek Canyon has beauty views for miles to the east.


More tasty looking water in Mill Creek Canyon. At Mill Creek canyon turn left (north-west) on the single-track for 0.4 miles off course.


Crawford pass trail takes you under those awesome pink cliffs. There has been a Herculean amount of chainsawing done on this trail since last year. Some parts are a dead-fall cut-out corridor. Not a single tree was left blocking the trail – nice.



Tropic spring is cold and tasty. Worth a visit being less than 0.3 miles off course. It is at the south end of Tropic Reservoir on FR087 (the main road).


It even has a spigot (look around the back of the rock)


All this cruising around the Paunsaugunt has made me want to pack up my bags and ride the Dixie 200 now :-o It is such an awesome route.

Lynda’s 2012 Grand Loop Ride

Short story:

Cat Morrison and I raced the 360 mile Grand Loop route, self-supported in 3 days, 11 hours and 33 mins finishing at 3:39am on Sunday June 2nd to set a joint female ultra record. We are super-stoked!!!

Neither Cat or I carried a camera so all pics are borrowed from DH.


My big plan for 2012 was to race AZT 750 but my right knee was a road block, it hurt when I pedaled…um that’s a training problem! I spent all winter figuring out what was wrong with my knee trying madly to rehab it instead of training. When AZT rolled around in April my knee still hurt and was still an undiagnosed mystery despite thousands of $$$$ spent on several Drs, physical therapy, an MRI and x-rays. Thousands…uuugh…

Burned out on the medical bills I took a break from the medical establishment but kept on listening to any and all advice sent my way. Thank-you to everybody who shared their stories and knowledge with me. I learned a lot on this journey that will make me a better coach. Maybe that is why I was forced to take it.

I gave up my AZT dream and started doing any movement that didn’t hurt which included running and Crossfit. I joined Crossfit St George. The owners of Crossfit St George are far from gym meatheads but are savvy educated individuals. They told me to do the entirely opposite movements to the physical therapy I had spent thousands of dollars and many hours on over the winter. Cycling legend Bart Gillespie also very kindly looked at my knee and his advice fell in line with Crossfit St George owners. After 2 weeks of cutting out physical therapy and following Bart’s and Crossfit St George’s advice my knee pain diminished then disappeared. My race dreams reappeared and Grand Loop was coming up!!

As I was making my Grand Loop plan and researching the terrain one of my athletes, Cat Morrison, asked if we could fit a Grand Loop race into her training plan. He, he…I replied by telling her it would fit really nicely if she did it with me…and so plan was hatched.


My bike was loaded, car packed and I was on the way out the door to meet Cat for the planned Dewey Bridge start. Just before shutting down my computer I peeked at the Grand Loop thread on bikepacking. Bryan K posted there was a fire and fire closure on the route – whaaaat??  Yikes. Some research and frantic calls revealed this was serious business. It foiled our current plan of starting at Dewey Bridge.  Plan B was made and we decided to take a gamble and start the loop just ahead of the fire hoping it would be contained and the area closure lifted by the time we got back around to it some 3 days later. This involved a longer drive for me, last minute logistics changes, scrambling and a late night.


WEDNESDAY: We got on course 10am, Wednesday May 30th where the Paradox Trail segment of the Grand Loop crosses Hwy 141 near Uravan. Pedaling was so easy compared to packing, planning and logistics wrangling. Pedaling felt so good.

We pedaled all day and stopped in a nice sheltered place in the trees at 9,500 feet to bivy. I was stoked the altitude was not bothering me and that the sleeping bag I borrowed was a lot cozier than I had expected. I slept soundly.

THURSDAY: We got a lazy start by bikepack racing standards and it was full daylight when we got rolling. Our first segment was the famed Roubideau section. We were elated to be hitting this notoriously hard section first thing in the morning after a good night sleep.  It was as remote, rugged and wild as expected. The trees emitted screeching noises I’m convinced were from monkeys. Cat started counting drainage crossings. There are supposed to be 15. We lost count after 8.

I eagerly anticipated the Potter Creek drainage as I had seen photos and reports of how beautiful this canyon was. It did not disappoint. At the bottom of the drainage were two ranchers working on fences. We cruised passed them without a word from either party. After we snickered at what the ranchers might have said to each other at the sight of 2 gals on bikes riding by. It felt like we cruised through Roubideau fairly easily.

Next up, lots of climbing took us back over 9.6k to the Divide road. Now the altitude was killing me! I had to ask Cat to stop for a break up on the Divide road to gather myself as I was cracking – gah. Once off the Divide road and back under 8k I rallied and we ripped almost 5k of descending down to Whitewater and bivvied at a comfortable 4.7k.

FRIDAY: We got up early and motored over No Mas hill into Grand Junction. At Albertsons we called to see if the fire closure had been lifted. No word but there was a BLM meeting at 1pm to make a decision. It was noon. We hung around Albertsons snacking and cleaning up a bit. Cat was sure we were being mistaken for homeless people as we were sitting outside Albertsons with bare feet, looking very dirty and had bikes with stuff hanging all over them – funny. After the 1pm meeting we were told the fire was 85% contained and there was going to be a multi-agency meeting at 4:30pm to make a decision – hmph…what to do… We packed up and rode to Fruita and waited for the 4:30pm decision. At 4:30pm still no word…Finally, too antcy to stick around, we switched off our phones and went for it. We had a fire detour route planned out if the fire closure was still in place.

By 5:30pm we were back on course and churned out as many of the low elevation Kokopelli Trail miles as we could before we bivvied at 2am. In the Bittercreek section I was motivated and we were motoring. We caught up to 4 guys riding Kokopelli Trail and stopped for a wee chat. One dude said “you girls are moving” and I blurted out loudly “oh yeah” later Cat pointed out that was crack talk – oops – LOL. We motored off and left them behind. Later we stopped to refresh our Tailwind and they passed us again. The last chap mentioned we had bruised some egos – LOL.

We both carried ziplok bags full of Tailwind Sports Drink. I carried about 5,000 calories worth of it. It was refreshing to drink and went down more easily than plain water over the long haul. I didn’t carry any extra electrolyte capsules with me relying on the Tailwind for all my electrolytes. I never cramped or felt dehydrated and am very pleased how that worked out.

Kep’s Balls were my other magic fuel for the trip. I had them squished into 800 calorie logs in ziplock bags and gnawed on them continuously. They still tasted like treats to me at the end. Mmmm. They are gluten free and raw and kept my GI very happy.

SATURDAY: We got an early start to try and beat the heat up the Shandies. At Dewey bridge bathrooms a man was curious with our set-up. He was Mesa county search and rescue and told us we wouldn’t have any problem getting through as the fire had been contained. Good news.

Despite our early start we were still baked pretty good climbing the Shandies. Cat had her only crack of the trip at the top of the Shandies in the heat and we lay on our backs under a tree for a while. She rallied quickly and absolutely railed the Rose Garden Hill section on her 29er Voodoo FS. I had wheel size envy as I was on my 26er.

Near  the top of north Beaver Mesa a rancher on a moto stopped us to tell us not to ride down “his” bikepack trail (still have no clue where that trail is) as he had just sent 100 cows down it and it was closed! He told us that the Buckeye road had been re-opened.  Good news again.

Turning left off Kokopelli Trail onto Paradox Trail was so exciting. The ecosystem instantly changed from desert to lush Alpine in yards. I saw a black bear run across the road minutes after the turn. It was like we transported into a new world. Surreal…and then the climbing began. Up, up…and the altitude started to get me. We went down a little and up twice as much then down and up more. At 8,800 feet I had a category 1 crack. It was dark and cold, I had no power and I was falling asleep. I ended up on all fours in the middle of the road in a pathetic groveling state, struggling to open a packet of Via. I didn’t hold back and Cat got to witness the full-on beauty of my crack – LOL. No tears were involved. Earlier I had declared there were to be no tears until the finish. After packet of Via and a 1,000 ft descent I rallied and all was good and happy again.

When we got to Taylor Flat where the fire closure had started it was dark. I saw a barricade lying face down in the grass off to the side of the road and assumed it was moved when the area opened and was waiting to be picked up. It had rained up there most of the day and the ground was wet. We were relieved the area was open and we didn’t have to ride the longer fire detour route we had as a backup plan. We never did see any flames or even embers. It was eerie riding through the burned area in the dark.

Carpenter Ridge to the finish was all downhill. Cat smelled the finish. She motored and I suffered some to keep her within sight, recycling 24 different reasons in my head why I should stop for a break. I kept my mouth shut and we didn’t stop. The last few miles flew by yet took forever. With the Dolores River pumping on our left, surrounded by moonshine bouncing off the tall redrock walls of the river canyon it felt suffery yet serene all at the same time. I alternated between seconds of everything hurts to a euphoric nothing hurts and back again. Smile, grimace, smile. And then we were finished. We did it. First female finishers of Grand Loop. 3 days 11 hours and 33 mins. 360 miles. Self-supported. Giddiness and euphoria was shared. That was so cool. Cat is one badass mountain bike chica.

Thanks Cat for sharing one of the best rides of my life. That loop is truly an epic one in length and beauty.