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Bike-to-hike routes can be great

Ellen Hollinshead
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At the top of Webster Pass I had options, but where I wanted to go the most, I wasn’t at all prepared for. I needed hiking shoes. I could stash my bike in the willows and walk up this steep side road which on the map looked like a neat high-alpine stroll. Soon it would flatten out and meander across the tundra for a few miles. It would even cross the summit of Red Cone Peak, which is, in fact, bright red for a thousand feet or so on its west face. But walking in stiff bike shoes is a pain. Next time I’d have to come back here with the right gear.Almost every September, I get to this point when I need a break from biking, mostly because I’m itching for new terrain. Now that the monsoon season is over, it’s the perfect time to head for the high alpine – which is not usually bike friendly, but awesome for using your feet. The only problem is that many of our hikes take more time than my attention span, so lately I’ve figured out a way of incorporating the two things I love: I tell the honeybun we’re going on a “bike-to-hike” day.I first pick a jeep road or a trail which isn’t too long or too technical, because we will be carrying the extra weight of hiking shoes. We ride the road to its end, and then switch shoes with the final destination being something tangible like a lake, a pass or a summit. Usually my motivation is more about choosing a cool hike than a cool bike. For instance: Ride to the base of Chair 6 in Breckenridge (especially now that Peak 8 is closed for the summer), then hike to the lake below the summit of Peak 8. Using the bike helps to cut down on what could’ve been a much longer hiking approach.It was this time last year when a friend and I biked the Peaks Trail, continued on up the Miner’s Creek Trail until it got too steep, and then switched shoes for a two-hour hike to the top of Peak 3. As a whole the adventure was perfect, but if I would have had to walk all that distance, I doubt making that peak would’ve interested me. There are mountain bike shoes designed for walking, but they tend to be too soft for serious riding and not quite sturdy enough for hiking. Backcountry Access makes a ski pack, the Stash, that works great for day hikes as well (and I swear it’s more comfortable than my Camelbak). I put my running shoes in a plastic bag and carry them inside the pack, along with a visor, a pair of hiking shorts and all the other essentials. I don’t bring a bike lock; there are plenty of good hiding places in the woods.All of a sudden the options for my new silly “sport” are huge, much to my delight. All these jeep roads that I’ve never biked because they weren’t singletrack have taken on a new light, especially the roads around Buena Vista and Leadville. Closer to home I love riding the Wheeler Lakes road above Placer Valley, for an easy jog to one of our prettiest high-alpine lakes. Or I’ll head up the Crooked Creek road out of Fairplay and climb Silverheels. In our own county, try biking Pennsylvania Creek then climbing into Horseshoe Basin. And I’ve always thought riding the Siberian Loop Road is a great way to access the hike to Peak 5, and that the Peru Creek-to-Grays Peak route is another good way to use the wheels-feet combo. More than a few of you are probably rolling your eyes. I know it sounds like an outdoor fanatic with too much time on her hands. But hey, at least I’m not as bad as my friend Sara, who this spring called me to do a bike-to-hike-to-kayak route. Now that’s going a bit far.Ellen Hollinshead lives in Breckenridge and writes a biweekly column on the outdoors.


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