J.D. Pauls
Great Divide
Colorado Trail. Monarch Crest Pass Tough Day yesterday.  Looking ahead I am not sure that today gets any easier, but that's what this trail is all about.  We need to cover 90 miles so we need to get moving and warm sleeping bag is winning the battle over the cold air outside and keeping me in bed.  I originally thought that I had enough food to finish the course, but after too slow of mileage yesterday we are looking at the possibility of a second night out here and looks like I may have to start rationing what I have.  So breakfast was good, but a little light.  I don't carry a stove when I travel and usually use that as motivation to get to a town to get a warm meal.  I try to carry as much real food as possible since energy bars, powders and gels don't really excite the pallet after day one.  It was a banana and a peanut butter sandwich this morning.  It is hard to keep the real food from being mangled so I begin accepting, squished sandwiches and inside out burritos after a while, and I so look forward to them!  Finding out I still have so
me real food left no matter what form it may be in is a victory on a tough day.
More of the same trail today.  Tough.  Looking ahead on the maps, I found what I thought to be a short cut and it may save us 5-10 miles on the day.  Funny thing about short cuts, is they aren't always shorter.  Both routes seemed to have equal climbing, on way just shorter mileage and we had to guess that both had some hike-a-bike.  I really had to make sure Daniel was on board because without any trail info we weren't sure what we were getting into.
As we sat at the intersection contemplating the options, we ran into a group of through hikers who were looking pretty spent.  I had reached into my back pack and found a family size bag of sour patch kids.  Perfect time to share and ditch some weight!  The smiles on their faces when I offered them a handful was priceless!  They looked at each other in disbelief as if they had just won the lottery. They offered some trail info in return including the promise of a little restaurant at what would be our 55 mile mark, and then we made our decision to try the short cut.
Well, Daniel and I are still friends.  The short cut was a 2000 feet of climbing hike-a-bike on a jeep road with baby head sized stones.  It took the better part of 2 hours to make the 3 mile detour.  Relieved and all smiles at the top, we stared across at the next challenge which was a similar climb in the far distance.  We made the best of the steep and bumpy downhill and began the next climb.  
We eventually found some better roads, and after getting turned around a few times, we had made it to the trailhead of the Monarch Crest Pass.  There was a restaurant!  Terrible food, but food nonetheless, and ice cream!!!  So with 26 miles to go we headed out to what we hoped to be the last climb up to the trail that had been the focus of our entire trip.  We walked the final few yards to the top and stopped.  The sun had had enough of watching us, the rain clouds were tired too and started letting go. I leaned over my bike and took a deep breath. A breath to get used to being at 12,000 feet, a breath to remind myself how lucky I am, a breath to settle my heartbeat and a breath to feel the cool awesome and unimaginable brilliance of the Monarch Crest trail. One more breath to take in a memory that will last forever.  Now, get moving! Rains coming and the sun is setting.  It turned into another night ride which out of necessity, since we were not going to be spending the night up here.  
We made it out to the dirt road at Marshall Pass and began the long dark and dusty, 16 mile downhill to town. We rolled into the darkness of town, found Phil's once again, made ourselves at home in the garage and jumped in to my sleeping bag again.  So happy that we did it! 120 miles of the trail, done!  It was a fantastic day. Perfect really.


Great Divide's profile picture
J.D. Pauls

Gear List



- Technology -

- Required Gear -

- Clothing -

J.D. Pauls's profile picture
J.D. Pauls
  • What was the genesis moment or inspiration for your upcoming adventure? Like many TDR veterans, the trail became part of my DNA, an experience so personal and unique that it actually changed me as a person. Salida, CO was a highlight of my trip last year because it was the point at which I knew I would finish the race. I had several really tough days leading up to Salida and as I crested the last climb before town I turned around and the storms I had been running from were lifting, and the sky behind me produced the largest double rainbow I had ever seen. I descended into the setting sun, the changing landscape was glowing in magical yellows, reds and browns. The pain of the previous hours and days, were instantly and unexpectantly replaced by joy and a truly satisfied soul. The Colorado Trail crosses the Great Divide and runs through Salida. This route is a beast, but pushing myself beyond what I thought possible has become a comfortable and necessary part of how I want to live my life. I don’t think there is a more beautiful trail to experience this on. Discovering the wild world at the intimate speed of the bike really can change the speed at which we live our lives. Oh, and sipping a morning coffee at Cafe Dawn in Salida is definitely worth planning a bike trip around!
  • Have you traveled by bike in the past? I had a bike growing up, but an accident when I was 15 (1990) ended my childhood cycling career. I didn’t own a bike again until Dec of 2011 when I heard of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and decided I wanted to take on the challenge. I made my first attempt at the Tour Divide in June 2012, and due to lack of cycling base, unpreparedness, lack of knowledge and intense weather, wisely pulled the plug in Butte MT after 10 days and 750 mile complete. I worked hard to return in June 2013 ready to go and completed the 2800 miles in just over 25 days.
  • What do you hope to get out of this journey? A little different expectation this year. On my divide ride I was truly out to find myself and discover a new J.D. that I always wanted to know was out there, and I think I accomplished that. This trip, since I found that guy I was looking for last year, will be more like visiting an old best friend. It is going to be a blast. Sure I will be racing, but a smell the roses type of racing. What is the point in climbing a mountain if you don’t look around when you get to the top?


  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Arm Band
  • Arm Band
  • Big Agnus Seedhouse SL1 Tent
  • Glowstick Necklace

- Great Divide Milestones -