J.D. Pauls
Great Divide
Back on the Colorado Trail So, I have learned all about the Colorado Trail being a monster and I have made peace with myself about not being able to finish the entire route this year.  I did tell myself at the beginning that I would see where this adventure takes me.  I must say I am a little disappointed, but it is the wise thing as the time I have left will not allow me to finish anyways, and the last couple days of fishing and riding the divide route have been quite fantastic.  
Today however, I get to tackle to the CT once again!  It will feel so good.  We ended up making it to Salida, CO and heard about the Vapor Trail 125 race that just happens to be starting at 10pm this evening!  The route is tough and covers one of the sections of the CT that I was most hoping to ride!  So, of course this seemed like the perfect section for us.  We will start at 3 pm with our loaded bikes, camp on course and try to finish up in the morning.  We thought we may have a chance at beating some of the racers by leaving early, though riding with loaded bike may be a challenge.
Salida is one of my favourite places on the entire Divide Route!  Perfect little town, that really is built for bikers and adventurers.  I am tempted to move there myself.  We stopped by Ranger Philips coffee shop, Cafe Dawn, for a quick coffee and ran into Phil who offered us his garage to stage our bikes and store our stuff until we got back. Philip and his wife Dawn are really a class act. Taking in a couple riders on zero notice and letting us use their home as their own for a couple days is a pretty cool thing to do.

A quick trip to Absolute Bikes to pick up the 2 maps we needed and get as much trail info as possible and then we are off!

A long climb out of town and up to the trailhead. I quite enjoyed seeing the CT sign post again, felt like my adventure was back on track.  It didn't take long before the trail monster that I met on my first 3 days, struck again.  Weaving through miles of rocky tracks, and hike-a-bike really started to take its toll on us.  The flowing downhills were a blast but few and far between, as even those became a chore.  Quickly the night came, and we were into night riding mode.  As hard as it was to not fly off the trails and the sandy switchbacks in the dark, it was kind of fun struggling like that. Maybe fun isn't the right word, rewarding is maybe better.  More climbing and pushing and climbing and soon it was time to find a camp. The last 5 miles always seem to be the longest, with the expectation of food and rest ahead.  We rode along a cliff ledge which may have been an old railway line at some point.  Not sure how far the lake was below as my light evaporated in the darkness and emptiness beside me, but I kn
ew it was straight down and being this exhausted, I really had to focus on the trail ahead.  We managed only 30 miles in 7 hours and I swear I heard the trail whisper "Welcome Back" as I slipped into my sleeping bag.  90 miles tomorrow will be a Herculean task.


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J.D. Pauls

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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?


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