Beneath the sinewy peaks of the
Colorado Rockies is a series of welcoming huts situated a
scenic bike, hike, or the like apart.
Nature, of course, is enjoyed in countless fashions; regarding
immersion, there are no hard and fast rules.Still, after a lifetime
spent exploring the outdoors, I would tender one exception. Nature
is best experienced slowly and quietly, allowing one time to
saturate in the thrall of subtle things.
And so I pedal slowly. Very slowly. I do this because, as a
professional outdoorsman, I understand the soul of slowness.
Of course, it's also possible I ride at a mall walker's pace
because, at 11,000 feet, my lungs feel like they've been stuffed
Here in the central Colorado Rockies not far from Vail, I am wholly
enmeshed in nature's glory. Along this corridor of fire road on
which we ride, climbing through a tunnel of aspen and pine, fallen
leaves are scattered like gold doubloons. Now and again a gentle
wind, having already traversed distant snowcapped peaks and
burbling streams, touches down on the road and the leaves rise up
suddenly and chase each other in circles like frisky puppies. I can
taste the air - cool, sharp, seasoned with ice and pine, a draught
made all the more tantalizing by the fact that it comes to me as if
drawn through a flat straw.
Riding a mountain bike uphill at 11,000 feet requires some
adjustment, and on this, the first day of our guided hut-to-hut
mountain biking adventure through the Holy Cross Wilderness, I am
adjusting. Now and again, along with the whisper of the wind, I
hear an odd wheezing.
Like any good guide, Don Shefchik is a keen observer, and
"The altitude kicks everyone's butt, so it's best to go slow," he
says, riding casually beside me. "We're in it for the long haul.
The long haul is going to dump us in Leadville, not five miles up
the road. Set a pace that works for you."