Winter riding has become bigger and bigger over the last few years as fat bikes become more and more prevalent, but Two Days of Cold Toes is a long-standing winter bikepacking tradition. Thirteen years ago some crazy characters in Fort Collins decided to ride their bikes up Poudre Canyon and camp for the night. Every year since then, a group of riders have made their way up to camp despite inclement weather. In 2013, the weather was very cold and snowy, resulting in only 4 riders spending the night. This camping tradition is a part of the Winter Ralleye series that occurs in Fort Collins each winter featuring monthly rides from November to April.
This years adventure began at the marvelous establishment that is the Swing Station in Laporte, Colorado. Nice weather relative to the season brought out a large group for the event. The view from the elevated deck at Swing Station offers a solid perspective of the nearby front range foothills. We did extensive quality control testing of a few local brews and began the casual spin through town heading out to the canyon.
There is a cattle guard that everyone must cross upon entering Poudre Canyon. It’s a physical experience that elicits a smile every time I cross it. As we climbed the canyon the group stopped at Picnic Rock, a very busy place in the summer. In mid January, not so much. We rolled in and filled the parking lot with bikes. It was a great opportunity to see all the different setups that people rode; cargo bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, and plenty of trailers, a few even containing dogs.
The group rolled out of Picnic Rock and continued the climb up the canyon. The next stop was at the Columbine General Store in Poudre Park for a few snacks and a couple Coors singles. The break was brief but enjoyable as the owner of the store recognized the annual ride made by the group each year and he wished us warmth for the evening.
People arrived at camp at their own pace which resulted in a fairly steady stream of bikepackers rolling into camp at Ansel Watrous across the early evening. After setting up my tent and whatnot it was time for a bit of exploration. The campground sits next to the Poudre River which freezes over enough to cross it this time of year. Using the ice to our advantage we climbed the opposing hillside up to a ridge and rock precipice. The view overlooking the narrow canyon was a sight to behold as the sun was beginning to set. Twilight is a wonderful time to be outside, to watch the shadow extend and to see the swirls of color as the sunlight retreats. We descended an alternate route back down and stopped at the small waterfall hidden back there. Fairly addled with ice, the falls were still flowing and even provided a quick chance for a refreshing drink. As we returned to camp, the scene had begun to move into darkness and folks began to gather around the fire. The evening was a buzz with chatter, dogs, and tipping of flasks. Before long the moon began to rise through the lower end of the campground and created an enjoyable glow of moonlight reflecting all over camp.
Morning eventually came and everyone slowly began to emerge from their tents and look quickly to see if the fire was burning. Thankfully most folks woke to a roaring fire with coffee in ample quantities. The warmth of the sun took its time to reach the campground but eventually it did and the layer of frost burned off. It didn’t take long for bikes to return to their fully packed state and for people to begin to pedal down the canyon. For myself, the ride home was warm and fun, it was just nice to spend time on a bike as my volume of riding is always a bit less this time of year.
This years bikepack was a large group and brought new friends and new bikes. I love the format for these events as they are welcoming of anyone, on any bike. We all share the love of pedaling and the enjoyment of the outdoors. The offering of community that this ride showcases in the middle of winter is a testament to the love of the bicycle. I, for one, am happy to be a part of this collective.