Do you feel guilty when you see your bike?
Do you catch yourself staring way too long at other bikers as they pass by?
Are you convinced that bike messengers think they're better than you?
Maybe you need Dirt Camp.

"A hearty nosebleed reminds me of the dry elevation and I order a breakfast of roots and berries...."

The brochure was a crock
But what IS Dirt Camp?
Is it camping and riding with a full pack across the Continental Divide?
Is it eating bugs and twigs and riding in a loin cloth?
Is it roasting marshmallows on a spoke? — I didn't know, I didn't care. I knew it involved elevation and riding in pristine, Keystone, Colorado and what more did I need?

Day 1: A hearty nosebleed reminds me of the dry elevation and I order a breakfast of roots and berries to get me in the camping mode.

berry berry me...
Camp begins with counselors herding and customizing eight individuals with kickin' new Cannondales. The friendly and soft spoken Dave and Daryl bring three guys and four girls from 12 to 30-something to a clearing where it looked like we were going to learn about edible plants and crickets. Nope, it was instruction on oneness with your bike and body and the skills that will bring forth an eventual bike/body integration. Captain Dave explained simply how skillsets + practice = greater confidence + handling ability = increased fun-ability! We dip, turn, stop and hop in an effort to give us the skills to take home to practice our bike Zen.

Ian's goin' DH in 2008
Lunch comes to us, but to my suprise, no dirt, no triflow, no mulch, just sandwiches, sugar and plenty of fluids. Daryl apparently deemed Markus and myself the girlscout campers as everyone stepped into the gondola for a boost from 9,199'(2804m ) to 11,642'(3568m). He must have recognized us as trouble and separated us from the pack under the excuse of similar skillsets. In no time we were cruising down "girlscout" trail—green, easy, and dry. A guide and Markus had been there just yesterday.

"I'm in good hands," I thought. That's why I was so surprised when Markus got a little air then bounced himself into a small gully not two hundred meters from the top. He was up and smiling instantly, but his bike was in two pieces connected only by cables. The carbon frame had snapped at the front connections of both the top and down tubes.

Markus busted it in half
So, Daryl hiked back up with his new fold-up bike and we met him back at the pork shack. Here I was drawn to the backroom where couselors gathered around the computer to check on the web for their co-worker, Joey Klein, who had won the last two Montezumas Revenge races. No pics of him, but he was in eighth with only four hours to go. Not good. Many campers had slept little the previous night to support their boy.

Daryl decided to reward Markus for not having to go to the hospital by lending out his sweet new wheels — a '98 Raven. We stepped things back up to the top for some "Punk Rock" and "Wild Thing" (she makes my butt sting). Campers then congregated back at the dork shack for apres fluids over maintenance and bike fitting starring Big Bird.

Dinner was a step out of the woods and step up into an inn. So we enjoyed a delicate venison, buffalo, sea bass pate with some fruity, Frog's Leap wine. Decadent for a bunch of dirty campers, but we cleaned up pretty well. After hours we roamed Out of Bounds where we got our butts kicked by some 12-year-olds in pool over a couple beers.

Day 2: Stretch and buttery breakfast buffet begins our day. The campers all agree on a cross country morning, so we saddled up and headed west down the "Aquaduct" trail. We knew we were stronger as a team so the boys kept Dave busy while Daryl was overcome by the ladies. Three jumped ahead while another swooned Daryl into submission. Our plan worked and one camper was on the run. We snickered as Dave made the quote of the day. "Everything's fine, we just misplaced a guest for a moment".

One of the chicks ditched
He then turned us against our own by making us hunt her down. He used the promise of donuts in an attempt to lure us into disclosing our fellow campers hideout. The donuts proved too much for some of the younger campers and our escapee was soon back on the winding single-track surrounded by evergreen and aspen forests opening to wildflower fields. The trail sooned darkened and rain began transforming our happy campers into wet rats.

The lunch stop was only minutes away and we dropped into an Keystone Ranch where lunch came delivered to us under cover. The moistness had gotten to many of the campers who opted to hijack the lunch delivery truck for a lift back to the bjork shack. That's the beauty of Dirt Camp, not only are couselors ready for any level of idiocy, you can go at your own pace.

Look, no more training wheels
Me? I was wet, but high on sugar, so Captain Dave brought me on a last solo mission through the Coloroado trail. Fast, aggressive and longer than my sugar supply. Thinking I was done for the day, I went for some calories and ordered a triple, tall, mocha. In no time I was back on the Gondola with Daryl rambling in a caffeine overdosed babble. Daryl deemed me worthy of a secret stash and inspired me to attempt his baffling downslope wheel-to-wheel hopping transfer.

Enlightened and shaken with bouncing bike syndrome, I bid my camp couselors a fond farewell with a tear in my eye. I knew the only solution for my saddle-sore self was several hours of hot tub and beer therapy. With more trails than you can explore in a summer, Keystone's Dirt Camp definitely deems itself worthy of an annual summer treat.

Hans Prosl, Happily Saddle Sore for The Mountain Zone

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