Ride for a cause

Dan Enright, left, and Elliot Baglini completed the 550 miles of the Colorado Trail on their mountain bikes in 13 days while raising funds for outdoor equity organization Outdoor Afro. (Courtesy photo)

This is a story that involves yelling at moose to “Get a job!” It may or may not involve 20 miles of, let’s say, “scantily clad” mountain biking. It includes colorful characters with monikers such as Gerald the Giraffe, Larry the Llama, and Popsicle. It certainly involves blood, sweat and perhaps a tear or two. And no, this is not a review of a Tom Robbins novel.

This is the tale of two friends, local mountain bike enthusiasts Dan Enright and Elliot Baglini, who set out on a mid-July morning to bikepack the entirety of the Colorado Trail, a long-distance trail running across the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Denver to Durango. Bikepacking, according to the website backpacking.com, is defined as the “synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping.” That sounds about right, since in order to carry the requisite “adventure costume,” Enright chose a rainbow-colored undergarment of extremely minimalist proportions. A second pair of socks for the 550-mile journey qualified as “a luxury,” since both men boasted just one set of clothes for the ride. Critically, they each carried an animal “coach,” with Baglini Gorilla-taping Gerald the Giraffe to his handlebars and Enright strapping Larry the Llama to his backpack for emotional support.

While Baglini and Enright undertook the mountainous mission — which included a total of nearly 80,000 vertical feet of uphill — for the adventure, beauty and sheer fun of biking across the state’s mountain ranges, they also wanted to turn the ride into something more impactful than simply their own enjoyment. Before departing, they began a fundraising campaign through GoFundMe to raise funds for the outdoor equity organization Outdoor Afro, a California-based nonprofit “at the forefront of helping more people, particularly Black people, equitably reconnect with the natural world through outdoor recreation,” according to Outdoor Afro’s website.

Baglini recalled his reflections and conversations with friends in the months leading up to the trip on topics of racial inequity, privilege and access to opportunities. As a mountain biker, he felt deeply grateful for his experiences in the outdoors and his ability to pursue them. 

Noting the importance of a diverse range of voices being represented in the outdoor world, Baglini said, “We’ve seen in recent events the importance of how money is allocated, who’s spending it and how, and I thought, well, money is a way to amplify anyone’s voice. Outdoor Afro is leading fly fishing clinics, teaching caregivers how to swim, going on hikes, and helping folks get outside in whatever capacity all across the country. So I decided to use the trip as a way to say, ‘I want to acknowledge my privilege and educate my friends about an organization doing this kind of work around the country to make these spaces more diverse and equally accessible.’”

Enright agreed, expressing how the national spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement had moved him to “ally myself with and do what little we can to help balance those scales which have been unequal for so long, and acknowledge that we as white men have a lot of power that others don’t. Everything we do has this sort of inherent privilege in it, including taking two weeks off, having bikes and gear that are very expensive, and even the years leading up to it of being able to have the time to bike and hone our skills.”

After setting up a GoFundMe page, the challenges from friends started rolling in in the form of pledges. One friend challenged the duo to tell passing elk to “get a job,” and since the two failed to see any actual elk, they resorted to heckling the occasional moose and not a small number of marmots. Another person pledged $5 for every time the duo lifted their heavily packed bikes overhead at a mountain pass in the pose popular with mountain bikers, while Enright’s mother pledged funds for each time her son called her throughout the trip. One mischievous friend put the pair up to the task of the “scantily clad” 20 miles, which the duo completed on a remote section of doubletrack road, fortunately without encountering any passersby.

As of press time, the GoFundMe page had accumulated nearly $3,000 in donations for Outdoor Afro. Both men expressed their delight that the fundraiser had exceeded their initial goal, while describing their efforts as “a drop in the bucket of what’s needed” and calling it “a first step.” The fund will remain open for another week; those wishing to contribute can navigate to gf.me/u/yfmdzh.

As for Popsicle? Those familiar with through-hiking culture may know that rarely are hikers, or in this case bikers, known by their real names on trail. Instead, it’s a popular tradition to go by a trail name. Partway through the trip, Baglini and Enright — perhaps better known on the trail as Gummy Bear and Mariposa — were slogging through one of the trail’s more difficult segments, Sergeant’s Mesa. A painfully long stretch of technical, loose, not-very-bikeable terrain, the segment is home to large herds of free-range cattle, with water sources few and far between. The sources that do exist, even once filtered, taste like pies, but not the good kind. Finally, the dehydrated and exhausted duo, who were averaging 40 to 45 miles per day, came to an intersection.

“There at the intersection was this amazing woman whose trail name was Popsicle, and she was our trail angel,” remembered Enright. “She was so bright and sparkly, and she gave us cold water and Coca Cola from her car. Most delicious Coke I’ve ever tasted in my life. She even gave us chocolate covered macadamia nuts and offered to pack out our rubbish. It really felt like magic. We referred to her as St. Popsicle for the rest of the trip.”

The rest of the trip whizzed by in a kaleidoscope of alpine vistas, mud, highs, lows, screaming quads and never-sufficient calories, with the two skidding to a stop at the trail’s terminus on day 13.

“It was the biggest sense of relief and accomplishment,” said Enright. “So much can go wrong on a trip like this, and it felt like such a blessing that it all went right.”