The first person to ever attempt the Colorado Trail on a unicycle reached Durango on Monday evening in an effort to raise money for the neurological illness ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Jamey Mossengren , 36, of Boulder, set out on the 500-mile journey from Denver to Durango on Aug. 25, his birthday. He said in a prepared statement he planned to average 25 miles a day, all on a mountain unicycle.
On his last day on the trail, Mossengren set a personal record: 38 miles in just under 12 hours. At the trailhead off County Road 205, he was greeted by his friend Amy Zalazar, of Denver.
“It blew my mind he was going to do a unicycle the whole way,” she said. “When he first told me I said, ‘You’re crazy, but good for you.’”
Zalazar said Mossengren checked in almost every day on a tracking device, always saying he was well even when she believed he must have had a few rough days.
“He’s been through some stuff in his life, and he’s the type of person to turn it around and make something positive happen out of it,” she said.
Mossengren said he planned the trip because he always wanted to go on an epic journey – citing the fact that he had never been on a solo, long-distance trek before, and to prepare, he had to go to REI and “literally buy a couple thousand dollars worth of equipment.”
But as the days of solitude passed, he started to reflect on all of the relatives who have passed throughout the years, namely the recent deaths of his grandfather and uncle, both of whom died of ALS.
On his travel blog, Mossengren wrote on Sept. 4:
“As I was climbing this beautiful mountain I had tears dripping down the face. As I sat I realized for the first time that I have a fear of getting ALS ... or if I don’t get it maybe my brother, sister, a close friend or another relative might. This tears me apart to think about, and I decided that I not only need to do the (Colorado Trail) for myself but I must try and help others as well.”
He decided then to take a journey originally marked as a personal challenge, and instead raise about $2 per mile to research cures for ALS.
That 500-mile task came to an end about 7 p.m. Monday. Scrapped up and unkempt, Mossengren said there were relatively few incidents on the trail, save the three bears he passed just six minutes into the Colorado Trail.
Mossengren rode a large, mountain-equipped unicycle, with thick tires set at low pressure to absorb the rugged terrain. He’d walk the cycle when the trail got too steep, but for the most part, was able to pedal on one wheel.
One predicament he did run into was whether to choose to ride on the ‘wilderness’-designated areas or the bike detours. He said wilderness does not allow bicycles, which a unicycle technically is not. And he said a unicycle is not allowed to ride on pavement with lines, taking away that option.
“It’s kind of a gray area,” he said. “So I just took a chance on the wilderness area.”
Mossengren has been unicycling for more than 25 years. He was taught by his grandmother at age 10. Since then, he has won numerous national and world-champion titles and is a seven-time World Unicycle Champion.
Bill Manning, executive director of the Colorado Trail Foundation, as well as an avid unicyclist, said he has heard of riders completing portions of the Colorado Trail, but never the whole thing.
“They need every little benefit they can figure out with their equipment,” he said.
Mossengren said he’s headed back to Denver, where he works as a professional street performer. He’s not in a rush, but said he’ll probably take another long-distance unicycle trip at some point in the future.
“It’s surreal now that it’s over,” he said. “But I’m really happy, and proud I did it.”