Fly by Cycle

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Above: 13,588ft Cottonwood Peak at sunrise.

A $150 plane ticket from Albuquerque to Denver is a relative bargain, considering that I purchased it last minute and that it allowed me to keep my schedule at work and to be in Denver in the morning for NAHBS.  Still, I was determined to make the most of the expense and a little reconnaissance from the air is always inspiring.  Incidentally, I was almost always within sight of something I recognized on the ground and something I have ridden by bike, including some local routes in the Jemez Mountains, the Great Divide Route, and the Colorado Trail.

Flying above the Jemez Mountains and the Valles Caldera near Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Cochiti Canyon is at the bottom of the frame.  About a month ago, I stole away for a multi-day trip out of town on the Pugsley.  Riding into the night, I awoke above Cochiti on FR 289.  I had previously ridden this road with friends.

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On that same 5-day trek with Cass, Joe and Lael, we also linked singletrack leaving from the Pajarito Ski Area, encircling Los Alamos, and descending Guaje Ridge.

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Nearby, the 31 Mile Road (FR 144) climbs over 5,000 ft from Espanola to connect with the Great Divide Route above Abiqui and Polvadera Mesa.  The road is seen as the prominent white squiggle in the bottom right quarter of the frame.  Jeremy and I left out of Santa Fe for a few days of riding in the mountains, and soaking in hot springs.

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Zoom.  Within proximity of our campsite for the night, before cresting the ridge to connect with the Divide.

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This blank canvas is the southern end of the snow-covered San Luis Valley.  This fall, Lael and I rode some pavement south from Del Norte, CO to meet Joe and Cass in Santa Fe.  We rode this section in the dark, and camped in a super secret spot in Antonito, CO.

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And a bit further north, Monte Vista, CO, I believe.

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Here, the Rio Grande cuts across the San Luis Valley above 7000ft between Del Norte and Alamosa.  It is easy to see here why the river runs dry along the Mexican border– irrigation.

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To the right, the northern peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range, south of Salida, CO.  Cottonwood Peak is sunlit at the bottom, and featured at the top of the page.

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Descending towards Denver and over the Front Range, this is the start of the Colorado Trail at Waterton Canyon.

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Chatfield Reservoir– geometric picnic and camping facilities are the work of the US Army Corps of engineers, most likely.  Lael and I got lost in this maze of roads and trails on our ride to the trailhead of the Colorado Trail.

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Denver.  The city swallows almost everything, except for the natural curves of this river.

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Arriving in Denver, I reassembled the Hooligan and rode to NAHBS.

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8 thoughts on “Fly by Cycle

  1. Awesome photos. My uncle has an old cabin tucked in one of those drainages just west of Cottonwood peak. I climbed Cottonwood twelve years or so ago when I was hanging out at the cabin for a while.
    I love that part of Colorado.

    • I’ve never actually been to that part of the valley, only to the north near Salida and the west in the mountains between Gunnison and Del Norte. Looks very nice from above. Several times, I have ridding into the San Luis valley at sunset. The Sangre de Cristo mtns are amazing, and aptly named.

  2. Lucky you. I’ve flown between Bozeman and Denver nearly a dozen times in the past few months for work and I’ve only captured about two good photos from the plane. Been cloudy every time. Nice to see some good shots between NM and CO.

  3. Killer shots. The snowpack in the Jemez looks significant from overhead, especially the Valles Caldera. Let’s hope for a wet spring this year as our state’s forests could afford a layoff from the wildfires. I had no idea the significant agricultural pressure that CO put on the Rio Grande before it even entered NM. Your photo puts it into perspective. I know the local farmers here in the Mesilla Valley are feeling the rope tighten as we go into yet another dry year.

    • The San Luis Valley is a highly productive agricultural region, which is a challenge in an arid climate at 7000ft. Water is certainly the key component.

      Mesilla Valley, down near Cruces and El Paso? I’m new to New Mexico.

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