Up and over in CO

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Some classic bike touring days; you don’t plan to be riding in a cut-off t-shirt at 12,000ft on the 2nd of October in Colorado. To experience days like this, you risk rain, snow, and freezing nights– with some luck, comes sunshine, 70 degrees, and brilliant foliage.

I left Boulder (5200 ft) with a riding companion– a cousin– who showed me a locals-only route up Boulder and Fourmile Canyons; Gold Hill Road, Sawmill Road, and a final mile up Lefthand Canyon to the town of Ward (9200 ft) and the secret roadie grocery. This mixed-terrain route is exactly what my bike does well, and delivered us to Ward with a minumum of bike traffic and rewarding views of peak-season foliage. In Colorado, fall foliage is no more than some yellow aspens, but their brilliance is stunning against blue skies and scrubby pines, and can be counted on seasonally.

In Ward, I washed down a cinnamon roll with a carton of whole milk. I now know why the legs of touring cyclists are unlike the legs of roadies– liters of whole milk and a seventy pound bike.

I followed the Peak-to-Peak Highway toward Estes Park (7500 ft) descending into this bustling tourist town at the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park. Mating elk disturbed my sleep through the night; at this time of year, the meadows of RMNP are like a cheap motel with hourly rates.

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Trail Ridge Road was built to shuttle motor vehicles up into the alpine tundra, which begins at about 11,400 ft. The road replaces the first route designed for motor vehicles in the park– Fall River Road (still unpaved and closed to cyclists in season, come on NPS!)– and in doing so, climbs up into the tundra at greater heights, with a gentler climb, and offering greater (more broad, and far off) scenery. Trail Ridge is the highest continuous, or “through” road in the US. I was disappointed that no marker existed at the road’s peak elevation of 12,183 ft. I was actually going to have a picture taken. It wasn’t meant to be; but it was snowing, to my delight.

Four-thousand foot descents are fun.
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A bevy, or a birdsnest of plans

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The counter is blanketed with maps and guides of places that had only existed in fantasy before now. I’m planning my immediate future, which is necessarily tied to the chance of snow as soon as next Friday, and beyond. Ideas overwhelm days remaining of this Indian summer, including some routes that are new to me. It may require an entire summer to ride all of this; there is no shortage of dreaming going on.

My (partial) list of chores over the next year: the Colorado Trail, Kokopelli Trail, White Rim Trail, Arizona Trail, and the remaining portions of the Great Divide Route. Surely, the purchase of DeLorme state gazeteers for the southwest and mountain states would be money well spent, and would allow summers full of dirt and paved explorations off of the aforementioned routes and trails. Maps show a lot of green areas in this part of the country. Green is good; white checkerboard is generally not so good.

Likely, I will ride mostly paved roads through Rocky Moumtain NP to/ward Steamboat Springs to resume Great Divide riding as I have the opportunity to meet up with a few other riders there in a few days. The next major crossroads offers either continued riding on the Divide into NM; or some exciting riding into Moab via the Kokopelli Trail, and beyond through Canyonlands NP, the White Rim Trail, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc. The Arizona Trail lay in that region as well; Lael’s talking about walking. She’s also in Seattle now (air travel is amazing!), so I resume my duties as captain of this ship.

I’m open to ideas if I’ve missed anything. Nearly, darts are being thrown at the map– give me something to shoot at.

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