This past weekend I loaded up the bike and took a high country fall foliage tour on two wheels. I lucked out and caught the fall colors
at their absolute peak. I will deviate from the normal theme of real estate and give you a sense of why I love living, working and playing in Colorado.
My route started in Redstone Colorado on Friday night and headed immediately west over McClure Pass. I camped near the top of the pass and the next morning descended to Paonia through alpine aspens fields, to rolling ranch land, coal mining operations and finally into the orchards near Paonia.
After a stop in Paonia for a smoothie I rode the back way from Paonia to Crawford. This 20 mile road wound through rolling pastureland, orchards and as I headed south it became drier and more desolate. After lunch in Crawford I rode south toward the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. It was a hot day and the road seemed to head up much more than it headed down. With a fully loaded bike, it is hard to carry much speed. I characterize the slope of a hill by how fast I can go. Steep hills are 5 mile an hour hills and not so steep hills are 7 mile per hour hills. The road from Crawford to the Blue Mesa Reservoir had many 5 mph hills.
The road didn’t have a big shoulder but the road surface was smooth, the
drivers were very considerate and the traffic was very light. I would estimate that 50% of the vehicles that I saw on that stretch of road were motorcycles. As I headed toward Gunnison I caught some views (although hazy) of the eastern edge of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. After a 90 mile day I was very thankful to find a campground at the dam of the Blue Mesa Reservoir. The views over the last 20 miles were characterized by rock buttes skirted in aspen groves, very beautiful!
The next morning I rode along the 19 mile long Blue Mesa Reservoir before heading through a small canyon and coming out in a wide valley that holds the town of Gunnison. On this stretch of the road I met another cyclist loaded up for touring just like I was. This is a rare occurance so we both slowed and I crossed over to chat. Tom was on his 46th day out of New Jersey on a cross country tour that will take him next through Utah, Nevada into San Francisco and then down the coast to LA. We had a lot to talk about because in 1993 I rode my bike (the same one) from Seattle to Boston.
After a big breakfast I headed up the valley from Gunnison to the ski town of Crested Butte. The valley is very scenic with many river crossings, large ranches and a cute fly fishing village called Almont which was filled with anglers with a wet line. But as I headed north the wind headed south. Headwinds added at least a half an hour to the 25 mile ride up the valley.
Crested Butte is a cool little ski town. From what I could tell the town is filled with young, healthy, outdoor types and their young families. There were bike racks everywhere, even in front of houses. My guess is that bikes outnumbered residents. After some great ice cream at the Third Bowl Ice Cream shop (salted caramel and cowboy coffee in a waffle cone) I resupplied and headed up the dirt road to Kebler Pass. I was really glad that the pass was a 7 mph climb of about 7 miles. The views on the west side of the pass were just incredible! If you want to get a slice of back country Colorado, this is a great way to do it in a car. As I descended I had to stop often to take photos. I’d never seen so much yellow in one place and at the prime spots were filled with serious photographers with all of the gear.
There are many good primitive camping spots on the west side of the pass and I found a spot a beautiful aspen grove. I woke to a wet tent and after packing up I descended 19 miles of dirt road. The road in general is in good condition but after a rain it’s pretty sloppy. There are some absolutely beautiful high country cattle ranches on this road.
The last stretch was again back up the west side of McClure Pass. Most of the way is fairly rolling with only a five mile ascent to the summit. I reached 38 miles per hour on the decent from the pass and rolled easily back into Redstone and a hot shower at a past clients home.
Overall it was a great weekend and I have to say that my legs are feeling the next day. In all it was 214 miles of beauty that is best enjoyed at a slow pace.