Day 30- Glenwood Springs, CO

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Colorado

Luck was not on our side the morning we left Silverthorne. Gray, drizzly, and cold, we just held out hope that Vail Pass wouldn’t be too slick on the way down- at least we had a bike path, and could stay away from traffic if anything went wrong. We left Silverthorne and headed for Copper, where we would begin the climb up the pass. Copper is just up the way, and we passed through Frisco before getting there. All of the little resort towns are nestled together in a small cluster, so it was just a hop and a skip from one town to the next. Once in town we changed into rain gear and flipped our wheels before heading out, and encountered an older couple from Texas that was out in Colorado for the summer. They were doing the pass as well, and we talked on and off with them during the way. From the Copper side, it's only about 5 miles to the summit of the pass, which sits at 10,600+. It was still sprinkling off and on as we made our way up, but it felt much easier than other places we had biked through (for me at least), due to the bike path. Most of the area on either side of the trail is off-limits, as it's a wildlife protected area. It was very pretty, even though we missed the wildflower bloom for the summer. We made it to the top after a little, and took a small breather before switching our wheels back around to the 15t. At the very top of the pass I convinced Jon to take a break with me for some Colorado relaxation, since it was going to be one of the last times we would be at such a high altitude (I had wanted to do it at the top of Loveland, which obviously did not happen). About 15 minutes into the descent the sun finally made its appearance. About 5 minutes after that I realized I was having more fun than I had ever had doing anything, ever. I’ve been mulling over how I would describe the experience of coming down the pass, but I am still mostly at a loss for the right words. There are moments where you feel suspended in space- the mountainside instantly disappears downwards to the left, the path stretches out before you, and with breakneck swiftness you approach what feels like the edge of the earth. I could feel my strength coming back as the elevation dropped rapidly and the air warmed and thickened. Trucks were crawling up the mountain on the highway to my right, and with a maniacal smile I laughed and waved and sped downwards, skidding as the trail wove in and out of forest areas with hairpin turns and sharp drops. As we approached the base we started seeing other cyclists, mountain bikers and roadies making the long, hard ride up to the top. They, too, wished to be rewarded with the thrill of speeding back down the mountain. It started to depress me though, as I knew we were getting close to the bottom. I never wanted it to end, it was just so damn pretty and amazing. I will say this- having down the descent brakeless, if I ever have the chance to do it again, I will choose to do it the same way. It was absolutely too much fun.

Getting towards the bottom of the pass, right before we started seeing other cyclists.

We finally came to the end of the pass, and rode into Vail. A mountain biker passed us while we were stripping out of our rain gear, and he led us to a bike shop so that we could get our bikes cleaned up and our chains lubed. It was here that we changed our first tire- between Mt. Evans and the pass, Jon had finally worn through his rear tire. Being considerably lighter and carrying less stuff, as well as not having done Evans, my tire was still going strong. As Murphy’s Law would have it, as soon as we got our stuff cleaned up and got ready to go, it started raining again. It wasn’t bad, and as the rain hadn’t lasted very long earlier we just decided to push on through. We made it about as far as Gypsum when all of the sudden the weather turned incredibly nasty. the rain started pelting us, and it was cold, tiny, needle-like drops being propelled into our bodies at incredibly high speeds. It was definitely the most painful storm I have ever been in, and all we could do was try to push our way out of the valley into the lighter skies we could see further down the road. Finally, we made it out of the rain, and approached the trail head for the Glenwood Canyon bike trail.

Beginning of the canyon

It was our good fortune that we would get to see two incredibly beautiful stretches of Colorado in one day, and it made up for the butt-kicking we received from the storm. The Glenwood Canyon is described often as one of the most scenic and beautiful stretches of highway in the US, but that definition seems to come from people who mostly drive through it. Scenic and beautiful are not strong enough words to describe the experience of watching cliff walls shoot straight up and towards a thousand feet over you on both sides and you ride along the Colorado River.

Jon took lots of pictures of the canyon, it kind of made up for not getting very many on the pass.

Picking up speed on some of the more obvious downhills.

As we approached the tunnel in the canyon and got routed around it, we noticed signs saying that the tunnel was closed, despite the long line of cars waiting to get through. On the other side we realized why- there had been a rock/mudslide from the rain and the highway department had snowplows out trying to clear the way. People were milling around, hanging out on the interstate, as traffic was at a standstill. It was cool knowing that our way into town was completely unimpeded, and that we were doing distances that were comparable to what most of the stranded motorists had been driving that day.

Still flooded in some parts from the rain.

We met a couple of mountainbikers around here, towards the last fourth of the trail.

We finally rolled into town right as it started getting dark, and made a beeline for the liquor store before heading down to the secret hot springs. After the cold, wet, tiring day, soaking in a private, secluded hot spring while drinking a beer was exactly what my body wanted from me. We were also waiting to hear back from a couple that we had contacted via WarmShowers.org, which is a website that puts tourers and hosts in touch with each other.

Guerrilla hot springs

We hung out at the springs for a long time, watching the sun come down and the moon rise. The Colorado was extremely high and rushing by at tremendous speed, and the bright moon glittered off the water while we soaked and lounged in the hot springs. Right as we were thinking it was time to get a hold of our hosts, threatening clouds appeared again and we saw lightening coming from downstream. We got out and headed back to the main street for some food, right as the rain came down on us once again. We rode up to our hosts’ house and crashed out fairly quickly, as 92 miles had made it a long day, even without the rain.

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Comments
  1. Chris says:

    What happened to you guys? I was really enjoying the travel blog? Hope you two are safe!

  2. John says:

    Hey – you kids OK?

  3. Lola says:

    That saves me. Thanks for being so sesibnle!

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