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Journey to the High Country, Pt. 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my Colorado Ride Report. Things start to get adventurous from here on out; enjoy! Two days are covered and there are a ton of photos…

Tuesday, June 25th – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today was a free day as my brother and nephew were going out mountain biking, so I went out and did my own brand of biking…to the Rocky Mountain National Park. During the summer, after my high school graduation back in ’87, I’d regularly lead horse tours…and a few girlfriends into this park; it’s an impressive place filled with impressive views.

RMNP is primarily serviced by US34 and is known as Trail Ridge Road while it goes through the park. The road rises to an altitude of 12,183′, but crosses the Continental Divide at 10,758′. Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved continuous road in the US (Mt. Evans road is higher, but not a through route).

The road into the park from the Grand Lake side offers some stunning scenery while gently making its way to the base of the climb…

Making the climb up Trail Ridge; you can just see a cut below where the road makes its way up to where I’m at.

Looking back down the valley I came up on. The road/trail across the valley has always sparked my interest…I think it’s an old mining road that probably has 4×4 access somewhere in the valley.

A better view of the valley on the west side, back towards Grand Lake. The views really don’t stop on this road and it’s very easy to get sucked in.

I kinda skipped taking pics of the no guard-rail climb above treeline as I approached the “summit”, but I did grab a pic of tourists fascinated by old snow at the “not quite the summit, but the only real spot for the parking lot summit”. The actual 12,183′ road summit is a bit past the store at and lacks a pull off or parking.

Look east from the summit…I think that’s Old Fall River Road climbing up the hill (dirt).

Bad habit…selfies, lol.

The ridge that extends upward from the summit parking lot…Trail Ridge goes around this over on the right side as it heads east, looping around towards Estes Park.

Hey, an actual bike photo finally…Feej (my totally unoriginal nickname for the bike…an FJR) waits to head down the hill.

I’m just past the summit parking lot here…closer to the real summit. If you’re not careful, you could waste an entire day soaking in the views…

Looking out over the Gore Range….I want to say this valley goes eastward if I remember right. Whatever…it’s friggin spectacular!

The east side of Trail Ridge, as it makes its way down to Estes Park via several switchbacks. Yes, it’s fun if there’s no traffic…

Looking back up while going down to the east.

I eventually reached Estes Park and found it to be HOT and jam packed with tourists…I quickly left and forgot about being a shutterbug (a habit refined on this trip), but I did stop on the outskirts of town to grab lunch. Nothing remarkable, but good. I headed back up the Trail Ridge and collected a few more shots before beating it back to Winter Park.

I returned to Winter Park late in the afternoon and enjoyed a hearty “last meal” with my brother and nephew, who’d be leaving tomorrow…as I’d also be doing. Back at the condo, the creek called…

My lovely loaner rod with the ever-kinking line, lol. It had a habit of tangling at inopportune times.

My brother and his son having their moment…that’s the way it should be.

Tuesday was a good day, with lots of scenery and good times with my brother and nephew. Tomorrow, they’d be heading back to SoCal and I’d be resuming my adventure around Colorado with such places as Cottonwood Pass, The Million Dollar Highway, Mt. Evans ahead of me.

Wednesday, June 26th – Adventure Underway Once Again…

My brother and nephew were returning to SoCal today, so it was time for me to once again hit the road and continue my adventure. As they departed, I lazed around the condo a bit, packing things up, until I decided where I wanted to go. My general idea was to cruise over to Steamboat Springs, check it out, and then turn south and run until I felt like stopping for the day, wherever that may be. This goes back to my plan for this trip…to have no plan. If you’ve never done it, you should try it; itineraries suck.

One last look before the wheels turn; Byers Peak from our rental-condo’s deck.

I dumped the condo keys in the dropbox and made for the hills…

The route to Steamboat is pretty simple; US40 west. The road goes through Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Kremmling, then on over Rabbit Ears Pass (9426′), eventually ending up in an over-commercialized Steamboat Springs. It’s a fairly interesting ride over the pass (not enough to rate a photo), but otherwise somewhat sedate and unchanged from what I remember as a teen. As for Steamboat, it was already hot and full of traffic when I arrived…all I wanted to do was keep rolling, so I snapped a photo and beat it.

From Steamboat, I turned south and took CO131 towards Wolcott, which lies along I-70. CO131 turned out to be a neat little road, with some canyon carving, and a little surprise.

Near McCoy, fixin’ to enter a nice little canyon that offered some nice canyon carving…

As I worked down the canyon, I found a nice collection of sweepers with no traffic. Along the way, I spied a bunch of dust blowing up from the rim of the canyon…it held an unexpected surprise.

My guess is that they were practicing mountainside deployments…as a few Youtube videos have shown from operations in Afghanistan.

At Wolcott, I turned east onto US6, and paralleled I-70 until US24, where I headed south again, towards Leadville. US24 turned out to be packed with spectacular views and some really good riding…again, I lucked out as there was little to no traffic.

US24, in the White River National Forest

US24, White River National Forest, as it crosses over a rail line and Water St (the dirt road). 24 was a great ride, especially on the FJR…the scenery was gorgeous too.

Looking back up the road from the bridge. Curves + Zero Traffic = FUN!

US24 southbound, heading towards Leadville. The views are simply awe-inspiring.

I blew through Leadville, which seemed like a Harley headquarters with a splash of REALLY heavy hauler big rigs, and headed for Independence Pass (12,095′), which is west, off US24 on CO82. I’ve never been on it, but I heard it was cool, so I thought I’d have a look for myself. It didn’t disappoint.

When you turn off US24 onto CO82, you quickly come upon Twin Lakes…

I worked my way up 82 and eventually, Independence Pass revealed itself in a stunning preview…

Looking back from where I’d come.

And a sprinkle of bike pr0n…

The cut we just saw from below…guard rails are in short supply on most of the mountain passes in Colorado, so inattentive drivers will be justly rewarded.

Made it…

Looking off to the west from the Independence Pass summit, towards the Aspen area.

It was at the Summit where I got to practice my international biker relations. In the photo below, you’ll see 3 Harleys on the far left…they’re rentals. Each bike was being ridden by some European fellows…I’m guessing from the eastern portion; none could speak any English. While I was standing around the summit sign, one of them approached me and signaled through various gestures if I could take a photo of their group by the sign. Sure thing! Next thing I know, each approaches me with their cameras and soon, I’m balancing 4 cameras, snapping pictures of them posing by the sign. Really nice guys…I bet they were having the time of their life…much like I was. Apparently, they loved my FJR, as they couldn’t stop looking at it…it really sucked that our communication skills were lacking.

Sorry, can’t help it…more bike pr0n!

Hmm…

Coming down the west side of Independence Pass. What a neat road…with no traffic too!

From the pass, the next notable point along 82 was Aspen. It met my expectations completely…crowded, too much traffic, and hot…I slipped through town with nary a photo and continued on CO82 towards Glenwood Springs. By now, it was late afternoon, so my thoughts turned to finding a spot to stop for the night and the Allstays camping and RV app on my phone said there was a campground just outside of Glenwood Springs that sounded good…target set.

While I cruised up to Glenwood Springs on the, by now, busy CO82, I passed by the turn to CO133 at Carbondale. It looked like the road headed straight for some tall mountains…looked like it might be a good road to start with in the morning. A few miles later, I turned west off the road and tracked down the Hideout Cabins & Campground. They had an open tent spot, warm showers, and it was cheap ($25). I set up my tent in a nice quiet little spot and split for some grub and beer…

Today was a VERY full day of excellent riding and beautiful country; I was ready for more on Thursday. First though, I needed some shut-eye….tomorrow should be interesting.

Continued in Part 3

Burnspot

I live in Eastern NC, work on websites all day, and enjoy motorcycling immensely. What more need be said.
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