Colorado turns epic

Epic: (inf) Particularly remarkable or impressive.
On our first day in mountainous Colorado a thunderstorm trapped us at the garden of the gods visitor centre. As we sat watching the rain hit the giant rocks a couple starting chatting to us about our upcoming route. We said we would be going on Trail Ridge Road. “Epic” she said. “You’ll be counting down every quarter mile but it’s epic.” On our rafting trip our guide was excellent, enthusiastic and knew a lot more stuff about epic things in Colorado. Up until now the scenery of our ride had probably been more of the long poem or book type of epic. Now it was big and in your face epic; mountains, snow, fast rivers, canyons, lakes. 

A few days rest at 8400ft probably helped us adjust to the altitude, but our first day back riding was a real toughie. Stubbornly, we wanted to go back to the exact place we had been picked up from on the edge of Denver so we had an unbroken line of cycling. The real downside was that this was in almost the opposite direction to where we needed to go. We went back anyway and had a brutally hot afternoon on the c470 bike route. Handily we had some homemade birthday cake to cheer things up (thanks Lesli) and later met a cyclist who offered us a bed for the night and recommended a beer garden. As it was my birthday, we decided to stop after 50 miles in Golden. We read some historic information, had a leg ice bath in the very cold river and tried out the local brews. Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better we had a scenic drive (in a car – and not just any car…) and Chinese food. An epic birthday.

We had stopped before the big climb – the next morning was a real beast. Golden Gate Canyon went up and up, with some of the steepest grades in the west. It was very scenic and we took plenty of stops to enjoy the views. They got even better when we finally reached the top and joined the ‘Peak to Peak Highway.’ Clue in the name, things didn’t get flat anytime soon. It was beautiful riding, forests, snowy mountains, icy streams. We had a fabulous descent into Estes Park the following day but found it hard to really enjoy losing so much height knowing that our next day riding would take us over 12000ft. 

Estes Park was a fun place to have a (tourist watching/ice cream eating) rest day. It was great to see some areas of Rocky Mountain National Park that we wouldn’t see on our ride through it, including an extremely cold dip in a waterfall that was probably snow about two minutes previously. Thanks to our host Annie for taking us on a tour.

Yep that was the road we came up… looking down from about halfway up the climb

We made an early start for the big climb. Trail Ridge Road goes right through Rocky Mountain NP, and is the highest paved road in the lower 48 states. We left early and took our time over the climb, enjoying the views and plenty of snacks. It was a steady grade, the hardest thing was the Fathers’ Day traffic squeezing past us. We didn’t appreciate the fake summit and little descent before the true top. The last few hundred feet of ascent made us a little light headed and we were excited to find a sofa with a view for our lunch stop at the visitor centre. 

The descent really was epic this time. Twisty but not too tricky, lots of snow and stunning scenery. Tired, the next day we did half a day riding, and spent the afternoon playing in Granby Lake at an awesome campground. I’m sure you were expecting this, but being epic Colorado the sun set beautifully over the water. 

One more big pass got us well on the way to Wyoming. We crossed the Continental Divide for the second time and watched the landscape change back to rolling plains as we rode to Walden, our last Colorado town. Our time in Colorado had come full circle as we were back to empty vistas and camping in a small town park. Walden was right out of the Wild West, though had an excellent public library. It also had something bigger, better, more epic. The mosquitos were in clouds, persistently seeking thinner areas of clothing to bite through. Just like the Spanish computer game, if the mosquitos didn’t get you, the sprinklers probably would – the park had an extensive network. 
Colorado bade us farewell the next morning with another steadily graded climb. An epic fortnight. 

Thanks to Sue and Lesli (again), Justin, Shauna and the Tacoma, Rick and Ryan in Nederland, Annie, and Connor and Maggie.


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