I'm starting my annual trip with a ride up the beautiful, twisty Poudre River Canyon, over Cameron Pass (elevation 10,240) into North Park, a very pretty, green and sparsely populated bit of Northern Colorado. Temperatures were nice and cool, but strong crosswinds (30 mph), made the ride a bit less comfortable.
I took a new route south of Walden, Colorado on highways 134 and 131 over Gore Pass at 9,537 feet elevation. Very pretty ride along the Colorado River for a bit. Because I had a long ride tomorrow, I elected to stay at my favorite budget Polish-owned hotel in Glenwood Springs, five minutes walk from my favorite home-cooked Polish restaurant. Yes, major carb loading, but soooo satisfying.
From Glenwood Springs I briefly rode on I-70, then headed south on highway 65 over Grand Mesa. The temperature dropped from 78 degrees in Glenwood to 55 degrees at 10,000 ft on the Grand Mesa. There were still patches of winter snow.
The Grand Mesa is a large mesa in western Colorado in the United States. It is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. It has an area of about 500 square miles (1,300 km and stretches for about 40 miles (64 km) east of Grand Junction between the Colorado River and the Gunnison River, its tributary to the south. The mesa rises about 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above the surrounding river valleys, including the Grand Valley to the west, reaching an elevation of about 11,000 feet (3,400 m), with a maximum elevation of 11,333 feet (3,454 m) at Crater Peak. Much of the mesa is within Grand Mesa National Forest. Over 300 lakes, including many reservoirs created and used for drinking and irrigation water, are scattered along the top of the formation. The Grand Mesa is flat in some areas, but quite rugged in others.
After traversing the Grand Mesa, I dropped back down into the Grand Valley, with temperatures of 87 degrees at 5000 ft.
I set up camp near Ouray, Colorado, fixed a tasty dinner of dehydrated Spicy Thai Curry and bedded down for the night.
Wow, after yesterday's heat, the temperature dropped down to 42 degrees and I shivered all night in my sleeping bag.
I got up early to get my blood moving, then left beautiful, mountainous Ouray and rode south into the "High Desert" of Colorado to Cortez, via the town of Telluride and Lizard Head Pass on highway 145.
So, ok I'm a wimp. But the weather forecast is for temperatures in the low 30's the next three nights and since I was uncomfortably cold last night, I splurged on a small cabin. Rustic, not too expensive and definitely worth the cost.
Tomorrow, I will explore Hovenweep National Monument, reached by riding west from Cortez on the winding road through lovely McElmo Canyon.
Hovenweep National Monument, Utah
Human habitation at Hovenweep dates to over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. These people used the area for centuries, following the seasonal weather patterns. By about A.D. 900, people started to settle at Hovenweep year-round, planting and harvesting crops in the rich soil of the mesa top. By the late 1200s, the Hovenweep area was home to over 2,500 people.
Many theories attempt to explain the use of the buildings at Hovenweep. The striking towers might have been celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage facilities, civil buildings, homes or any combination of the above. While archeologists have found that most towers were associated with kivas, their actual function remains a mystery
The next two and a half days will be spent hiking in Mesa Verde National Park.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.
Ride to Mesa Verde National Park. Lovely twisty road up into park, will do Chapin Mesa today including Cliff Palace Loop Petroglyph Trail and the museum today, then tomorrow a Long House ranger-led tour and a self-guided tour through Step House, nearby.
Spruce Tree House and Petroglyph Trail
The self-guided tour of Spruce Tree House was closed due to due to falling rock, but the view from the trail was glorious. The three mile loop Petroglyph Point trail was open and afforded views of Spruce Tree House, the canyons near the mesa, various wildflowers in bloom and the Petroglyph panel itself. temperatures reached the high 80's along the trail, but I had plenty of water, so no worries.
Step House and Long House
Early the next morning it was sunny and cool and I had the twelve mile twisty road beyond Farview to the end of Weatherill Mesa to myself. Arriving early, I first visited Step House (a one mile, one hour self guided tour) and then toured Long House (3 mile, 3 hour ranger-guided tour). In all I walked around 5 miles today in the 90 degree afternoon heat, but the sights were so captivating that I didn't mind in the least.
After another morning visit to Mesa Verde, I rode east one hour to Marcy Pryor's lovely house in Durango. My friend Marcy has offered me her house while she is touring France for the past five weeks.
After a quick grocery shopping trip (I'm a bit tired of Clif Bars and backpacker dried food), I'm enjoying a very cold Negra Medelo beer and "chili rellenos camarone" at Nayarit Mexican Restaurant. Tastes soooo goooood after my simple camping fare.
Tomorrow will be 90+ degrees in Durango, so I think I will ride up to Silverton, Colorado where the forecast high is 72 degrees at an altitude of 9,308 ft.
Leaving Durango's heat for a day, I took a day trip and a picnic lunch up to Silverton, Colorado. Highway 550 "The Million Dollar Highway" climbs to Coal Bank Pass at an elevation of 10,640 and then to Molas Pass, elevation 10,910. In a couple moments I drop down into Silverton Colorado, a former silver mining camp at 9,308 and a lovely 72 degrees.
After my picnic lunch, I start the return journey, dropping down to Durango's elevation of 6,523 ft and actual temperature of 96 degrees. Wow, I got 24 degrees cooler by climbing nearly 2,800 ft.
The following day Marcy arrived home from France, we dined with old friends, and it's time to head home via Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek Pass (elev 10,810, to the Ruby Mountain State Park campground, where I will spend the night next to the Arkansas river.
Finally I make it home via the town of Fairplay, Redhill and Kenosha Passes (both about 10,000 ft elevation), Denver (100 degrees at 1 pm this afternoon) and home.
My trip covered 12 days and 1,150 miles mostly in a large loop around Colorado, temperatures dropped down to 34 degrees during a few nights and as high a 100 degrees toward the end. I mostly ate camp food, but inserted a couple dinners out for interests sake. I started at 5,100 feet elevation, climbed to the highest point on my ride at 10,910 feet and crested 9 passes at elevations of 9,000 feet or more.
I am still having a blast on my motorcycle!