I left Breckenridge after meeting some incredible people around the B and B, especially Becky. Becky was a freelance writer from Ft. Collins who was hiking the Colorado Trail, and we found ourselves in that group-therapy type conversation where we bared our souls, dug deep, and really got it all out. I haven’t had a lot of conversations like that out here and it was incredibly soothing. I know Becky will find what she’s looking for out on the trail.
I was excited to leave Breckenridge to continue my descent out of the high Rockies, which began with a trail along Highway 9:
I made it past the winner for “hospital with the most beautiful setting”:
Riding through the Rockies has ended up being more than I bargained for, and I bargained for a lot. It was always the highlight region in my mind when planning this all out months ago but the overpowering beauty of these mountains has moved me to tears every day.
I took a long break at Dillon Lake outside Frisco. I just couldn’t get enough of the beauty.
And then, without checking my map, I crossed the dam into Dillon:
And I figured out how to use the panorama setting on the camera, thanks to Breckenridge Becky:
This made me both happy and sad. Happy because I can finally take pictures of what I’m actually seeing, but sad because I’m just getting these photos now in Colorado. Oh well.
Going to Dillon meant I went too far to catch Highway 9 to Hot Sulpher Springs. This added to my day, as did the hour-long break at the lake. I still thought I’d be alright making my stop given the descent. But that’s not what happened. The detour meant I was about 6 miles from Keystone and I thought about stopping, but that would’ve meant a day at the mountain resort and I opted to keep north, which took me down a super fun path through town:
Back in Silverthorne I caught the right trail:
And saw a pretty stellar setting for a wedding:
And then into the wind tunnel:
The riding was unbelievable, both in terms of the gorgeous landscape as well as the wind. It was hitting me head on at around 30mph and I couldn’t make my miles. It was great for bike portraits though:
And then another cyclist.
Thomas was headed west and was in his own world. He was telling me all about the road ahead – beautiful but empty, and I’d have to cross the Continental Divide again on Willow Creek Pass with no services on either side of the mountain for many miles. I told him about Hoosier Pass and he brushed it off, “oh, I’ve done it a bunch of times.” Okay then, Thomas.
Always a fan of the deer:
And of this breathtaking part of the country:
I pushed on toward Heeney, unsure of making Hot Sulphur, in part because I couldn’t stop taking pictures like this:
I took the hilly pull-off on the western side of Green Mountain Reservoir:
And cruised along:
Unable to get enough of my surroundings:
I decided to stop short in Heeney. There was no running water at the campground, but I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying more water than I need. I didn’t have any cell service for putzing around online, but it was time to stop for the day.
Not having service meant I could cozy up in the tent with my book – it was actually the first time I cracked it open since leaving Cincinnati. I immediately recognized the error in my ways. It was so comforting getting out of my head and getting some intellectual stimulation in the mountains.
*** *** ***
The next morning I decided to stop at the original destination for the night before, Hot Sulphur Springs. It was only 25 miles down the road but I wasn’t up for another mountain pass just yet, and I wanted to take in the springs. But before that I had construction to worry about:
I had heard about it plenty in the previous days; some said to hitch a ride through it. Others said to only do it when flaggers could watch out for me. That’s what ended up happening. I talked to them ahead of the worksite and they assured me everything would be fine, that they never put traffic behind a cyclist. It was comforting in a weird way…but also because I didn’t want to reckon with this on the road:
All the work was to build up this tunnel/bridge:
After a few miles the coast was clear and I was easily cruising along:
I made it through Kremmling, which has done a better job of maintaining its frontier “Main Street” than other towns I’ve been through:
The air has been very dry out here, and there have been fires in mountain forests to the east. I wasn’t surprised to see this sign:
And then through mountain valleys to Hot Sulphur:
And a gun range outside town:
But the canyon ahead of me made me forget the negativity:
It was one of those kid-at-FAO Schwartz moments of “whoooaaa”.
Within minutes I set up the tent and headed to the hot springs. And then I didn’t leave for two days.
*** *** ***
There are a number of reasons I guess. First, Hot Sulphur Springs is gorgeous. Second, camping was free in the city park. Third, there was a gas station that was hiring. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, I wasn’t ready to leave the high Rockies yet. I absolutely love mountains, and riding through them since Denver has been one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. These mountains are monumental, and taking them on has given me far more respect and admiration for them than I can articulate. It has been the epitome of the reality I’ve come to recognize out here – you just can’t experience the landscape in a car. Being exposed to everything these mountains have thrown at me all day every day has been an astounding experience.
I basically did nothing. I went to the springs quite a bit:
I’d soak, read my book, and sleep in spurts of a couple hours or so. It was incredibly restorative. I was just going to take a day, but I had to take another. A favorite spring pool was the black one heavy with magnesium:
And then yesterday, they all rolled in. So many bicycle travelers are coming at me, and it’s very disorienting.
I met this guy at Glory Hole Cafe over breakfast:
I never got his name. I’ll call him Rick, since he referenced Rick Moranis and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” when talking about the government taking over everything. Somewhere between his diatribes about making three sided dice in place of money and the crime of there being no dumpsters in national parks he lost me. He’s a bit of a crazy man who talked at me rather than with me, and I don’t suffer that too well. I tried to make my way away.
Later on in the day I came across another guy… Who was the first to ride in of his group of six. They all met along the way about a week into the ride from Yorktown, VA, where the TransAm starts. I stuck around as they all rolled in and it became very clear that this was a very cliquey group that were far more interested in making sure they all gave each other high fives than making new friends. As we all went to the springs all my attempts at conversation were dismissed. I cursed that we were all riding into the next town (really the only option) the next day. I wanted to be away from them.
Then there’s the Chinese couple who speak barely a word of English and the Philadelphia bartender, Dan, who met them at the beginning and has been watching after them ever since. He was fun to talk to…for a while.
So that makes ten. Including me? 11. I’m doing the absolute best I can to not feel like a bicycle touring sheep but it’s gotten challenging. I like seeing riders going east. Every once in a while a rider going west is nice. But an 11-person caravan to Waldon, CO isn’t really my cup of tea. But sometimes you get tea that you don’t like and sip and smile to the person that gave it to you. So I’m going to try to do that while trying not to obsess about separating from them. We’re all going the same way to Yellowstone. I don’t want to lose any days waiting for them to pass any more than I want to stick with them. We’ll see how it all works out.
At least the blog is working well now!