Thursday, July 30, 2020

1100 miles in the past 4 days: mountain passes, wide valleys, river canyons

It was 46 degrees this morning in Saratoga, WY when we walked 1/2 mile from our hotel to the city-owned hot springs facility that is open 24 hours per day. After a 15 minute soak in the 108-119 degree mineral water that bubbles up from the ground near the Platte River, we were ready for a big day on the BMW.

We rode a few miles south on Wyoming 230, then turned east on Wyoming 130, heading over the Snowy Mountain scenic byway that climbs from about 8,000' to 10,847' at the highest point. The road sweeps up and around the mountains, offering views of several glacier lakes and the rocky peaks in the Medicine Bow mountain range.

There was almost no traffic on the road, and when we stopped at Mirror Lake we felt like we had the entire lake to ourselves.

We crossed over the top of the pass and twisted and turned our way down the steep eastern side of the mountains into a wide open valley covered with rocky grassland leftover from the glaciers.

In Laramie we turned south on Wyoming 230, riding through North Park, one of three high elevation (about 8,000') parks, or basins, in Colorado (the most famous is of course South Park). It's incredibly windy riding at this high elevation with open fields for miles around us.

We crossed into Colorado just past the lovely-named tiny town of Wycolo, continuing on to Walden, Colorado where we headed east on Colorado 14, the Cache la Poudre-North Park scenic byway

We could see the mountain range up ahead of us, and soon we started to climb our way up Cameron Pass between the south end of the Medicine Bow Mountains and the north end of the Never Summer Mountains. 

We stopped near the top of the pass at 10,276' to eat another energy bar lunch, this time with a stupendous view, before we headed down the steeper east side of the Pass. There were lots of tight turns and twists around the edges of the mountain to keep Mike happy. The road started following the rocky Cache la Poudre river, one of only 209 wild and scenic rivers in the the United States, as we headed into the tight walls of the river canyon.

We saw several fly fishermen standing the shallow, fast-moving river. The tight turns of the narrow road made this part of the day's ride even more fun.

After riding through the rocky river canyon, we turned south onto county road 27, which curves and winds through an area that burned over 87,000 acres in the 2012 High Park Fire

We ended the day in Loveland, Colorado, a city of about 80,000 people. It was a jar to our senses after riding miles in wide open spaces with almost no traffic to suddenly be in the middle of 4+ lanes of stop-and-go traffic in a city. Tomorrow we'll head back west into the Rockies, and we're looking forward to more solitude and sweeping roads.

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