After a weekend with our sons in Silverthorne, Colorado, we started our trip toward home in Arizona today, our 13th day on the BMW. After a short ride on I-70 West, we turned south on Colorado Route 91, riding through the snow-peaked Rocky Mountains.
We climbed through Fremont Pass at 11,318' where we crossed the Continental Divide once again. The highway up to the top of the pass was very easy riding with gentle, sweeping turns. The descending route was more fun with tighter corners, but no hairpin turns.
Leadville started off as a gold and silver mining town, and mining continues here today with Climax Molybdenum Company, a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan continuing operations in this area. The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is in downtown Leadville, and while we didn't have time to stop today, we would love to come back to Leadville at 10,151' elevation and spend some time.
We turned south on US 24 in Leadville, riding alongside the Arkansas River that starts in Leadville where we glimpsed rafters and kayakers enjoying the August day as we followed the sweeping turns of the highway.
This part of US 24 is the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, and we rode north through here a few days ago.
The Collegiate Peaks are several mountains, some higher than 14,000', named for famous East Coast universities such as Yale, Princeton and Harvard. We made a quick lunch stop in Buena Vista, which we learned is pronounced "Booyna-Vista" to rhyme with 'beautiful'. We continued south on US 285 through the Upper Arkansas Valley with shadowy mountains to the east and west as we rode on the straight highway through irrigated agricultural fields.
The landscape changed as we passed Poncha Springs, climbing up and over Poncha Pass at 9,025' elevation, one of the lowest elevation passes in the Rocky Mountains.
We were now riding through the where the Rio Grande River is born. The valley lies at above 7,000' elevation and is 74 miles wide, giving us long-distance views across the irrigated fields to the mountains as we zoomed along the straight 2-lane highway.
We had one more pass to cross before we ended the day's ride, and after we turned west onto US 160 we once again we crossed the Continental Divide over Wolf Creek Pass at 10,857' elevation.
The approach to Wolf Creek Pass is sweeping, gentle turns and then the descent heading west featured tighter turns and steeper downhills. We came down into the Upper San Juan Basin as we rode into Pagosa Springs where we are spending the night.
Today's ride featured high, snowy mountains with twisting roads; and straight highways through irrigated agricultural land. It's our last full day in Colorado as tomorrow we'll cross into New Mexico and Arizona as we head home.