Saturday, August 1, 2020

Riding over the Continental Divide - twice! - on the BMW in Colorado

Our 6th day on the BMW was all in Colorado for another day. We started in Yampa and wound our south through a wide, green valley on Colorado 131.

Soon the road started climbing in elevation and the wide, sweeping turns became tight twisties.

After climbing to over 9000' we descended down more twisties, with the Colorado River to one side.

131 ends at I-70, and we rode east on the Interstate for about 20 miles before we turned south on US 24, part of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway We started climbing again, twisting around the tight hairpin turns up Battle Mountain. We saw dozens of bicycle riders grinding their way up, or zooming down, the steep mountain grades.

We crossed the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass at 10,424' and continued downhill to Leadville at 10,152'. Leadville is an old silver mining town, and in the late 1800's it was the second largest city in Colorado, after Denver. Today it's home to about 3,000 people but is often filled with mountain bikers, hikers, and runners.

US 24 south of Leadville has more wide, sweeping turns than tight, narrow twisties as it descends along the Arkansas River.

We stopped for lunch at a food truck in Buena Vista and ate sitting  our delicious meal at a picnic table at a shady park in the center of town. Rested and fueled, we headed out county route 306 to Cottonwood Pass, the highest paved road over the Continental Divide.

We twisted and zoomed through the hairpin turns, rising over the treeline to 12,126' at the Continental Divide where we looked out over the Rocky Mountains. The descent toward Altmont was more sweeping turns than twisties and it was a lot of fun looking down the mountain at the winding road in front of us.

County route 306 intersections with county route 742 at the Taylor Park Reservoir. This is more open range country, and once again we saw a cow and her calf next to the side of the road.

The Taylor Park dam was built in 1937 to provide a consistent source of water for ranches and farms. Today it's a mecca for fisherman and boaters.

We followed the Taylor River as we continued to descend from 9,000' at the reservoir toward Gunnison, our stop for the night.

Gunnison is a town of about 6,000 people at 7,700' elevation on the Western Slope of the Rockies. We spent almost all of the day above 7,000' and rode past some of the highest peaks in the Rockies. We're off again tomorrow to explore more of this gorgeous state.

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