Thursday, August 6, 2020

Winding roads in Colorado on the 11th day of our Summer 2020 trip on the BMW

It was another bright, sunny morning when we left Salida, Colorado and rode east on US 50. This is one of Mike's favorite roads:  steep rocky walls alternating with more gentle, rounded hills through a canyon with the Arkansas River running alongside the road. 

Train tracks run along one side of the Arkansas River, and we were surprised to see a line of empty railroad cars that stretched about 2 miles sitting on the track with no engine in sight.

We turned north onto Colorado 9 and after a few short miles continued north on County Route 11, part of the Gold Belt Tour, a scenic byway that travels through many of the towns that were an important part of the gold mining boom in the early 1890's. There was hardly any traffic and we enjoyed long views of the mountains, wide open valleys, and sweeping, twisting roads.

Our route took us through Cripple Creek, originally the site of ranches in its 9,000' elevation valley until one of the largest gold strikes was discovered in 1890. In three years the town's population went from 500 to 10,000. Today the population is around 1,200, and while gold continues to be mined here, Cripple Creek is now more of a tourist destination. Much of the town has been restored and is part of the historic district, and in 1991 gambling became legal. We rode through about 10am on a Thursday and the town appeared almost completely empty.

We continued north on Colorado 67 when we started to see far-off views of snowy Pike's Peak.

Pike's Peak is a 14,115' tall mountain in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, just 12 miles west of Colorado Springs. Our goal was to ride to the top of the mountain via the 19-mile Pike's Peak Highway. However, when we got to the entrance we discovered that due to construction at the summit, we could only ride up 13 miles and then would need to take a shuttle the rest of the way. We're not interested in riding in a bus filled with people, so we turned around and rode into Manitou Springs for lunch and to consult the map.

With the skies threatening rain we decided to ride a short route continuing north on Colorado 67 past Woodland Park which bills itself as the 'city above the clouds' at 8,465'.
Route 67 twists and turns through the Rocky Mountains, and when we turned west onto County Route 126 the road followed the South Platte River.

We rode through sections of the forest burned in the 2002 Hayman Fire, a haunting reminder of the damage fire causes in this dry part of the country.

The skies got darker and when we saw a flash of lightning we decided to turn around and retrace our route back to Colorado Springs where we're spending the night. While we weren't able to ride up Pike's Peak as planned, we had a beautiful day in the Rockies.

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