Monday, June 29, 2009

what I didn't do on my summer vacation

I was up and on the road by 4:00am on Thursday, June 18. Due to my early departure, few stops, and entering the Mountain time zone, I made it to Idaho Springs by early afternoon. I found the road to Mt. Evans and headed towards the Echo Lake campground. Beautiful rolling roads curved through thick pine forests until I saw a sign announcing Echo Lake Park. The road then curved to show this small lake with Mt. Evans looking over her shoulder.

Just past the lake is the Echo Lake Lodge which features a gift shop and restaurant. It's a great place to pick up a souvenir, or to enjoy a meal in the rustic dining room. After a drive to the summit I stopped here for buffalo chili and cornbread, with peach pie for desert.

The lodge is located at the start of Mt. Evans road, across from the entrance to the campground. There's a parking lot next to the campground where cyclists can park for the ride to the summit if they aren't up to the ride from Idaho Springs.

There's a fee for a car or bike to go up the road. Once you pass the fee station you have nine miles to Summit Lake, and fourteen miles to the parking lot at the top.

The ranger at the fee station gives you some information as you head up the mountain about the flora and fauna to be found on the mountain. I saw some birds but couldn't tell you what they were. But, I saw lots of mountain goats, several marmots, and one flock? of bighorn sheep. This is one of several gatherings of goats across the mountain, near and on the road.

I believe this is Pike's Peak, far to the southwest, visible from the summit of Evans.

Here's what is left of a restaurant called Crest House which was completed in 1942. It was hit by lightning in 1979 and never rebuilt.

If you're patient and don't try to get too close you can spot the yellow-bellied marmot all over the summit.

Here's a view of the road that I drove to reach the summit. A bike ride up here now would be cold, with no protection from the wind, over roads that are narrow and winding, and not always in great shape. I'm sure you can imagine some expansion and contraction going on. It was 78 degrees in Idaho Springs on that day, 58 at Echo Lake, and 38 with a wind chill of 8 degrees at the summit.

Did I mention that it's 14, 258 feet in the air?

I pulled over at one of a handful of places to get a picture of how much snow is still guarding the road to the top.

These are the bighorn sheep who were not nearly as interested in getting close to vehicles as the goats. The big one at the front looked for alternate routes past me over the edge and up the snow wall. But with some young ones in tow he kept inching closer. I pulled way over to the left and when they were close they hurried on past me.

As I headed down the mountain I stopped for a picture of Echo Lake from up Mt. Evans road.

Some of the last trees at tree-line, before you leave the forest for the tundra, are these bristlecone pines. Some of these trees are estimated to be up to 1700 years old.

After getting off the mountain and spending the night at Echo Lake, I headed west to Frisco. I called Beth and told her I had good news and bad news. The bad news was that I didn't ride up Mt Evans. The good news was that it had greatly increased the odds of my surviving the day. I was smart enough to realize my limitations, and know that I would want the weather to be warmer, to have trained more, and to have someone with me in case there was trouble. Even if that just meant pointing to where I fell off the mountain. Besides, I had PLENTY of challenges ahead of me once the Bicycle Tour of Colorado began in Glenwood Springs on Saturday. True story!


  1. I really like that area of the country. Great Pic's.

  2. There is great wisdom in knowing your limitations. Love that high country!

  3. Welcome back! I am such a sucker for epic places and I sure love your introduction to Mt. Evans.