Saturday, January 29, 2011

crmbt century - buena vista to glenwood springs

This morning you'll ride north out of Buena Vista on US 24 with the Arkansas River on your right and the Collegiate Peaks Range on your left. Mt Yale, Mt Oxford, and Mt Harvard are all visible as you ride toward Granite, where you'll join CO 82 west toward Twin Lakes and on to Independence Pass.
When you turn onto CO 92 you will have climbed to over 9000 feet. You'll have 24 miles and more than 3000 feet to get to the top of Independence Pass. About 12 miles west of  Twin Lakes the real climbing will begin. Grades approach 7% at the steepest and you'll climb for about 7 miles before you're above the treeline and at the summit.

Independence Pass, at 12,095 feet is along the summit of the Sawatch Range between Aspen and Leadville in the White River National Forest. The only paved, through-road in the state at a higher elevation is Trail Ridge Road. It's closed every winter and some snow usually remains year-round. The name of the pass was changed after the town of Independence, three miles west of the summit, became a ghost town.

A couple thousand hardy souls inhabited Independence between 1880 and 1883. Drawn by mining opportunities, the harsh winters and gold boom bust doomed the town. In part because of the bust, the road over Independence Pass wasn't improved until 1927, and not paved until 1967. The ride from the east takes you from forests and streams to above treeline and the tundra. It passes several peaks including the highest in the state, Mt Elbert 14,433 feet.

You'll want to be off the mountain before the afternoon storms roll in, and there are too many great photo opportunities to pass up. So this will be a morning to get an early start.
The descent is long and steep, but it's not one where you'll be able to let loose. The road down into Aspen is too narrow and too busy. Take it easy, enjoy the scenery when you can, and get down in one piece. If you want you can spend some time checking out Aspen. You still have about 40 miles to go to Glenwood Springs, but it's almost entirely on the bike path, and though grades never exceed 1-2%, it's downhill all the way.

The bike path parallels Co 82 and it's a nice way to finish a long ride while giving you the chance to enjoy the scenery and maybe spot some wildlife. You'll finish the day with 103 miles, more or less, and will be ready for a well-deserved rest day in the summer resort town of Glenwood Springs.

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