Saturday, August 27, 2011

crmbt '11 glenwood springs to hotchkiss

Friday's route was 80 miles over McClure Pass at 8,755 feet. It's a ride I've done before , from both sides, but I was looking for ward to it anyway, because it's beautiful. I was up at 6:00am, and after breakfast and a little organization was on my way.
 We got back on the bike path parallel to CO 82, with a terrific view of Mt Sopris on the horizon. When we reached Carbondale, we headed in a southwesterly direction on CO 133 towards McClure Pass, Paonia, and Hotchkiss.
We were riding through the Crystal River Canyon and the river ran alongside the road for a while. The road doesn't have a very wide shoulder, but the traffic's not too bad. And the scenery is postcard worthy.
As we climbed towards McClure Pass the views back at the road we were on, and the valley below, were spectacular! And I find that a climb is easier if you stop for pictures once in a while. This climb is not long, but it gets just a little bit steep near the top.
Mt Sopris had been with us all morning. It's a twin summit mountain named after a former mayor of Denver. It's 2 peaks are 1/2 mile apart and are both 12,953 feet above sea level.
Then, we're at the top and the second aid station. Time for pictures of my two favorite signs: summit elevation,  and steep grades ahead. Fill the water bottles, have a snack and head on down.
From the summit of McClure Pass to Hotchkiss is roughly 43 miles and 3400+ feet of elevation loss. It's a nice descent with wide sweeping turns that allow you go as fast as you can. You can really fly almost all the way to the Paonia Sate Park and reservoir. Even after the real descent you're still trending downhill and can make pretty good time.
 As you near the reservoir you know you're getting closer to the valley below. It's soon going to be hotter, dryer, and a lot less alpine looking, so enjoy the green views while you can. There's one aid station left before the last 22 mile leg to Hotchkiss, and the terrain will reflect the mining, farming and ranching that takes place there. You'll also pass some vineyards and wineries.
The area around Hotchkiss has it's own distinct kind of beauty. As the sun was setting the moon was already in the sky and this was the view from where we were camped at the high school. Everyone found a bit of shade to escape the heat, and then it was early to bed because we had another 100 mile day, and the Grand Mesa to look forward to tomorrow. Some were planning on spending the night in Grand Jumction before heading home, while others of us were planning to get some miles in towards home after the ride. Either way, it would be a long day. But, a good day!

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