A family bike tour across the Colorado Rockies, page 2

Page 1: Fruita to Carbondale
Page 2: Carbondale to Bond
Page 3: Bond to Hot Sulphur Springs
Page 4: Hot Sulphur Springs to Fort Collins

Wednesday, July 21

After taking today off to rest, I feel like a genius for choosing this particular day and place to do it. We needed the rest, we liked visiting the area, and the weather would have been poor for bicycling anyway.

Aaron invited us to go out for breakfast with his family this morning, so (after apologizing for Maggie's noise last night) we all walked to a downtown breakfast cafe and had our first good conversation. While Kathy and I talked with Aaron and Midge, Daniel and Maggie played out in the rain with their 7-year-old son, Bodie. Among the several community activities that Aaron is involved with, he is trying to start a side business that would organize and support family bicycle tours, a naturally interesting topic for Kathy and me. Bikes of all kinds seem popular in Carbondale, even on a rainy morning, and we saw many folks out riding to breakfast, the farmers market and the park.

I've been wanting to take Kathy to visit the city of Aspen ever since I biked through there last year, so after breakfast we stepped onto an express bus and rode up the Roaring Fork valley to Aspen. Many people who work in Aspen live in Carbondale, so bus service between the towns is good. We could have planned to bike through Aspen, like I did last year, but then we would have to bike over 12,095 ft. Independence Pass, and that's more of a challenge than we want on this trip. The rain stopped shortly after we stepped off the bus, and we spent the afternoon visiting art galleries, walking through pedestrian malls and eating at a local diner.

Paepcke Park in Aspen.

Daniel climbs in Wagner Park while the clouds clear away.

The kids follow a tiny creek through Aspen's downtown pedestrian mall.

Looking over the town from Aspen Mountain Ski Area.

After returning to Carbondale we let the kids play until bedtime in the town park across from Aaron's house. I'd love to live in a neighborhood like this - across from a large park and just 2 blocks from the center of downtown - except that back in Fort Collins that would mean an expensive house, high traffic and a longer bike commute to work each day. It may never be practical for me in real life, but sometimes it's fun to visit a small town and pretend to live in an ideal neighborhood.

A view of Mount Sopris from Sopris Park in downtown Carbondale.

Playing in Aaron's front yard before bedtime.

Thursday, July 22

Distance: 47.4 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 7 minutes
Average speed: 11.4 mph
Maximum speed: 26.0 mph

Of all the things that we liked about today's bike ride, our favorite was that our first 31 miles were nearly all on scenic bicycle paths. This morning Aaron and Bodie rode their bicycles to lead us to the Roaring Fork bicycle path, which is built on an old railroad grade and follows the Roaring Fork River all the way into Glenwood Springs. Daniel pedaled as hard as he ever has this morning to make sure that we rode as fast as Bodie. When we arrived in Glenwood Springs 12 miles later, we were lucky enough to recognize our friend Allison walking along the bike trail with her mother. Allison and her husband and son joined us for a bike tour in South Dakota earlier this month. They're the only people that we know in Glenwood Springs, but we seem good at encountering friends during bike trips. We stopped to talk for a while and Allison showed us where to shop for groceries.

In Glenwood Springs we switched to the Glenwood Canyon Trail, which follows the Colorado River upstream through the steep sandstone walls of Glenwood Canyon. The bike trail was built at the same time as the adjacent highway I-70 and in many ways the trail is used to showcase the highway, which is one of the most scenic, expensive and highly-engineered sections of the interstate highway system. We biked this trail once before when Daniel was just 3 months old, and he slept through much of the ride. Today was much different with both our children talking excitedly about the river, the kayakers and rafters, and the various bridges and tunnels that we rode through. Someday we'll let them ride their own bicycles on this trail.

Our family with Midge, Bodie and Aaron at their house in Carbondale.

A "cannon man" statue beside the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs.

Rafters float the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon.

Glenwood Canyon bicycle path.

Looking upstream at a hydroelectric dam from the Glenwood Canyon bike path.

The Colorado River was much more calm above the dam.

Relaxing near the Hanging Lake trailhead, where we ate lunch.

As we left the bike trail at Dotsero a storm started blowing in, giving us a strong tailwind that made uphills feel like level ground. We zipped along past 6 p.m., not really knowing where to camp but enjoying the ride. Eventually we spotted the Eagle Baptist Church (just a few miles before the town of Eagle) and asked for permission to camp somewhere on the church property. Bruce, the friendly pastor who lives next door, let us set up our tent in the church's gazebo and left the church unlocked so that we could use the bathrooms. The storm blew past without ever raining on us, and Kathy cooked tacos for dinner while the kids played on the church playground.

Today we had great weather, fun bicycle trails and cooperative children. For the first time during this trip Daniel spent the whole day riding his trailerbike, never asking to rest in the trailer with Maggie. I guess he just needed good weather and a good night's sleep to show us how well he could ride.

Setting up camp at Eagle Baptist Church.

Friday, July 23

Distance: 34.7 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 46 minutes
Average speed: 9.2 mph
Maximum speed: 41.5 mph

Due to our long ride yesterday, or perhaps just due to laziness, we took our time getting up and ready this morning. I'm sure it was partly because we knew the recent heat wave was over and that it wasn't necessary to hit the road early to avoid sweltering heat. Bruce's four visiting grandchildren came to see us while we were packing and played with Daniel and Maggie for a while. By the time we'd finished breakfast and were ready to go it was past 11 o'clock.

For the first part of our ride we rode upstream beside the Eagle River, slowly but surely gaining altitude. At Wolcott we turned north on Highway 131 and started climbing in earnest. The road was steep enough that we had to walk a little bit of it, but 9 miles in we crossed a divide between the Eagle and Colorado river valleys and then we plunged uncomfortably fast down to the Colorado River. At 40 m.p.h. Daniel's silly motions on his trailerbike make controlling the tandem very tricky. I ask Daniel to have "good balance," but he doesn't fully understand that yet. Even the motion of him pedaling can shake the bike a lot.

Maggie plays outside the church with Bruce's grandchildren and dog.

Snack break in the Eagle river valley.

Climbing north on Highway 131.

We walked a little bit near the top of the divide.

Scenery on Wolcott Divide.

Despite the nerve-wracking descent we couldn't help but notice how beautiful the Colorado valley is here. The surrounding mountains have multiple colors in their exposed strata, and on the flat valley bottom are a few small farms and ranches. After reaching the valley we had fun riding into the evening, but we didn't find any campgrounds in the tiny towns. We finally stopped on some BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) set aside for off-road vehicle recreation. Even though this is Friday night, we couldn't hear or see jeeps or ATVs anywhere. We walked the bike a short distance up a jeep trail and found a good place to camp.

This will probably be our most primitive campsite of the trip. To conserve water we ate snack food for dinner rather than cooking. I hung all our food from a tree tonight, but the trees are so short in this area that I could hang it only five feet off the ground, which is no deterrent for a bear. The food should be safe from mice, and I hope that no bears come visiting. Watching the sunset and the full moonrise over the mountains was pretty from our campsite.

A ranch and train tracks along the Colorado River.

Our campsite on BLM land north of Bond.

An old car rusts away near our campsite. This place must have been a dumping ground decades ago. We found trash piles scattered throughout the forest, but most of the trash looked at least 40 years old. There were lots of tin cans, appliances and old car parts, but almost no plastic containers or modern glass bottles.


Page 1: Fruita to Carbondale
Page 2: Carbondale to Bond
Page 3: Bond to Hot Sulphur Springs
Page 4: Hot Sulphur Springs to Fort Collins