A family bike tour across the Colorado Rockies, page 3

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

Saturday, July 24

Distance: 29.3 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 9 minutes
Average speed: 7.0 mph
Maximum speed: 41.3 mph

Looking out from our campsite this morning, I saw something going on down by the highway in the spot where we pulled off the road last night. A white tent was set up, and a fire truck and police car was parked there. Then crowds of bicyclists started riding by, and it all became clear to me - a charity bicycle ride was in progress, and one of the rest stops was right below our campsite. That explained why a portable toilet was conveniently sitting beside the road last night. When we walked down to visit the rest stop the firefighters running it invited us to help ourselves to water and snacks. That was fortunate, because we were low on water and the next place to get water was many miles away up a big hill. Our loaded bicycle impressed all the bicyclists in the charity ride, and our family became a conversation piece for a while.

The charity ride was turning in a different direction from us, so once we started riding we weren't sharing the road with any other bicycles. In fact we were barely sharing the road (highway 131) with cars, since traffic was extremely light. Several faster routes between the nearby towns are available so few vehicles drive the route up to Gore Pass that we rode today. Our ride was nearly all uphill, but gentle enough that we didn't need to walk the bike much. Daniel must have been tired from two long days of riding his trailerbike because he chose to ride in the trailer with Maggie, playing with her and singing songs until they both fell asleep for a long afternoon nap.

We rode north to the tiny town of Toponas, where we ate lunch in front of the only store and then turned east into Routt National Forest. It was fun to ride through a dozen miles of forest and meadows without seeing a single building, even if we were grinding uphill to Gore Pass. Kathy had fed me a bunch of caffeine at lunchtime - chocolate and a 32 oz. Dr Pepper - so my legs weren't feeling much fatigue. The weather was perfect with clear skies, cool air and a tailwind.

Bicyclists visit a rest stop below our campsite in the morning.

Lunch at Toponas General Store.

Open land in Routt National Forest.

We were looking forward to spending the night in a national forest campground right at the top of 9527 ft. Gore Pass to get a good "camping in the Rockies" experience, but when we arrived the gate was chained shut. By all appearances the campground had been closed for years since the campsites were overgrown, fallen trees blocked the roads, and the water tap was disabled. The water tap was most disappointing, since without more water we couldn't spend a night on the pass. Then our good fortune appeared again when a family in a passing truck stopped to ask if we needed help. They had a full water cooler in the back of their truck and were happy to refill our water containers. A short while later we set up camp in a field on top of the pass and ate our dinner while watching the sunset.

Daniel has been learning to identify animal signs from a book that we bought during our recent bike tour in South Dakota. Last night we found deer scat near our tent, and this evening we went looking for tracks in the soft dirt. We found a few old tracks, probably from a deer, but more importantly we found and watched a live rabbit. After getting in the tent he read Kathy a little book we brought that's made for beginning readers. Daniel has begun reading just in time for kindergarten, which starts two weeks after we finish this bicycle tour. It makes us proud to see all the things that Daniel learns when we are out bicycling.

Pushing our bike near the top of Gore Pass.

Maggie explores the meadow around our campsite on Gore Pass.

Kathy cooked dinner about 100 yards away from our tent to keep food smells (and bears) away from our tent.

We found this rabbit while searching for animal tracks.

Moonrise over our campsite.

Daniel reads to us before bedtime.

Sunday, July 25

Distance: 38.0 miles
Riding time: 2 hours, 46 minutes
Average speed: 13.6 mph
Maximum speed: 39.8 mph

We had a quick and easy ride to the house of a friend-of-a-friend today, aided by a net altitude drop of nearly 2000 feet. At the summit of Gore Pass I warned Daniel that we were going to go "super fast" right before starting the 17-mile descent into the town of Kremmling. We used our brakes on most of the many tight curves in the road, yet we still averaged 20 m.p.h. on the way to town.

In Kremmling we had our choice of four restaurants for lunch so we chose the Moose Cafe, mostly because we saw two mountain bikes with touring loads parked out front. Inside we found Andrew and Brice, who are taking 8 days to ride from Wyoming to New Mexico along part of the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail. The Divide Trail is unpaved, but they diverted into Kremmling to avoid a particularly tough part of the trail. Andrew has two small children of his own, and was impressed by both our long bicycle and the mountainous route that we've managed to ride it on.

The story of Gore Pass.

Ranch land on the way down from Gore Pass.

From Kremmling to Hot Sulphur Springs we gradually climbed beside the Colorado River until the last 3 or 4 miles when we climbed more steeply between the tall walls of Byers Canyon. In the Springs we found Brent and Sarah and their daughters Maddie, Abby and Cloe. Sarah is the sister of a friend of ours in Fort Collins, plus we know her parents and have several common friends. We hardly knew them before today, but we called them before the start of our trip to get permission to camp in their yard. Our kids spent the afternoon playing with their daughters and golden retriever puppy while Kathy and I took showers and washed laundry.

We'll take a day off from biking tomorrow and perhaps visit the hot springs that made this town famous. We need plenty of rest before tackling the long, remote climb to Willow Creek Pass on Tuesday.

Riding through a heat mirage between Kremmling and Hot Sulphur Springs.

A freight train passes us in Byers Canyon.

A narrow section of Byers Canyon, just before Hot Sulphur Springs.

Camping on Brent and Sarah's front lawn.

Monday, July 26

For the first time during this trip, Maggie slept past 6:30. We all stayed in bed until almost 8 o'clock, and it sure felt good. With no need to rush out of town, Kathy took time to cook a pancake breakfast. While we all liked eating it, Kathy and I also liked being done with the heavy pancake mix and syrup after towing it more than 250 miles. We probably could have bought an identical bottle of pancake syrup right here in Hot Sulphur Springs, but we didn't know which day we would need it. Cooking in Sarah's kitchen was helpful since it conserved our limited cooking fuel.

We spent most of our day visiting this town's most famous attraction, the Hot Springs Resort. It's been a resort for more than 140 years. We had to force our kids to go there (they were too busy playing with toys at the house,) but once we arrived they never wanted to leave. The resort has 24 pools, and most of them are filled with hot, mineral-rich spring water. Children aren't allowed in the hottest pools, so we spent most of our time in the cooler downstream pools. The minerals are supposedly healthy for skin, and it seemed good to us. Normal swimming pools leave my skin itching, but this afternoon my skin was fine. Maybe the minerals helped heal our bottoms, which were sore after so many days on a bicycle saddle.

Cloe joined us for pancake breakfast.

Maggie tries the slide at the Hot Springs Resort.

The hot mineral "Ute cave pool" - one of 24 pools at the Hot Springs Resort. Like most of the pools, this pool was too hot for children.

We relaxed in this enclosed, medium temperature pool for quite a while, but Daniel preferred even cooler water.

Tonight Brent and Sarah cooked us a great Chinese dinner and let everyone eat it with chopsticks. There were lots of spills, but their puppy stayed under the table and cleaned up messes as quickly as they happened. After dinner we took a short walk to visit the small, historic church where Brent serves as the part-time pastor. There are many nice old buildings along the main streets here, but some are empty and need upkeep. I'm sure it's hard for the old hotels and restaurants to compete with fancy ski resort towns elsewhere in the county, like Winter Park and Fraser. We watched an Amtrak train full of tourists roll through the middle of town today, but those trains never stop here. They do stop in Glenwood Springs (another hot spring resort town,) and the hotels and restaurants in that town are doing much better.

Dinner with Brent and Sarah's family.

Going for a walk with Rocky, their golden retriever puppy.

Visiting the church that Brent pastors.

This stained glass window is supposed to be an image from Jesus's parable, "The Sower and the Seed." But... the window was donated to the church about 100 years ago by the wealthy widow of William Byers, founder of Denver's Rocky Mountain News and the Hot Springs Resort. He also owned a seed company and loved gardening. The man in the window looks like Byers.


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