Bicycling from Fort Collins to Mt. Evans.

There is a bicycle race called the Mount Evans Hillclimb that goes 28 miles from Idaho Springs to the top of Mt. Evans along the highest paved road in the United States. I meant to compete in that race last year after my tour of southwest Colorado, since I was in great physical condition, but I missed the deadline so I will compete this year instead. This is a more difficult year to train because my son Daniel was born on May 28th and Kathy and I have been taking care of him and hosting our visiting parents ever since. However, I am leaving Kathy and Daniel for 2 days to train by riding through the mountains with a full touring load. This is my route: Fort Collins to Estes Park through the Big Thompson Canyon, the Peak-to-Peak Highway through Ward, Nederland and Central City, Oh-My-God Road from Central City to Idaho Springs, and then (time-permitting) Mt. Evans Highway as far as I can go up Mt. Evans. I'll back track to Nederland, follow Boulder Creek Canyon into Boulder and return to Fort Collins across the plains.

Monday, July 4

Distance: 115.3 miles
Riding time: 10 hours, 3 minutes
Average speed: 11.4 mph
Maximum speed: 45.8 mph

I left home at 6:30 a.m. after kissing Kathy and Daniel goodbye and reached Estes Park shortly after 9 a.m. I climbed to Wind River Pass and near the top I met a man who was training for a bicycle tour with his wife. His wife was training too, but she was farther down the hill. They've never toured before, so he asked me a bunch of questions and I gave him my website address. It's fun to talk with other tourists.

The outskirts of Estes Park near the beginning of the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

A view of Meeker and Longs Peaks from Wind River Pass.

I had to walk a number of hills today because my legs wore out after so many climbs. I stopped for a Coke in Ward, and cooked dinner in Idaho Springs. Along the way I was surprised by how attractive the towns of Blackhawk and Central City are. They have historic Victorian homes and row building business districts. It's too bad that most of the attractive row building businesses have been converted to casinos.

After dinner in Idaho Springs I started biking up to the Mount Evans Highway, barely reaching National Forest land before dark. A fox was prowling around camp as I set up my tent and I hope that he doesn't cause me any trouble tonight.

Looking north towards Rocky Mountain National Park from the road near Allenspark.

Mountains near Nederland.

A tall retaining wall in Blackhawk. As this town has grown, the only way to widen streets or make room for more casinos has been to cut away the walls of the narrow canyons and replace them with big retaining walls. I saw several such construction projects that were in progress.

A historic street in Blackhawk.

Tuesday, July 5

Distance: 102.6 miles
Riding time: 8 hours, 43 minutes
Average speed: 11.7 mph
Maximum speed: 41.7 mph

As I was preparing to ride this morning, I decided to go all the way to the top of Mt. Evans even though I knew it would be nearly impossible to reach the top and then ride all the way back to Fort Collins in one day. I wanted to be able to say that I biked from my house to Mt. Evans, and riding to the top would help me prepare for my race in a few weeks.

I rode up without my camping gear 22 miles to the top of road. Most of the scenery is alpine tundra with occasional lakes and cliffs. Somewhere above 13,000 feet I saw a small herd of mountain goats, which I've never seen in person before. They have shaggy white fur and small black horns. At the top of the road is a parking lot for the visitors' center and observatory - I believe that the road exists for the benefit of the observatory. A short trail leads to the peak of the mountain, so I hiked up and got a great view of Mt. Bierdstadt, another 14'er just a couple miles away.

After rolling back to my campsite and packing up my gear I began backtracking through the mountains the route that I followed yesterday. I thought that I would need to camp between Blackhawk and Nederland tonight and then use a vacation day to get back to Fort Collins tomorrow, but I reached Nederland sometime after 7 p.m. and decided to follow Boulder Creek Canyon into Boulder since the ride is all downhill. Arriving in Boulder right at dark, I stopped at a restaurant at the northeast end of town and called Kathy to ask her to pick me up - it was about 9 p.m. I ordered a big dinner but ate it very slowly because I was so exhausted.

I didn't think that I could cover so many miles of mountains in just 2 days when I started this ride, but I'm glad that I did. The scenery was great and I feel prepared to race in the Mt. Evans Hillclimb.

My campsite in Arapahoe National Forest.

A columbine flower growing near my campsite. Columbine is Colorado's state flower.

Echo Lake, just below the Mt. Evans Wilderness

Bird near Echo Lake - this is a male pine grosbeak.

Taking a break at Summit Lake.

Mountain goats high on Mt. Evans

The visitors' center. The top of the observatory dome is at the right edge of the picture.

A view from the peak.

The USGS medallion. Mt. Evans' height is 14,258 feet.

Looking down at the visitors' center and observatory.