Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lake views, red rocks, and Bear, oh my!

When last we met, Gunnison was the town of the day, and dry at that--yecht. Luckily, with a little gained elevation, I made it back into the trees and found a cozy campsite at the base of the climb up to Monarch Pass, the highest elevation Karlee has seen, likely in her life, at 11,312ft. Of note, this car seems to love thin air and low octane fuel--with a tank of 86PON that did include an overall drop of about 1,500 feet over 430 miles, but also included multiple 10,000ft+ passes, I averaged 40.55mpg, which is just, well, silly. Note, I'm taking it really easy, going up the long climbs doing about 30mph in 3rd gear, which does have the advantage of giving a lot of time to look out the windows.

In May, they still have a lot of snow on Monarch Pass,
and a super cool machine for moving it around.

So, after seeing the top of Monarch Pass at sunrise, which was pretty cool (actually it was downright frigid) but not spectacular do to a big rounded lump of the earth situated due east, I made the long meander down 285 into the valley junction with Rt24, where I stashed the car behind some shrubbery and rode into the stiffest headwind I've ever experienced trying to cross the valley floor back to the mountain side and the road up to Cotton Wood Pass. I managed about 7mph up a nearly false-flat incline, and now have some idea of what using a sandblaster on my face would feel like.

Rocky Mountain High...beaver

Still, once into the somewhat sheltered canyon road, things turned pretty, and even more so, once I opted for the turn to Cotton Wood Lake, a hard packed dirt climb up to a sheltered natural mountain lake, or tarn (yippee, I remembered a vocabulary word; thank you crossword puzzles!). Again, nice, pretty, quiet, peaceful, and all that, but again, damn that wind. To give some idea, it took me just under two hours to get up there riding into it; the return trip was just over 30 minutes, and it would have been less than that except for excessive speed leading to resonant front end wobbles with the cross winds. It was actually a pretty tiring descent.

One view across Cotton Wood Lake,
and the super nifty road to get there.

Down to the Denver area, or Golden specifically, but not without an impulsive stop at Red Rocks Park, another improbably feature of the Colorado landscape. One almost starts to get used to that kind of thing out here.

Red Rocks Park has some of the most amazing sculpted rocks,
yet some fool thought it needed a sculpture.

In the time since, I've been hanging out up at the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden with Russ, Todd, Joe, and their dogs (including one called Bear, get the blog title now?). They, and most recently I, get to enjoy one heck of a half hour steady climb home after picking up food from the Safeway in town, and it sure is fun passing fully-shod roadies with my wool pants and messenger bag bulging with bananas and bread. Golden has disappointed in only one way: firearms are strictly prohibited on Coors Brewery property, which just seems downright un-American, or as Russ pointed out, there's a reason Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are all under one government agency.

Russ and I took a little hike today up to an interesting pile of rocks.
Stormy snow conditions had us thinking better of the higher peak we intended,
freezing to death in a white out being what it is.

1 comment:

  1. I'm jealous of your travels. I miss Monarch Pass. Love that area.

    Glad to see things are as they are. Enjoy the trip. The stories and photographs have been fun to read and look at.