So we finally arrived in the Rocky Mountains yesterday. The weather was stunning. Endless pale blue skies, no cloud and soft sunshine. The Colorado Rockies are spectacular at every turn but not at all what I expected. Firstly, as the surrounding land is so high already, the mountain peaks do not soar above you. They are not that much higher than the valley and the gradient is gentle. There are many 14,000 ft peaks but you can actually cycle up to the top of highest.
Secondly, it is still incredibly arid at 10-12,000 feet, so not as green as you would expect.
Thirdly, the landscape is incredibly varied. It changes constantly after exiting the high plain. There are high passes covered in pine trees, as you would find in say The Alps but there are also vast U shaped valleys, bigger than anything I have seen before, high semi-arid plateaus, covered in scrub and low undulating mountain areas, interspersed with sandy coloured rocky outcrops and gorges. The colours are more pink and gold than green and grey. We saw no snow, even on the tops.
We crossed a pass at just over 3,000m (sorry for changing from metres to feet) which is higher than we have been on a bike before (the highest ass we have crossed in Europe is 2,600m). It was very cold but the views were stunning. The air is incredibly thin and pure. The riding here was just as we like it-steep and twisty.
We had lunch at a gorgeous town called Lake City (population about 1,000-yes they call it a city.) All the buildings were made from timber, some quite old and there was a wonderful laid back vibe. On the approach to the town, in the Gunnison National Forest area, all of the pine trees are dead-hundreds of thousands of them or more. In places, they are clearing them, leaving the mountainside looking very bare. Later, I read this is caused by Spruce Beetle and is affected by the droughts since 2013. I was too cold at this point to take photos but the images are burned in my memory.
Crossing the high plateaus after lunch it was very windy. We kept having to crouch down to decrease the wind resistance. We could see the highest peaks towards Aspen in the distance. We passed a huge lake before arriving at Gunnison, our destination.
We have decided to stay here for 2-3 days as we have not had a day off from riding for a while and did not manage the planned time off earlier due to bad weather. The town has good amenities and some great day rides. On the downside, it is the coldest town in the USA in the winter and even in August the temperatures go down pretty low at night. At 6am this morning, my phone said it was 3 degrees celsius. We have good sleeping bags, thermal underwear and light down jackets and we love the cold so it suits us fine.
We have had a few issues with the bike this week. Dave has gone off this morning to get a new chain fitted and we plan to head for Denver next week to collect some new sprockets. We are also leaking oil and hoping it is just overflowing. The bike is our trusty steed and our trip is entirely dependent upon it so it lust come first. Any money spent on maintenance and repairs is money well spent. We have clocked up more than 4,000 miles in the last 5 weeks and there are a lot more to come.