Friday, January 22, 2016

Rocky Mountain High

The webcam fetish continues. About all the traveling I can do these days! This webcam, which is located at the Alpine Visitor's Center on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, interests me on several levels. First, it always pretty. Beyond that, somehow or other the camera is set to click every morning just as the sun hits that notch in the mountains. Not sure how they do that, but it's cool. Different every morning, of course. Then they leave that sunrise photo up for several hours so more people are able to see it.

I visited the top of Trail Ridge back in 1983 during my 2-month Colorado bike ride. I'd been in Estes Park for a week, acclimating to the terrain and altitude before setting out on my first day of actual travel, which would take me up Trail Ridge past this spot, and it's a long, long road with lots of elevation gain. Lots! From Estes Park at 7552', to its highest point at 12,183'. The visitor's center, where this camera is, is at 11,796'. You do the math. It is the highest continuous motorway in the country. But, when the time came I had a serious feeling that I just was not yet ready to face this challenge. My legs were  used to climbing the Mayacama and eastern mountain ranges in the Napa Valley, and a week just wasn't enough to give me confidence that I could do this much climbing on my first day. So -- I took the bus up there, and felt no shame or guilt about doing so.

My bike up at the top of Trail Ridge, but looking in a different direction from the above camera. From here, it was an easy coast down the other side to a campground about 4 miles down the mountain. I had planned to go all the way down, but pulled in to check out the small campground and fell in love, set up camp and then with the bike unloaded traveled on down the hill to Grand Lake about 10 miles away to buy some groceries, since I hadn't wanted to carry that weight up the mountain (this was before chickening out!). Then, a lovely ride back up the mountain to my camp. I remember how light and lively the bike felt, freed from its 50 pounds of camping gear. I stayed up there a few days, did some hiking, before continuing on with the trip.

After this, I climbed several other major passes without benefit of motorized assistance, the highest of these being Independence Pass. This was my last major one, climbing up from Aspen at around 8000'. I didn't do it in one day, either, as this is a long, steep, narrow road filled with RVs and little or no shoulder for bikes on the downhill side -- which is way downhill in a canyon. I stopped for a couple of nights at another campground about 4 miles, I think it was, from the top. Did some more hiking. Rested the legs. I remember a tavern a few miles down the other side where I stopped for a big burger and fries, and beer. This was my usual reward after a pass, if such a thing could be easily found.

Enough reminiscing. Nowadays my cycling is mostly level, my hiking limited to more minor elevation gains and distances. This morning I had so little energy I came down the mountain next door as slowly as I'd gone up it, and that doesn't generally happen. The joys of old age. I'm just grateful that I can still go up that mountain (generally a bit faster, too) and that it's there for me to enjoy. Quiet this morning, early, in the forest. Only real sound was rushing water, as the streams are really flowing right now with all the rain we've had. Trees mossy and green, lots of big ferns on the forest floor. Really a treasure to have in my backyard.

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