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Days 7 and 8: Kremmling to Silverthorne


Day 7: Kremmling to Arapaho NF

I took my time leaving Kremmling, knowing I only had about 30 miles to cover, and it was a relatively easy day. A few miles south of town, i turned off onto a dirt road that followed the Colorado River for a while before turning south. A short climb led to Middle Park, a broad, windswept valley that has a reservoir sitting in the middle on the Williams Fork. I’ll be passing through a similar area–South Park–next week. The road was pretty smooth and had gentle grades as it made its way up stream, behind the Williams Fork Mountains. There were still some heart-pounding hillls to climb, but overall it was a relatively mellow day.

My legs do feel somewhat dead and tired, but the biggest complaint I have is my ass. Although not as tender as during the first few days, it can still be somewhat uncomfortable to spend so much time in the saddle. I’ve found that using Desitin, the ointment for diaper rash, has soothed my butt and I’ve also been experimenting with some different seat heights. Other than that, I’m feelling in pretty good shape a week into the trip. I have a bunch of nicks and cuts on my hands that are taking a while to heal, but I’m not struggling with any real injuries or ailments.

I stopped for the day at about 3pm, only about 4 hours after I started riding. I knew where I’d be camping because Ginette and I had spent a night in the area a few weeks back, before we did some hiking in the nearby Eagles Nest Wilderness. Just a half mile inside the forest boundary, I turned up a side road and found a great campsite beside Keyser Creek and beneath lots of tall conifers. Took a refreshing dunk in the water after putting up my tent and then took a nap. It was great to set up camp early in the afternoon, without being dead tired, and I’m glad I could catch up on some sleep. I’ve been getting at least 9 hours a night, but I think my body still needs more. Same thing with food: I’m eating huge quantities, yet still feel hungry. One of the many great things about this trip is that I can eat whatever and however much I want, yet still lose weight!

Day 8: Arapaho NF to Silverthorne

Today’s ride was also on the short end–a little less than 30 miles, most of it on paved roads. Unlike the past few mornings, when dew was covering everything, today began dry, but the wind kept getting stronger. After a few miles on a hard-packed dirt road, I came to the Henderson industrial complex. On this side of the Continental Divide is a massive mill and tailings pond; on the other side is the continent’s largest molybdenum mine. The two are connected by a gigantic underground conveyer system that goes straight through the Divide. It’s pretty much an industrial sacrifice area, but it’s hard for me to get all self-righteous since my bike frame is chro-moly, as in chrome-molybdenum.

The ride through the mine is the ascent to Ute Pass, which is all paved and never gets too steep. On the other side, there are incredible views of the Gore Range on the other side of the Blue River Valley. Today’s strong westerly winds were creating some interesting cloud formations over the peaks and helped slow my descent toward Highway 9. From there, it was 13 miles to Silverthorne. Lots of traffic, but a huge shoulder for me to ride in so I felt totally safe. I was going NW for part of the way and enjoyed a nice tailwind.

Once I got to Silverthorne, known best for its huge number of outlet stores along I-70, I headed to Chipotle for some lunch and then to my motel. Unfortunately, no laundry machines, so I to ride to the laundromat, about a mile away. I stripped down to just my shorts/bathing suit and washed everything else. Not a minute too soon–I was really starting to smell!


Days 5 and 6: Steamboat Springs to Kremmling

Days 5 and 6: Steamboat to Kremmling

More than a century ago, it took about two days for the stage coach to travel from Steamboat Springs to Kremmling and that’s about how long it took me to bike the 80-odd miles. These two days featured some tough stretches but the route passed through beautiful country that I’ve never explored, except by train.

I left Steamboat on Tuesday morning after running some errands: mailing about five pounds of gear that I don’t really need back home, buying new gloves at the bike store, picking up food at Safeway, etc. The ride out of Steamboat was easy enough and I saw tons of recreational cyclists, all of whom seemed to get a kick out of me. The route makes its way up the Yampa River, passing by some trophy homes and ranchettes before entering Pleasant Valley, where I had about 50 ravens fly over my head.
The dirt road then ascends to Stagecoach Reservoir, where it was sort of fun to ride over a narrow causeway above the dam. There were trout anglers fishing in the tailwaters below and people waterskiing on the reservoir. For a few miles, you follow a path around the edge of the lake that sometimes narrows to almost single track but is never too steep. There are lots of houses around the lake, and nice to see many of them with solar arrays.

From the reservoir, the route continues ascending up Morrison Creek and into the Routt National Forest, though it takes a long time to get to public lands. One thing about this route is that you pass by a lot of private land–mostly hay farms, cattle ranches, or subdivided rangeland in this first week–as you make on your way to the higher elevation national forests. I opted to ride all the way to the top of Lynx Pass, which wasn’t too bad of a climb and the road was in decent shape. Even better, I had a tailwind for a change1

Just on the other side of the pass, I biked up a side road for a half mile or so and made my camp near Tee Pee Creek, which emptied into a small pond. There were signs advertising moose in the area but I didn’t see any. If there weren’t a Forest Service work station nearby, I would have stripped down and taken a swim in that pond, but I heard some voices and opted to go upstream, where I found a mini-pool, about the size of a bathtub and two feet deep, where I could bathe and wash my clothes. The water wasn’t too cold and it felt both primal and refreshing.

Took a pretty cool time-lapse of the sunset with my iPhone, which I’d upload if I could find a decent internet connection, and then hit the sack early, like 9pm. I decided not to put the fly on my tent, so of course it rained overnight. I got a little damp before I woke up and quickly threw the fly on the tent. Fell right back to sleep: insomnia is not going to be a problem on this trip.

It was super damp in the morning and the sun wouldn’t come out so I had to pack my wet tent into my bag before taking off. My shoes were also soaking wet because I forgot to take them inside my tent. But that didn’t really matter because a few miles into Wednesday’s ride I had to ford a stream and walk through calf-high water in Rock Creek, close to where there’s an impressive 2-story building that served as the stage coach station more than a century ago.

Although I had camped near the top of Lynx Pass, the first dozen miles or so today still featured a fair amount of hills and was slower than expected. I’ve made the mistake before of thinking that achieving the top of a pass means it’s all downhilll from there. On a road bike in Colorado, that’s pretty much true–you top out and then go right down. But on these dirt roads, you’re often summiting a ridge, then dropping into a valley that’s usually braided by streams and interspersed with ridges. So after reaching the “top” of a climb, I might go another 5 or 10 miles before the descent.

My guide map was a little off, telling me to go up a paved road for 2/10 of a mile to get onto the forest road that descends to the Colorado River; in reality, the road was right in front of me. I was a little worried I was getting lost, in part because my GPS watch died this morning for no apparent reason, but after a half hour or so of riding I could tell I was on the right track.

The ride down to the Colorado River is described as one of the wildest descents on the whole GDMBR, and with just cause. You lose about 1,300 feet in the last few miles and have great views of the river valley below. Went from aspen to juniper to sagebrush in a matter of minutes.
When I got to the crossing and RR station at Radium, I found tons of rafters in the river. I was also treated to the passing of the Amtrak California Zephyr, which goes from Chicago to the SF Bay Area. Ginette and I took the trip a few years ago and I recognized the area around Radium from that brief introduction.

I filled up on water in the river, thinking I might camp in the surrounding highlands without access to a stream. I wasn’t sure if I could make the nearly 20 miles to the tiny town of Kremmling. As I was leaving the river, the sky continued to darken and soon there was a lot of thunder and lightning. And then it started to pour. I circled back a mile on the route to the Radium campground and put up my tent, thinking I would either wait out the storm inside or just crash there for the evening. But as soon as I was done with setting up the tent, the skies started to clear as the storm either dissipated or moved on, so I repacked my bag and set off. I knew it might still rain, but overcast skies would also make for a cooler ascent.

The climb from Radium is grueling. The road is as wide as a highway and almost like pavement, but you can see ahead of your for a long while and know you’ll be cranking in your granny gear for the next half hour just to reach that bend in the road. The surroundings are impressive: from Inspiration Point you can see the Colorado way below and the RR line snaking along the wall of Gore Canyon. I was passed by tons of buses and vans from rafting companies that operate out of Kremmling and was surprised by how heavy the recreational use was on a Wednesday.
After cresting a watershed divide, the last 8 miles to Kremmling were mostly–but not totally–downhill. The prospect of a shower and some non-camping food had succeeded in motivating me to do more than 40 miles through the toughest terrain I’ve seen yet.

I found a cheap hotel/hostel here in town and put away a heroic amount of food at the saloon across the street: 1/2 pound cheese burger with bacon, plus fries, salad, a chocolate sundae dessert, and a couple beers. I really needed that. While riding/camping it can be a challenge to consume enough food.

I’m now in the Moose Cafe in Kremmling, finishing up breakfast and getting ready to head off. Tonight I’ll be camping and tomorrow I’ll roll into Silverthorne, where I’ll stay in a motel Friday night and meet Ginette on Saturday morning. I’m definitely feeling full after that breakfast: the pancakes had the circumference of a volley ball.