I was chomping at the bit to start day 4. Our goal was to go through Rocky Mountain National Park and end in Estes Park. We were going to cover around ~320 miles and I was worried we'd run out of daylight while in the park.
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Leaving the hotel in the morning. I knew it was going to be chilly, so this was the first day I wore jeans under the mesh pants. If I remember correctly I threw on that sweatshirt, sitting on my bag, before I left town and it was a good thing that I did.
Vern is big into Geocashing. If you don't know what that is check it out: Geocaching. Anyway he had a goal of finding a Geocach in each state that we visited. So before heading off we stopped to find one in Delta. Apparently all of the geocach's in Delta are located near murals. Hence where Vern found one across the street.
Dr. Quinn and Starr headed back to Tucson early so Starr could make it back to work on Monday morning. So from this point forward it was just Vern and I. It worked out pretty well, Vern and I have similar personalities so we just took our time and stopped for photos when we felt like it.
It didn't take long after leaving Delta that we started gaining altitude entering the Grand Mesa National Forest. I didn't expect to hit high altitude so quickly. It was a bit chilly going uphill as I only had on my summer gloves and light sweatshirt on under my mesh jacket. With the wind chill of riding the bike, it got cold fast! I didn't know it at the time but we had reached 10000' elevation in no time and I started to see snow on the ground. Vern pulled over into a parking lot and I couldn't believe there was a lake with ice! This is Cobbett lake.
Surprisingly, once we got off the bike it felt warm. The sun was still out and the wind was calm. I quickly threw on my jacket's windbreaker and thermal liner on for the next leg of the trip and switched over to warmer gloves. Vern hit the restroom at the ranger station and it was a good thing that he did. He mentioned to the rangers, working there, which way we were headed and they let him know our intended path hadn't been snowplowed yet. We'd have to hit the interstate a bit earlier then intended.
I was a little hyped up after seeing snow. It didn't feel like it was in the forties. Keep in mind I'd been in 100 degree weather just two days earlier.
King of the Mountain!, of dirty snow.
We took a service road behind the ranger station to see the numerous lakes in the area. This one is called Deep Ward lake.
We caught a little rain leaving Grand Mesa. We threw on our rain gear and headed north to catch the freeway at De Beque. I wanted to avoid as much interstate as possible on this trip but it couldn't be avoided. I-70 cuts across some pretty steep terrain and taking side routes would have taken to much time. Of course it wouldn't be a trip with out hitting road work. They had closed one side of the freeway and we had to wait our turn while traffic in the opposite direction could pass. The Colorado river is off to the right of this freeway and man! was it running. We saw numerous rafting tour groups that looked like they were having a ball.
We had wanted to get gas in the town of Wolcott, but when we got there it wasn't much of anything. To make matters worse It had started to rain hard. We continued on to the town of Edward, where we filled up with gas and ducked into a BBQ place called Kirby Cosmo's BBQ Bar. The staff there were really nice. They let us throw all of our gear out to dry and even took a look at our map and gave us tips on which roads to take. It turns out that one of the roads we were supposed to use was dirt. Vern doesn't drive on dirt so we came up with a detour that didn't add too much time.
After a few hours of driving we finally hit the road that led into Rocky Mountain National forest. Quick shot with all my rain gear on. Notice the helmet hair.
It didn't take long to find elk. Prior to taking this picture I had my first scary moment on the bike. Vern had motioned to pull over to snap some shots and I proceeded to do a quick stop. Either the disc brakes or the tire rubber were a bit to cold and the rear wheel locked up on me. One instant I was breaking and the next my rear wheel had swung out to the right and the bike was close to high siding. I released both rear and front brakes and the bike centered up again. Gave me the shakes for the next hour or so.
This shows the valley that you drive into entering the park from the west side. We quickly started climbing in elevation.
Soon we hit the continental divide. The snow drift on the side of the road was still 9-10 foot high. Making it to this location was probably the highlight of the trip for me.
At this point Vern and I assumed we'd be headed down the mountain towards Estes Park. Little did we know that you keep climbing in elevation.
Pretty soon we were above the tree line and in a alpine tundra zone. Clouds started to roll in and it started snowing! Vern was getting worried about ice on the road so we made a beeline down the mountain. At one point I saw a sign stating 12090' elevation.
As we came down the mountain snow turned to rain and we arrived in Estes Park wet and in the dark. Luckily we found Ed's Cantina and Grill. Nothing fixes rain like a nice burger and beer.
Tomorrow, Nebraska and Kansas!