GRMA Day 7: Perfect Start to Four Weeks in the Rockies

Click here for GPS Tracking Map.  Note the three forays west and then east.

Don’t forget to click on (or tap) photographs to see larger images.

It seems like it took a while to get the Great Rocky Mountain Adventure started, but today it started in ernest.  Perfect weather, good roads and, naturally, great scenery.  The Ultra Classic logged a little more than 360 miles today and 300 of that was in the mountains.  I can only hope that the rest of the trip lives up to the standards set today.

In addition to riding through great mountain scenery, I shot half a dozen antelope, several deer and a couple of buffalo. I may mount them in my North Carolina cabin if I can find the right frames.  By “shot,” I mean with a camera, of course.  

The East (left) and West (right) Spanish Peaks are two of the more prominent mountains at the edge of the plains and have been landmarks for thousands of years. The West Spanish Peak is the taller of the two at about 13,600 feet.

Today’s route was planned intentionally to take me into and out of the mountains three times so I could extend the ride and get a full measure of twisties.  Only 30 miles after I left Pueblo, I was climbing steadily and headed into my first of three passes into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Into and over the Sangre de Cristo, then south for a 20-30 miles in a valley formed by the Sangre de Cristo on my left and the Cimarron or Taos Ranges on my right, then back east to the Interstate, then back west again.  Without the back and forth, today’s ride could have been done in three hours on I-25 instead of nine great hours on the twisties.

A nearly vertical granite wall soars above the Cimarron River, which cut inexorably through the rock for millions of years.

All three of the westward jaunts were great, but the best was the last one racing up Cimarron Canyon, a steep, narrow canyon with massive walls of crenelated granite sliced by the Cimarron River for eons.  The eastern end of Cimarron Canyon marks the end of the Great Plains and the beginning of the Rocky Mountains:  Look eastward and you can see flat land stretching for many miles; look westward and the horizon is a mile or less as the tree-covered mountains rise to block the view.  Much of the Cimarron Canyon road had been resurfaced within the last year or two and leaning into the curves and accelerating through the towering trees along the rapidly flowing river provided a tremendous adrenaline rush.  The temperature also dropped about 10 degrees every time I left the plains and rode into the mountains; the first, early-morning westward climb was done in my heated jacket as the temperature slipped into the chilly 50s.

Springer Lake sits high in the Rockies, surrounded by still higher mountains.

I stopped frequently today to absorb breathtaking views, read informative historical markers, examine interpretive roadside displays and take pictures.  Lots of pictures.  Had I stopped every time I wanted to take another picture I’d still be on the road, reaching into my tour pack to grab the camera and then trying to decide which direction to point it.  During the next four weeks I may suffer from an acute case of scenic overdose.  If so, it’s a malady I welcome.

It was almost a quarter of the pie. And I ate it all.

Pie report:  An obscenely huge slice of Boston Creme Pie at the Alpine Rose Cafe in Walsenburg.  The Alpine Rose was one of those “not-available-next-to-the-Interstate” places and it was fun talking to other customers about small town cafes and about the Denver Broncos with the superfan who runs the place.  She also made the pie.

 Below is the gallery of my trophy animals.  All walked (or bounded) away following each shot.  No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog.

I wasn’t scared of this brute, but I was buffaloed.

Mule deer are considerably larger than the white tails of North Carolina. They can be recognized by their large ears.

Several times I saw a doe accompanied by two fawns. The first time I tried to photograph a three-some, the doe walked off and the fawns hid in the tall grass.



5 responses to “GRMA Day 7: Perfect Start to Four Weeks in the Rockies”

  1. nuke53 says :

    Great pictures today! I know you are enjoying those twisties!! Ride safe, Mark

  2. Ski says :

    Great photogphry, I envy you my friend. love to have seen your smiling face when you were flying around the twisties !!

  3. donna lowery says :

    Breathtaking…..thank you so much for doing this and sharing with us all!!!

  4. Jack says :

    Enjoying the pictures and words, hope to get to ride there one day soon.

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