July 21, 2015 – Clouds and rain, 70 degrees
Miles Today: 97
Miles to Date: 4,327
States to Date: 18
“Colorado has turned into Jurassic Park.” That is a popular phrase out here to describe the lush vegetation that’s overtaken the usually arid landscape this summer. It has rained almost every day since May, and not just dramatic late afternoon thunderstorms that provide more special effects than moisture. Sometimes the sky is cloudy all day. Some days are just a veil of grey. Some days it just rains straight through, like in New England. But when the sun shines, the slopes are verdant and the wild flowers magnificent.
Today I faced 97 miles with few services and a forecast of rain; a day demanding extra time and strategy. It stormed all night in Copper (even lost power for a few hours) but the morning emerged dry, if not sunny. The easy side of Vail pass was my first of three major climbs, and I reached the peak before eight. The misty clouds on the mountains were reminiscent of a fantasy film. Rain began to fall as I descended, and I ducked into a bus shelter for ten minutes when it turned into a torrent. Once the rain resumed a regular rhythm I kept on. The sky brightened by the time I was through the resort.
From the top of Vail Pass to the Wolcott turnoff is over thirty miles of descent, mostly gentle, mostly along Eagle Creek, which raged at its banks despite being midsummer. A nice series of bike paths kept me parallel but apart from I-70.
I turned north on C131 and pedaled eight miles up the Wolcott Divide. The descent into State Bridge is steep, and crosses the Colorado River not too far from its headwaters. The highway runs close to the river through Bond and McCoy, towns in name only, and then climbs again across the Red Dirt Divide, which makes clear how Colorado got its name.
Clouds loomed to the west as I travelled north, and by the time I reached Red Dirt Pass, big storms cluttered the distance. I put on my rain gear and headed down to Toponas, which, if not exactly a town, had a general store where I could stretch my legs and enjoy an ice cream sandwich. A steady rain fell as I followed the easy down slope. The Yampa River meandered under the road several times, growing wider and stronger. Clouds to the west were dispersing when I reached the town of Yampa, so I took another break.
While I waited for dryer skies I perused the local bulletin board and added my card to the mix. By the time I rolled through Phippsburg, along the serpentine Yampa, to Stagecoach State Park (Steamboat Springs’ reservoir) and up to the Glas Deffryn Ranch south of Oak Creek, the skies cleared and the afternoon was beautiful. It was just after 4 p.m. and I had done an excellent job dodging the weather.
My hosts for the night, Pam and Steve Williams, breed Scottish Highland cattle on their 200-acre ranch. Steve toured me around and introduced me to their big-horned family. Pam made an exquisite baked potato bar which we ate in their timber-frame home with the sun setting over the pastures. Then we enjoyed dessert in a fire circle under the stars, mesmerized by the giant flames. Talk about tomorrow was rooted in our good fortune today.