Rocky Mountain high is more than just some term John Denver made up. We’ve been hitting the high points back and forth across this state in our ride this week. Pass-bagging is one term for it. How many passes can you bag in just a few days?
Since leaving San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico we rode the High Road to Taos and looped around Angel Fire and down to Raton. We went over Raton Pass and down to Trinidad, back in Colorado, and from there rode the Highway of Legends over Cuchara Pass. After spending the night in La Veta, and bidding farewell to two of our number who had to head home early, we went west again over La Veta Pass, into the San Luis Valley, then up over North Cochetopa Pass, which runs between Saguache and Gunnison. North Cochetopa Pass is not one of the higher or more spectacular passes in the state but it surprised me how nice it is, which I didn’t remember from last time I rode it.
Anyway, from Gunnison we headed south to Lake City, the city of Texans in Colorado, and then over Slumgullion Pass down to Creede and South Fork. From South Fork we headed west again over Wolf Creek Pass to Pagosa Springs, west to Durango, then north over Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass to reach Silverton, where we’ve taken up quarters for the night. The ride from Durango over these two passes, plus Red Mountain Pass, is one of the very best in all of Colorado, and we’ll do Red Mountain tomorrow.
It has been very interesting riding around the state this week because we have had a very wet spring and early summer. That plus a very heavy snowfall in the winter has meant the rivers are wide and wild, the reservoirs are full to the brim, and everything is as green as it can possibly be. Add to that the fact that we’ve had blazing hot weather the last few weeks and it has been amazing to watch. Coming through Glenwood Canyon a couple weeks ago the river was as high as we’ve ever seen it. Coming back through two weeks later it had dropped a foot or two but was still extremely high. Riding through the high country the snowpack is almost completely gone, which is another surprising observation. And most surprising is how the mountains, many of them, are green all the way to their summits. That photo at left was shot at the top of Molas Pass and if you click to enlarge it you’ll see just how green that mountain behind the bikes is.
What a year to be riding around Colorado. Most years by late July-early August much of the state has gone brown. This year the green just goes on and on.