Saturday, November 03, 2007

Riding the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway

Temps ranging from a low of 16.7 to mid 50s, sunny and clear skies.

Wow, what a great day for riding in Colorado! I rose early and after a hearty breakfast from my loving wife, headed out a little after 0700 using the I-25 Slab to cut across Denver and onto the westbound slab of the I-70 Interstate Highway. My objective was the US40 exit which would take me to Granby and from there onto CO125 to Walden and the midpoint of my ride.

Walden is the western end of the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway, here's a link with more information on this byway. LINK.

All the road reports said the roads all over the state that were open were also dry and quite safe for travel so with such nice weather, I decided to add this byway to the list of ridden roads within this state.

Dawn was breaking as I left and the roads through the city had light traffic. Once I turned off of I-70 onto US40, traffic got even lighter and I arrived at Granby with no issue and temperatures in the vicinity of 22 degrees. It felt quite chilly as I tanked up Maria and I was glad to be wearing a fleece jacket along wth heated vest, jacket liner and long underwear pants and shirt! I did manage to leave home without my grip covers dang it, they would have been nice to have. But the heated grips on high and my "Deer Creek Leather" gloves kept my wants warm enough!

I continued for a short while on US40 after leaving Granby and soon came upon the turnoff to CO125 and started headed North towards the Arapaho and Routt National Forests through which CO125 cuts through. You traverse Willow Creek Pass as you cross these forests:


The road to the pass has several sharp hairpin turns, very nice motorcycling to be had getting up to the pass.

As you exit the Routt National Forest on the North side you come upon this large open valley where I stopped for these pictures.

Looking West towards the Rabbit Ears Range

Looking towards the SW, still looking at Rabbit Ears Range

It was shortly after I took the above pictures, as I motored northward on CO14 on that nice straight road that I encountered some pretty strong winds which buffeted me around for a minute or so.

Once they stopped, I had one of those rare moments that riders describe where everything just comes together in one's mind and one achieves "oneness" with one's surroundings. The cold biting wind seeping into my helmet, Maria's smoothly running engine vibrations underneath me, no one in sight and snowcapped mountains all around me in the distance. Wow. It's been quite a while since everything just "flowed" and the world was perfect, no worries and no thoughts but the pure enjoyment of the ride at that moment.

To soon after that momentary feeling of "riding joy", I arrived at the small town of Walden shortly before 1030 and kept going onto CO14 where it junctioned with CO125. Now I was heading more of less East on CO14. The roads were pretty straight and you could see the mountain ranges to the West of Fort Collins getting nearer and nearer.

I pretty much had the roads to myself since Granby and it allowed me to stop pretty much wherever I chose to take pictures. The solitude mentioned in the byways.org website is really something tangible in this part of Colorado. Of course, the temperatures below 30 that I rode in till mid-morning probably kept people in their warm homes instead of riding around! The vistas of faraway mountain ranges are quite striking when you're in the open valleys.

There was Medicine Bow range of mountains to the Northeast which turn out to border the Rawah Wilderness and the Roosevelt National Forest according to my maps.
Medicine Bow Mountains





Once past the small town of Gould, you enter the Colorado State Forest and CO14 is a nicely winding road that is heavily forested on both sides by pine trees. You are climbing towards Cameron Pass all the while and then you come upon a couple of turnouts for slow vehicles where one is rewarded with the below views of Comanche Peak and Stormy Peaks.

Nokhu Crags on the left, Seven Utes Mountain on the right

Snow blowing off towards the left off of Nokhu Crags

The view to the South as one approaches Cameron Pass

The road continues on, smooth and clear all the way to Cameron Pass:


As I made my down from Cameron Pass, the scenery slowly changes from forested hillsides to bare rock strewn hillsides. This continued for many miles as I neared Fort Collins, still on CO14. I did get stuck behind this truck which was pulling a trailer with two dirt bikes for quite a while on the slightly twisty roads leading down from Cameron Pass.

I finally had a safe point to pass him and I am glad that I did, his truck was apparently spewing fumes that although I could not see were making me dizzy and giving me a headache! Once past him, I sped on with no further issues and made it to Fort Collins near where CO14 junctions with US287. I stopped at the McDonald's there and had lunch and checked in with my loving wife. It was good to stop since I was tired, and was hot from all the riding gear I had on. The temps were now in the high 50s and low 60s and it felt positively hot after the early morning temperatures I'd ridden in!

The rest of the ride was slab riding, taking I-25 from Fort Collins south towards Denver and I-70 to the E-470 Toll Road and home. The only incident was this stereotypical punk with a sparse goatee in a white beater cage who could not seem to understand why my headlight was modulating it's high beam light. He kept pulling up next to me and gesturing to as to say: "what, why are you blinking your highbeam at me?". I quickly left him behind to his puzzlement.

A nice ride ride, about 350 miles and getting about 5o mpg on the tankful of gas I got at Granby. Perhaps 6 hours of saddle time overall. A bit chilly at times, but still, a beautiful riding day. No motorcycles in evidence while I was in the mountains, saw a few on I-25 after lunch and around town once things had warmed up.

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