If there’s one thing to take away from having explored the
entire Peak-to-Peak highway in Colorado, it’s that there is plenty of culture to be found
among the mountain folk. But it’s a culture of the more simple kind- one that
exists among log houses and winding dirt paths; and where just about everyone gives
a wave as you pass by.
This vibe feels especially good when complimented by the
scent of pine and a cool breeze. For me
it was the ultimate escape from the daily grind.
Choosing to bicycle this 60 mile stretch of road from Black
Hawk to Estes Park went from grueling to downright exhausting during the first
evening. Our uphill progress was slow
yet steady as we came up from the foothills of Golden (just west of Denver) to our camp within Golden Gate Canyon
state park. It was a gain of about 3,000
vertical feet over the course of 20 miles, but it put us within a reasonable
distance of the highway. Under the full
moon, my buddy Nick and I slept exceedingly well.
We awoke rested and ready to take on the full day of riding
ahead of us. Rollinsville was just a
small jaunt away, but they lacked a public restroom or running water for us to refill
with, so on we went to Nederland.
The road got steep again as we climbed past Ned and towards
Ward, but the glimpses at Mount
Audubon made us
hopeful. Upon cresting the hill, two
rewards were bestowed upon us- a full view of the snowy Indian Peaks
mountain range, and a winding downhill that went on for miles.
Following our blissful descent was the small town of Ferncliff, and what we
soon deemed to be “the land of the Inns”. There were a handful of houses-turned-bed-and-breakfasts on the road to
Allenspark, and then came the full on Cabins and Hotel-esque Inns.
Upon exiting the town we came across a very bizarre sight- a
large sign adorning a cabin chalet that said “Coming Soon! XXX Porn Gallery”. It seemed so blatantly out of place that we
thought maybe it was a joke. But
everything about it seemed real.
Further down the road, nearing Wild Basin,
horse stables became the dominant theme. It now seemed that with each new turn came a different sign advertising
horseback rides along the mountainous trails-- and then there was Longs Peak.
Longs is a behemoth of a mountain- rising to fourteen
thousand feet, it has claimed a number of lives due to its technical ascent
routes. The eastern headwall is a
massive vertical rock face, and just looking at it can convey the amount of
respect it demands from those who wish to climb it. On this particular day we were quite glad we
weren’t up there climbing, as a very ominous thunderstorm had moved in and was
about to engulf the summit.
As we rode into the storm the rain went from a light drizzle
to a dense sleet, and we opted for a timeout in the small town of Meeker Park. There we chatted with a convenience store
clerk (who doubled as the cook), and got a further glimpse into the mountain
lifestyle. It seemed that gas prices had
already taken affect on a number of businesses along the peak-to-peak, but
there was enough local traffic to keep this particular store afloat; although the
clerk couldn’t say the same for some of the other more tourist-dependent places
in the area.
When it looked as though the rains had subsided some we got
back on our saddles and headed out for Estes Park. Though now that the roads were soaked, we
decided to take our time on the downhills, much to the dismay of the drivers
who got stuck behind us.
In Estes we stopped at what we thought was a public picnic
area to heat up some pasta to refuel our emptied stomachs. Just as soon as I had out the stove however,
a man on an ATV rode up to us and told us to leave. Apparently we were in the Marys Lake RV Park,
and this guy thought we were deliberately trespassing. As we were packing up to go, he went off to
his compound, only to send over an even angrier guy who cursed and threatened
us. We humbly apologized and told him
we’d be on our way, but he just didn’t seem to grasp the idea that this was a
As we rode into town where we hoped to find some public
picnic tables, I couldn’t help but lament over the fact that we’d encountered
these two irate people among all the other friendly and helpful ones. Not wanting to let it spoil our trip, I
decided that an RV Park was probably one of the first places to feel the hit of
the gas hikes, so perhaps it was for economic reasons that they showed so much
Once we could finally finish cooking our meal in peace
things began to run smoothly again. In
fact things went so smooth that we decided to keep on trucking to Fort Collins where we’d
have a hot tub and beds awaiting us. These thoughts kept us going for the next 40 miles as we screamed down
the Big Thompson Canyon road, cruised into Loveland and then shot north to
Nick’s friend’s place on the south end of Fort Collins.
After a full-fledged dinner followed by a soak we were
desperately ready to crash, but as I was falling asleep I remember thinking
back on the hundred miles we had just ridden, and couldn’t help but smile. The day had treated us well despite its minor
setbacks, and I had a new found appreciate for the mountain communities.