Ride the Rockies – Gunnison to Hotchkiss
After an uneventful, but horribly boring, trip from Springfield to Fort Collins, Colorado, then a 5 hour bus ride to Gunnison, I settled into my tent for a restless night. Before settling in, though, I took a quick spin around town to check out the views. Honestly, the view from my tent was pretty darn good!
Note: As I sit here on Sunday afternoon, the buzz around me is a wildfire burning in Fort Collins. There are several folks in the room with me who would be evacuated, if they were home right now. Not good.
Anyway, back to the ride…I put my nose into the air and decided I didn’t want to eat the on-site breakfast this morning. It was some kind of boxed breakfast that sure didn’t look very appealing. I had planned to grab a Subway or a breakfast sandwich from the local grocery store, but guess what? Things are slow to open in Gunnison, CO on a Sunday morning. I made due with c-store food, and frankly, it was just what I needed….lots of carbs and calories.
We headed west out of town on Highway 50. Straight into a strong wind.
Eventually, we worked our way into the Black River Canyon, and the views started getting kind of nice, with lots of rock formations on either side of us. The problem with that was the wind howling down the canyon.
When the valley widened, we got some really nice views of the high desert up here. Somehow, I didn’t really didn’t think much about riding through so much desert, but quite a lot of what we ride through today was just that.
At about mile 25, we crossed over the dam on the Black River and began our ascent up the Canyon in earnest. This was the point where we shifted off busy Highway 50 onto Highway 92, which was more what I expected from this ride. It is a nice, two lane, winding road through the mountains with spectacular views overlooking the canyon.
The grades were steep, but not unreasonably so. We would climb for the next 21 miles or so, but there were a couple of nice rest stops in that section overlooking the canyon.
I bought a PB&J sandwich at the second, and followed it with a Stinger Waffle to ensure I had enough fuel to get the the summit. I made it just fine, logging a published elevation gain of 3,077 feet.
At this point, I discovered my camera battery was dead. It seemed mostly charged when I started the morning, so I presume I left it turned on in my pocket for a long period sometime during the morning. Given that I had also left my Garmin in my duffle when I loaded it on the luggage truck, I didn’t have a particularly stellar day with technology. At least I managed to keep it alive for the bulk of the pretty scenery today.
As we started down from the summit, I knew we had a downhill run of about 30 miles to Hotchkiss. The first 5 or 6 were an absolute blast as we came down off the mountain, then we hit the wind again for the rest of the ride to Hotchkiss. Even then, I was able to maintain a pace of over 20 mph for about 25 miles, but it was work to do so.
I stopped at the last rest stop of the day for lunch since I got there just after noon. The chicken fajita hit the spot pretty nicely and gave me the fuel I needed for the last 11 windy miles. Just a few miles outside Hotchkiss, I got a little scare when the wind buffeted me so hard that I had to fight to maintain control of the bike for a second. I swear, it was like I got hit by something, and wasn’t fun at all.
I rolled into Hotchkiss just after 1:00, had my tent up by 2:00, and was enjoying a Dr. Pepper by 2:30!
I logged 81 miles or so for the day. Here’s the official GPS track since I didn’t have my own.
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