This is the first of four travelogues from our pre-ride (July 1-4), designed to whet your appetite (if it needs whetting) and give you a better idea what you'll be biking through. If you'd rather be surprised, you can skip these posts.
First, a big thanks to my wife Patricia Heller and to Cathy Cramer for supporting the pre-ride, to riding comrade Tim Foon Feldman, and to Catherine Shenk, who did a recon foray with me in July, 2010.
A nice start to the first day, around dawn near Carter Lake.
Skirting the Devil's Backbone formations near Loveland.
Excellent giant cinnamon rolls at Vern's in LaPorte (checkpoint #2):
The Poudre River is at high levels, in some places only several feet below the road level.
The rafters are liking it.
Glen Echo resort (checkpoint #3) at Rustic, halfway up Poudre Canyon:
Not the checkpoint, but a great sign:
A reminder to keep up your sodium intake:
The grade increases (but winds may decrease) the final dozen miles of the 57-mile climb.
Snowy peaks come into view as you near Cameron Pass:
The descent from Cameron Pass starts off dramatically.
That straight line is the Mitchell Ditch which you crossed at road level at the pass: it carries water from the Western Slope to irrigate Eastern Colorado.
There are pull-offs on the other side of the road (careful!) if you'd like to take a better look.
But you'll also be coming back this way in a couple of days.
Soon you enter North Park, a mountain-surrounded plateau at 8,000-8,500 ft.
North Park traditionally has plenty of water and marshland, but especially so this year.
The Arapaho Wildlife Refuge is home to many species.
Marsh and willow landscape is especially attractive to moose.
An appropriately large amount of sky as we enter Wyoming:
Looks easy, doesn't it?
The open, rolling landscape between Walden and Saratoga is especially evocative.
But it's also exposed and does involve some climbing, as the sign indicates:
Soon enough, the terrain eases heading into Riverside and then on to Saratoga.
Hacienda Motel, checkpoint #4:
Next: Day 2 - Snowy Range (!) - Big Hollow - Rabbit Ears Pass - Steamboat