After a quiet climb up the Yampa valley, through sleeping Oak Creek,
the first sunlight hits the snowy Flattops:
There are interesting formations
- like Finger Rock right beside the highway after Yampa -
Temps have now dropped from the 40's in Steamboat, to the upper 30's at near 8,000 ft.
The store at Yampa has big variety and opens at 5am:
After chatting with the store owner at Toponas,
we make the turn towards Gore Pass:
The entire stretch is quiet and serene, with open meadows giving way to forests.
Here are some of the many wildflowers on the route:
For the Kremmling checkpoint
we choose the Big Shooter cafe,
espresso and other coffees, ice cream, and calorie-rich pastries:
The two-mile climb from Granby to the "lake elevation" brings us to
Lake Granby, with the Continental Divide as backdrop:
The road past Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Lake to Grand Lake
rolls slightly upward, which you may notice
after your turnaround at the Grand Lake checkpoint.
Lots of recreation traffic, but good views.
The ascent to Willow Creek Pass starts with a stiff three mile climb,
to get into the proper valley (Willow Creek).
After that it's a gentle most of the way, usually with a tailwind.
Near the pass is a stone wall geologic feature:
Alpine meadows and snowy peaks come into view for the final two-mile jaunt:
The descent actually rolls a fair amount before flattening out at Rand.
Suddenly you break into the expanse of North Park:
A slight tailwind and slight downgrade make for a pleasant end of day:
At least we give a pronghorn antelope something to look at:
The by-now familiar Walden welcome sign,
"Moose-viewing capital of Colorado"
The North Park Inn is convenient and rustic:
With plenty of daylight to spare, on this shorter day,
it's time to reflect while replenishing nutrients and minerals:
So now it's off to bed as the sun sets!
Next: Day 4 - Cameron Pass - Poudre Canyon - Louisville Finish