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Rides to the Rockies, Day Five

I woke up to a cool morning and mule deer walking across the campground fifty feet from my tent. The valley was still in shadow as I went up to the kitchen and made coffee and oatmeal and made sure I hadn't left anything plugged in that I had charged in there the day before. By the time I had finished breakfast, my tent was mostly free of dew, so I rolled it up and climbed back into my gear—a strange sensation after going with any clothes the afternoon before.

As I left I clicked on my helmet-mounted GoPro in hopes of capturing some of the beauty surrounding Deer Creek Canyon Road that I had viewed on the way in. Unfortunately, going downhill out of the canyon the views were not as spectacular as it was on the way in.

That day I was going to wing it again, having not found any suitable places beforehand to camp. I made vague plans to head south, then west across Colorado, before making my way to the northwest corner of the state, stopping “somewhere.” I made my way back to US 85 south leaving Littleton and Denver behind me. US 24 promised to move me west across the state and away form Colorado Springs. On my map I spied another little wiggly gray line that connected to US 24 at Woodland Park from Sedalia on US 85. I turned right and started a downward ride which quickly turned to gravel. The road dropped and dropped until its final plunge of 15% grade into a valley on the back side of the most eastern range of the Rockies. Some 22 miles later the gravel ended and the rest of the way into Woodland Park was on pavement. I had been hoping to ride some dirt out West and I accidentally had my first taste of it. The new TKC 70s did well, with no squirmy feeling at all on the gravel. I was impressed.

A roadside stop before leaving Woodland Park, CO, to get in a quick call to home before getting into the mountains again

Out of Woodland Park I started looking for opportunities to made some distance to the northwest. At Johnson Village, 24 swooped north toward I-70. I wanted to avoid the Interstate at all costs and spied a road cutting northwest through Aspen, that would deposit me well west of where 24 would and would pass the Interstate and head into the northwestern corner of the state. It had been chilly in the night and the day had not warmed all that much but when I turned onto CO 82 toward Aspen the heated grips became lifesavers. I didn't know I was taking Independence Pass across the mountains, the highest paved pass that crossed the Continental Divide. As I approached the 12,093 foot pass, rain and sleet started streaking my visor, and stopping at the top, I climbed off to walk a bit in the snow, still covering the hillsides. If I had been too much earlier I would have been turned back as the pass had not opened until May 26. While getting ready to ride again, I chatted with a fellow Triumph rider on a Speed Triple who I had parked beside.

A lady pulled off at a gravel lay by where I had stopped to take some photos and offered to take one with me in it. This is on US 24 west of Woodland Park near Badger Mountain.

At the top of Independence Pass on the way to Aspen

I continued to Aspen, where deer wandered around the sidewalks mixed in with early tourists (or late skiers). I stayed on 82, crossing I-70, and followed it on the north side on US 6 until Rifle, where the off and on rain stopped and I turned north on CO 13 to Meeke. From there US 64 trended west along the south bank of the White River. Sage brush populated all the hillsides.

Approaching Rangely, I was looking for a place to camp and spied a reservoir on my right, nestled against its shores. There was a swimming hole, boat ramp, and picnic areas, but I rolled on west into Rangely, where I fueled up and asked the attendant if there was a place I could camp. The only place she knew of was back at the reservoir, which confirmed my suspicions, so I turned around to head back. Before leaving town, I stopped in at a tavern, the only place open beside the gas station it appeared and had a nice cold beer. Back at the reservoir I found the honor system drop box and dropped in too much money than required, as I didn't have the exact amount, although it was still a bargain. I set up before dark and watched the world around me darken with the coming night while I watched shadow climb the hills on the far side of the lake. My evening meal consisted of peanuts, a breakfast bar, and a bottle of water. There were only two other campers there with plenty of spaces between us, so no one could feel crowded. I talked a little to my closest neighbor, an American-German, in a Land Rover. He had been roaming Colorado trying to only travel on gravel roads as much as possible. The other camper was a couple in a pop-up Volkswagen Van; I left them to their solitude and climbed into the tent while the wind whipped it and night fell.

So far 2,575.7 miles

Camping at Kenney Reservoir, just east of Rangely, CO

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