Author: Leon Matz
I had a wonderful 10 day trip to see my daughter Heather in Colorado Springs. On the way to CO I chose to go do the 4 climbs on my list in Wyoming. After a long drive to Billings from Puyallup, I decided to do 3 climbs on the next day: Alt. 14, 14 east, and Granite Pass. I don’t know about you but other than Yellowstone Park I thought WY was a rather dry, windy and rather ugly state. My first day proved that wrong. The beauty in the Big Horn Mts. was impressive. Beautiful canyons, and 9,000 ft. picturesque meadows were plentiful. The first day ended with me real tired after riding 101 miles and climbing over 13,900 ft. I had the good fortune of riding up the second climb with a guy from Ohio. I was impressed with his ability to climb even though he had not climbs to train on in Ohio. Day 3 was a long climb up to Powder River Pass. A long 26 mi climb with 5,300 ft of gain. After descending I then had to drive up the same climb and decided to have a quick lunch at the top (just under 10,000 ft.). I actually took an hour nap in the car. The outside temp was over 70 deg. and the stop was very enjoyable. After driving down the other side of the Big Horn Mts. the temperature started to really climb on my drive to Cheyenne. It topped out at 104 deg.
On day 4 I drove to Estes Park to meet my daughter Heather and her boyfriend. The drive was scenic except for the view of the Ft. Collins fire. Estes Park is a very beautiful town kind of like a bigger Leavenworth. By the time we started riding the temperature was already in the 80’s. The 19 mi climb with over 4,800 feet was pretty tough. I was real impressed with Heather and her boyfriends ability to climb. It was real special to have them join me on the climb. It turned from warm and calm to windy and cold at the top. When we returned to Estes Park a new fire had just erupted with bits of ash flying all around. We watched the helicopters struggle to put out the fire. They finally did but we found out later 20 houses were destroyed. After a quick stop in Boulder for some ice cream we headed to Colorado Springs. Upon arriving freeway signs indicated that a fire erupted in Waldo Canyon. A Canyon that Heather had planned to take me on a hike into.
After a day off the bike I decided to try a popular climb up Cheyenne Canyon. Of course it is a Strava Climb. Danny Pate was one of the top climbers at 16:42. My 25.03 was far from impressive and only put me in the top 5 in my age group. At the top I was leaning over my handle bars trying to catch my breath. A mt biker road up a separate climb but came right by me. We exchanged some pleasantries when it finally became clear to me that I had just conversed with Chris Carmichael who lives and trains in CS. Kind of neat.
The next day Heather and I went on a ride to Garden of the Gods (real beautiful place) and got a close view of the fire. It was pretty depressing to see. That afternoon a thunder storm hit the fire area. (no rain) The fire quickly spread and coated the whole town with smoke. As you have seen on the news two people died and 300 homes were destroyed. Heather’s house was a long ways from the fire but our hearts really went out to the people who did get hit by the fire.
The next morning I got up real early since the road I was going to take was closed by the fire and I had to drive an extra hour to Cottonwood pass. 2/3 of the way up the climb I met a guy who lives in Buena Vista and does the climb once every couple weeks. Wow would that be neat. I then enjoyed a beautiful drive to Aspen to do Independence Pass. It was another long and challenging climb. As I got close to finishing it started to rain. Luckily I got to the car before the clouds really opened up. The 2 climbs totaled 69 mi and 8,200 ft. It was nice to have all 7 climbs done. I then drove to Moab to visit Arches National Park the next morning. If you haven’t visited that area yet, please do. It is incredibly beautiful. Bicytcling magazine calls Arches one of the most beautiful rides in the country. With 354 miles and 40,550 ft of climbing I hope I am ready for the Grand Fondo.