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September 7, 2015 / betweenstops

SLC to Denver.Day 9: Trail ridge road, Rocky Mountain National Park

There’s no way I can describe what happened to me today but I will try.


This is where I stayed last night. I didn’t get much sleep because on one side of me I had again about 12 at the site next to me partying loudly until 1 o’clock. On the other side of me was a rock band live that played until about 2 o’clock ! I found out later it was a wedding party at a ranch nearby.

Still I managed to get some sleep. When I woke up Iwas so cold. I could even see my breath. I had on every piece of clothing I had with me. My tent fly and ground cloth were soaked. Since water has weight, I hung them up to dry.

The camp site was huge and full of all kinds of tents and adoreable children like this one

  And lots of horses

 

 I went to the office and got coffee and work gloves to keep my hands warm on the way down. I hung out in the office while my stuff was drying because it was warm.

When I was in there a little girl asked your dad what “maybe” meant. He said “not for sure yes and not for sure no”.

I am not in a super hurry to set out because everyone tells me it’s 30° colder at the top and I’m already freezing. Then the lady in the office tells me it’s good to start early because the winds pick up later. Oh.

I head out at 9:45. I couldn’t really have gotten out earlier because my stuff took forever to dry because it was so cold.

I’ve got a heavy load. The steel bike plus all my camping equipment and all my clothes; my rain clothes my toiletries and food and water to last me the 53 miles I need to ride to get to the next town.

      The National Park Service has an elevation map of Trailridge Road so that’s what I’m expecting. it’s wrong.

It starts out quite gradually and I think oh this is the curve on the map ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha it wasn’t.

Bikers coming down in the opposite direction are dressed like they’re going skiing.

    And once again, here’s the sign I like the least

 I can hear an ambulance way off in the distance. It finally passes me. I’m glad I’m not the one it’s coming for.

I stop frequently. My lungs hurt a little bit from the altitude. I am careful not to over extend myself and I’m always in my lowest gear.

Just like everyone said, there’s no shoulder. But the cars are quite kind and give me a lot of space, usually.

 

  At about this point I think I might die from the elevation. I’ve lived my entire life at sea level

I lay down on the ground and put my feet up on a rock and rest for about a half an hour. Revived, I carry-on.

 At 10,488 feet it starts to rain. Soon after that I crossed the continental divide again. But this is not the summit for today. Far from it.

  There is snow here and there!

  Suddenly all the cars in front of me are stopped; a long line of them.  There is a big male elk in the middle of the road stopping all the traffic so that his herd can cross.

At some point I can see the road ahead of me and I think I can see the top. Part of it looks and impossibly steep. The road in the distance aspect I’ve tried to get several times in the photo but it doesn’t really show up in the photo unfortunately.


          I am above the tree line. It’s other-worldly. The steepest part is called “Medicine Curve”.  There’s NO shoulder and the wind is incredible. There’s no way I can describe the wind. I have never ever ever ever have been in such strong wind. It’s coming from every direction and nothing to break out for miles. The long grass is entirely flattened by the wind

Here is a picture of the lack of shoulder.

Just when I think I won’t make it I get to what I think is the top. It’s where the store and the café and all the people are. Tons of tourists. I hang out there from 330 to 430. I ate a bowl of chili which is really good.

I asked the park ranger about the real top because I know we’re not at 12,183 feet yet and he tells me it’s about a mile further. I think this is no big deal. That’s where I was wrong. Very wrong.

I ask about the summit sign and the park ranger says the wind is way too strong for any sign to be able to stay there so there is no sign but “You will know for sure when you are at the top”, he assures me.

So I head out of the visitor center tourist place feeling fairly confident.

The grade on the road is not difficult I could have biked that easily but the wind is so strong it’s blowing my bicycle into the cars. There is no way I can describe how strong the wind is at the top. I tried to Google it so I could know exactly how many miles per hour that wind is but I couldn’t find it. All I could find was a quote about how the wind is so “harsh” nothing can survive up there but very tiny little very short grassy things (tundra).

I had to get off and walk my bike. I wasn’t sure I was going to survive it. It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had. I felt like I was in a National Geographic movie or something.

Heres a line of cars stopped for elk. This happened alot.

     I think I must’ve looked like I was dying on the road. A couple offered to give me a lift to the top but I could actually see the top by then so I thanked them for the offer but I wanted to do it on my owm steam since I was so close.

At one point I stopped by a mountain stream. I was mesmerized by it. It was like being at the source of all life. It was the freshest water gets and the sound of it running down the hill over the rocks was magical. It felt so very special to hang out there with the stream. It happened by accident. I originally had to stop to rest and then I noticed the stream. And then I saw what it was. It was quite humbling in a way. To see something so pure gave me great hope.


 It was odd in that the top wasn’t really the victory point because the wind was still so crazy that I wasn’t safe. There was no shoulder it was the white line and then there was a big drop off the mountain so it took everything I had to stay focused to stay alive up there in the tundra with the wind.


     It wasn’t until I got back down to the tree level where the wind was no longer that I had the victory point where I knew I had done it.

It seems like it should’ve been just marvelous at that point going downhill but it was still challenging for number of reasons. The first reason being that it’s hard to stay in that position for so long. Also, you have to break intelligently or else your brakes will give out on you.

The whole way down I thank everything I thank my legs and thank my hands I thank the earth I thank everything and was so very very grateful to be able to do this.

I rolled into town and I couldn’t find my hotel. Luckily I had reserved one because it’s Labor Day and everything was booked.

I got all lost and talked to the woman at the desk several times on the phone. When I finally got there she was so nice. She and her husband and her daughters working in the hotel. Today her 11th grandchild was born!

The amazing thing is that this woman looks like she could still be in college. She doesn’t look that much older than her youngest daughter.


 We chatted about this and that and my ride. Long story short we bonded and she upgraded me for no reason and gave me a room that was a suite with the Jacuzzi bath! My body loved that.

I had paid for the most minimal room and that’s what she charged me for but that’s not what she gave me. I felt like it was a gift from her and something unknown.

I feel like a different person.

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. jon / Sep 8 2015 6:44 am

    your blog has been great. amazing amazing photos!
    !!!

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