2016 was a glorious autumn and we decided to tackle Cumbres and La Manga passes on September 24 and Cordova Pass, 11,248 feet, on the 25th. Cordova Pass is located on the southern edge of the state, and is the easternmost pass in Colorado with an elevation greater than 10,000 feet. We had driven from Denver on Friday evening and battled fierce winds- the kinds that blow tumbleweeds across the highway- and rock your vehicle as it cruises down I-25 at 75 mph. We took a left off I- 25 at Walsenberg onto US 160, The Highway of Legends, a Colorado Scenic Byway, and made our way over 9,413 feet North La Veta Pass in darkness, fog and snow. At this point we were wondering if the whole weekend was going to be a scrub! We rolled into Alamosa to the Super 8 at 2505 Main St., (719) 589-6447 where we spent two nights. We rode Cumbres and La Manga on Saturday (for another report) and returned to stay in Alamosa. Sunday morning we rose to sunshine, ate our continental breakfast at the hotel and started out around 7:30 on our drive to La Veta, approximately 60 miles back to the east, once again over North La Veta Pass. We turned down Main Street and ended up in front of Paradise Coffee, 305 N. Main St., right across the street from the Francisco Fort Museum, which your support crew might enjoy touring while they wait to meet you at a predesignated spot. We watched a small herd of deer meander down the street, my son grabbed an expresso- I don’t drink coffee- we kitted up, and by shortly after 9:00 a.m. we were on our way. The shorter autumn days were beginning to make for cooler weather, and the changing aspen colors were, perhaps at their peak. We had decided to do the entire ride on our mountain bikes, including the first 17.25 miles of pavement.
One of the greatest things about the Bicycle Passport is customizing the adventure(s) to your own desires. Do I want the ride to be as easy as possible? Do I want to make it as challenging as possible? Ride only one pass at a time? See how many passes I can string together in one ride? How can I make the ride easier, or more difficult? All of these options and many more are available with the Bicycle Passport adventure.
At approximately 6.5 miles we looked back over our left shoulders to observe patches of sunlight streaming through several small openings in a rock wall. Later, at mile 11.5 we passed through the quiet town of Cuchara. Luckily this is early enough in the ride that supplies aren’t necessary, because I’m not sure anything is available there. Although the average for the first paved section was only .03 percent it took almost two hours before we arrived at 9,995 foot Cuchara Pass. Imagine our disappointment to find that there was a pass in Colorado that had missed our passport by only 5 feet of elevation! We hung from the sign to get our extra five feet of elevation, took some photos, watched a small herd of cattle being herded across the road, remounted our bikes and pressed on. As we continued to climb steadily- now on gravel- we looked out over our left, to the north at glorious fall colors and 13,625 foot West Spanish Peak and 12,684 foot East Spanish Peak. We summited the pass at 23.4 miles, taking us three hours and 10 minutes, averaging about 7.4 mph with stops. We started down on the descent on a well maintained gravel road. Slightly less than four miles from the summit, at mile 27 we came upon Apishapa Arch, the highlight of the journey, and a cause for much photography and play! After a brief break, we continued on. At mile 43.3 we reached the town of Gulnare- just a spot on the map with no services. The gravel turned back to pavement. The grade was beginning to flatten out, and the temperature was rising, and we were still pushing the extra weight of our mountain bikes. We still had seven miles to go before we would complete our ride. We rode into Aguilar around 2:00 p.m. We had covered 52 miles and climbed 4380 feet in close to five hours of riding. What an altitudinous way for a father and son to spend a glorious autumn day together!
This is an awesome ride report! Thank you! Who was the SAG for this event? I can’t wait to ride up to that Arch. 🙂 I do remember the photo of Devin doing his best impression of Sagan on his MTB wheelie!