Colorado is known for its outdoor lifestyle – sunshine, winter and summer sports, festivals, whatever. If you love it, you’ll probably love it more outside.
Almost a month ago I rode up Pikes Peak with two of my cycling friends. What happened after was unexpected coming from me. A couple of days later, I jokingly suggested to the guys that we should follow up that epic ride with another. This time, Mt. Evans, home of the highest paved road in North America. I said, “We can think of it as the high-altitude bicycling equivalent to a wine-tasting. You know, compare and contrast. Genius! Right?” What was I thinking? I rarely suggest what rides we should do. I just ride them.
Well, one of my friends agreed and the following weekend we completed one of the hardest days I’ve had on a bicycle. Unfortunately, my camera malfunctioned during the ride (in other words, I forgot to charge the battery) so I don’t have any photographs to share. Hopefully, my friend will agree to let me feature the photos he took in a future Saturday Vignette.
Mt. Evans is a completely different experience from Pikes Peak. For one, the average gradient of the road is less steep. It also has a lot more tight switchbacks near the summit. At the summit is a sort of strange, stone…ruin? I really can’t think of another way to describe it. I’m starting to think Colorado needs a mountain summit design review committee.
The most dramatic difference between the two mountains is the quality of the road. Whereas Pikes Peak Highway is smooth, Mt. Evans Road is a narrow, crumbly crack-fest. Imagine the worst maintained city road but with incredible vistas. Mt. Evans is the first mountain climb I’ve ever done where I felt I was cheated out of the descent. You see, for cyclists, the anticipation of the descent is a huge part of the motivation that fuels the effort needed to reach the summit. I got up here – I earned this descent! Well, the way down Mt. Evans goes a bit like this. Whoosh, bang! Woooooosh, bang, bang! Woooo, bang, bang, woos, ka-BANG! And on, for fourteen miles. Just brutal.
Fortunately, at the bottom sits the Echo Lake Lodge. A wonderful, full-timber building in the historic, rustic-style architecture I love so much. We parked our bikes out front and went inside. There, amongst the tchotchkes – What is it with carved, wooden black bear business card holders? – I had the best cup of tea and most chocolately brownie ever.
I may never climb Mt. Evans again. But I know what I’m looking for the next time I roll up on the Echo Lake Lodge.