The Alpine Loop, Colorado style

On tap for the weekend was a ~5 hour ride & not too hard.  Given that I’m nearly certain to do the Breckenridge 100, it dawned on me yesterday morning I could kill two birds with one stone by getting high.  The Alpine Loop takes in 50+ miles of backcountry jeep roads through the San Juans, much of it above timberline.  Just the ticket.  I started just outside of Silverton, rode up to Animas Forks (the headwaters of the Animas river), and began up Cinnamon pass for a counter-clockwise ride of the loop.

Photo blog time!  Here’s the next best thing to being there.

The base of Cinnamon pass.  Yes, that’s right – the ride begins at timberline and goes up from there.  Of course, there was maybe 1500′ of climbing to get to this point.  This pass is pretty steep in spots, steeper than Engineer, but not as high.  It only tops out at 12,600.

It looks like this up top.  Earth or moon?  This area will explode with flowers in a few weeks.

From Cinnamon, it’s down, down, down until Lake City at about 8,600′.  Lake City is the home of the Hinsdale county museum of Alfred Packer fame.  It took some searching, but there’s an unlikely public waterhole in the back of some field near the Lake Fork of the Gunnison.

The route immediately heads out of Lake City uphill towards Engineer pass.  The “pass” is at 12,800′, but that isn’t the high point.  The road continues upward to near 13,000′ beyond the pass.  Go figure.  The climbing is actually quite gradual as it occurs over 18 miles, mostly middle/big ring stuff, until the last two miles where it becomes steep in the tundra.

Capitol city, formed 1877, is about half way up. 

Near timberline there’s a cabin dedicated to Henry David Thoreau.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read some of his works…but just being here gives me the motivation to get to Maria’s and update my library.

From here the climbing steepens.  At 12,800, obvious signs of winter still exist.  And this was a light winter.

The views from Engineer pass were mesmerizing.  I spent a good bit of time hanging out up there at 13k’.

Rooftop of the world…

It just doesn’t get any better than this.  Unil August, that is :-)