See Photos at flickr.com/photos/53134786@N00/sets/72157645259570958/
See Video Bike tour Pikes Peak vimeo.com/101042011
Tony and I had packed our rented red Jeep (the owner was from Enid, Oklahoma) to drive up into the mountain passes. We begin the first half of the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway, a 58 mile long stretch, with a view of Lake San Cristobal on our way up to Cinnamon Pass 12,184ft. The “roads” or Backcountry Byways were dirt, rock and mud designed for 4-wheel driving. These roads were originally paths used by Native Americans crossing the region. In the 1880s, these trails were widened and used to access mines. Today, the Alpine Loop is an avenue for exploring nature and history amidst thrilling views and stunning geography.
The word I chose to describe the views as we zig-zagged up and down, and up and down, and on the edge of The Rockies natural beauty is MAGESTIC!!! Every turn of the wheel provided an ahhhhhhhhhh- wow moment and views as far as the eye can see and steep valleys below.
I love to maneuver a Jeep on a pass and then step out and soak up the views, pat myself on the back for maneuvering that last switch-back and peer closely at all the wildflowers, including the state flower Columbine at their peak in July! (Here are some other wildflower names Elephants Head, Lupine, Marsh Marigold, Alpine Sunflower, Fireweed, Alpine Harebell, Indian Paintbrush, Monk’s Hood, Red Columbine, Whipple’s Penstemon, and Parry’s Primrose). We saw small marmots (little furry fat squirrels with yellow bushy tails) and frisky little Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels (that look like chipmunks), as we navigated the edge of each mountain terrain. It was a busy summer season and other Jeeps, ATVs, dirt bikes and brave SUVs passed us strategically on the edge. The dirt bikers were always inpatient and zoomed past us in a two wheel arc on either side.
We were able to stop for rest breaks often and breathe deep. By lunchtime we were ready to picnic in a pictorial spot...and we found it by a rushing stream and old buildings from mining times long ago with the mountains as our backdrop and giant heavily coned pine trees pushing into the huge white fluffy clouds in a cobalt blue sky. Propping our feet up on the ice chest we relaxed in our little camp chairs and listened to the quiet. Soon we would find our peace interrupted as we got back in the Jeep and took the wrong turn. Yikes! we veered off into Poughkeepsie Gulch…just where the Jeep owner told us not to go. It was terrifying for me…Tony was a constant rock of calm…but even he agreed after bumping and jogging up and down over super rough passes on 3 wheels we had to turn around…ugh we had to go back over those bumps and I said lots of prayers…whew we did it and did not look back! After we studied the map some more, and argued some more, we found the right connection and settled back into our peaceful adventure on the edge of the mountains.
We arrived at the perfect Colorado town of Silverton, at 9,318ft, and settled into our camp site with the mountains as a backdrop all around us. Gold was discovered here in 1860, and after negotiations with the Ute Indians, the area was opened for settlement. The Town of Silverton was platted in 1874, and by 1875 the population had doubled.
We dined on some delicious food from a quaint little café as we rested at our picnic table with our little red Jeep standing sentinel beside us. We were super tired and Tony slumbered in the tent as I took a walk and found some wood to burn for a small campfire and a little contemplation of life, thanking our creator, listening to the crack and pop of the flames and the river rushing at the foot of the mountains. After gazing at a beautiful full moon and slurping a few Blue Moons, I rested in the tent with my sweetheart as we snuggled in sleeping bags under a starry chilly night.
Sunrise in the mountains is a pleasure for the eye and the air was sweet and cold, so you woke up drowsy and then wide awake!
Up and ready for another trek in the Jeep on the other half of the Alpine Loop, from Silverton to Ironton first and then onto Lake City again by way of many gulches and switch-backs. We pulled into a carwash and rinsed the Jeep back to red…gotta get it shiny for photo-ops
I drifted off to sleep dreaming of being a mountain explorer in my little red Jeep!