06 July 2015

Stardate 2015.512

The Royal Gorge, Colorado

Day Six RtR

I kind of thought Day Six would be an easy 66-mile cruise down the snowmelt-swollen Arkansas River from Salida to Cañon City. We also had a short side-trip up to the Royal Gorge Bridge. Little did I know what awaited us.

The southern Sawatch Mountains rise above Salida, Colorado.

The Angel of Shavano

Our traveling carnival filed out of Salida as the sun was warming 14,229-foot Mount Shavano, the 17th highest peak in Colorado. It's hard to see, but if you look closely at the two peaks in the upper left of the larger photo, you can make out the Angel of Shavano spreading her wings below Shavano's summit. She has been reclusive in recent years due to drought. It's nice to see her again. The Angel of Shavano has been brightened in the smaller photo.

Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado

After a scary 45-mile ride down a major highway with minimal shoulder, we turned south and began the picturesque climb to the south rim of the Royal Gorge. It started easy enough. Then, at about 50 miles, we met The Wall head-on. We riders got spanked, very hard, over a two-mile stretch of eroding cart path! Some riders climbed it non-stop, while us mortals inched along with an occasional stop. Many people pushed. Riders were murdered for small portions of shaded real estate. The Wall was a whopper. Even the strongest riders were humbled. Any sort of rider brashness was vaporized. The torture was synchronized with the sun just as it crept into the 90-degree range. I still have nightmares!

Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado

After our sweat bath, we got to play on the bridge...

Royal Gorge from the bridge

...and it was a long way down to the Arkansas River.

The Zia flag visiting Royal Gorge.

Snowcatcher's home flag, and my favorite symbol, was flyin' high above the gorge.

Skyline Drive, Cañon City, Colorado

As we descended from the Royal Gorge, we could see a steep road cut in the distance. As we approached we were whispering, "nah, they wouldn't, would they?"

"Why, yes, they would!"

Letting go one final sigh, I started up the narrow, one-way, 15-percent grade. Digging in, the climb wasn't too bad. The steep grade relented a half-mile later, and the narrow jaunt across the top of a hogback became quite scenic. Don't tell anyone, but I enjoyed Skyline Drive more than touristy Royal Gorge.

Skyline Drive, Cañon City, Colorado

Colorado has a banana belt. It includes a large portion of the Arkansas River drainage, even at 9,000-foot elevations. Cañon City is the lower end of the belt. Like many higher regions of the southwest, the landscape is that of a piñon/juniper ecosystem. On this day, the Cañon City slice of the banana belt was pushing triple-digits. I like the area. The region reminds me of New Mexico. Perhaps there's some south-of-the-state-line enchantment taking place.

Cholla cactus bloom, Skyline Drive, Cañon City, Colorado

Cholla cactus (I think this was Cylindropuntia kleiniae) was in bloom along Skyline Drive. Did you know there are roughly 35 species of cholla?

Skyline Drive, Cañon City, Colorado

Skyline Drive is Cañon City's version of the Great Wall of China. I might have to sneak back down there with Snowcatcher to park sometime for a romantic evening reminiscent of the '70s. ;) Snowcatcher would like to ride this baby when she's fresh and the mercury isn't so bold.

Spring runoff, Cañon City, Colorado

After a cold, wet and snowy spring, the mountains got the go-ahead to release their stored water. The Arkansas River was near bank-full.

Evening RtR festivities, Cañon City, Colorado

Cañon City put on a pretty good post-ride meal next to the raging river. However, the large Oreo Blizzard I had upon arrival in Cañon City even was better – thanks DQ! I must say, the DQ employees more than earned their pay on this day.

66.4 miles
4:36:08 ride time (add 2.0 hours for water stops and the Royal Gorge)

One more day of this traveling road show. See ya in Westcliffe!



  1. I'm anxious to go back to Skyline Drive with you. For both reasons.

  2. From my standpoint, Skyline Drive looks nasty. Just plain nasty. (It's the kind of road I have nightmares about.)

    But you and Snowcatcher go ahead and get on back there! Parking sounds a lot safer than driving on that thing. :D

    The Wall sounds pretty dreadful too. You guys are troopers.


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