Day Seven RtR
After 7 days of riding 464 miles, our Ride the Rockies tour came to an end in delightfully quaint Westcliffe, Colorado – population 568 (2010 U.S. Census). 568 souls is not a typo. This would be Westcliffe's first time hosting RtR. The area is home to a diverse group of people including ranchers, farmers, artisans and Amish. By early afternoon, our riding carnival and support crews had exploded the population of Westcliffe by a factor of 5. The residents put on the finest post-ride celebration I have ever seen. The food court had a variety of offerings, and I believe everything was home cooked. The Amish, in particular, raised veggies specifically for this event. Moreover, the Amish home-churned 200 gallons of ice cream – no small feat. Westcliffe has upped the bar. The finish line celebration was nothing short of grand, and in a spectacular setting. Thank you, Westcliffe!
Westcliffe sits at an elevation of 7,867 feet. The town is located in the Wet Mountain Valley. To the west of Wet Mountain Valley rise the cloud-piercing Sangre de Cristo Mountains, home to ten 14,000-foot peaks. The Sangres are a long, narrow, linear range beginning south of Salida, Colorado, and ending in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In Spanish, Sangre de Cristo means Blood of Christ. To the east of Wet Mountain Valley rise the Wet Mountains and Hardscrabble Pass.
Snowcatcher and I left Cañon City very early to try and beat the heat before the stiff climb up to Hardscrabble Pass. At the first water stop in Florence, we enjoyed a rising sun and hotcakes.
The still sleeping town of Florence also is home to the Alcatraz of the Rockies – Supermax.
I think the Florence Train Depot still is in use.
After a grueling 15-mile climb from Wetmore to Hardscrabble Pass, the drop into Wet Mountain Valley is only a handful of pedal strokes away. The Sangre de Cristo Range dominates the view.
Ubiquitous bovine are grazing away in cow heaven.
As I write this, there is a climber attempting to break the speed record for climbing all of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks. The current record of 10 days, 20 hours and 26 minutes, has stood for 14 years. He is hoping to be amongst the above peaks tomorrow, July 2nd.
The drop into Silver Cliff and Westcliffe is fast, enjoyable and scenic.
By mid-afternoon, the celebration began to thin. Many riders had flights to catch in Denver, while others took buses back to Grand Junction to fetch vehicles. The celebration grounds, however, continued to have more than met the eye. Enter any of the tents and you would be immediately wide-eyed, especially in the food tent, which was packed well into the afternoon.
Thanks again, Westcliffe. You were awesome!
4:01:46 ride time (add 0.5 hour for water breaks)
4,000 feet of elevation gain in 26 miles
Thanks for reading. This was my 5th Ride the Rockies and probably the second most difficult. My most difficult year was 2010 when the route included the Grand Mesa and a handful of passes in the San Juan Mountains. The 2010 route was almost 80 miles longer as well. Nonetheless, this year was no walk-in-the-park by any means. Westcliffe was awesome! I hope to see the residents there more often.