In the Saddle: If you pave it…
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” “If you pave it, they will ride” could be the hackneyed motto for the Rio Grande Trail.
The paving of the final stretch between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs enticed me into a recent bike ride from El Jebel to Glenwood Springs and back ” the first time I’ve ever made the trip on two wheels. And it was great (except the final miles home, when my knees started to feel like I’d beaten them with a hammer).
There were so many riders heading up and down the valley below Carbondale, a friend and I were hardpressed to ride two abreast for much of the ride. It’s a great amenity, and I think I’d think so even if I didn’t regularly pedal various midvalley stretches of the trail.
People from afar apparently think it’s great, too. We stopped to lend two women who were fixing a flat tire a tire pump. It turned out they’d driven all the way from Vernal, Utah, specifically to ride the Rio Grande Trail. The word is out.
In Glenwood, where the Rio Grande merges into that city’s River Trail, I hit a stretch of bike trail that I didn’t even know existed. It was an enjoyable ride along the Roaring Fork River until we turned off and made our way downtown for coffee and a bagel.
It was then, as we carbo-loaded for the ride back upvalley, that we got to musing about how great it would be to ride to Aspen and back.
Unfortunately, the Rio Grande Trail isn’t finished, in my opinion. That six-mile stretch of gravel trail between Woody Creek and Stein Park, below Aspen, has kept me from testing my legs on the longer ride from El Jebel to Aspen.
Yes, I know I could bypass the gravel stretch on twisting, steep, shoulderless McLain Flats Road. Thanks, but no thanks.
I know equestrians prefer the gravel, but I also know there are paved sections of the trail in the midvalley where a gravel shoulder is maintained for horses. Couldn’t that be done in the Woody Creek stretch?
I know the gravel stretch is easy to ride on a mountain bike, but the entire rest of the trail, between Aspen and Glenwood Springs, has been constructed to accommodate road bikes. Failing to pave one six-mile stretch, hindering a valleywide connection, makes no sense to me.
There’s a party Saturday at the Carbondale park-and-ride lot (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) to celebrate the “completion” of the Rio Grande Trail. Complete? I don’t think so.
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This summer in Aspen is likely to include indoor and outdoor concerts, maskless gatherings and no state or county-mandated restrictions on social distancing at restaurants or anywhere else.