In the Saddle: The missing link now open |

In the Saddle: The missing link now open

The valley came a little closer Tuesday.May Day marked the opening of a 2-mile-or-so stretch of the Rio Grande Trail between Rock Bottom Ranch and the Catherine Bridge. That stretch closes from Dec. 1 to May 1 because of wildlife concerns.Now that the midvalley section made its spring debut, mountain bikes can make the entire 28-mile journey from Aspen to Carbondale on the Rio Grande Trail. The trail is paved from Woody Creek Road to Carbondale, allowing road cyclists to avoid Highway 82 and secondary routes throughout the midvalley.Trail users got teased last fall. The stretch between Hooks Lane, in Emma, and Catherine Bridge wasn’t completed and opened until late October. Early snowstorms brought cycling season to an abrupt end for all but the hard-core riders.So the trail will truly be enjoyed in all its grandeur this spring. The opening of the Rock Bottom stretch was eagerly anticipated. Mike Hermes, aka the Trails Guy at RFTA, said he received a handful of calls Monday from people who wanted to make sure the trail would open as scheduled. One call came from office workers who planned to ride to Carbondale together for lunch (now there’s team-building!).The closure frustrated many people, particularly since the weather warmed up so drastically in March and was decent for part of April. The snow at the lower elevations is long gone, so deer and elk have retreated to higher ground. However, RFTA approved a closure until May to make sure blue herons weren’t disturbed during their nesting period.Hermes reminded people that dogs are banned year-round on the Rock Bottom stretch.Hermes also had good news for cyclists dreaming of the day the Rio Grande Trail is complete valleywide. Bids are due Friday on a trail project that will add 5.2 miles upvalley from Glenwood Springs. RFTA hopes to construct the trail this year from 23rd Street in Glenwood to the Thunder River Market intersection on Highway 82.Once that section is complete, riders will be able to stay off of Highway 82 for the journey into Glenwood Springs. A Garfield County road, the route behind Aspen Glen, can link the Thunder River area with Carbondale.

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