On the Rio Grande Trail: Falling short in Le Tour de Woody Creek | AspenTimes.com

On the Rio Grande Trail: Falling short in Le Tour de Woody Creek

Aspen Times sports editor Austin Colbert rode to Woody Creek Tavern from Aspen last week via the Rio Grande Trail.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The young boy — I doubt he was more than 4 — was openly concerned for me. After all, why would I be pushing my bike up the Rio Grande Trail toward Aspen when I could be riding it?

I kept my answer simple, saying I was “taking a break.” Which was mostly true. I left out the margarita, beer and fish tacos from the Woody Creek Tavern, and didn’t try to explain how the casual 1 percent grade was basically like biking up Independence Pass for my wary Kansas legs.

You see, last week myself and coworker Ben Welch decided to hop on our outdated mountain bikes and ride the Rio to Woody Creek for lunch. “Le Tour de Woody Creek” is certainly an Aspen staple, popular among locals and tourists alike.

Sadly, after nearly two years of living in the Roaring Fork Valley, I had never been to the Woody Creek Tavern nor had I seen much of the Rio Grande Trail, which goes for about 42 miles from Aspen down to Glenwood Springs. Honestly, with all the amazing singletrack around here, I simply didn’t care about the Rio. Which is a shame, because as I found out I should have given it more credit.

The short ride — something like 6 miles — from Aspen to Woody Creek is a breathtakingly beautiful jaunt that doesn’t require much effort. At the end are Woody Creek and its well-known tavern, once a popular hangout spot for Hunter S. Thompson. We made our way there, indulged, as anyone should, and began to make our way back. What was a rather easy 45-minute ride to Woody Creek turned into a nearly two-hour ride back to Aspen.

There were options, like catching the bus back to town or napping in the afternoon shade on the tavern’s patio. Instead, we persisted upvalley on our bikes, where at more than one point I had to get off and do the walk of shame, even getting oddly criticized by a young child who wondered if my bike was broken.

However, the return journey also included playing in the refreshing runoff of a small waterfall and enjoying the scenic views of the valley and the Roaring Fork River, easily accessed by the Rio Grande Trail. There were moments of regret on the ride, but they didn’t linger long.

The Rio won me over that day, and I plan to get back to the tavern sooner rather than later. I’m only hoping next time won’t include being rightfully shamed by a preschooler.