On the Road: Don’t pass it up | AspenTimes.com

On the Road: Don’t pass it up

Janet Urquhart

Independence Pass is at its best right now.

Sure, it’s breathtaking in the fall, a fine place to ski come winter and a veritable recreational Mecca in the summertime, but these few weeks of spring ” after the snow recedes from the pavement but before motorists are allowed access to its endless twists and magnificent vistas ” are a road biker’s dream.

I headed up yesterday with a mildly challenging goal ” to make it to the turnoff two miles past the gate without keeling over. It was touch-and-go at the end there, no doubt in part due to the fact that my road bike happens to be my mountain bike.

First, of course, comes that seemingly endless climb past Difficult Campground to the gate. It’s not like the grade lets up any beyond the gate, but the sublime surroundings make it easier to forget that your butt hurts and your hamstrings are grumbling.

Absent the sound of summer traffic, one can hear the birds chirping, the gurgling ditch that parallels the road for a bit and the muffled tumble of the Roaring Fork, which has yet to fully live up to its name. I can also hear my own labored breathing and hammering heart, but that’s beside the point.

With the road closed to traffic, one can weave around the divots in the pavement and ponder life ” or the chest-freezer-sized boulder that has tumbled onto the highway. That should give any traveler pause. Without the need to pay close heed to vehicular traffic, it’s somehow easier to admire the snow-covered peaks and glance at the progress of the budding aspens. The branches appear bare, but upon closer inspection, I note they’re working their way toward a verdant outburst.

For a report on where snow still meets the pavement farther up the pass, consult with one of the annoyingly fit riders who keeps firsthand tabs on that sort of thing. And if you haven’t been up there yet, get your you-know-what in gear. The pass is scheduled to open to traffic on May 27.

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