On the Road: Rural America
A spring like this – when the flowers, fruit trees and grasses are going nuts because of all the winter precipitation – screams out for a road bike ride in the lower Colorado River Valley, where you can really soak in all the pleasures of the season.While Aspen’s weather still has the Jekyll-Hyde thing going on, it’s generally toasty and dry down in the New Castle and Silt areas. And spring is definitely in full bloom.A perfect early season ride starts and ends at the Storm King Mountain Trail parking lot a few miles west of Glenwood Springs. After loosening up for a few miles on Highway 6, the frontage road to Interstate 70, you get to New Castle, a town that seems to get prettier every year while keeping its historic old downtown and Victorian houses intact.Turning north at Elk Creek takes you past the suburban sprawl sparked, in large part, by job growth in Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Before long you head out into the country and glide past the first sheep ranches. A few strategic signs remind you that working sheep dogs will tear your leg off if you set foot in the pasture.Chugging your way up a gentle but steady grade toward Harvey Gap Reservoir takes you past two more immense sheep ranches. It doesn’t take much to imagine they look nearly identical to what they looked like 25, 50 or even 100 years ago. Hay sheds, barns and cottonwood-ringed houses overlook rolling pastures and astounding vistas to the east.Scores of lambs stick close to their moms and occasionally kick up their heels as you whiz by. After cresting a hill you see the sparkle of the reservoir, finally looking like an oasis in the sagebrush lands rather than a glorified mud puddle.Pick up steam past the dam and fly down the hill to the flat lands in Grass Valley just north of Silt. Ranches and farms dot the area. Cattle abound (as do an increasing number of llamas). This is the heart of rural America.Your endorphins are flowing from the fantastic scenery and pleasant riding when you darn near fall off your bike when the smell of towering lilacs hits you. It’s a strange kind of intoxication.The natural buzz carries you through Peach Valley, an eclectic area where yuppie homes are encroaching on old farms and humble orchards. You can’t help but be disappointed when you reach Highway 6 again and start making your way back to New Castle. If you take the time to enjoy the sights and smells, you’ll be back to your car at Storm King a little more than two hours after you started.
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