Featured photo for Rist Canyon 100k, CO

Rist Canyon 100k, CO

Can this really be winter in Northern Colorado? During the last weeks of December, the honey-colored country landscapes were bathed in golden light with temperatures exceeding 50, and sometimes even 60, degrees Fahrenheit. It was a great time, then, to go for my first long (over 50 miles) bike ride from Fort Collins (finally!) and do a little “exploring” with fellow Tri-City Tri Club member Sandi, who came to spend the holidays with her husband and kids in their vacation home in nearby Estes Park. We marveled not only at the spring-like late-December weather but also the mountain scenery replete with ponderosa pine, de-leaved aspen, mountain vistas and lung-busting 12% grades. Oh, the climbs! During a 30-mile stretch of the 57 miles we rode, we ascended a total of 4,100′, topping out on Rist Canyon Rd. at 8,100′ above sea level. In addition to the inviting scenery there was a remarkable dearth of cars (like six cars per hour), stop signs and traffic lights, allowing us to fully enjoy the sense that we were in true mountain country, a sense imparted by the fresh mountain air and winds howling through the trees. A great reminder of one of the reasons I came to Fort Collins, and a wonderful preview of the plethora of training rides in the area I have yet to do.

A solitary home southwest of the Horsetooth Mountains.
Sandi is all smiles on this beautiful sunny December day among the honey-colored hills.
Belying the frozen creek was that it was 64 degrees up here.  The further west we went the more ponderosa pines were present.
A variety of colorful trees frames the winding open road through the canyon.
A donkey and a horse enjoy this beautiful spring-like late-December day.
This is a frozen pond among the pine.  The scenery reminded me of the Cascade Lakes region west of Bend, Oregon.
Nice secluded home with several garages and workshops, able to fit perhaps 10 cars!  Made me wonder what vehicles were in there.
Sandi coming up one of the several 12% grades we encountered.  In all we would climb 4100' in 57 miles.
Dramatic views of the snow-capped Rockies were right behind us to the south.
Finally, the top of Rist Canyon Rd. (8100' above sea level).  After this would be a glorious 3000' downhill spanning about 10 miles.
Closer to Fort Collins and the Horsetooth Mountains were overtones of Sedona with the red rock.  A spectacular ride!