We love Durango! Our hometown hosts were Steve Parker and Geni Miller and they led us to all the best sights around town. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway provides a wake-up call every morning at 8am. The train’s route includes parts of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic that many HeartCycle members have ridden. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic originally began decades ago as a challenge between bicyclist Tom Mayer and his older brother train engineer Jim.
Our fearless leaders were Steve Parker and Chris Matthews, and our great SAGs were Polly Crocker and Terra Anderson, with Rich Crocker and Chris pitching in as van drivers since Polly suffered a luckily non-broken but injured arm just before the first group meeting.
We rode the great scenic routes of the most beautiful scenes in Southwest Colorado.
Our trips went to the 4 points of the compass – Sunday north, Monday east, Tuesday west and Wednesday south.
Durango is a wonderful town about 330 miles southwest from Denver, just north of the New Mexico border. Durango has about 18,000 residents and over 180 restaurants – and it is all about the Outdoors. We stayed at the Doubletree in Durango, a wonderful hotel with balconies overlooking the animated Animas River - rafts or kayaks passing by every now and then. It provided the perfect kickoff point every day along the Animas River bike trail, a well-paved path which runs for 7 miles through Durango along the River.
DAY ONE, Sunday, riding North. Our guides started us out easy on Day One, with very little elevation gain for the first 17 miles. From our location at the Doubletree we rode the Animas river bike trail and relatively flat road until our morning SAG stop at mile 17 just as we crossed over Bakers Bridge. We heard that the local rite of passage is for high school seniors to jump off into the rapid waters of the Animas River, but none of us chose to take the challenge. We enjoyed the protein bars and drinks, and that’s where the long ride upward began.
Lunchtime was at Mile 23 right next to Haviland Lake and the Rapp Coral, gazing up at the Hermosa Cliffs. About a third of us made the optional extension another 7 miles to Purgatory/ Durango Resort for a max elevation of a couple thousand feet.
There’s nothing like the ride home when it’s 23 miles of mostly downhill.
DAY TWO, Monday, riding East.
Our Trip Planners Steve and Chris called a very smart audible: With the temperatures predicted to rise to 90 degrees – very unusual for the first week of June around here – we decided to rearrange it to move lunch to the Gazebo at Rotary Park not far from our hotel, so we all rode the 46 miles.
In the beautiful cool morning you can see the beautiful backdrop as we first rode north of Durango; we then rode back south and met for our first SAG stop at mile 17. Polly let us know that Terra would have the second SAG stop just 4 miles farther on and we thought, why in the world would you have a SAG stop just 4 miles later? We found out – it felt like a 10% grade up the hill. We carried on another miles to Helen’s Store, where we took this photo of the beautiful Florida River rapids. Then all the way back into town, where we had our most delightful lunch at the Gazebo.
On Monday evening we had a wonderful community dinner by the Animas River with Serious Texas BBQ and wonderful company.
DAY THREE. What a climb! We headed west on Route 160. Even on the highways, Durango proper has excellent well-marked bike paths. The first 10 miles took us up about 2,000 feet elevation, then on to Mayday with a beautiful view of the mountains.
DAY FOUR. We rode south for a relatively easy 30 mile ride into Southern Ute Indian Land.
Of the 32 participants (including our SAG drivers), 28 were HeartCycle veterans as usual. Several of our groups were proceeding right on to the next ride the very next week in New Mexico. There were just 4 rookies on the ride, all of who will be returning to a future ride.