Biologist on a Bike

Day 31: Routt National Forest, CO to Silverthorne, CO


Distance: 90.58 (not a typo)
Average Speed: 11.7 mph; Max Speed: 34.9 mph
Elevation gain: 4,684 ft
Average Temp: 79.8 F; Temp Range: 50.0-98.6 F


Last night I dreamt of yapping. Not full-throated barking, but higher pitched. One particularly loud yip startled me awake leaving me uncertain if it had been in my dream or not, but it wasn’t happening at the time. I settled back down to go to sleep, but over the sound of the podcast I sleep to I heard a random noise. I turned the podcast off and just listened. It was dead silent. No sound of bugs, no sound of wind, nothing. Just silence. And then, a quiet crunching of gravel. Something walked through the area, but it didn’t linger, and eventually I fell back asleep.

I woke up for good at 6 and was pleasantly surprised with how warm it was for being so early in the morning at over 8,000 feet. I told Greg I wanted to get on the road early, and he suggested breaking camp, climbing the pass, and having breakfast at the campsite on the other side, about 16 miles from where we were camped. It sounded good to me, so that’s what we agreed to do. We were on the road by 7:30.

Where I woke up, Day 31

The climb took some effort, but wasn’t terrible. And so I topped the second highest pass of the TransAm trail. I had thought that was Togwotee pass, but the sign here indicates that Willow Creek is actually just a bit higher.

Since I’m headed to the Atlantic, it seemed appropriate to stand on that side of the divide.

The descent was awesome but the speed of it left us both chilled enough to stop halfway to the campsite to put on gloves. On this side of the pass, the road runs along Willow Creek, a lovely stream that makes excellent moose habitat, though we didn’t see any. We did see a fox, though. It would have been a great place to camp (way better than the semi-stagnant water we filtered (or in Greg’s case, chemically purified) to drink last night. But I was fairly close to bonking when we stopped and I know I wouldn’t have made it up the pass.

The campground we stopped at was abuzz with morning activity. There was a motorcyclist who had planned a whole route, but who was having difficulty with his bike, and there were two bike tourists who were headed on a different route from me, though similar to what Greg is planning to do.

As we sat and ate, two young women rolled in, sporting kitty-litter bucket panniers. For all the research I did before this trip, that one was new to me, and I had to take some pictures of the setup. I have since learned that there’s a company that makes hardware for attaching them, but these ladies just did it themselves. Lynn had us both sign hers.

Kitty litter bucket panniers.

They’re sturdy and waterproof.

Lynn says it’s good to stay hydrated

Jenny says to remember your sunscreen

The campground was buzzing with hummingbirds. They tended to zip around too quickly for me to get the camera on them, with one exception: there was one spot in a pine tree where I kept seeing them. I suspected there might be a nest there, so I crept over to check it out. There was a tiny little nest in the branches, and I was able to get some good pics of the hovering parent.

Momma bird

Momma bird from the back

Momma bird taking off


Breakfast (or second breakfast) over, we left the National Forest for a more populated area. Not that a little human activity ever stopped coyotes from hanging out somewhere; we have coyotes living in Chicago, after all. It was still cool to see one trot across our path. And a bit later we saw a lake with pelicans.

Coyote trotting into the brush.


At Hot Sulpher Springs, about 35 miles into the day’s riding, Greg and I parted ways. He wants to head into an area of Colorado that he hasn’t explored yet, including several tall passess, so he made today a short day. I rode on, following the baby Colorado River westward for a while before we, too, parted ways.

The Colorado River near its headwaters

After a long slow descent from the pass, the road turned back upwards towards the highest pass on the TransAm Trail. For the rest of the day, I rode rolling hills that wound their way slowly higher. It wasn’t terrible, but it was quiet after riding with Greg for the last few days. I listened to podcasts until my headphone battery died, then did my best to zone out.

These mountains were near-constant companions the second half of my day.

It became apparent fairly early on that I was unlikely to make it to Breckenridge, so Silverthorne became my destination. When I originally did my mileage calculations, I started at the campground on the eastern side of Willow Creek Pass, so Breckenridge would be a long but doable day. Starting from where Greg and I camped would have meant 107 miles to Breckenridge. So not happening. Instead, I still had my longest day of the tour so far at 90, but I finished my ride before 7PM and was able to make myself a meal in the hostel’s community kitchen.

Riverside hostel is comfortable, but is in the middle of some renovations, so it’s a bit disorganized. The kitchen is well-stocked, though, the showers lovely (and hot), and the bed is…well, after camping or sleeping on floors for the last I-can’t-remember-how-many days, any bed would feel comfortable.

Tomorrow it’ll be time to conquer Hoosier Pass. Should make for an interesting day.

Roadkill Count: 3 birds, 1 chipmunk, 3 deer, 1 baby skunk, 5 unknown mammals, 1 snake


Map Day 31

4 thoughts on “Day 31: Routt National Forest, CO to Silverthorne, CO

    1. Spin Doctor Post author


      I do have roadkill rules, though they’re mostly in my head.
      1) It has to be something I saw from the bike and close enough to the road that it could have been hit by a car.
      2) If I can’t class it as bird, mammal, non-bird reptile, or amphibian, I don’t list it.
      3) Likewise, I won’t list it if it has been completely skeletonized, or if less than half of it is present (because a random body part could have been dragged there by predators rather than left behind after colliding with a car).

  1. Leslie Diamond

    Too bad you don’t have a riding buddy any more. It will be interesting to see if you cross paths again at some point. Stay safe!

  2. Andrew Roth

    That is some serious riding you are doing.

    First I heard about kitty litter panniers. Good idea and cheap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *