How this boomer “gets away from it all”

We’ve said for the 20-plus years we’ve run BoomerCafé, it’s a site for baby boomers living active lifestyles. That’s why, in a departure from the Boomer Opinion pieces he usually writes, our co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs wants to tell you about— actually, show you— his most recent experience as an active boomer. It’s about the day he went up in the world.

All of us talk about “getting away from it all” and these days, between the pandemic and politics, with deepening despair over a crippled economy, social isolation, angry urban protests, raging fires, and elections under attack, there’s a whole lot we’d like to get away from. Regrettably, some of us have no good escape, but I’m lucky. Living in the Rockies and loving to bike, when I want to get away from it all, I go up.

Looking West… The magnificent vista of the Continental Divide as seen from I-70 west of Denver.

This first photo, above, is the Continental Divide, just west of Denver. What that means is, virtually all the rain and snow that falls on the east side of the Divide ultimately finds its way to rivers and streams that empty into the Gulf of Mexico and eventually the Atlantic. Everything on the west side ends up in the Pacific.

The Divide is the spinal column of Colorado, with 54 “Fourteeners”— mountains that reach more than 14,000 feet above sea level— popping up on one side of it or the other. The one that’s closest to Denver— 14,264 feet at its summit— is Mount Evans. A couple of weeks ago, in our quest to “get away from it all,” a friend and I took our bikes up to the base of the road that gets you to the top. It’s the highest paved road, by the way, in North America.

And right away, we were totally away from it all. This next photo is only a mile or two into the ride, looking down on our start point, Echo Lake, elevation 10,600 feet. Even when a bit obscured from the smoke of persistent fires in both Colorado and Wyoming, it’s a stunning scene.

Echo Lake

Then, not much past the 11,000 foot level, we hit “tree-line,” above which trees simply don’t grow. It gives the road a uniquely dramatic if intimidating sense of isolation, not to mention some precipitous drops (so don’t lose your balance!).

What’s great is, it’s above tree-line that you start to see the Rocky Mountain Goats, sure-footed creatures that somehow survive in this harsh environment.

Equally great— even through the smoke— are the views around every turn in the road.

Of course the air up here starts getting pretty thin— less than ⅔ of the effective oxygen you get at sea level. We stopped at about 12,500 feet to give our lungs a break— and, truth be known, our legs too. If you look at the background of this next photo, you’ll see in the upper left corner a hump just a touch higher than everything else. That’s the summit.

Greg takes a brief break. Air gets thin, temperatures cooler at higher altitudes.

The trouble was, not only was the air getting thinner and thinner, but the wind was getting stiffer and stiffer, and the temperatures were getting colder and colder. Just mid-30s at this point, with a “wind-chill” I couldn’t even calculate. It would have felt just fine to turn around and call it a day.

But in the spirit of “Let’s just make it up to that next curve and see what’s around the corner and maybe we’ll turn around there,” we didn’t… even though there was always yet another corner past the last corner. Which is why, nine never-ending uphill miles into the climb, at just over 13,000 feet, we came to Summit Lake, a tableau of Arctic tundra where we communed with more Rocky Mountain Goats, who seemed about as curious about us as we were about them.

From here, between plunging temperatures which chilled us to the bone and strengthening wind which was buffeting us on our bikes and the perilous propensity for afternoon storms to pour in out of nowhere, we opted not to climb the last thousand feet of elevation to the summit. But for two guys in their 70s, we felt perfectly satisfied at what we’d done. And perfectly happy to get all the way back down to our 10,600 foot starting point… which was about as high as I ever otherwise ride.

Happy, except for the fires, the protests, the economy, the isolation, the elections, the politics, and the pandemic.

14 Comments

  1. I understand your accomplishment and pride. Tanne and I drove up there in July 1965 in an old Nash automobile which surprised us by making it — and just in time for a snow shower. It is a very special spot. Thank you for taking us back, and away from it all.

  2. Amazing. I once climbed Mt. Washington and others in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. But, those were not the heights you rode to.
    And, I did that climbing just after college graduation when I was 22! Hats off to you.

    1. Formidable 😄..Impressive.. thanks for the memories👍🏼…two guys doing great “work”👏🏻👏🏻

  3. When Joe Alessi played in the Colorado Philharmonic, now called the National Repertory Orchestra, he drove to the top of Mount Evans to play the taxing trombone solo from Ravel’s Bolero. He figured if he could play it there, he could play it anywhere. He’s been principal trombonist with the New York Philharmonic for many years.

  4. Hey Greg, We used to play senior softball together. Have been living in Tucson AZ for the past 10 years. Sandy and I always enjoy reading your perspective on the world. Your trip up Mt Evans on a bike really makes me homesick for Colorado. One of my all time favorite things to do was every summer I would wait for a 100 degree day in Denver with about a zero percent chance of storms and ride from my house near Chief Hosa to the top of Mt Evans and back. More exciting than the Triple Bypass. Thanks for the memories. Steve Kaye

  5. Good Grief….and I thought it was a difficult ride from your condo in to Vail Village! Must be the altitude. heh heh

  6. Nice ride! Man, I bet you go through brake pads on a regular basis. Thanks for taking us along!
    (Getting ready to electrify my Specialized Crosstrail to help my knee out…)

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