Sitting around the campfire.
Sitting around the campfire.

After taking pictures, we engaged “gravity-power” for the next 7 miles down the west side of Loveland Pass. What a wild ride through mountain tundra, brilliant colors, and extravagant canyons that sucked the breath out of us with their vacant expanses. At the lower levels, pines and aspens once again gathered their numbers along the route. Gold shimmered while green beckoned.

After a long pedal up a pass, every cell in my body delights to the “soaring feeling” across the sky on my asphalt magic carpet. I swear that every blood cell races around cheering that it’s given a break from transporting oxygen and food to every muscle cell during the climb. Every cell cheers, “Thanks for the break from the grind.” But every cell in my eyes, whether going up or down, says, “Wow, can’t beat the visuals!”

We rolled along Dillon Lake in Summit County until we arrived at the dam crossing. We turned left toward Frisco. We ate lunch at the Buckhorn Café.

“These pancakes are to die for and then live again,” said Robert Montgomery.

“I’m lovin’ the omelet,” said Robert Case. “These hash browns and toast aren’t bad, either.”

After devouring our food, we lingered around Frisco taking pictures of flower displays, sculptures, museums and added some people-watching.

“We rolled the bikes under massive peaks with vast canyons still holding snow from the previous winter.”

The bicycle view coasting down the endlessly curvy road descending from Loveland Pass. It’s like you dig right into the very essence of the mountains’ grand parade. You’re so exposed to their dynamic energy while powering your bike through their kingdom.

Later in the day, we rolled up “Tenmile Creek” toward Copper Mountain Ski Resort, which presented us with the gateway to Vail Pass.

“It’s getting late in the day,” Robert Case said. “Where are we going to camp?”

Robert Montgomery said, “The perfect answer will reveal itself as to the perfect campsite.”

“Geez, I’m traveling with Buddhist monks,” I said. “Let the journey continue.”

We cranked our iron steeds onto the bicycle path following the river. The trail proved incredibly beautiful with underbrush coloring everything of the rainbow and more. We rolled the bikes under massive peaks with vast canyons still holding snow from the previous winter.

As we headed into the afternoon shadows, we stopped at a convenience store at the top of the canyon. The boy there said to roll the bikes up the river on the bike path for another mile to find a fantastic campground.

“Let’s do it,” Robert Case said.

We pedaled over the river and along the route the kid told us about. Very quickly, we dropped the bikes down a deep embankment to the river’s edge. Perfect campsite revealed.

“Above us, mountain summits profiled against the night sky.”

We discovered ample dry wood with the creek playing its magical music beside us and three spots for tents. I pulled off my shoes and dipped my feet into the icy water.

“Life doesn’t get any better than this,” I said.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. 

—Norman Maclean

Robert Montgomery standing by his tent near the river’s edge.

We pitched camp. Set up the woodpile. Broke out the campstools. Opened the cooking pots. Fired up the stoves.

As the sun blazed through the golden aspen trees surrounding us, we cooked up veggie bowl burritos, pasta primavera and Himalayan rice and beans.

Later, as the darkness fell upon us, we started the fire. It blazed brightly into the evening air. Smoke curled toward a starlit sky. Above us, mountain summits profiled against the night sky. The Big Dipper brushed against the peaks.

Imagine you just filled your stomach with hot chocolate, hot food and raspberry crunch dessert. Imagine touching the kindling with a match to light the evening campfire. Imagine sitting with your friends around the flickering flames licking the night air. Imagine a billion stars twinkling in the ceiling above you. Instead of imagining—simply take your own adventure and walk into your own dream.

Sitting there with my friends, I listened to the fire crackling, but later, it quieted. In the silence, the rushing whitewater remade its presence on our ears. We sat there staring into the fire. Nothing much to say, but watching the embers glowing, ebbing and pulsing like they lived vibrant lives of their own if only for an instant. I couldn’t help noticing our special place among the forest creatures.

My friend, John Muir, said, “Man must be made conscious of his origin as a child of Nature. Brought into right relationship with the wilderness he would see that he was not a separate entity endowed with a divine right to subdue his fellow creatures and destroy the common heritage, but rather an integral part of a harmonious whole.”

“Well boys,” Robert Case said, “I’m bushed. Looks like the sleeping bag for me.”

“Right with you,” Robert Montgomery said. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”

John Muir said, “Everything is flowing—going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus, the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks… while the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood… in Nature’s warm heart.”

Follow Frosty and friends in the last part of this series next month: Independence Pass, Maroon Bells and the End of the Journey.

Robert Montgomery and Robert Case astride their bikes admiring the endless arrangements of flowers in Frisco.