Day 68, Fort Collins to Kelly Flats Campground: A spectacular start for the second half - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

June 29, 2022

Day 68, Fort Collins to Kelly Flats Campground: A spectacular start for the second half

Author's note: As of today, June 29, Dani joins the Chris Cross America Tour. Dani is also taking notes about each day, and I'll paste them at the end of each blog entry. I tend to like her notes even more than my own, so don't miss them. I won't be insulted if you skip my stuff and go straight to hers. Enjoy. — CG

Wednesday stats

Start: Fort Collins

End: Kelly Flats Campground, along SR-14

The Daily Progress: 33.3 miles

Cumulative climbing (I previously called this the Ascension, but I'm well past the Bible Belt, so the mildly blasphemous use of the term now seems even more irrelevant. Besides, I'm in mountain country now, so let's just a more accurate term. This is how much climbing we did today, NOT net elevation gain. The cumulative amount climbed is a better indication of how much effort was required.): 2,533 feet

Ice cream flavors: None today.

Lodging costs: $26

Food costs: $0 today, but I spent about $140 on food and supplies (including $47 on one can of bear spray — wow!) when I stocked up in Denver and today I'm eating as much of it as possible (the food, not the bear spray) because it is heavy! Dani is helping.

Wednesday's wonders

Dani officially joins the Chris Cross America Tour today! (Also, I recently realized I could be calling this trip the CCAT — pronounced "see cat" — which would make a lot of sense because if I see a cat, I must report it, at least to Dani!)

I said goodbye to Jenna, Chris, Noah, Brooke and my parents after eight days visiting in Denver, and Dad drove Dani and me up to Fort Collins, to the point where I had left the Eastern Express last week, along the Poudre Trail. I figured I've already ridden from this point down the Denver and there was nothing to be gained (and a day to lose) by riding back up to this point from Denver. 


Dad helped us get everything ready to roll and took a few photos of us as we started off. And off we went, straight toward the mountains. 

I had seen the Rockies in the distance long before I had reached Fort Collins, and they look beautiful and intimidating, no matter what people say about the Appalachians being the bigger challenge on the TransAmerica Trail. Today, seeing them from a shorter distance, they had a more arid look — no snow caps in view — and I took some faith in the map information I had about the Eastern Express, which promised a lot of climbing but at a very gradual pace. 

We spent most of today's ride on SR 14, following the Cache la Poudre River through the mountains. It's hard to describe, and also hard to capture in photographs, the beauty of today's ride. The river was on average about 30 to 50 feet wide, and it ran pretty fast. We passed many rapids — and many people on guided raft rides on said rapids. All along, there were craggy mountain edges framing the sky above us, with bulky, rocky protrusions, brown, reddish and gray, poking every which way. 

We stopped for snacks a couple of times, the second one at a U.S. Forest Service campground. We'd noticed the appeal of these campgrounds from the road: water pumps, pit toilets, bear boxes, picnic tables, plenty of trees and, importantly, campsites directly along the river. We took a short nap on the benches of a picnic table and decided to make a decision at the next campsite, five miles down the road, about whether to push onward to the next one, which was an additional 14 miles further, or call it a day.

When we made it to Kelly Flats Campground, Dani voted to call it a day. Today was a lot of climbing and our first day at this elevation. We decided not to push our luck. We set up camp, which no longer includes the hammock tent because it works only for one person. Instead, we are now using our trusty "three-person" tent, which can comfortably fit two people, and we also have a standard hammock (an ENO Double Nest) that can comfortably sit two people who really like each other as a swinging bench kind of seat. We also plan to use this hammock for sleeping one person at a time on really nice nights, but not tonight. It'll be too cold, and as it turns out, a thunderstorm blew through as we were getting ready for bed, as if to confirm that we'd made the right choice. 

But I must say, sitting in the hammock together this afternoon, in the shade right next to the river, was quite satisfying. We had escaped the hottest sunshine of the day. Now a cook breeze is passing through after the thunderstorm. The sound of the river fills our ears. I think we will sleep well.

Dani's notes

I couldn't have asked for a more idyllic first day of riding.

Our day started on a commodious bike path with an epic view of the Rocky Mountains. "Wow, has the whole trip been like this?"

The landscape was spectacular. The Poudre River (pronounced "Pooder," which is satisfyingly silly to say) was our constant companion. I found myself scouting whitewater kayaking runs (I have done just enough whitewater kayaking lessons to know that it is hard and terrifying). At our first break I asked Chris if he was doing the same. He said yes, and added that he thought we could have physically survived the rapids we had passed until that point, though probably not without the dishonor of a wet exit. I agreed at that time, but as we climbed higher into the canyon, our survival of a run in a kayak felt markedly less assured. (We didn't see any kayakers in any stretch of the river, though as Chris mentioned, we saw many flotillas of whitewater rafters).

Arid cliffs rose from the river, showcasing an array of geological features. My favorite was a pair of hoodoos that distinctly resembled a man and his friendly robot companion.

The weather kept us aware of its power to dictate the mood of the day while allowing us to ride in mostly comfortable conditions. We got a taste of blazing sun and gusty wind and looming thunderstorm, but the only real weather challenges of the day (thunderstorms) blew through after we were in the comfort of our tent.

Chris would have gone farther if I weren't here, but I was here and I was ready to call it day at the earlier of our two campground choices. This gave us a relaxed and golden afternoon on the banks of the rushing Poudre.

I can't think of a more perfect way to have spent this day.

Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 2,416 miles (3,888 km)

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