Friday, July 3, 2015

Vacation Time In Salida- Our Favorite Bike Town

We have been in Colorado on a much needed vacation. While I always have good intentions of keeping up the blogs posts, it is hard to come inside and sit down in front of a computer in a place that has so many opportunities for outdoor fun.
The timing was good for being out of town, as our local riding scene was in a bit of disarray, with trail closures and a killer gnat invasion along the river. Things are finally approaching normal here on the home front, though the gnats are still swarming like flies in many areas, at least they have been thinned out a bit.

Salida, Colorado

We head to Salida, Co, each summer at this time to run rivers, ride bikes, visit our many friends in the area, and generally enjoy the bliss that is small-town Colorado in June. This year was a little different, as the Arkansas River, like here, was at historic high levels. Normally, I shoot for the peak flows that occur in early summer, but things were just a little bit too rowdy this go 'round. My local paddling buddies did not share my sense of urgency to get out some of the harder runs, which was likely a good thing. They can wait until things settle down, and a swim on a stretch like The Numbers at 4000 CFS would be a very bad thing. Recovery of a swimmer would be difficult and corralling a kayak full of water would be unlikely. We settled for good judgement and  some easier stretches of water.

Salida is a bike town of the first degree. While you will see kitted up road riders passing through and serious mountain bikers abound, most folks are just riding bikes to get where they're going. Like many mountain towns , the town of Salida  itself is quite flat, lying as is does in the valley along the Arkansas River. It sits at about 7000 feet in the shadows the 14,000' peaks of the Collegiate Range, making for a great climate and spectacular views. Everybody has a town bike, most equipped with some sort of basket, crate or bags for cargo. Kids roam the streets in little packs and bike racks are everywhere, though often full when things are hopping downtown. 

Diane does the town bike thing with her usual style.
 We stopped in a Benson's for a meal and some music. Most business have more parking for bikes than for cars.
The Colorado culture is cool with Willie. He enjoyed the walk to dinner and good live music, though he could not appreciate the local beer. Many places offer outside dining and dogs are welcome. 
The new elementary school has plenty of bike racks. School is out, but bikes are primary transportation for most of the town's kids. We loved seeing little packs around town, just being kids on bikes.

Drivers around the area invariably yield to cyclists and pedestrians. I owe it to the fact that most drivers often bike and walk. We found that we would hold up traffic if we approached a cross walk and tried to wait for a car to pass. Locals are just very aware that they are sharing the road and they typically do so quite graciously. We seldom got in the truck unless we were going boating.

Road Rides
I'll admit that it took me a while to warm up to road riding around Salida. Until we hooked up with some local rides, we often found ourselves on a busy highway or doing dead-end loops. We are discovering that there are many good routes that offer lonely back roads, fabulous scenery, and destinations such as Poncha Pass or the Mount Princeton Hot Springs.  

Diane with friends Connie and Lynn Dean at Poncha Pass. The 7 mile climb from Poncha Springs to the 9000' pass is a "baby pass" by Colorado standards, but still a challenge for us flatlanders.

The secondary roads around Salida make for good riding and views like this are the norm.

Mountain Biking
Diane and I always enjoy mountain biking, though we tend to default to the road. That's a bit of a pity in that we have access to great single track both here in Arkansas and around Salida..

Salida was named as a Top Destination  by Singletrack  From that article is this statement:

How, for example, could Salida, CO rank higher than places like Moab and Whistler? Well, a big reason is that Salida has more singletrack trails within 25 miles of town than either of those places–and far fewer riders sharing the trails. 

The Little Rainbow Trail was built to add some intermediate single-track to the local inventory. You can start in town and ride to a 4-mile gravel grind before enjoying about 6 miles of downhill, or, you can ride up on the single-track.

Friends David Wallace, Mike Smith, Diane, and the mysterious Mr. Cone take a break at a road crossing.

We're often encouraged by our friends to make the move to Salida.It is tempting, as there is much to love about the location and lifestyle, but our roots here are simply too deep. Hopefully, there will come a time when we can extend our stays beyond the usual vacations.In writing this article, I came across a nice post at  on why NOT to move to Salida.
It pretty well summarizes things.

Most folks who visit Colorado are drawn to familiar place names or areas where they may have skied--Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, etc. I should probably keep this to myself, but I suggest that if you're planning a summer trip out west, check out the Salida, Buena Vista area. In addition to the cycling, the Arkansas River provides some of the best kayaking and commercial rafting in the country. You won't find stack of condominium projects or trendy shopping centers in Salida. You'll find local shops, great food, a thriving art scene and cool people. You can always go a couple of miles to Hwy 50 if you have a craving for fast food or Walmart. VRBO's offer good lodging options and there are good camping spots and a few hotels in the area. If you get serious, drop me a note and I'll share some details.

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