First Impressions of Colorado

Local Carbondale wildlife.

After more car repairs than I thought possible for having owned a car for less than two weeks, I finally arrived in Carbondale, Colorado, on Memorial Day.

The last four hours of driving, from Denver to Carbondale, were the most beautiful I have seen to date. Denver itself didn’t impress me. Granted, I didn’t exactly take in all the downtown sights, but it seemed like another large, flat, sprawling city that just happened to have the Rocky Mountains visible in the distance. I prefer to be in the mountains than straining to see them through smog.

However, once you drive up and out of the city and your engine begins to complain about maintaining highway speeds up steep inclines, it’s hard to look at the road. Instead of the tunnel on Interstate 70, I drove over Loveland Pass, which brought me up a winding road to over 11,000 feet. I don’t usually utilize scenic pullovers, but I definitely hopped out of the Subaru to take some pictures of the surrounding peaks and Memorial Day skiers. If I had alpine skis, I could have started down the slope in front of my car and walked back up the road from a pull-off lower on the mountain—mind-blowing for a New England native.

Loveland Pass

As awesome as it was being at 11,000 feet (my highest non-airplane elevation point to date), Glenwood Canyon, a 12.5-mile-long canyon carved out by the Colorado River, was my favorite part of the drive. It has the highest concentration of cliffs I’ve ever met. I tried to take some pictures, though they came out terribly, as I couldn’t look through the viewfinder while driving.

The view of Mt. Sopris from the Carbondale bike path.

Carbondale sits under Mount Sopris, the town’s nearly 13,000-foot claim to fame (besides being the home base of the Enormocast and Rock and Ice and Trail Runner Magazines). The town itself is flat, allowing elementary school children to bike to school instead of taking the bus. However, on all four sides are mountains with running and mountain biking trails. There are also more than a handful of recently developed local crags and others that are still in the works, allowing locals to skip out on the weekend Rifle crowds and squeeze in post-work sessions during the week.

As far as being at altitude goes, at a little over 6,000 feet in Carbondale, I haven’t had a difficult time adjusting. I might have felt it a little on my first jog around town, but it’s more likely that I was feeling having been in the car for 34 hours and not having run in a little while. I didn’t get overly tired or have a terrible headache, which was quite nice since I had to start work at 9 a.m. the day after I arrived.

However, I have noticed the drier air here. I’m hardly ever cold. It was 30 degrees when I took pictures in the pass, yet my light fleece and sweatpants kept me warm; in New Hampshire I would have been wearing my down jacket and a hat. I do, however, have to use lotion a bit more frequently, and my nose is a bit dry when I wake up, but I’d rather have to hydrate a little more to have 30 degrees feel like 50.

Originally published June 1, 2015, on 

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