Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From Denver to Valley View Hot Springs

Today was what this trip is all about.

I left Denver at the early hour of 6AM and headed right down Rt 285 into the mountains in the crisp, cool air of morning. It is amazing how much more sun gets to the earth in these mountains than reaches the east coast mountains. As is my practice, I like to ride an hour or so before eating a real breakfast, and today I found a little Mexican bar that said OPEN FOR BREAKFAST so I turned around and enjoyed good food and good people. I got caught up on the news by reading a newspaper, but it looked just like all the news I read two weeks ago. Why do they print the paper every day, they could just send out old ones and save paper.

Anyway, the highways of Colorado are indescribable. I got a laugh out of a warning sign that said: "Attention Motorcyclists: Tight curves ahead next 70 miles." I should have stopped and taken a photo of it. I have never seen such a warning. In fact, there were no tight turns , they were all high speed sweepers that any truck could take at 55mph (or more), so it turned out to be a very relaxed ride. I stopped to take a shot of South Park for your enjoyment as I cleared the pass.

When I arrived at Valley View, the hot springs we visited some 35 years ago, I found a delightful balance of organization without overt commercialism. Nice touches like common rooms with refreshments and not being nickled and dimed for everything one wanted to do. One reasonable fee ($26) covered overnight tent camping and use of all the facilities. While the primary task at hand is soaking up that warm water, there were lots of other things to do here. I availed myself of a very interesting tour of the Orient Land Trust hydro-power plant led by Jay, a geology professor from a university in Arkansas who has spent several summers here as a volunteer. Not only did I learn a lot about the reality of running a hyrdo plant, he told the three of us about the formation of the surrounding mountains and valley which was very interesting to me.
After the tour I hiked up to the highest pool, which was to be the hottest and found it not that hot. They tell me that as the hot water from deep below mixes with snow melt the temps change, and today it was only 96 degrees. I remember that pool being very hot when visiting it in the 70s. Must be global warming, eh?

The place is clothing optional, and I made the mistake of choosing the clothed option, forgetting to remove the wallet from my pocket, so I have very soggy stuff in there. Good that credit cards and the drivers license are made of plastic and that cash survives wet/dry cycles.

Later in the evening I went on a bat tour to see about 250,000 bats emerge from the cave that was the iron mine until 1932. It was a strenuous walk at 9000 feet, but we all made it. The bats emerged at about 8:40pm and it was quite a site against the sky that was illuminated by the setting sun. The walk down was in the dark, but the trail was illuminated by an almost full moon. Now I ask you, could this get any better?

I slept great in my tent beside a stream of warm water, and due to low humidity, woke up in a perfectly dry tent, something I never experience in the east.

I walked down to the office, which is open 24 hours for self-service coffee and snacks for the morning cup of joe and into the showers which was deserted at the hour I got there.

So, now I'm headed up to the hot spring for a morning soak and then pack up and head to Mesa Verde.

Lessons learned:
  • Colorado sells 85 octane fuel as the lowest grade. I am told that due to lower oxygen in the air at high altitudes it works just fine. My bike seems to tolerate it OK.
  • The geology of the area, including this great valley, holds many mysteries.
  • The Mexican free-tailed bats that live here part of the year are all male (almost) and that each night they consume 2-3 tons of bugs. That is a lot of work for 250,000 animals that only weight in at less than half an ounce!
Stay tuned for more...


erica said...

The bat tour sounds awesome! I heard a story on NPR a couple of years ago about bats in Austin, TX, that fly out from under this huge bridge every night, and it's on my list of things I'd love to see. Bats are neat.

I think you might have convinced me at long last that I need to experience hot springs. Jack told me about your family trip to the ones in Arkansas (?) several years ago, and I was a little creeped out, but this experience sounds quite nice and very relaxing. Also, I'm loving the photos and contemplative musings, but I wouldn't expect much else from you. =)

anilia said...

bats, rocks and hot springs are some of my favorite things!

tedspeed said...

On the planet earth BBC TV series they go to a bat cave and there is a huge pile of guano in there. Hopefully the hot springs are a safe distance from that:)

Seriously though, sounds like an awesome trip so far. Wish I was there!

OldBikeRider said...

For Erica, the hot springs here are nothing like the mineral baths in Arkansas. First of all, it is all outdoors in very rustic conditions except the swimming pool that I did not go in) and secondly, it is just like minded folks floating around in constantly changing water from deep within the earth. So you can remain icked out by mineral baths.

For Tedspeed, we did not contact the poop of the bats, though one could smell it. It IS an awesome trip and I am glad I did not chicken out and stay home like a responsible person should.

For Anilia, we are the same ...