I was climbing in the gym with a friend visiting from Colorado yesterday and I was telling him about my trip to Ouray and how beautiful Western Colorado is. I drove South through Lakewood and then West on 285 toward Fairplay and as I was driving at night by myself listening to The Firn Line, I remembered that I had been on this road before.
In 2001 I flew out from D.C. to race the Leadville 100 (mountain bike). Before ending up in Leadville, my girlfriend (at the time) and I stopped to ride the Colorado Trail from Kenosha Pass. It was a sunny August morning and I remember I was just wearing a cycling jersey and had some arm warmers and a shell stuffed in the pocket of my jersey. We rode for about 5 miles and were caught in the (2nd most) scariest summer Colorado storm I’ve been in*. It started to hail and freezing rain fell. I gave my girlfriend the shell and put on the arm warmers and we rode as fast as we could on singletrack back to the car at the pass.
By the time we got back my lips were blue and I was shivering with hypothermia. We cranked the heat in the car and just sat there trying to warm up. That’s when it happened.
A flat bed semi truck came up over the pass, slid across into oncoming traffic and took the top off a passenger car going West down the pass. I remember getting out of the car and running over to the car. Other cars started to pull off and traffic slowed to a stop. I walked over to the car not really thinking or knowing what to expect. There was a little girl curled up in the fetal position in the back seat – the driver and front passenger were both deceased. In what was probably only 15 seconds later more drivers came up to the scene and a man identified himself as a paramedic. That’s when I turned and walked away, realizing there wasn’t anything I could do. I got into the warm car and shortly afterwards continued the drive through Buena Vista and on to Leadville.
I recognized the landscape last week as I started driving up Kenosha Pass. A flood of history came back to me and I gripped the steering wheel tighter, just wanting to be over the pass and down the other side – on my way West.
*The scariest Colorado summer storm I’ve ever been in was trying to climb Handies Peak from American Basin. It’s the only time I’ve experienced Flash/Boom lightening. It’s terrifying.
Oh yeah. This episode of The Firn Line was excellent.