Posted by: nickgerlich | August 27, 2007

Sinfully Delicious

We cyclists often tell others (usually non-cyclists and/or otherwise sedentary folks) that we ride so that we might lose weight. But truth be known, sometimes we ride so that we can build up calorie credits in order that we might eat.

Such was the case when I began a short but challenging ride from Estes Park CO to Glen Haven, home of the Glen Haven General Store, legendary retailer of baked goods. Specifically, cinnamon rolls.

Not wanting to start the ride on an empty belly, I first headed from our campsite in the Moraine Park Campground in RMNP to Estes Park’s Kind Coffee, where I filled up on coffee and a bagel.

A good place to stage a start/finish for this ride is either Kind Coffee, or at the great folks at Colorado Bicycling Adventures just down the street. Heading east on US 34, you’ll see a lot of EP’s main business district, as well as the many motels and lodges on the outskirts. But just past the Olympus Dam, the fun really begins.

…or interact with the original Google Map

The sun was already beating down warmly, so there was no need to windvests or armwarmers. This was to be a hot day. I just wish the 10 miles downhill to Drake could last a little longer, for they were over in a heartbeat.

Some 1200′ of descending later through Big Thompson Canyon, which endured a disastrous flood in 1976, I rode into Drake. Sure, I stopped once and took pics of a nice waterfall on the right, but most of the time I was screaming along too fast to stop. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, I say.

At Drake, Devils Gulch Road begins arcing back to the west, and then south. It’s all uphill through this section, with Drake being the confluence of two mountain runoff drainages. Devils Gulch climbs about 1100′ feet in the 8 miles to Glen Haven, most of it being manageable in the big chainring. The scenery is stunning, and the traffic virtually nil. Much of the land is part of the Roosevelt National Forest, with many access points. The rest is comprised of a scattering of private residences along the river in this narrow canyon…with the southern sky often obscured so much by the facing cliff that my GPS stumbled on occasion.

While these 8 miles were not tough, my stomach was already crying for nourishment. I wasn’t here to lose weight on this ride. If anything, I was about to gain some. I finally rolled into the quaint hamlet of Glen Haven, and caught a glimpse of the General Store on the right. After parking my trusty steed on the side (they are quite adamant about cyclists not parking in front), I went inside to see what all the hype was about.


I had heard about their cinnamon rolls for several years. Colorado Bicycling Adventures runs supported day trips to Glen Haven, with many hundreds of people partaking of their delicious baked goodies. Friends had also told me this was a must-do whenever I made it to EP.

And so I crossed the threshhold into baking heaven, and beheld the ultimate calorie bomb: a roll so large that looked like, if hardened, could be used by bricklayers.

My backpack was purposely empty. I purchased four rolls ($2.50 each) to transport to camp, and settled for a raspberry muffin for my immediate caloric needs. By bringing a 4-pack back to camp, I figured I could atone with my family for my morning’s absence.

Bribery can be a good strategy sometimes.

With a few thousand calories of gastro-indulgence packed safely inside my pack, and a muffin sitting nicely inside yours truly, I set off from Glen Haven for the final push to EP…a stretch I had heard would be quite difficult.

And my friends were indeed right, for one mile outside Glen Haven I caught sight of the infamous switchbacks. To this point I had not dropped out of the big ring, but when I saw the road rising to the heavens in one quick jerk, I wisely dropped a ring in obedience.

No use pulling any big macho stunts now.

That next mile went on for ten…or so it seemed. My Garmin said I had gained 600′. Hey, doesn’t Colorado know about dynamite? My head was spraying water like a fountain, and my muscles were reminding me that I was on vacation.

But then I reached the top and beheld an awesome sight: Estes Park lay several hundred feet below, and Longs Peak, all 14,259 feet of it, served as a backdrop. Pain melted to bliss as I stopped to survey the wonder of it all. I unpacked my camera and took several pics (wisely using the opportunity to catch my breath).

The rest of the ride was uneventful as I turned left on Dry Gulch Road, and then US 34 for the return to town. It was another 6.5 miles (and 700′ up) to camp in RMNP, whereupon I presented my bounty to Becky and the girls.

And then I grabbed a fork.

In the span of about 5 minutes, I erased all calorie credits I had built up, and maybe even went into debt. But that’s OK. I’ve got another year to burn off what I added back…and then I get to return to Glen Haven for more.



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