Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 44 to 49, Colourful Colorado and over the continental divide a couple of times

Day 44 was my Pueblo rest day and it was well earn't. Started off with a couple of episodes of NCIS, followed by writing my last blog post (essay), raiding the complimentary breakfast (bagels, cream cheese, coffee and donuts - trying to limit my items though as there isn't enough for everyone), and going for a swim in the pool. I eventually left the motel in the afternoon. Pueblo city centre has some great public arts statues, a cool river walk, some top notch coffee shops and baking 109 degree weather. After walking around with the guys I went back to my room in the afternoon to watch more American crime shows, another swim and some boring laundry duties. My brain and body are much relieved to have the down time though.

Day 45 Pueblo to Canon City was a great day. In fact all of them have been great, but this day was a taste of how beautiful the Colorado scenery can get. Ben and I cycled out through the leafy city park and western suburbs before getting out onto the main road to Canon City (pronounced Canyon). The arid rock formations and view of the Rockies in the distance left our gobs smacked for the entire route. The first good view of the mountains filled me with excitement as we got closer. The first stretch was extremely hot and I ran out of water before Wetmore and I got dehydrated. There was only a water pump there by the post office (all shops closed) and I had to drink over a liter plus have a nap before I started to feel better. Pushed on after 2 to Florence where I got a good shepherds pie at the cafe and then cookies in the coffee shop where an open mic evening was in full swing. Norah caught us up here and we went the last flat easy 9 miles to Canon to stay in the RV park for $15 a tent (where we met a couple of Dutch cyclists also staying). We bivouacked to save costs but got eaten alive by mozzies!

Day 46 Canon City to Hartsel starts with insect bites on my face. From now on I will always pitch my tent! Anyway we cycled out of town, at one point next to a guy cycling with his pit bull running alongside, up the first 9.5 miles to a rest stop by the river gorge. This took a couple of hours of steady climbing. Excellent rock formations, deep red with more scrub vegetation on the hills as we climbed out of the valley. I caught up to the Dutch couple on a hill later on with Ben as we headed to the town of Guffey. A great spot with a cool bar at over 8000ft of elevation. Lunch and a couple of beers dragged to a 4 hour rest stop. We eventually decided to go 26 miles further to Hartsel and started in late afternoon. We got our first taste of Rockies rain as a big storm front erupted on the way as the valley open up significantly. We entered, went through and out the other side of some heavy rain and black skies. Hartsel has a pavilion where we could pitch our tents. In the restaurant there we met a group of Great Divide endurance racers. It was great to hear about the race (Banff Canada to Mexico) and their experiences.

Day 47 Hartsel, Hoosier Pass, Frisco. The pass is the highest point on the trail and I woke up feeling a little anxious about the upcoming climb. The road leading up to it was gentle though and had superb views. The valley was ringed with mountains, some of which were snow capped. A quick stop at the supermarket in Fairplay where I chatted to David, an Englishman who runs a b&b, about the Great Divide race (the winner did it in 15 days!). Onto the pass via the cute town of Alma. Stopped in the medical marijana shop to hear from the owners about how the recent law changes affect them and their business. Then the pass - in the end it wasn't that difficult. The grade was relatively gentle but the traffic was scary and came very close at speed. Pictures at the top and then down the other side. Another short heavy out burst of rain on the downward hairpin lined slope reduced visibility hugely. Dripping wet we stopped in a brewery bar in Breckenridge to dry. After a couple of hours the skies cleared and we pushed to Frisco along quiet and beautiful cycle paths. The Peak One campground on the edge of the reservoir had superb views of the mountains and was an amazing place to pitch. A quick jump (like 15 seconds) into the reservoir to help clean off after a good days riding.

Day 48 Frisco to Hot Sulphur Springs. Today ranks as one of the most beautiful days riding of my life. The camp ground was even more beautiful at dawn and then bike paths took us right around the reservoir. Clear skies, bright sun light and tree lined bike paths make a great combo. Coffee stop in Silverthorne and then onwards through the river valleys threading through the various mountains. More reservoirs to take in along the way until we hit a headwind (and more scary traffic) for 10 miles to Kremmling. There we caught up with the Georgian boys that I hadn't seen since Kentucky. I rode with them to the town of Hot Sulphur Springs. Again more canyons (the head of the Colorado river is near) with stunning sheer rock faces and a short harsh hail storm as we got into town. Tents were pitched in the city park in a blaze of mosquitoes (these are massive - like half an inch long) and then I went to the springs. $14 entry to soak in 24 pools ranging from 99 - 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Very relaxing (and dehydrating) and then to sleep.

Day 49 Hot Sulphur Springs to Walden. What a nights sleep?! Train tracks a good 20ft from the tent and the heavy, loud, horn blaring trains ran frequently through the night. Not the best nights sleep. The loudness of the train is almost comical! Anyway good breakfast at the local 'Glory Hole Cafe' in town and then out. Dave broke a spoke 12 miles in and had to repair whilst we pushed on into the hills past Shadow Mountain. More super scenic views, this time with the hills covered in Pine trees. Seems like a lot have died, apparently from a beetle infestation. Even so this area is rugged and beautiful to ride through. We crossed the divide for a second time before Christophe (Swiss chap in a recumbent trike) and I pushed to Walden. Bumpy cracked road jarred my bones and slight headwind exhausted me. The valley changed again, more of a high altitude altiplano that reminded me of Bolivia, but green rather than red. Big dinner in the Moose Creek Cafe as I bonked. Then chocolate and donuts for a super rush to help motivate me to do laundry. City park for camping. No train tracks nearby thankfully!