‘What shall we do today guys?’ came the chirpy but unnecessary question from a tent at a sub-zero 6am . ‘About 60 miles!’ came the icy answer from the other 3 tents in unison. So began another day. Waking up right by the Colorado river was special, but not so special that we’d hang around … it was v. cold! A quick downhill spin through a spectacular gorge and we were in the Glory Hole Cafe (surely it must mean something else in America?), soon to be unexpectedly joined by old pals Jerry and Jonathan who’d had a couple of days off in Kremmling.
Eventually, after as many delaying tactics as we could muster, all six of us set off up the steeply wooded Willow Creek valley heading back over the Continental Divide. It was glorious and every so often it would open out to a wide lush grassy area before the sides closed back in. Unfortunately the predominant colour of the scenery was brown and not green. The pine trees were all dead or dying. It’s due to a pine beetle epidemic which has affected over 3 million acres of Colorado’s forests in the last few years. We were told the outbreaks occur naturally about every 50 years when the trees are big enough for the beetles to infest them. Nature’s way of regenerating the forest. Shame we saw it in the dead phase really.
Over the pass, we shot down into a huge scrubby grassy plateau that disappeared into the distance. We could see absolutely nothing on it … no buildings, no wildlife, nothing.
It was stunning in its starkness. So, a gift shop an hour into it was an unexpected surprise to say the least! Evidently it had been a hotel/staging post in days of horses, but the advent of the car and the general migration of people to urban areas signalled its demise … only to rise again … as a symbol of hope? (over sense?). The place definitely had a sense of humour … the only other building was the local yacht club!
And this is roughly where the humour stopped for the day … the 8,000 ft high plateau continued, but the road surface changed … for the worse. There were now wide cracks across it every few feet which not only jarred the bike but thoroughly jarred off the rider. And so we had ten miles of ‘kerdunk, kerdunk, kerdunk’ as each wheel went down each crack. It was soooo annoying! At one point, out of sheer frustration, Paul told me he was going to get off his bike and give the road a good kicking! (Visions of John Cleese hitting his car with a branch?)
After a hot, hard day in the saddle it really took the edge off a beautiful ride. A badger running across the road was a welcome distraction from the constant jolting, and whilst looking at old Brock we spotted antelope, muskrats and an enormous hawk. Lots of ticks in our books. (See below off a gallery of the wildlife we spotted that day)
Had we been a day later we would have got another, huge tick … a rodeo. Walden, our abode of choice that evening, had a whole weekend of horse and cattle based events lined up. Proper cowboy stuff. But as is so often the case on this trip … not enough time … come sun up, we make like bandits and we’re out’a here.
Miles today: 64
Miles since First Landing: 2568