Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 22: Hartsel to Sargents Colorado

                An unearthly howling pierced through the fog of sleep that enshrouded my brain until I was suddenly and abruptly awake. For at least a minute I strained to see where the noise was coming from and what was making it. I finally realized it must be a pack of coyotes.  Knowing that the chance they would want to feast on stringy cyclist was minimal I made myself comfortable and fell back asleep.
                The grayness of morning woke me and I set to my morning ritual of packing all my gear into my bike bags. This done, we coasted over to the restaurant for breakfast. While we waited on our food I looked at the map. We had a good 50-60 miles into Salida over mostly flat terrain. I hoped we could get there by around lunch, where we could get some good food as well as a new rear tire for my bike. We set off into the sun which was just starting to get higher in the sky. We covered mile after mile of mostly empty and wide-open country. 

Long shadows in the early morning

                The terrain was relatively flat so we made good time until we hit the watershed divide we had to cross to make it to Salida. For about three miles the road pointed almost straight up as I used every low gear I had at my disposal. After passing several log cabins near the top we crested the divide and started the long and fast downhill to Salida. Mile after mile of loose gravel crunched under our tires as we sped toward food and cold soft drinks. After getting into town and finding Absolute Bikes, where we left our bikes for parts and service, we got some gigantic burritos at a small shop just down the street. With our bellies uncomfortably full we paid our bills at the bike shop and looked around for some more provisions before we climbed over Marshall Pass.

Ominous storm clouds over Salida

Upping his water bottle capacity with some zip ties and water bottle cages

                Marshall Pass looked somewhat daunting; over the course of 20-22 miles we would climb from around 7,000 feet to just under than 11,000 feet.  We left town and soon hit the base of the climb at around 2:00 pm. Although the climb was heinously long it was at least not too steep; we were able to pick a fairly easy gear and spin up the climb at a decent speed. Only a few minutes into the climb we started getting sprinkled on. It bad enough we stopped to get out our rain gear but we never got soaked. A few hours later we finally reached the top. As we leaned our bikes against the sign at the top a middle‑aged couple saw us and offered their services to take our picture. We thanked them and posed while they snapped a couple frames. Picture taking over, we headed downhill into a gorgeous scene with the sunbeams breaking through the clouds like the grace of God upon mankind. With such a beautiful backdrop I couldn't help but to thank the Creator once again for allowing us to experience His amazing world.    

We were all the way down there?!

GDMBR, Colorado Trail, and the CDT, all at one spot

We are glad this pass is only 10,842 ft

Aspen grove at speed

Winding stream

                After the photo shoot we dropped down toward the tiny community of Sargents. Our hours of climbing in rain were rewarded by mile after mile of pure speed. We left the stands of aspens behind and were soon slowly riding along a winding stream. We finally got to Sargents and ate supper at the packed café at the Tomichi Creek Trading Post. After burgers we looked outside to see that it was dumping rain. We had avoided getting soaked by only an hour or so. Little did we know, but there was more rain to come over the next three days that would bring us to the limits of our physical as well as mental endurance. Blissfully unaware of this we set up camp behind the trading post then grabbed some showers. Twenty-two days down, and we are already almost out of Colorado.

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