Yesterday we entered a new state—Colorado! Good-bye New Mexico and thanks for all the beautiful scenery, wildlife, fascinating abandoned ranches and houses, and wild camping. We’ve passed the 800-mile mark, averaging about 45 miles and ten hours of riding a day, and guessing between 4,000-5,000 feet a day climbing. We stop often during the day to eat, filter water, and take Ibuprofen. The climbing (often on foot, pushing my bike) is what makes this so very different than past touring. We have never rode any route as challenging but also rewarding in so many ways. We really appreciate the wild camping in our national forests: beautiful and remote sites, cheap, and you get to pick when to stop for the day. When your legs say stop, you can stop. The remoteness means no one cares about how dirty you are. And we are nine-days out with one change of clothing dirty. Each night’s bathing consists of three handy wipes, no more, no less.
We’ve seen many antelope and elk. One day we passed a herd of elk with a small baby calf, legs still wobbly. We also saw a cow giving birth! We’ve ridden past mesas, plateaus, volcanic plugs, and steep arroyos reminiscent of the Baja Divide. The scenery changes throughout the day, from open valleys with big sky amazing views to mountain aspen groves to desert ravines.
A couple of days outside of Grants, we met Rani and Bob and their horse Chirpas. Bob is providing support to Rani and Chirpas as they travel the GDMBR with a small Amish wagon. They travel about 20-25 miles a day. Rani remembers reading an Adventure Cycling article about the GDMBR many years ago and is finally making her own adventure traveling from Mexico to Canada. Very cool people (and horse).
A couple of days ago we were riding past the Lagunitas campsites close to the Colorado border when things began to get interesting. With the big snowfalls this winter, the snowmelt had turned the gravel road into a fairly large stream, Mud included. We were feeling quite proud of ourselves, finally doing the “oh no, look at how much mud is on our tires, we must be REAL GDMBR riders,” when we noticed that the Continental Divide hikers had started passing us. Than we hit the snow. Again, REAL GDMBR riders hike through snow. Then the Five Four-Wheeler Riders of the Divide (Clint, Matt, Randy, Casey, and Everett, all from Texas) came across our path and advised us what was ahead. Snow above the knees. River crossing with water four feet deep and strong current. Our best option, they said, was to backtrack seven miles and head off-route to Antonito, CO. Backtrack!? Horrible thought. To my great relief, the 4-wheelers volunteered to put our bikes in their vehicles and drove us back to our turnoff. Plus, they made us hot coffee and fixed our camp stove! No more cold instant coffee and cold-soak ramen for us. It’s the small things that give so much pleasure on the GDMBR.
Sad to miss Indiana Pass (highest point in the GDMBR) due to the snow and high water but secretly was so, so very happy to ride the 80 miles to Del Norte on a relatively flat road with the wind at our backs. Don’t tell anyone about my love of easy riding because I may lose my GDMBR status if word got out. Recharging today doing all the usual zero-mile day chores and treating ourselves to a hotel room, shower, restaurant, etc. Talked with our kids and family, wrote some letters, and downloaded new books and movies. Ready to begin the Colorado ride!