Day #39) July 21, 2011. West of Rustic, CO to Walden, CO: 45 miles in 4:05 hrs
It’s just amazing how “wired” into society the cell phone and computer with it’s wifi makes you. I mean just one day away from those, and both and friends and family wonder if your dead or alive. And even me, I was in kind of a state of “loneliness” not being able to communicate last evening. But you know what? It was really kind of cool. I mean with just the radio and some REALLY bad stations we had a pretty neat time up at the Sportsman’s Lodge BS’ing for a couple of hours. And let me tell you – that is NO lodge. It’s a collection of rustic cabins. But anyway, so Brad and I just shot the (&%*$^ for a couple of hours. Kind of different isn’t it, just talking with people instead of watching TV or surfing the net and veging out?
Our dinner last eve was two packages of Johnsonville brauts, one just plain old beef and the other beef & cheese. Used the gas grill out by the store to cook them up and then Brad and I buzzed through them like a couple of starving dogs. Couple that with a couple of Newcastle brown ales and some Frito corn chips and that was din-din. Not exactly a gourmet dinner, and certainly not high on the nutritional scale, but it did the trick. I hiked a quarter mile up the road to a payphone to let Judy know that I was alive, and then came back to pack it in for the night. We hit the hay around 9 pm because we were in a canyon, and it gets dark pretty fast in there. And wow, did it cool off fast when the sun set! I started the night with just a sheet for a bed cover, but several hours later I woke up and had to pull the whole dag-gone 3 layers of covers over me.
Now we had planned to get going at about 6 am again as we had the previous morning. But wow, it was really cold this morning up in the mts, so at 5 am, Brad and I decided to just stay in our beds and let it heat up a bit. I mean it was a leg warmer/arm warmer/polypro top kind of morning. So we finally get up at about 6 am, and it was still cold. I had to pull out my fleece – the one I’d been lugging around for 2400 miles! I gave Brad one of my long sleeved poly pro tops and we attempted to get ready. I had a couple of muffins and 3 pieces of salami for breakfast, that and some Frito chips. Brad – dude had a cold braut wrap with two brauts in a burrito skin and slathered with mustard. Ouch!! We washed it down with some pretty weak coffee from the office and then we were ready to roll.
Got going just before 7:30 am, and this was one of the latest starts I’ve had in nearly a month. But damn, those temps were just perfect to ride in. Problem was that once we got on the road and looked up to the west, out towards the pass we were going to climb – it was dark and grey – and Brad, the mountain guy, kind of shook his head. Seeing that dark western sky, and knowing we were headed another 2000 feet higher, that was not a good feeling. But you just never know in the mts what’s on the other side. Could be a raging storm coming or could just be some broken cloud cover. I was pulling for the latter. But we headed up there nonetheless. Now last evening Brad told me he’d ride to the pass with me today rather than just descent back to the Fort from the cabin, so that was a very unexpected plus for today, just having a bud along for a pretty good 2-3 hour grunt to the top of the pass.
We got going right in time for the CO wind machine to greet us, and as usual it was blowing from every which direction. And once I started – wow, the legs were just two big pillars of mortar. Boy were they tired. And again, poor Brad having to plod along with me. Now all the while I had an eye out on that mass of dark grey off to the west, and slowly but surely it was beginning to disintegrate and break up. Now we probably had about 2 miles where the inclination of the climb was about the same as yesterday, but then things really changed, and I was fighting to NOT go into the little cookie. The pitches were much steeper, and I was out of the saddle way more than yesterday. And I figured to have about 14 miles of that to Cameron Pass.
We went through some pretty stunning sections where the Poudre River was just raging down the mt in a series of waterfalls and rapids, but then the Poudre just kind of disappeared and that was the sign that things were going to get pretty sustained and steep – and they did. You usually know that once the main river kind of disappears you’re going to be in much steeper terrain, and that the river will be replaced by braided streams coming out of the high mts. I eventually broke down and hit the little cookie, and then life was much better. My pride intact, I just hit a higher cadence and was able to keep my HR under like 160! Some of the long, steep sections were about a mile to two miles in length, and I’d be in the easiest gear I had. Now this was a far sight easier than some of the short, really steep climbs I’d done in KY, but it was just the length of these CO climbs that took it out of me. I’d stop on occasion to take some pics of the stunning scenery, then mount back up and continue the grunt.
In the first hour and ten minutes of climbing we covered around 8 miles. But it got tougher. There were times where I was just able to maintain 4 mph. Most of the time it was around 6 mph. And the climbing just continued. By about 2 hour into the climb we were at around 13 miles into the day’s climb, and we had stopped to take more pics and for some helmet cam action. And off in the distance to the west, a bit up the road was a big sign. So we at that point thought that we were about 2 miles shy of the summit. But after riding a bit further we were pretty amazed to discover that we were at the pass, with that big sign signifying such. And suddenly that was it. Mission accomplished. Brad took several pics of me at the sign and then the inevitable. And let me tell you, for all the good times I had visiting Brad over the last 4 days, it was a drag to say goodbye. I had a great time and having him ride with me all the way to Cameron Pass, that was a giant kick in the ass. It’s times like these that you really remember in a trip of this magnitude. Shook hands and he headed down the mt to the east and I headed down the mt to the west.
My descent was fast and furious for about 3 miles. Within that I stopped a couple of times to take some awesome pics of the North boundary of RMNP – these amazing craigs that I used to hike and backpack over 25 years ago. They were just beautiful. Then I got to descending down to the town of Walden. Now I dropped altitude pretty quick for about 1000 feet, and then the pitch leveled off a great deal, in much the same inclination as I’d experienced yesterday. And then I was riding on a very gradual false descent, where I could maintain 15-17 mph in this massive expanse of high country mountain meadows. It was so vast you could just see for 10’s of miles on both sides, and running through it was the Michigan River. Way off to the west wa in front of me was another mt range, and behind me was the one I’d just spent a day and a half riding across.
I’d finally took my vest off once I got down on that expanse of mt meadow, with the temp heating up to the mid 70’s. Now I had some rollers to ride across, but generally it was downhill, and I was able to stay in the big ring most of the time. About 1 hour outside of Walden a group of motorcycle riders passed me, and then down the road I saw one of the last riders pull over and get into his back bag. Just though he was going to put his jacket away or something. But as I got closer I saw that he had something in his hand, like he was doing a hand-off to me. And be darned if he didn’t have a cold bottle of Gatorade in his hand. So I did this U-turn and went back. Turns out Dave is also a bike rider and has done some touring and just wanted to shoot the ---- with me for a bit. And I was key to oblige. Great guy and really friendly. I downed the drink while kind of telling him my story. Filled him in on my Am. Dirt thing and how I’d still like to make that gig happen. He was really hoping to one day to a trans AM trip himself, so he was very inquisitive of my routes and my mapping strategy.
Dave gave me the lowdown on a good restaurant in Walden – Moose Creek Café - and then headed back down the road to join his friends. I made Walden about an hour later and saw Dave at a gas station. So got into my efficiency and then showered and washed kit. Next up cell and wifi service – could I rejoin the world? And the answer was a resounding yes. Great cell and my aircard worked amazingly fast . Seeing that I have a boatload of work to send out today, that was VERY reassuring. Then ambled over to the Moose Creek for lunch – burrito and some homemade chips and salsa. The lunch was a definite homerun! Thanks Dave. Matter of fact Dave was inside the restaurant while I was outside eating on the deck – what with these beautiful 70-degree temps outside at an altitude of 8099 ft – and he stopped by again on his way out.
Right now I’m enjoying a Wooly booger Nut Brown Ale, a microbrew from CO’s Grand Lake Brewing Co. Yum for sure. That’s about it for today. Riding 56 miles tomorrow to Steamboat Springs and going over one pass – Rabbit Ears at 9K feet. Until tomorrow…….Pete