Cycling the Great Divide, Day Twenty-Four : Platoro, Colorado to Del Norte, Colorado
June 24th, 2016: 49 miles. Total so far: 790 miles.
As soon as we rode away from our cabin we immediately began climbing to Stunner Pass. The condition of the road deteriorated noticeably, and there was virtually no traffic. Unlike the section from Horca to Platoro that we rode yesterday, there’s no obvious reason for cars and trucks to travel on this gravel and dirt mountain road.
Early on we met a racer (English, or possibly Australian), who described his morning climb (which would soon be our descent) as “cheeky.” I decided I would start describing challenging riding conditions as “cheeky.”
We reached Stunner Pass quickly; it was one of the easiest climbs we’ve done so far. Then it was a rocky descent to a campground, and, after a breakfast of snacks, the start of the REAL climb of the day: A long ascent to Indiana Pass, which, at 11,910 feet, is the highest point on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
We spent almost all day on this climb, and met lots of people (almost all going the other direction.) We met the first of several racers, who stopped and greeted me by saying, “Man, there’s not enough stuff on your bike!” He was in either 8th or 9th place in the race. After another racer briefly talked to us, we stopped and talked to an older man who was hiking the Continental Divide Trail. He was entertaining, but loquacious, and I couldn’t find a graceful way to end the conversation. Finally, Joy just said it was time for us to move on.
We reached a beautiful, curvy, mostly flat section. There was snow on the ground, and it was nice and cool at this high elevation. I was ahead of Joy when a Northbound racer came up behind and shouted to her “You’re killing it!!” His name was Quinn, and we talked to him for a while. He seemed to be having a good time.
While we were stopped at a snowbank, a guy driving the most inappropriate vehicle imaginable for this road, a Mitsubishi convertible, slowed down and shouted “Eat the snow!” A few miles later we caught up with him, and talked for a while. He told us he had rented out his house, and was now traveling the country, living out of his convertible. The backseat of the car was filled with his possessions. He seemed happy.
We met a Southbound racer who greeted us with “It’s like a traffic jam up here today!”, and then, possibly hallucinating due to lack of sleep, told me “I just can’t stop staring at your bike!”
An hour or so later we reached “Summitville”, the site of an old mining operation, and now an EPA Superfund cleanup site. I would have liked to poke around there, but signs warned us not to trespass. We already knew not to drink the water because or the contamination.
After some climbing, including one last, very steep section, we reached the top, at nearly 12,000 feet, at nearly the same time as two older men riding the other direction, which was a happy coincidence, since we had someone to take our picture at the highest point of the entire trip.
As we started down, the temperature fell, it began sprinkling, and then as it turned to heavier rain we stopped and put our rain gear on. We had a long, long descent to the town of Del Norte — more than 20 miles. We decided to keep going even as the rain turned to hail. The dirt road became increasingly muddy, and soon mud covered us and our bikes. I quickly learned to keep my mouth closed, after a piece of mud, thrown up by my tire, flew into it. Blecch.
The last miles were on a lightly traveled paved road, and by the time we reached Del Norte the rain had stopped. I’m sure I’ve never been as filthy in my life when we reached the hostel on the edge of town, and we spent an hour cleaning the bikes and panniers before checking into the place.
Despite eating only snacks today, I decided not to go to dinner with Joy at a nearby brewpub, and instead lay on my bed in the hostel. Despite the mostly great riding today, and the interesting people we talked to, and the great scenery we saw, I did not want to ride my bicycle tomorrow.