Ride Report: Day 11

Day 11 / Monday, September 7, 2009

Seeing frost on our bike seats in the morning, we saw it was a good decision to sleep indoors last night. Winding up the back of Breckenridge, the route heads up to Boreas Pass at 11,500 ft. After serving as a route for the early gold rush in the 1860s, a narrow gauge train track was laid up and over the pass in the 1880s by Sidney Dillon from Union Pacific Railroad. He named the pass after the Ancient Greek god of the North Wind. After World War II, the Army Corp of Engineers remade the route for vehicular traffic and is popular today as an easy gravel pass road. At the end of the pavement, we saw locals getting ready to cycle, run and walk the pass.

Mike was having a good time and really enjoying being in the groove. He did a bit of work on his XR and was glad to see her performing nicely. Being close to Denver, he vowed to come back and find more roads like this.

While the ladies spent a cold night outside (frost on the seats), we bunked in a hostel in Breckenridge.

The Fireside Inn at Breckridge, where I took my first shower in 6 days since Lincoln, MT :)

Going through a rock pass right outside Breckenridge.

Fall colors beginning.

Looking west into the Breckenridge valley.

A beautiful morning ride up to Boreas Pass.

At Boreas Pass

At Boreas Pass

Mike, waiting up for me and taking in the awesome view. Note the pockets of color in the trees below.

Looking south past Como towards the high altitude plains we would be riding through.

Fall was starting to set in at these high altitudes and patches of colored trees were spotted. On the south side of the pass, the route crosses the historic mining town of Como, named by Italians who came to work the gold fields in the 19th century. From here, we would be riding through the geographic area called South Park, which is a high altitude intermontane grassland basin, with the route staying above 9,000 ft most of the way. It was formed as a wide faulted syncline, where the layers underneath have a downward-curving fold towards the center of the basin, between the Front Range and the Mosquito Range. As mentioned earlier, the layers under the Great Divide Basin go the other way, with an upward-curving fold forming an anticline. It all looks the same for us surface-dwelling creatures, but there is so much more going on under our feet and tires. The creator of the Comedy Central animated series of the same name grew up close to here and took inspiration from towns in the area to create his famous show.

The route flowed gently along the high altitude meadows and was a very peaceful ride. Besides your ever-present friendly bovines, there wasn't another soul for miles. After crossing a little stream and getting some water kicks, the route went through the quaint town of Harstel, labeled as the geometric center of Colorado. At the southern end of South Park, the route climbs up into the San Isabel National Forest, heading to Salida. Riding among closely spaced trees was welcomed after the grassland riding.

South of Como on Elkhorn Rd riding through South Park, a high altitude grassland. In remote places, you can always rely on bovine companionship.

Washboard road at times, but generally a nice high altitude ride. Road was above 9,000 ft heading to Harstel.

Big blue skies and clouds, hardly a boring view.

The road gently rolled around the high meadows.

Very peaceful riding.

Crossing a little stream

South of Hartsel, heading through the San Isabel National Forest towards Salida.

The change in scenery with close-by trees was welcome after all the open range riding.

Looking across the valley with Salida and Poncha Springs towards Marshall Pass.

Heading down into Salida.

South of Poncha Springs, the route heads up to Mt Ouray and Marshall Pass at 10,842 ft, which was part of the Denver & Rio Grande Transcontinental Route railroad that went from Denver to Salt Late City in the late 19th century. There were known for their high mountain railroad passes with their motto being, "Through The Rockies, Not Around Them." When the rails were lifted, they left behind nice mountain roads for us to enjoy these days. The road was easy riding with beautiful scenery. At the junction of Marshall Pass Road and US-50 is the notable Tomichi Creek Trading Post and Sargents, a good place to get an ice cream.

Heading up to Marshall Pass on Chaffee County Road 200.

Looking down on O'Haver Lake, a nice place to camp.

The road was well maintained and an easy ride.

Lots of dense forest riding.

Marshall Pass, 10,842 ft. This road was part of Denver & Rio Grande's narrow gauge train route in the late 19th century, heading west to Salt Lake City.

Looking south from Marshall Pass.

Heading down the west side of the pass towards Sargents.

Closely placed aspens make for some great riding.

Tomichi Creek Trading Post at Sargents, at the junction of Marshall Pass Road and US 50.

Regarding the quality of the GPS route, we were thankful that the actual tracks were included as sometimes the routing doesn't correctly follow the road, probably due to map inaccuracies. Mike continued following the tracks into Gunnison instead of turning off on the route at Doyleville. I guess when Mark Sampson plotted this route he detoured to Gunnison to get gas or something else. Having split up from Mike, I waited and then went to get him, as he turned around in Gunnison. Having only lost half an hour, we continued south towards Cochetopa Pass.

Once again, we saw a dark wall of clouds up ahead with heavy lightning and Mike reassured me that we wouldn't get wet. But I still stopped and donned all my rain gear, just in case and what do you know, we didn't get wet. Those virgas are quite amazing.

Heading south from Doyleville towards Cochetopa Pass. Looks like a nice sunny afternoon...

And then we see these dark wall of clouds with heavy lightning up ahead.

Again, we didn't get wet. Mike informed me of this Colorado weather phenomena known as Virga, where the precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground due to higher air pressures near the ground. I still stopped and put on all my rain gear... just in case.

I picked up the pace a bit heading up to pass, trying to beat the possible rain and was enjoying the ride. Mike caught up with me and after noting that there weren't any big towns up ahead, we decided to spend the night in the forest as we saw the rain wasn't going to come to us. It had been 215 miles from Breckenridge. We found a nice spot in a small canyon at 8,920 ft and after setting up the tents, we gathered firewood from under an old pine tree that looked like it hadn't been disturbed in a long time, with its discarded branches falling on top of older ones over time, making impressions in the soft ground. We also gathered lots of pine cones as they light up very fast as tinder.

The fast moving wind died down as the sun set and the fire came alive. We sat on the panniers and enjoyed a beautifully quiet evening, slowly waiting for dinner to be cooked on my wood stove. It works, but getting it going takes time and is involving, but it provided entertainment. As the evening wore on, we could see the shadow of the ridge behind us slowly creeping up as the full moon rose behind it. For some reason, I hadn't witnessed too many moon rises in the past and was soaking it in. It's amazing how much sun light was reflecting off the moon, lighting up our whole campsite.

Riding the historic Saguache - San Juan Toll Road commissioned by Otto Mears and other wealthy businessman in the late 19th century hoping to exploit silver mining possibilities in these mountains. The railroad route mentioned above robbed these roads of traffic.

Cochetopa Pass on the divide at 10,032 ft. It's a Ute Indian word meaning "pass of the buffalo." In the mid 19th century, expeditions were sent to find a route through here for the intercontinental railroad. After skirmishes with harsh winters and protective Native Americans, it was decided to go through Wyoming and the Great Divide Basin.

Setting up camp for the night, just east of Cochetopa Pass.

Getting a fire going before the sun completely set.

Nothing better than sitting around a fire after a nice day of riding through the forests and high mountains.

Fire with fallen branches from a pine tree that looked like it hadn't been disturbed in ages.

Watching the moon rise over the ridge.

Next: Day 12, Into New Mexico

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