Andrew and I woke up on Sunday, had breakfast, and immediately got to work on our next obstacle: Elwood Pass, at over 11,600 feet. We had 1600 feet to climb over 8 miles of dirt road through more stunning mountain wilderness. We kept a solid pace and soon found ourselves making a victory lunch (only some of which was accidentally spilled) overlooking an alpine meadow. We then had over 3000 feet of glorious, bumpy decent over 19 miles to get us back to paved highway. Thankfully the road down was in great condition, with very little washboard, so we were able to keep our speed up as we raced down the mountainside.
Once we made it back to smooth pavement, we had an easy ride into the town of south fork where a pizza joint/taproom awaited us. After gorging ourselves, we decided it was still early, and we should just go for the extra 22 miles to the next town of Creede. A few hours of more great riding though canyons carved by the Rio Grande, and we were checking in to the first motel of the trip. We showered, did laundry, hosed off the bikes, ordered takeout, and watched Beetlejuice before falling into a very comfortable sleep.
We woke up in Creede, had a great breakfast across the street from our motel, did some shopping, and headed out on the road. A great day of riding along the wide valley of the Rio Grande. Got some ice cream at a resort, then began a long climb up to the Continental Divide. It also looked like we were about to encounter the first real weather of the trip – at one point it seemed like we were surrounded by dark rain clouds, but somehow managed to keep relatively clear skies above us and only had a few sprinkles.
A mile from the top and we spotted a familiar minivan – Morgan and Joey hath returned! They had done a road trip to Silverton and the million dollar highway, to raving reviews. Unfortunately, Joey was still on the DL, so he stayed in the van while Morgan rode with us to Spring Creek pass (10,898 feet) on the divide, where we made camp for the night. Certainly a chilly night up that high, but it was worth it for the views! From now on, our pee flows to the Pacific!
On Tuesday morning (brr!) we made breakfast on the pass, and then took off on the bikes for an 800 foot descent before beginning the 5 mile climb up to Slumgullion Pass – 11,530 feet. The climb wasn’t too bad, especially since the scenery was so gorgeous – aspen-covered mountains as far as the eye could see. Morgan joined us on the ascent while Joey drove the welcome wagon. We finally made it to the top, and Morgan and Joey switched off as we took off down one of the most amazing descents I’ve done -3000 feet over 10 miles, with smooth pavement and wide turns and beautiful views the whole way down. Eventually we made it into Lake City, but not before spying a moose across the canyon!
We lunched in Lake City before saying goodbye to Morgan and Joey, who needed to return to Albuquerque for Joey’s sister’s wedding. Andrew and I piddled around for a bit – visiting the bakery twice! – before heading down the road on a gentle descent before we came to a nice BLM campground on the river.
On Wednesday morning we had two decent 1000 foot climbs and then got a nice long descent back into the high desert and the gunnison river. We followed the cottonwood-lined river up to the city of Gunnison – the largest town we’d seen since Taos! We decided to get another hotel and live it up in the city, though the brewery was inexplicably closed so we made due with an outdoor pub attached to a pizza place. We also realized that we were way ahead of schedule and only had to average 25 miles per day to catch our train!
On Thursday, we decided to skip riding to Crested Butte and instead opt for the much-less trafficked Ohio pass road. What a great ride! 5 miles of bike path, 15 miles of quiet pavement, then another 10 of dirt that led us up towards the 10000 foot pass, all through another amazing valley! We found a nice campsite on a ridge about 500 feet below the pass and turned in early.