June 09, 2010
I ate an extra large breakfast this morning – I knew it would be a tough day. We were scheduled to climb to 11,000 ft. via Brazos Ridge, which is known for bad road conditions.
From out campsite, we gradually climbed on steep gravel roads. Mathieu stopped to filter water at the first stream we crossed – I pedaled ahead as stopping to wait would only put me further behind.
While riding, I frequently glanced over my shoulder expecting to see Mathieu ready to pass me. When I ran into Auke waiting at the Lagunitas campground, Mathieu had not passed me. Maybe I am getting stronger, I thought.
10 minutes later, Mathieu showed up. He was late because he had a flat…so it wasn’t me being stronger. We decided to meet at the top of Brazos Ridge – 5 miles ahead and 1,000 ft. up.
The scenery was spectacular! At the top, a snowdrift blocked our path. With some trailblazing, we found a way around. Over the next half mile Mathieu and I walked down a steep/rocky section of trail. Somehow Auke descended it on his bike.
We dropped about a 1,000 ft. then leveled out for a while. Mathieu stopped to filter water again, but his filter wasn’t working. While I filled his bottles, two dirt bikers rode up to us. They were familiar with the area so we asked about the trail conditions ahead. A short amount of climbing then a downhill, they said.
I definitely did not consider the climb short! It seems that people on motorized vehicles are too far disconnected from the road to answer questions of condition, distance, and grade. The roads were horribly rutted.
After a lot of up and down, I finally descended into the pleasant Apache Canyon. This was my last look at New Mexico as the Colorado border was just ahead.
Just before it, I joined Mathieu who was waiting. He said Auke rode ahead – probably to Horca. He is a cyclist and wants to ride on and on – waiting for me is the opposite. I was exhausted, though. We’ve had 6 hard days without rest. Plus, it was close to 15:30 and I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.
We rested a while then crossed into CO. We knew a few miles ahead was a paved highway we would go on. Rounding a corner, we saw an 18-wheeler perched high on a mountain. The last mile before pavement certainly was not easy!
At the top, we found Auke and two other cyclists who were pulling BOB trailers. Bryan and Cody are two Texan college students riding the Great Divide South to North. They started on the border the day after me and said they had seen and followed my tracks.
We rode fast downhill on the highway and turned off where our maps indicate a restaurant/bar. It was closed…the boarded-up windows type of closed.
The Texans stopped to cook lunch there – we decided to ride on to Horca. There is a restaurant/grocery there, but between us and it was La Manga pass.
In Horca, we found the restaurant also closed…we tried the grocery. It was open, but unfortunately was understocked. Apparently we arrived very early in the tourist season. It was almost 17:00 now and I still hadn’t had a lunch. I bought Graham Crackers and jelly to make PB&J cracker sandwiches.
As we ate, Cody and Bryan rolled in. They joined us and downed some beers. While we ate and they drank, a dirt biker – Sanjay – arrived. He was also riding the Great Divide, then continuing to Prudhoe Bay, AK. He started in Antelope Wells two days ago! We started two weeks ago!
Sanjay said mountain biking the route was the “real” way to do this trip – we said the Continental Divide Trail hikers were doing it the “real” way.
It was getting late quickly and we needed to decide what to do with the rest of the day. 23 miles separated us and Platoro. Auke wanted to push it to there tonight – as did I, but being exhausted with limited hours of light it was out of the picture.
We camped 6 miles down the road at the Spectacle Lake campground. An hour after we arrived and set up camp, Cody & Bryan rolled in. We camped together.