Sep 6 Rest day in Rawlins. Groceries, library, laundry and a good lunch at Sandborn's diner.
Sep 7 47.8 miles to dispersed site in Medicine Bow NF
Left early hoping to do 54 miles, but just pooped out. Too many ups and downs all day. The CD crossing this morning wasn't really too bad--Middlewood Hill (7965 ft elevation). Our 12th CD crossing. Had a short, cold rain early this morning, but rest of the day was sunny. We were passed by 7 empty cattle trucks, then an hour later, they came back, full of beef destined for the slaughterhouse. We started out in sagebrush, like we've been riding in for several weeks. Then, when we hit the National Forest, we suddenly entered forests that could have been in Michigan-hardwoods, pines, green understory. It was like a welcome home for us northerners.
Sep 8 22.5 miles to Slater, CO (cabin)
I guess our luck had to change sometime. We've have just beautiful weather for 6 weeks (one rain day and some heat, but who's to complain). Well, it started out cloudy this morning. Opened up and poured just as we left camp and rained most of the day. I don't think it got above 60 degrees. We had rain gear and warmed up when we were riding, but the dogs were soaked and cold. They ran most of the day, just to stay warm. I wish we had a raincoat for them. We rode through some nice areas--a 1 mile stretch of Aspen covering the roadway called Aspen Alley. Would have been beautiful except for the rain. Then a nice 10 mile downhill on pavement. Again, it was too cold to appreciate it. At 22 miles, we had to decide whether to continue on the route-30 miles away was the nearest city, or try to go off route and find a room to stay in. Just as we were standing there in the rain, the generosity of strangers came to our rescue. Bryan, who works for a large hunting and fishing resort in the area, offered to drive me to Savory, 8 miles away, to see if anything was available. There was nothing, so he drove me back to Slater, 3 miles away, where a campground said they had cabins. I reserved one and we went back to pick up Jon and the dogs, who had been standing there all this time in the cold rain. Another stranger generously offered to let Jon sit in his truck until I came back. So the two strangers loaded up our gear and drove us to our cabin, which had good heat and hot showers. Nothing more to ask for. Thanks to these kind people.
Sep 9 31.7 miles to Columbine, CO (the city, not the school)
It was another long and hard day, for the short mileage. It was cloudy and overcast when we got up, but only a few drizzles and the sun actually poked out in the afternoon. We had to go back over that pass that we didn't do yesterday. At first, we more or less paralleled the Wyoming, Colorado border. The border is straight and the road was curvy, so we went back and forth between states all morning. Peter, another employee from the same ranch Bryan worked for stopped us early on and warned us that the road may be impassible, even to vehicles because of the rain. It was all uphill, on gravel. For the first 16 miles, the road was not too bad. Then, there was a sign that said "road may be impassible when wet". Great. But the rain had stopped and with a little sun and some wind, we persevered. It got quite steep at the end and we had decided to try to get one of the cabins that were supposed to be available in Columbine. When we got there, they were all full and it 6:30 at night (it gets dark about 7:30 here). Columbine is not even really a city. There is the cabin rental business and there is Janice. Janice, I'm sure, was sent to us from God.
She runs a little roadside store that sells snacks, souvenirs, fishing supplies, etc. She is 75 years old, lives alone in the old one room school house next to the house she lived in during her childhood. Her parents built the cabins back in the depression for loggers and miners and ran a little general store to supply their needs. They moved away when she was a teen, but kept the school house and some property. She moved back, in the summers, about 20 years ago. Has electricity and phone, but no indoor plumbing, except a kitchen sink. She rents an outhouse for her store and uses that, and drives down to the state park, 4 miles away, for showers. She saw us standing on the side of the road in a dilemma, asked us if we were Great Divide riders, and, she said, God told her to invite us to stay in her little guest house. She loves dogs-has an old Golden Retriever-so they were welcome. Her guest house was originally an old sheep herder’s cabin that was moved there in the 30's and fixed up. Just big enough for a bed and a few other pieces of furniture. But you can tell it was furnished with love. No bathroom or water, she gave us a basin of warm water and we cleaned up the old fashioned way. She made us the most wonderful dinner-nothing fancy, tuna casserole, fresh tomatoes, corn on the cob, cottage cheese, and warm bread- but served with love. She told us to eat it all, which we did. She also greeted us with a hot cup of coffee in the morning and made us a heaping bowl of hot cereal (which we had to eat all of, of course). She said she did it all in God's name. We were late to bed and late leaving that morning because of talking to her. It was definitely the best night on the whole trip so far. We exchanged addressed and will definitely keep in touch with her.
Sep 10 46.6 miles to dispersed campsite on the Yampa River
They said it was all downhill from Columbine to Steamboat Springs. There’s no such thing as all downhill. But it was a pleasant ride, and we did the 30 miles by 2:00. Steamboat Springs is another fancy resort town like Jackson Hole. Lots of art galleries and outdoor adventure outfitters. The guide book says Steamboat Springs is about halfway on the trail. We're getting there! Had a bike shop re-seat Jon's wheel that was wobbly and replace my brake pads while we picked up sandwiches for lunch. Just as we were getting ready to leave, it started down pouring again (it was beautiful all morning). It seemed to be clearing in the distance, so we left for another 15 miles to a small strip (.6 miles) of BLM land where we could camp. One side of the road was river and the other was a hill, but we did find a small turnoff that we could tuck our tent out of the way. There were warning signs that there was mountain lion activity in the area. So it's back to wearing bells. Another fast and hard storm came by just as we got the tent up, so we all crawled in and waited it out and ate Oreos. By the time it was over, we weren't hungry and didn't feel like cooking, so we skipped dinner.
Sep 11 27.3 miles to dispersed site along Big Rock Creek.
HAPPY 3rd BIRTHDAY AFTON (yes, she was born on 9/11. Maybe that's why she is such a stinker)
It was clear and warm again today. Hopefully the storm front is past. Someone said there was hurricane in the Pacific that was pushing this front on us. We wound our way along the Yampa river, to the Stagecoach Reservoir, where we walked our bikes along the top of the dam, picked up a singletrack trail around the lake, then hit a gravel road up Lynx Pass, elevation 8737 Ft (not a cd pass). Long gradual uphill.
There are lots of hunters in the area-elk muzzleloader and archery season are open, as well as bird. They are camped all over the place, so it is hard to find a decent campsite. Have heard a few shots, which can startle us, and the dogs, if you're not expecting it. We camped on the river near the road. Another camper was further upstream from us. The area we were in was open, with just a few bushes. Later in the evening, a hunter walked up to his camper and warned us that he had seen a little black bear up in the mountain right above us. At that point, we didn't have much of a choice. We could hike up to the mountain, where the bear was, and hang our food, or we could just stay and defend ourselves. We chose the latter. We took our bear spray to bed with us and hoped the dogs would warn us. Didn't hear anything except some coyotes, which we hear quite frequently and I rather like. They don't come and steal our food.
Colorado is full of trembling Aspen. It should be their state tree, if it isn't. It seems when we entered the state a few days ago, they were all still green. Not we seem to be able to see them change every day. They are various shades of golds and yellows and are starting to fall and line the roads. When you ride by, you can hear them "quaking" in the breeze. Fall is coming quickly and it's time to head south.
Sep 12 21 miles to Kremmling, CO. Camping behind the old volunteer fire station
Had jumped off the trail to hit some pavement. Climbed over Gore Pass (elev 9527'-not a CD pass). Then a nice downhill most of the way to Kremmling. They allow camping by bikers behind the old fire station in the middle of town.
Let me digress for a moment and talk about the ups and downs here in Colorado. We aren't exactly riding along the top of the mountain range. For example, Columbine was at the top of a hill at 8700 feet. Steamboat Springs the next day was at 6700 feet. The following day, Lynx Pass took us to 8937 feet. Today we climbed to 9527 feet and now are back down to 7300 feet. In a few days, we'll be over 11,000 feet. Will keep you informed as to our "ups and downs".