Ya just never know what you’re gonna get on the Great Divide. The places, the people, the route, road surface and weather are most always unpredictable.
We woke up in our tent at Storm King Campground and it was so, so cold. However the tent seemed dry so we quickly packed up, including retrieving our food bag on top of the privy.
It was a beautiful ride into La Garita. Bummer the cafe wasn’t open though. We could have used some hot coffee.
Prior to hitting Del Norte there was a double track segment that was fast and flowy. Tom had the GoPro on and mighta had a little crash – take a look at the video. He’s all good although we had to mute the vid.🤣
Once in Del Norte we decided since it was Sunday Funday we’d stop at Three Barrel Brewery and take a mid day break with a couple local IPAs, salad and pizza. We could have eaten twice the amount.
Sometimes those midday bevvies and pizza work out and sometimes it’s a little rough. We decided to go another 10 miles or so to shelter at Cow Camp. That would also give us a 10 mile head start on Indiana Pass the following day.
Cow Camp was so out of the ordinary from any place we’d seen. The owner’s great grandfather homesteaded the property years ago. We had a lot of questions but there was a party going on so we went on our way to the shelter, but not before Tom picked up a golf club and whacked the golf ball almost into New Mexico. Apparently the owner built a 7 hole golf course and he wanted Tom to take a swing. So he did!
We slept so soundly… ready for Indiana Pass tomorrow – the highest pass on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and it’s my birthday.
For a “no news” blog day, it ended up a bit newsy for us. There was considerable forest fire smoke so the views and the ride were a bit off.
Early in the morning I was riding along, uphill, listening to Garth Brooks singing Rodeo (and singing aloud), when I got bucked off my bike. Actually I downshifted to climb and the chain popped off. No chain. No power. Going uphill forward motion stops. Couldn’t get my foot out of the clip so down I went. Onto the gravel road. Not on the derailleur side though so all good there. But ouch! Nothing hurt but my pride. 😂
Right before Cochetopa Pass we met Apple who has been a trail Angel for 18 years. He posts up with shade, food and water and waits for hikers on the Continental Divide Trail, and riders on the Great Divide and Colorado Trails. Again, the man is a patron saint of bikepackers. He lives in Cincinnati but comes out to stay in Gunnison for two weeks every year to support riders and hikers.
We finished Cochetopa Pass at 10,067 feet and arrived to Luders Campground but it was too early to quit cycling. The plan was to press on to another campground at the base of the next pass which was was Carnero Pass at 10,166 feet and tackle it first thing the next morning.
Just before entering Rio Grande National Forest and about five miles from our planned campsite two ladies in a car stopped us and informed us there was a bear ahead. Just one they said, but it looked hungry and it didn’t appear to be scared of people. She showed me the pic they took while sitting in their car. Yep, it looked skinny. And I didn’t want to meet Mr. Friendly Skinny Bear so up we peddled.
We’d seen a grizzly bear our third day out near Swan Lake Wildlife Refuge. That bear, however was not skinny and very big. He was as afraid of us as we were him. No we didn’t get a pic… we pedaled on putting distance between us.
Once again we continued riding as we wanted to put as much distance between the bear and us. We peddled up and over Canero Pass and cruised into Storm King campground. We like to call it our twilight ride.
The campsite was sweet! We were pretty tired and had to dry the tent and fly out from the night before because it was dew wet. Simple dinner, stow food, set up tent, tuck in the Cuttys and we said good night.
We left Salida with full bellies, quenched thirsts and hearts that were overflowing as we were so well taken of care by our friends. Christie even brought her Indiana home grown Brandywine tomatoes. Yum!
Ahead of us was our longest climb ever – 20 miles up to Marshall Pass – and it was magnificent! That was easier than the first five miles on the highway, uphill and in a fierce headwind. Ouch!
Marshall Pass Road is also used by motorcycles riders and ATVs so we didn’t have the road all to ourselves as many times we do, but we kept a steady pace and before we knew it we were at the top of the Pass celebrating with a snack – one of Christie’s delicious bars made with spent grains, oatmeal etc.
Once again rain clouds rolled in as we bombed down the Pass. They didn’t catch us this time though.
Once in Sergeant, our destination for the night was Tomichi Creek Trading Post and we were hoping they had a camp site and maybe a hot meal.
We hit the mother lode. Campsite by a creek with a view of the mountains (and a picnic table), a bathroom/shower (exceptionally clean), a store, cafe, a saloon, wifi, electricity. I mean it doesn’t get any better than this and it was right on route.
If y’all are sending positive vibes our way or praying for us, it’s working. Doesn’t mean obstacles won’t occur, but we are finding the wisdom, courage and perseverance to handle them. So thanks for that my friends.
As far as near future, we have a mountain pass a day on the route for the next three days with the biggest pass to climb on Monday, Indiana Pass (go figure). 😂
We are averaging 52 miles a day, have about 900 miles to go and have pedaled up over 102,000 feet of elevation. Love this route, love the people, looking forward to what the next few weeks bring.
This is going to be a quickly post ‘cause we have friend bidness to tend to but what a stellar day! Descending into Salida in anticipation of meeting our friends, Dan and Christie, was unforgettable.
The rain moved out of the area last night leaving clear blue skies, green grass, white clouds and cows with horns (yes big horns) which all made for a peaceful, memorable ride.
Everyone said the ride into Salida was a treat and we were looking forward to it. Not only for the scenic descent but also we knew our buds were on their way up to meet us.
Tom was filming an overlook having no idea Christie was riding around the corner. That girl rode eleven miles ⬆️ to meet us. All the way up. Impressive! And we were so surprised to see her at the top.
Dan rode over halfway up and then selected the perfect place to take pics and vids of us coming down. Not only that, he had a celebratory ice cold beer selected for us. These two… they could not have made it more special.
Down into Salida we rode with Dan leading the way to a comfty condo with a 360 rooftop view of the town and mountains.
We all know timing is everything. Weather, stock market, wedding proposals. Whatevs. Timing is huge. And so is luck.
In our case this morning it was… when should we break camp and dash to Hartsel from Como. The rain forecast told us we needed to be strategic. There was a window. We’d already decided to layup in Hartsel to ride into Salida on Wednesday. So it would be an easy day for us. Just 30 miles to Hartsel.
After quickly packing up we rode a quick 30 to Hartsel (with some rain and mud but no big deal). Once there we pretty much hung out in the small town supporting the local economy with purchases of beer and food while we watched our cycling buds roll in one after the other.
We also met this cute family riding the Transamerica Trail. What a beautiful family with such an immense spirit and love for each other and God. Ya just knew it!
We’re camping in the back yard of the saloon. It’s been raining off and on all day but we found a window to set up the tent and just in the nick of time.
Well there is one thing I need to make perfectly clear. Boreas Pass is only 11,482, not 14,000+ feet as noted yesterday in the blog. Sometimes I fall asleep with my phone in my hand and I wake up in the middle of the night and continue blogging. That’s what ya get, typos. Hate ‘em!
But I do love a stellar bike trail, climbing higher on a bike than ever before and listening to rain falling gently on the tent. And all three happened today.
We kicked off the day riding on an exceptionally scenic bike trail that connected the towns of Silverthorne, Frisco and Breckenridge. It also skirted around Dillon Reservoir. It was well marked, well traveled and for us heading to Boreas Pass, all uphill from Frisco to Breckenridge. Seriously though, could we have more bike trails in Indy? So many people were out using them.
After a quick snack break in Breck we began our 10 mile ride up Boreas Pass. I was definitely anxious about this one and for good reasons. Rain was expected later and I wanted to avoid a repeat of the chilling ride down Lynx and Gore Passes two days before. Also we’d never ridden above 10,000 feet before and it was our fourth mountain pass in three days.
But up and up we peddled, Tom leading and waiting for me to catch up every so often. Like pennies from heaven, before we knew it we were at the top! And Tom must be making it look too easy. Twice today (once in Silverthorne and once at the Pass) someone asked him if he was riding an e-bike. 😂
No time to celebrate our good fortune, however. Yep… the rain began. Again. It was a windy, wet, sloppy descent down Boreas albeit a shorter one than Saturday’s ride in the rain.
The route took us to Como, a tiny town with the only shelter options for cyclists at the Community Center – outside. No water or food options were available but… there is a pit toilet, plug outside the old building for charging devices and cell service! Pennies from heaven!
Gary and Kurt who are section riding the divide also landed in Como. They considered continuing on 30 miles into Hartzel but then opted to stay. We chatted it up for a while exchanging stories before we hit the sack – at about 6pm because of the rain.
Just an easy ride into Hartzel tomorrow where rumor has it a pizza place offers free camping in his yard and pizza to hungry cyclists. 🍕
Today’s “main event” was getting up and over Ute Pass. It sure was easier than yesterday’s ride: paved, no rain, and just one pass. Maybe we are getting stronger?
Tom saved his Oatmeal Cream Pie as a treat for reaching the top of the Pass. I need little perks along the way so ate the rest of my Goetz candies on the way up.
We did a celebration dance at the top. We’re over half way completing the ride, we’ve cycled in a new state and Ute Pass is ✅
The view at the top of Ute was stunning with a line of high, jagged mountains as far as we could see. They look like clouds in the photos.
We have a couple short days before meeting our pals in Salida so we delayed our start this morning and took all the bags off our bikes and cleaned them up. They were wicked nasty from yesterday’s ride. We kicked around town, purchased a few provisions and devoured sausage breakfast burritos. #delish
We also had the first opportunity to hit Mass up while en route to New Mexico as their was a small Catholic Church right across the street from the Budget 8. So much to be grateful for and so great to be back at Mass!
We planned on camping at Blue River Campground about 10 miles north of Silverthorne but as luck would have it, a gentleman stopped us on the side of the rode and offered us a place to stay for the night. His son and daughter raced the TransAmerican trail a couple years back and he knows Great Divide riders can always use a favor. Thanks for the night’s stay and the Mexican food, Paul!
Tomorrow’s menu includes Boreas Pass (the second highest on the ride at almost 11,500 feet) with of course… a side of rain.
After we had breakfast and Tom made himself a sausage sammie to go from the breakfast bar we headed out of Steamboat. The route immediately took us to bicycle Nirvana. Gorgeous bike routes! The first half hour we must have seen close to 40 cyclists. The local bike club even arranges porta potties so cyclists can take bio breaks.
Soon we were off pavement and on a sweet dirt road that followed a stream populated with Saturday morning fly fishermen.
An easy path that led to single track took us around Stagecoach Reservoir, the dam and a picturesque mountain home community around the water.
Then the climbing began. Again. Nothing new here. All good. It was a subtle but longish grade. On the way up the first assent I told Tom we should give ourselves credit since it’s pretty hard to train for all this elevation living in flat Indianapolis. Tom answered, “True but why are you talking while we’re punching pedals up the hill?” 😂
Less than a week before, Lynx Pass was closed because of forest fires. Grateful the fires had been extinguished we continued up the pass and saw so much community support for the fire fighters. Very cool!
After 30 miles we stopped for a quick roadside snack and noticed the clouds moving in. We were still about six miles from the top of Lynx Pass.
Shortly after, not only did we begin seeing evidence of the burn, both vegetation and some structures, the cold rain began. And. It. Did. Not. End.
Up, up and up we went. There was no shelter and the steady rain kept coming. We put on rain jackets shortly after it began and the constant grind of climbing kept our body temps warm but we wondered when the rain would quit following us.
Another concern was our cranks. We both have Salsa Cutthroats and they have been performing well but both of us were beginning to feel and hear grinding as we pedaled hard up the pass. The muck and sand seemed like it was seeping in with all the rain. Hummm what to do if it doesn’t go away. The grinding sounded destructive.
After hitting the top of Lynx Pass we found shelter under the eave of a pit toilet building and put on a warmth layer and rain gloves. We wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible since we could see more nasty clouds moving in.
The route said that the Watershed Divide would be impassable if wet so we had to detour to the pavement. That meant another pass… in the rain.
By the time we reached the top of Gore Pass, it was raining even harder and the wind had picked up. Without shelter, we knew we had to keep moving or get colder so we had a quick snack at the top to ensure we didn’t bonk. I had my sites set on the bar-b-q Vienna sausages I’d been carrying around in my fork bag since Rawlins but we opted for the quicker choice of Cliff bars. And I popped a couple of the Goetz’s chewies in my mouth. Then we began our descent.
That’s when Tom noticed his brakes weren’t working properly. Seriously? He was Fred Flinstoning it dragging his left foot on pavement trying to stop his bike while descending Gore Pass in pouring down rain and relentless wind. We quickly pulled off the road and he adjusted his brakes. Not sure how he did it with such cold fingers but in less than 10 minutes we were back on bikes coasting down ginormous descents. In the rain, only this time we weren’t peddling, just coasting wicked fast and we were so cold!
We were off route, had no cell service but we had our Adventure Cycling map and found our work around to Highway 40 which was another adventure in itself. Apparently rock slides on I-70 shut it down so traffic was routed through Kremmling, our destination for the day, via Route 40.
We just rode our gravel bikes off the side of the road when we saw traffic approaching from the rear. Those little helmet mirrors are life savers.
We rode a couple more miles than expected, and opted for a budget hotel room for the evening to dry out but at least now we know why Colorado is so green. It rains!
Tomorrow it’s Ute Pass. And there’s no rain in the forecast. Plus Tom still has his sausage sammie to look forward to!
There’s nothing like a bikepacking trip to help one recalibrate. I mean the juxtaposition of simple meals and bountiful meals, clean clothes and wicked dirty clothes, brown, barren landscapes and green, wooded landscapes, sandy sleeping bags and clean sheets, dust and sunscreen laden skin and a fresh shower. It just makes you appreciate the little things so much and take nothing for granted.
We said goodbye to Kirsten at Brush Mountain Lodge and started our day with a solid uphill and then a lovely ride through high meadows with stunning views of Colorado peaks.
Our climb up the Watershed Divide was manageable until the steep and rocky hike-a-bike at the top. The other side however was ratchet downhill with rocks and washout that made it hard to let loose and bomb down the other side, unless you were Tylor who raced pass me on the descent. He was a man on a mission.😂
About six miles from the top, the route finally opened up and we had sweetest downhill all the way into Clark where we stopped for a snack and met up once again with Tylor and Alex.
Steamboat is apparently a fave destination right now and shelter for bikepackers, whether it be camping, hotel or someone’s backyard was difficult to find. We could see a storm was coming and with our daughter’s help, we scooped up a hotel room for the night. Not mad about it. Another night of clean sheets and tasty food. Thanks, Anne! Not getting too used to this fine living though. It’s back to the tent the next few nights.😊
Another downhill, a favorable tail wind and speedy riding took us all the way into Steamboat before the storm. We ended the night with a dip in the hot tub and ice cream.
Tomorrow we shoot for Lynx Pass. Fingers crossed. 🤞🏻
And just like that… the topography changed as we entered Colorado. There was only a sign that let us know we were LEAVING Wyoming. The green trees around us and distant daunting mountains let us know we were in Colorado. It’s a new state for us to cycle in!
After shaking our bags, sleep pads, clothes and tent out from the dust storm the night before we were on our way to Brush Mountain Lodge which is an iconic stop on The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
We watered down at the remote Sandstone Work Center Cabin where we met Elwin and Roxie who are hosts. Roxie goes through 125 pounds of sugar in four months feeding the hummingbirds. Elwin built his own seven hole golf course. These two are livin’ their dream.
After a lunch stop off the side of the road we set our sites on BML. More climbing, more scenic views, and a lot of Jolly Rancher chewies for me.
We turned the corner on a climb and there it was! The Lodge! Kirsten welcomed us with hugs, a shaded porch and a pizza cooked in her wood fired oven (one large pizza for each of us). And yes we ate it all.
BML is a magical place that welcomes hikers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and hunters in the winter – really anyone! Cool thing is… if you arrive under your own power (bike or hike) Kirsten offers a 50% discount on rooms. Pretty awesome. Thanks Kirsten. She also did a load of laundry for us. I’d say she’s another patron Saint of Bikepackers.
Northbounders refer to Colorado as the “high peaks” state – lots of mountain passes. We are feeling stronger and so grateful.
We’re also very much looking forward to a rendezvous with our Indy buds Dan and Christie in Salida in a few days. Probs gonna take a zero day (maybe two)! Whooo hooo 🤙🏻