Friday, August 15, 2008

(Day 14) Elevation and emotions synchronize…

Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Day 14
Salida, CO to N38 20.108 W106 46.334

Up until this point, I was in a good rhythm, staying on top of things, keeping all of my gear organized and staying on schedule. Not so much today…

The alarm on my watch went off at 7am and I came to with a stiff neck and swollen head. Normally I would leave myself with only 2 or 3 things to do in the morning before I hit the road. Today, I had about 15-20 things to do as I had gear lying everywhere, stinky clothes and unfamiliar surroundings.

Luckily, I had the whole room to myself (remember, I’m in a hostel w/ bunk beds, everyone sleeps in the same room). Maybe this is because I was overloading someone’s sense of sound and/or smell last night? Entirely possible, but I wouldn’t have known… Also remember that I have minimal clothes and toiletries to work with and to get to the bathroom you have to walk thru the living room and kitchen. I did this with minimal clothes because I was still in a mental state to where I just didn’t care about too much.

Luckily for everyone else, I was the first one up, got a long shower in and felt slightly better. The gas station I patronized yesterday had 32oz Gatorades for .99 cents. I had a little less than 2 bottles remaining and drank it all right there on the spot. Gatorade was just what the doctor ordered as I immediately start to feel better and get motivated for the big day that lay ahead.

For the record, I managed to get all my crap together and loaded on the bike by 8am. Back to the gas station for the typical gas, granola and water, but also some more of that special potion they call Gatorade Lemon-Lime. Back on the trail and feeling about 90%:

A steady flow of water from the camelback, cool temperatures and scenery like this:

…really made my slow start a distant memory.

The scenes were getting better and better:

I pass directly through a bunch of campsites along the way. Most of the campers seemed to be ATV riders (only saw 2 motorcycles all the way across the Rockies) and were just starting to get prepared for the day. Their looks were priceless as I apparently didn’t fit the mold. Had they been under my tutelage, they’d be packed and rolling by now, but I guess that’s just the difference between us and them.

I was really awestruck by the terrain and it was only getting better as I moved along. I wasn’t paying much attention to signs, so I had no idea where I was at; I was just following the purple line on my GPS and drooling at the landscape.

The GPS routes led me to what seemed like a major highway, but it was all dirt. This road was full of ATVs and school buses. Yes, school buses. I guess they were carrying the hiking tourists to the passes and peaks. Anyway, I guess the school buses started to make me feel like a kid again, as it was an absolute blast to blow by them and the ATVs on the way up, fast and fun.

But, the school buses eventually reached a point where they could go no further and this is where things started to get tricky. At this point, the GPS was basically blank with a purple line running through it. These trails were not mapped out, so I had to basically pick a direction and run with it. Eventually I saw a sign showing the way for Hancock pass. I remember reading about this on the other TAT reports, so now I feel comfortable with my direction again, but the terrain changed considerably. Here is the easy section looking up:

…and looking down:

One of my goals was to get pictures of “the good stuff”. And “the good stuff” began after the pictures above were taken. But even on my farkled-out $8000 dirt bike, stopping to take pictures would most likely mean taking a tumble.

The rocks were football-sized and loose. The trail was ATV wide (at most), relentlessly steep and at one point, passed over snow. I selected 2nd gear, kept my RPM’s in the power band and just let the suspension do the rest. This lasted for 2.2 miles and 14 minutes straight. The Orangutan ate up Hancock pass like that was it’s job. Me on the other hand, I was whipped just by hanging on and keeping her on the trail. I took the first break I could here:

Looking back 180 degrees from that point:

Four tenths of a mile later and I’m on the continental divide. If there is a picture that I would have to call my trophy, this is it:

I was rewarded with this view of the remaining trail:

And it was just as awesome as it looks. It would lead me to Tomichi pass:

4 wheel drive? How about 1 wheel drive? Will that suffice? Yes, I believe it will:

So, that would be all of the passes I would do today. Now, elevation would drop back down to 8000 feet (still 2000 feet higher than anything on the east coast, but still kind of short for Colorado). And, as the title of this post suggests, so will my emotions. But, not before I run into a little traffic jam:

And run into a lot of orange at Sargent’s General Store where I had lunch:

The guys above were running single track. A couple of them were jealous of my trip, and I was also jealous of theirs.

So, back to trail which took me off Hwy 50 (before you reach Gunnison) and into some ranch land. This was my first experience with opening gates:

I didn’t realize it to be a gate at first, but after reaching some other dead ends; I was back here for a second time and figured out how to make it through:

Some of the roads/trails that I had mapped out were there, but apparently not used anymore because there just happened to be a fence intersecting it now. No gate:

To make a long story short, I reach 5 or 7 more impassable fences or locked gates. Each time I reached a road block, I would reroute, which would lead me a mile or two deeper into the ranch land and into the next dead end. Eventually, I’m running down a trail that popped up when re-routing and I’m less than half a mile the way the crow flies from the next highway. The only problem is that this highway is at the bottom of a canyon, and I’m on the top (pictures are terrible, but you’ll have to trust me on this one):

So now I’m 20 miles deep into ranchland, only a stones throw from where I need to be, and I have run out of progressive options. At this point, I’m really frustrated at the notion that I’ll have to re-open and close all the gates that I just passed thru, all the way back to Hwy 50. Stats for the debacle are 35 miles, 19mph moving average and 1 hour and 51 minutes wasted; so demoralizing.

Rain clouds were also in the area. I had prior knowledge from the TAT group I met in Salida that all of the Lake City rooms were booked. When I reached hwy 50, I aimed west for Gunnison to find a room. The radar refreshed and told me what I could already see, there was rain in Gunnison. So, I turned south on 114 which would lead me back to the trail.

114 was actually a cool canyon carving paved road. It would have been a ton of fun had I not been exhausted from Hancock, Tomichi and the impossible maze of the ranch land. At about 3pm, as I was cutting through 114, I spot a few campsites along the river that looked really cool. I eventually come back to them to scope them out. It turns out that they were free to use. The scenery was great, so I just called it a day and bowed out:

Today was the first day that I didn’t make my destination. I was also down to 1.5 liters of water. It was a roller coaster ride all day long, both mentally and physically. I suspect it probably had something to do with starting the day off in bad shape.

Even though this campsite had the best scenery of any campsite I stayed at the entire trip, I can point to this as the low point of my trip, even though just a few hours ago, I had reached the high point of my trip atop Hancock pass.

Tomorrow I would travel to Lake City and reevaluate my condition before tackling Cinnamon and Ophir passes.

Total mileage: 2860
Daily mileage: 154
Wildlife observed: Groundhogs/marmots, chipmunks
Favorite Sight: Hancock pass vistas
Favorite Scent: Fresh air atop the mountain passes
Favorite Sound: KTM guy at gas station: “Are you somebody famous we should know about?”
Favorite Taste: Gatorade by far
Favorite Feel: Reaching Hancock pass, no doubt.
Ailments: Mentally drained and tired.

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