We woke this morning to the smell of burnt Cinnamon Rolls and decided to head to the Skyline Restaurant for a (hopefully) less burnt breakfast. After filling up we headed out along the Conejos River, continuing to follow fall and the smell of leaves, changing colors and cooling temperatures. We were on our way out of Colorado and on to our last state, New Mexico!
We took a short break at the Rocky Mountain Lodge where we were treated to free snacks and stories of the cold unbearable winters up in these hills. It became clear that we were passing through these parts at just the right time; all of the cattle were being moved to lower ground that very week to warmer, more hospitable conditions and all of the people would leave shortly too (except for one man, apparently, who spends the winters alone in the small town).
Our route took us along the Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway and into Horca where we celebrated Kelly’s Birthday. We then pushed on over La Manga Pass with the hope of finding beer at one of the marked bars on the map, the last bit of civilization before entering Carson National Forest. We’d convinced ourselves over beer at lunch (in celebration of Kelly’s Birthday of course) that the pass would be easy since it was paved and less than a 2,000 ft climb. However, we failed to notice that the climb was actually quite steep, a challenge with full stomachs.
We decended into a valley where the tracks of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad run and could not have had better timing as the original restored train chugged into the valley below us. We pulled into the bar parking lot where a sign indicated that the bar would open in ten minutes – perfect timing again! We shortly realized, however, that the bar was not in very good shape and the heavily faded sign was not current. We reluctantly accepted that the bar was not in fact going to open. After watching the train a bit longer and observing the large group of train observers, we continued on. We then entered the Rio Grand National Forest which shortly changed into the Carson National Forest and New Mexico.
We had a warm fire that night over which we prepared bean and cheese burritos (Jeff managed to consume his 3rd and 4th burritos of the day). Our first attempt at a “prepared” dinner was quite successful, even despite a bit of a refried bean explosion (apparently it does not work well to heat a can of beans in the fire when there is air beneath the beans). We celebrated Kelly’s birthday with a banana moonpie and mountain margaritas while Kelly read her birthday present, a very relavant book.