We awoke to the sun beginning to peak out from behind the clouds. As it shown down upon the road, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the path was rideable after the prior day and nights’ storms. We did, however, come to a somewhat less pleasant realization once we began riding. New Mexico was not going to be the easy ride that we had thought.
After several days of relatively little civilization we were anxious for some real food and comfortable seats. With that in mind we awoke early from our camp at Hopewell Lake and headed due south on some of New Mexico’s remote backroads.
We set out this morning around the border of Cruces Basin Wilderness of Carson National Forest. After a steep climb up loose rock that was deemed “unrideable” on the map (but which was, in fact, rideable with considerable effort), we looked out across the vast wilderness. The rest of the day was much of the same. Unfortunately, the lack of civilazation was accompanied by a lack of water. After many thirsty miles, we arrived at Hopewell Lake. There, we filtered water from the somewhat murky lake (the piped water had been turned off for the season just the day before) and camped for the night.
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!
Based on fellow rider Ben’s beta, we knew Indiana Pass was closed to cars. But based on Ben’s email, and a call to the Forest Service, we learned that we should be able to slip through on our bikes. Armed with this info we departed from Del Norte on our longest and highest climb of the trip, over the 11,910 foot Indiana Pass.
Leaving our creekside camp in the Rio Grande National Forest we rode along 41G to the top of historic Carnero Pass. From there we wound our way down Dry Gulch on our way out to the plains, near the city of La Garita. As we descended the terrain morphed from mountains into a decidedly desert like landscape, with red soils and rock outcroppings and cacti.
We woke up refreshed from our night in the teepee and headed over to breakfast. Over our morning coffee, we overheard the locals discussing a killing/robbery spree that had just occurred in one of the canyons nearby. When we told the waitress where we were heading she casually informed us that that was the same canyon the killings had occurred. A bit concerned, we had no choice but to set out and hope this killer had no interest in stealing our unwashed bike shorts.
This morning, we said goodbye to our new friends at the Simple Lodge, loaded up with 4 days worth of food, and headed south out US Route 285 from Salida, begining our climb over Marshall Pass. After leaving the pavement, we were still left with ten miles to climb up to 10,842 feet, making the total climb around 3000 feet over 26 miles, luckily all railroad grade.
Two days ago we learned the sad news that fellow thru-riders Deborah and Ralph decided to end their GDR trip. Pressed for time, they felt their trip had become more of a chore than the fun ride it should be. Faced with the challenge of today’s scheduled ride over Marshall Pass we started to question our own motivation. Were we riding today, over a 10,500 ft pass loaded with pounds of gear, because we wanted to? Or did we feel we HAD to? Plus, it was Friday.