Hot Sulphur Springs to Walden: 3 moose sightings in 3 hours
Sunday June 27, 2010, 61 miles (99 km) – Total so far: 2,087 miles (3,359 km)
Another pre-dawn start. Jen and company don’t want to go early, but I’m happy to beat the predicted headwinds again, thanks. There is fog along the river and I have the road completely to myself as I watch the sun rise over the mountains. I ride out in the lane in the sweet spot of the tire groove. I am passed by one overtaking car and see one oncoming car in the 8 miles between Hot Sulphur Springs and the turn-off for Hwy 125. I love this silence where the only sound is my tires on the pavement and the whir of the freewheel when I coast on a downhill. I feel like my head is free and all the thoughts that normally clutter it just disappear into the early morning atmosphere of silence. It is not often I can turn my brain off, so I relish the times like these when my head actually shuts up for a moment.
The turn-off up 125 is a bit steep to start and then there’s a nice downhill into the sun before heading into the shade of the narrower valley. I know that I’m going to pass over the 2000 mile mark today so I keep an eye on my odometer. Just as I’m about to click over I see two moose browsing in the willows down below the road. How awesome – they sent the moose committee out to congratulate me 🙂 I snap a couple photos and then press on in the shade of the valley walls.
It’s a very gentle climb up and I pass by the first campground when it is still in shade. No one is moving about yet. The next campground is getting the first rays of sun and people are starting to stir. I continue on up the road along the creek – it’s a beautiful ride but this area has been annihilated by the pine beetle epidemic. I fully understand the role of the beetles and the causes and consequences from an ecological point of view. I understand time scales and processes and functions. But from an aesthetic point of view, all I can think is ‘what a shame’.
The pass itself is a quick little climb, just enough to get your heart pumping and the muscles going, and then you’re at the top. It’s 8 am. My ‘golden morning hours’ have served me well again today. In the first couple of hours between 6 and 8 am, I count 10 cars on the road heading in either direction. Between 8 and 8:30, I will count 9. Between 8:30 and 9, I will stop counting at 12. I plan to stop and find a nice place in the sun near the pass summit to wait for Jen and company, but the mosquitoes quickly put an end to that plan. They are ferocious, so I’m quickly heading down the pass to get some relief.
The pass doesn’t have any super steep bits to get any great speed going on the way down, but I do get some excitement. About 2/3 of the way down, just after passing some big stockpiles of dead trees that the Forest Service will eventually burn, a moose walks out onto the road about 75 feet in front of me. Shit! What do I do? I’m doing greater than 20 mph, so I can’t quickly stop. I think the moose thinks the same thing as me, because its head pops up, the moose looks at me, pauses, then starts running down the road in front of me. I’m tailing the moose now, but luckily it only runs down the road for about 10 seconds before taking off into the trees. Sorry!!
I’m loving the ride across North Park. I love this isolation and could easily live in a place like this, particularly in winter. The road is not so good here, though. The edge of the road is all cracks and it’s a bit tough on the hands and butt. There’s not much traffic though so I ride out in the smoothest part next to the centre line, keep an eye on my mirror and only move over when a car passes by.
Mom catches up to me. What? She should be hiking. But no, she’s foregone her hike so she can bring me an orange juice. She had to go all the way into Granby to get it. She’s on super-duper Mom patrol since I’ve still got that dry, seal-like cough. She truly has gone above and beyond as a SAG driver. I have to get in the car to drink the juice though, as the mozzies are atrocious. Then Mom takes off to check out the wildlife drive and a bit later we meet in town at the info board.
This weekend is the Walden homecoming and there are a zillion people in town. We’ve just missed the parade but there’s a rodeo in a bit if we want to see that. With all the people in town who know each other very well, it feels like we’re crashing a family reunion. We have lunch in a café and then try to check out the museum. It’s closed. So Mom drops me off in the park so I can meet Jen and co. if they arrive while Mom is checking into our motel, etc. There’s a couple of Americorps teams in town and I get to talking to a chick on one of the crews. She’s originally Australian but has spent most of her life in America. Her attitude toward life reminds me a bit of the way I saw the world when I was her age and doing a term of service in Americorps, too. It’s good to chat with her and feel her energy for wanting to contribute to the community and make the world a better place.
After Jen, Zach and Becca get into town, Mom and I bring their gear down to the park. I’m going to come down and hang out after supper. By the time I get back, they’ve made friends with a young guy doing the TransAm. He’s not a cyclist in every day life, but just doing this to say that he did it. Poor bloke doesn’t seem to be having very much fun and it’s like it’s a rite of passage more than a ride of passion. He talks about his ride so far and all of the other TransAmer’s who are a day behind or ahead of him and who he’s ridden with, etc. For whatever reason, I feel like if I were to do the TransAm the gossip of the trail would make me feel as though I were in high school again. I think it underscores that the more popular of the designated ACA routes are probably not for me. A serious guy rolls in and is concerned that where Jen and the rest have set up their tents is in the incorrect place. He asks, ‘have you checked in with the sheriff? He said we need to camp near the fence over by the toilets or we’ll get hit by the sprinklers.’ Zach replies, ‘No, we didn’t check in with the sheriff, we’ve gone above him, we’ve talked to the guy who actually runs the sprinklers, and he says he’ll turn off the ones over here.’ After I head back to the motel, the guy riding the TransAm on a unicycle shows up. The next morning Jen and I agree that the TransAm seems to be a rolling subculture all of its own.
Ave speed: 12.8 mph Max speed: 30.3 mph
Elevation start: 7670 ft. Elevation end: 8099 ft.
Willow Creek Pass: 9621 ft.