Friday, September 6, 2013

Colorado mountains

I always imagine Colorado as brown and rocky, but today's ride through several national forests and across pine-covered mountains was lush and green, especially compared to yesterday's ride through the dry desert-like high mesas.

on US 550 North toward Durango
We started off in Farmington, New Mexico and quickly crossed into Colorado, riding through the southern part of the San Juan National Forest, 1.8 million acres in southwestern Colorado. Pagosa Springs, elevation 7,000' and home to several hot mineral springs, is on the western side of the Continental Divide.

 riding east from Pagosa Springs
We crossed the Continental Divide on 10, 857' Wolf Creek Pass. We're riding through the Rocky Mountains that range from Canada to Mexico. Technically, Wolf Creek Pass is in the San Juan Mountain range with six peaks higher than 14,000'.

Wolf Creek Pass
The 1.8 million acre Rio Grande National Forest is on the eastern side of Wolf Creek Pass and the Continental Divide. We rode through the Forest on US 160, and stopped for lunch in Del Norte, originally a stage coach stop and a supply town for local mining operations.
I enjoy eating lunch in small, local restaurants to get a feel for the area. We were the only motorcycle riders among two men wearing cowboy hats, an elderly couple, and men dressed in casual business clothes. Del Norte is on the western edge of the San Luis Valley, a high altitude, desert-like basin that is heavily irrigated from underground aquifiers to support local farming. It's surprising to see dry, arid landscapes right next to bright green fields.
We rode on US 285 N through the San Luis Valley and then headed east on US 50  at Pancha Springs (elevation 7,465') and on through Salida (elevation 7,083').  The temperature today hovered near 90 degrees, even though we're at a high elevation. We stopped for a drink of water and talked with three guys heading out to ride motorcycles on the dirt forest roads that criss-cross the mountains.
We're staying in Colorado Springs (elevation 6,035') for three nights to watch our youngest son, Nate, compete in the Pike's Peak Downhill longboarding race. The lower elevation and miles of asphalt in Colorado Springs raised the temperature into the high 90's. The combination of heat and stop-and-go traffic made us glad to get off the bike and into an airconditioned hotel room.
We've covered almost 800 miles the past two days across three states, and we're looking forward to riding up the Pike's Peak highway tomorrow and looking down into the valley.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it funny how you can climb higher and higher and it gets warmer? Those are the days it is so nice to have a break and cool off a bit.

    Such a great trip.