is car free
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Alexandria, VA
Day 5 (Monarch Pass > Durango)
I awoke nestled in the aspens after a cool night in my tent. I probed my face outside the small breathing hole in my Kelty Light Year 20F Down Mummy Bag quickly deciding to go back to sleep. Too cold yet to ride but nice and warm inside my bag. After a strange dream where two urban teen girls commented after my tired and worn Puma shoes, I unzipped the bag and changed into clothes for riding. With stiff chilled fingers, I made a cup of coffee after packing my gear. Savoring the warmth radiating from my tin cup, I sat on my pannier lid procrastinating the cold ride down to Hwy50. I put on my heated gear, thumbed the starter and let the bike warm up and lubricate the engine’s top end. The thermometer read 28F @ 8:05AM. I cruised out of the forest into ranch land, the crisp morning air carrying earthy pungent scents from the cattle sharply illuminated by the rising sun.
The temperature rose a bit.
Out on 50, I passed a couple of BMW riders but no Harleys this early. Must be the cold.
Thats a new one for me
I braked for gas in Gunnison then across the street for a sticker at a huge Taxidermy shop.
The temps rose into the upper 40’s and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day. Down to Blue Mesa Lake, I rode out near a boat ramp then onto the beach to take a pic of the blue water. The combined weight of rider, bike and gear made riding in the soft sand a chore in balance and front end traction.
I snapped a panoramic shot and took time to lube my dry chain.
The sweepers along 50 were a welcome blast.
...a minor preparation before my turn onto Hwy 92 on the North Rim of the Gunnison, the twists and properly banked curves skirt the canyon rim, a 1000ft drop down to the rapids and brown crags below. I take some snapshots while negotiating the turns and am the only vehicle riding in the northern direction.
I take liberty in exercising the bike, carving turns right and left and back wearing out the sides of my tires, mostly neglected after the thousands of flat miles to arrive here. I make a U-Turn at a viewing point and exit the way I came in.
There it is below.
About 2mi from the terminus with 50, I come across three V-Stroms, fully loaded exiting a gravel road.
I loop around alongside them noticing their oval ADV Stickers on the mud flap. I give them the ADV Salute and they enthusiastically return it with broad smiles It turns out these three from Arkansas and Texas are the “Three Stooges”, currently in the middle of a group ride reported on the RR section of the forum.
I ask to join them on their morning ride and to my surprise, they oblige. Weaving up the twists of Hwy 92 then 50 toward Montrose, I am reminded of how much fun it is riding with similar bikes and the welcoming family that is ADVRider.com.
They are super loaded down with, cases, tank bags and extra luggage behind their seat. I cannot imagine riding on dirt with such loads is easy or fun but they seem to be having a blast.
We turn right off 50 away from the string of RV’s and slow vehicles and pass into Black Canyon National Park. For lack of research, I would have bypassed this exquisite geographic feature had I not met them this morning. My annual pass gets in one of my new found ADV family saving him the $15 fee.
After chatting near the entrance and removing my heated gear in the now 80F temps, we descent at 16% grade down the East Portal.
The switchbacks to the river are quite steep and slow providing opportunities to enjoy the view and absorb the warmth. Down at the river, the temperatures rise into the mid eighties as we survey the dramatic relief above. Truly remarkable.
We rise back up on the twisty grade, V-Twin exhausts notes reverberating off the canyon walls.
Riding to the end of the rim road and park, we stop to take a scenic 2mi hike. Through aged Pinyon Pine, Scrub Oak and Sage, I absorb the new smells and sights welcoming the exercise.
What would one of my reports be without the flower shots
The hike was well worth the views of the immense canyon, “painted” ribbons of quartz and panoramic views of Sand Dunes and Montrose far below.
"I dare you to talk out to the rock"
Gettin' all hot hiking in my stich'
Montrose in the distance.
Spotted this in the parking lot. What can I say? It's true
Heading out of the park.
In Montrose we separate as they make for the cycle shop to replace two broken fork seals. I gas up in Montrose and refill my now depleted water supply. Riding south on 550, the sky grows dark ahead at the imposing 14-15k ft peaks and high passes. A few sprinkles and I stop to don my rain gear for the first time of the trip. Big green oversize plastic flapping, I continue on toward Ouray and the rain stops and sweat begins.
I stop for an overpriced sticker (little did I know I bought two stuck together) and remove the rain gear. I’ll risk it. Riding south out of Ouray is a blast and affords spectacular vistas of the town and highway heading north through the canyon.
I come across the familiar construction signs and soon hit a line of stopped cars and one-way pilot car led construction work zone. We wait for 10 minutes or so then are allowed through.
I take the break to have a snack and photograph a nearby flower.
I eventually make my way past the cars and slow dual sport bikes speeding off into the road ahead.
The temps fall to the low forties as I cross the pass in descend into Silverton.
The rain picks up but I don’t stop to add gear since I’d have to languish behind the others again. More construction greets me in Silverton so I take the time to stop and put on a wool sweater. Much better!
Letting the cars pass and gain distance, I have the soggy Million Dollar Highway to myself riding up to Red Mountain Pass. The rains intensity increases yet I push on.
The cold doesn’t bother me, for I know I will soon be in 70F Durango 30 miles or so ahead.
The slick road descending to Durango was stressful and both front and rear tires lost traction more than once sliding over the oily tar repairs.
Fortunately, the slippery conditions lasted only 5 miles and I was soon on dry pavement gleefully eyeing the rising thermometer digits. I called my folks while riding to say “Hi” and while talking, passed an old fashioned Steam Locomotive: The Silverton to Durgano Line. Too Cool!
Durango seems like a neat town, the southwest and Spanish influence evident in architecture and foodways. I forego the cheap fuel (duh should have stopped) and head west passing bicyclists on a rally pushing through the summer shower sprinkles.
I check my map then rise to La Plata Canyon making camp in the San Juan National Forest by a low wide river and large pines.
My firs site, seen below, was filled with bear scat. I moved on up a ways in a vain attempt to avoid becomming a meal.
La Plata Canyon where I bathe in the frigid waters.
I cook a meal of celery, beans, carrots and rice then savor the coffee, Snickers bar and piece of pie over a fire that warms my soul.
The bear scat in my site is not an assuring site so I pack my food well into my locked panniers. I experiment with a long exposure shot of my camp just before it begins to sprinkle. After extinguishing the fire and covering my bike, I retire to my tent, falling asleep to the relaxing sound of raindrops on the fly.