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Old Yesterday, 12:32 PM   #1
Okie Preacher OP
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Joined: Aug 2010
Location: In the middle...
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To Taos and points north on the CDT:

Well, I have heard it said that the adventure doesn't begin until the trouble starts, so lets get this out of the way early on...



Aside from being an advertisement for soft panniers as opposed to those honking big Touratech boxes on my bike, I'm sure glad I had a pair of Sidi Adventures on my feet (Crossfires would have been even better) as things were a bit sloppy on the NM end of the CDT. But, I am getting ahead of myself here.

I had week of vacation time accrued and thought it would be a great use of those days to make a run up a portion of the CDT from west of Taos NM traveling north to the Wyoming border. The week certainly did not disappoint as early fall is setting in on the mountains. One of the challenges of riding in Oklahoma is the fact that a guy has to go a long way in any direction to find anything truly interesting. I launched off on a Sunday afternoon (from my screen name you would assume correctly that Sunday is a workday for me) heading toward Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon. There are two great intermediate stops in Western OK and the Texas Panhandle: one being Black Mesa in the far NW panhandle, the other being Palo Duro.



Palo Duro is a geological anomaly in the middle of the Llano Escandado territory of West Texas. Surrounded by miles of flat, dry, featureless country, the second largest canyon network in the continental United States suddenly opens to provide shelter and water in her depths. The Plains Indians wintered in these canyons with lodges full of dried buffalo and winter stores safe in their knowledge that the Calvary and white settlers would not dare venture out upon the trackless plains. Today it continues to be a fascinating place to toss a tent for a night or two. A full moon and a coyote serenade makes for a night of easy sleeping.

The next morning sent me on to Taos. One quick food pic and shout-out to Orlando's on the north edge of town.



Do not miss an opportunity to hit up some of the best Mexican Food in the territory if you happen to pass that way! West out of town and a short 658 miles from my starting point I finally make Forest Road 133 and the CDT.



Thirty miles north lie the Upper and Lower Lagunitas Campgrounds and another great place to lay your head.



A beautiful evening..but around midnight the clouds rolled in, the winds hit hard, and a cold rain began to lash against the tent. Normally, I find the sound of rain on a tent to be peaceful--soothing actually. But, solo, camped at 10,000 feet and thirty miles down a dirt road with seventy more to go in this section, my first though was not one of relaxation. Nevertheless, as I thought about it all, I had 5 liters of water, six days worth of food, a good book, a warm sleeping bag and a dry tent. All is well and back to sleep I went.

More to come...
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Old Yesterday, 12:50 PM   #2
refokus
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Old Yesterday, 02:44 PM   #3
RealitySheriff
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Location: Between NM and CO
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Just rode through Crucas Basin on CDT 3 days ago. Did you enjoy the steep baby skulls? We continued on CDT to Poncha Springs then had to punch it home. Awesome ride. Can't wait to read more about your trip
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Old Yesterday, 03:17 PM   #4
JaxObsessed
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Location: From Alabama to Newfoundland it's all Appalachian
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I'll go along.
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Old Yesterday, 08:07 PM   #5
Okie Preacher OP
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The next morning dawned wet and foggy with clouds skirting low to the ground.



Fortunately, there had not been enough rain up at elevation to make the roads impassable, merely sloppy. After a big breakfast and a pot of coffee the GS was packed and I headed on through the Carson National Forest. Generally speaking the CDT is mild and easy riding. But, as RealitySheriff mentioned, there are certainly exceptions to that rule. Washouts, deep ruts and water-filled whoops mark Forest Road 87 in this section with the diciest stretch being a significant downhill filled with (rain-slick) babyheads. If you are looking on the map you can find it right next to Brazos Ridge just beyond the overlook of the Cruces Basin Wilderness. I was able to pick my way down and through without mishap and soon enough found myself on the Colorado / New Mexico border.

The run from there north is routed through the little camp-town of Platoro and over Stunner Pass. There is some pretty country along the Conejos River, but it was hard to enjoy as the weather was alternating between driving rain and sunshine.



The red-stained mountains are typical in SW Colorado owing to the high iron content of the soil and it makes for some dramatic scenery. From time to time the sun would break out in force and it just happened to do so as I went around this beautiful pond along the way.



I always find it interesting in the mountains how the weather can change so dramatically mile-by-mile and moment-to-moment.

One of the challenges when traveling solo and camping is that I was loaded to the hilt. Tent and cold-weather camp gear in the dry-bag on the back. Panniers full of cooking gear and food (I don't do dehydrated meals!), a full set of tools, a spare tube, two MSR containers for a little extra fuel and all the necessary odd and end pieces. Traveling with a friend can cut the load significantly as you cut out duplications...but this trip I was HEAVY. And those pounds were about to bite me in the butt.



Through the rocks and whoops, around the trees and dips...no problem. But about 15 miles short of Del Norte I hit a stretch of gravel road where they had recently pulled up the ditches--no gravel and a layer of black slime that was as slick as you can imagine. I was on the pegs and working to pick my way through when the back end tries to pass the front. Immediately I am down with a PIG of a GS halfway off in the ditch. It was a low-speed affair, no more than 10-15 mph, and the impact wasn't a problem except that in the process I managed to hang my right foot under the pannier.

I never think to get those great pictures of my bike taking a nap. With that burst of adrenalin that always accompanies any kind of a drop, I drug it out of the ditch and had it standing upright before I even noticed my ankle was starting to "thump." It would bear weight and I could wiggle my toes, so I reasoned the damage was minimal. After lunch in Del Norte, a trip to the pharmacy for a bottle Ibuprofen and an Ace Bandage had me back in good repair. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the full spectrum of colors evidenced when the boot came off in camp later that evening!

As the day went on the weather continued to improve and Colorado was impressive as always.



There really is no place in the world quite like the Rockies. That evening found me in a hidden little gem of a campground: Storm King up past the La Garita turnoff up in the Rio Grande National Forest. Spotless clean, well laid-out tent sites and best of all there was an evening worth of firewood stacked under the picnic table when I arrived.

Every night in a tent is a good night, but some nights are remarkable.



After a full and eventful day, I slept the sleep of the dead and woke up looking forward to what the new day would bring.

More to come...
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Old Today, 07:08 PM   #6
Okie Preacher OP
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Bright, clear and cold the next morning. Note to self...consider swapping out to a lighter viscosity oil before heading to the mountains in the fall! It took quite a bit of cranking and praying to get the old girl to first fire in the morning!

Much of the CDT is wide-open ranch country. Absolutely beautiful and great high-speed cruising.



The miles track past quickly in such territory, but about the time a guy is ready for a change one shows up on the map. Marshall Pass was wet and sloppy on the west side, but dried quickly on the way down on the east. A quick gas stop in Salida and a bowl of Green Chili--a Colorado favorite of mine.



Boreas Pass is possibly the most treacherous riding of the entire route--no problem with the road itself, but tourist in rental cars gawking at the sights do not do the best of jobs at keeping an eye out for other traffic. The view into Breckenridge is beautiful though.



It was jarring to find myself back on I-70 if even for a few miles after all that time on Forest Roads. North through Silverthorn with a turn up Ute Pass Road and into the Arapahoe National Forest. The road ran past what appeared to be a huge mining operation. I would be interested to learn if any of you know the history of the place as they have moved a LOT of dirt to do what they have done.

On up the way to the Horseshoe Campground and a quiet night getting ready for the next day and one last push into Wyoming. A great day on the GS.

More to come...
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