Day 53: Fri 9/5, Breathtaking scenery! Icky tummy :( 61 miles

Oh man, I dunno if I ate something weird yesterday or if I’m drinking bad water. All night my stomach was kinda weird and all day it was on/off not feeling so good. Bleh. Hope it goes away tomorrow.

So I woke up this morning to the sound of hoofs around my tent. I thought it might be a herd of elk. I look around and it’s a bunch of cows. What the heck are cows doing way up here? Haha!

Oh man, today’s riding was just absolutely amazing. The San Juan Mountains are so beautiful! My CDT hiker friend Kyle said it was one of his favorite parts. I can definitely see why. One of these days I’m going to have to take my backpack and hike the CDT portion of trail through the San Juan Wilderness (where bikes aren’t allowed).

Throughout this entire trail I’ve seen tons and tons of deer, I think this is the first time I’ve taken a picture of one. Usually I’ve been seeing female and baby deer. This is the first time I think I’ve seen males and females together. I was told earlier on in my trip that early in the season all the male deer and elk stick together in “bachelor groups” and it isn’t til later on in the year (like right now) that they mingle with the females.

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I think one of the reasons I’ve been loving this part of the trail is that I’ve been up on a ridge for this past section of riding. I absolutely love being on ridges (although not in bad weather) and seeing massive valleys on either side of me. The views of the valley were incredible.

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The morning uphill was slow going, although it felt like easier riding. I don’t know if it’s because the grade is actually more gentle, or if perhaps it’s just because I’m carrying much less water (I’ve drank half of what I had yesterday) and hence am lighter. Either way, I’m stoked! I finally crested Indiana Pass, the highest point on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. So, theoretically everything is downhill from here, right? Haha πŸ™‚

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Here’s a panorama of the pass itself. You really feel like you’re waaaaaay up there! πŸ™‚

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I rode by Summitville Mine today, which is a huge EPA Superfund Site. Although it’s a good thing when humanity learns from it’s mistakes, it is unfortunate when those mistakes are permanent and don’t heal. It’s a stark contrast, the huge scar on the mountain juxtaposed against incredibly beautiful peaks and forest.

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The route took me right next to the mine. They mined for gold and silver. In the mid 90s, the EPA declared it a Superfund Site, meaning it is a polluted location require long-term response to clean up hazardous material contamination. And the water around the area is contaminated and undrinkable. Hence the reason I had to carry so much water yesterday. The whole area smelled kind of funny.

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The whole area I’m riding through is a result of volcanic activity millions and millions of years ago. As a result, some of the mountainsides are very brightly colored. This one Moutain was suuuuper red from all the iron. It was really pretty.

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I rode right by the base of it and it was so cool!! It looked like a gigantic red behemoth rising from the trees!

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The colorful creek that ran off it is aptly named Iron Creek.

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After cresting a couple other smaller passes, I pop out at the Conejos River Valley, with the teeny little community of Platoro at the bottom of it.

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As I got closer to Platoro, it looked pretty cool from up above.

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It’s an interesting seasonal community (meaning, everyone leaves for the winter) nestled at the very very top of the river valley, at the base of the gigantic San Juan Mountains. Very popular with fly-fishermen and hunters. I always wonder how these little towns survive, it’s seriously in the middle of nowhere and it definitely takes a good amount of effort to get here, so it’s not like you just stumble upon it. I found out from talking to the people that all the tiny communities in the upper Conejos river valley (like Platoro) leave in the winter. I guess most people are from Texas/NM/other parts of Colorado, and they do the summer/winter homes thing. Including business owners. In fact, I found out many businesses and US Forest Service Campgrounds around here shut down after Labor Day weekend.

Oh! I saw a cattle drive going on as I pulled into Platoro. They were herding dozens of cows down the street. That was cool. πŸ™‚

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The cafe/mini store/lodge was kinda interesting. Tons of jeeps and ATVs parked out front. Kinda typical I this area πŸ™‚ a lot of the ATVs come from various campsites up in the mountains I passed. People leave their truck with the camper/RV up in the forest and come down here on their ATVs

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The entire ride down the Conejos river valley was a gradual descent, and it was just so freakin beautiful. Plus the fact that I didn’t have to pedal too hard was nice, especially since my stomach was feeling yucky.

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It’s really cool to follow a river from it’s headwaters. You literally see it transform from a trickle to a massive flowing waterway. The entire river actually travels down the valley for 90 miles where it joins with the Rio Grande. The lush green-ness of the valley really reminded me of Hawaii. Different shade of green though. πŸ™‚ but same intensity!

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The last 5 miles I rode was a climb up a pass. I normally dislike pavement, but this instant I was kind of grateful for it. It made for a much easier ascent, and the grade wasn’t too bad. This helped a lot because doing hard climbs when your stomach doesn’t feel good really, really sucks. 😦 Even still, it was pretty tough. However, I saw an absolutely magnificent sunset!

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I stopped at the top of the pass. Usually I try to avoid camping in elevation because it’s cold (it’s a 10,000’+ pass). However, I’ve learned in my previous backcountry trips that valleys can get super frickin cold as well. In general, it’s usually a bit colder at night if you’re next to water. And in a river valley, all the moisture and cold air gets socked in to the bottom of the valleys at night and not only is it cold, it’s wet too. This was confirmed when residents of the valley told me morning temps the past couple weeks range from 40s to high 20s. YIKES!! I’ll take cold and dry over cold and wet anyday. Lol! So this flat area at the top of the pass is also a grazing area for some cattle. I wonder if I’ll wake up surrounded by cows again. Haha!

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