Day 13: Rawlins to Clark Store
COLORADO!! That’s what was in store for today. That and Brush Mountain Lodge which if you know anything about the Tour Divide you know it is THE BEST stop along the route.
After stocking up in Rawlins, Wyoming I hit the open road which climbs out of town. And it goes on forever by the way!
Eventually, we hit gravel again but the roads were wide and in pretty good shape. Not much washboard at all. We continued on as the landscape went from brown to green and relatively flat to more rolling. The climbs were getting steeper but still shorter and just rolling. It was starting to look like a bigger version of the “interval” rollers from a few days back.
Finally, we could see real mountains in the distance again. I’m not sure if everyone was as excited about the mountains as I was but for me the mountains made me feel more at home. Even though the North Carolina mountains are smaller I much prefer the steep winding roads as opposed to the long drawn out wide open lands that we’d been experiencing for the past few days. I was ready to see some trees again too!
Before I knew my dreams came true and we were back in the mountains. Riding up the winding mountain roads and encompassed by big trees! Then we came to the iconic “Aspen Ally” a popular spot along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and rightly so. It was beautiful with the large aspen trees lining the side of the road.
After a few photos of Aspen Ally we continued on looking for the Sandstone Work Center, a place where we were hoping to get water. We passed the intersection where we thought it would be but there was nothing there. Continuing on down the road I was starting to get a little worried. We cruised down the road a little further and soon saw a sign for the Work Center. Once we got there we couldn’t find a pump. At this point I only had maybe half a liter of water left. One of the buildings had a spigot on it and sure enough it was on! We filled up and sat in the shade for a while to dodge the heat.
Next up was some pavement and there was a little route confusion as they were re-routing the main road. The GPS track still took the old road which was being used as a staging area for the construction vehicles and there were some big mounds of dirt we had to go over. We stuck to the original GPS track either way and got to see the old overlook.
We bombed down some fast pavement which felt nice since it was so hot. I was starting to feel pretty tired. It wasn’t the normal tired either. It was more of a whole body shut down sort of feeling. I think the past 12 days of riding 130+ miles each day was starting to get to me. I was more than halfway done but there was still so far to go.
After passing the Colorado State Line we started up the climb to Brush Mountain Lodge and it was a long one at 10-15 miles or so to the Lodge. After that, the climb continued another 15 miles up to 9,500 feet. I was just focusing on getting to the Lodge for the time being. The climb was pretty constant but the heat was killing me. I stopped in the shade and ate some food and was just having a a hard time getting in the groove. It was time to put my head down and just pedal. I needed to stop thinking about how tired I was and how my legs didn’t want to work. Just keep pedaling! Eventually I found my groove and got into a rhythm. And the closer I got to the Lodge the faster I went. I knew I was going to stop and take a nice break once I reached the comfort of the Lodge.
Finally!! I saw the sign that read “Brush Mountain Lodge and Outpost!” I had never been happier! I parked my bike out front and walked up onto the covered deck. Kristin, who runs the lodge, welcomed me and quickly asked what I would like to drink and eat. Wow, this was the best service yet! Cokes, ices water, lemonade just kept pouring out of the kitchen in big gallon jugs. She had quesadillas and burgers and asked what I would prefer. Of course I said both! And PB&J’s for the road! It was so nice sitting out in the shaded porch getting out of the heat. We all kicked our feet up and talked about the day and how thankful we were to be sitting at the famous Brush Mountain Lodge. This was going to be a hard place to leave.
|Chris Culos (Vancouver), Me, Kevin Campagna (Texas), Sean Putnam (Cali) and Peter Maindonald (NZ)
|“Trail Angel” Kristin whipping up some mean PB&J’s for the road.
Leaving the Brush Mountain Lodge was in fact very hard. But I still had a destination to get to and the climb up to 9,500 feet was only half over. So back on the bike I was and off I went.
I started spinning nice and easy at first. I was still feeling pretty full so didn’t want to overdo it. I quickly found myself out by myself just cruising along, already 10 miles out from the lodge in just over 45 minutes, and I was gaining elevation the whole time.
I found myself on the best emotional high of the whole trip so far. I was feeling GREAT! The scenery was beautiful and the light was spectacular. I made my way from the open meadows to the aspen forests.
I made the left turn up FR 42 towards Hahns Peak Basin. The road got a little steeper but I was still feeling amazing. The stop at Brush Mountain Lodge had really lifted my spirits. It was amazing to think how bad I was feeling at the bottom of the climb up to the Lodge. How could I go from one extreme to the next?
Here’s a little clip of me talking about the day. You can see the scenery but it’s pretty bumpy! I mostly recorded for the audio.
From here the climbing got really steep and rocky up to Watershed divide. It was a lot of pushing the bike until I finally reached the top. I was still riding alone and had no clue how far back Sean and Kevin were. The sun had set and darkness was setting in. I got out my light for the descent and started down. It was rough! Tons of big rocks were in the road and it was steep. Big boulders and little drops were pretty hard to navigate with my little light. This was one of the times I was glad I had a front suspension fork. I think it definitely saved me a couple times. The descent was going on forever and I guess it was because I wasn’t moving very fast.
The road finally smoothed out a little. I saw on the map that Steamboat Lake State Park was close so decided to keep my eye out for signs. I never saw anything but it may have been I just missed it while riding through the darkness. I found myself on the road heading to the tiny town of Clark just outside Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat was still a good little ways and I was ready to call it a night. I poked around behind the clark store and thought about shacking up under their back porch and as I was shining my light around back I heard a voice say “Hey man!” It startled me but I figured it was just another TD rider. He asked who I was and I said “Ryan, who are you?” He introduced himself and said he was touring the route heading North. He said they told him he could camp out behind the store if he wanted so I setup my tent. We chatted a bit about the terrain we had just come through, giving each other beta on where we were headed. He had a trailer and I told him heading up the pass I just came down was going to be a good one for him! I was beat so didn’t chat long and was off to sleep.