Saturday’s ride was not even close to being the longest nor the hottest, the trek from Pueblo (elevation 4,600 feet) to the top of Hardscrabble Mountain ( just over 9,000 feet) and down to Westcliffe (7,900 feet) was by far the most challenging. Not only the steep climbs and decents but there was also a 53 miles gap with nowhere to stop for water and very few places to sit for a rest.
The day began with a steady climb and a bike fully-loaded with water, close to 150 ounces. Once we left Pueblo the scenery changed dramatically and there seemed to be nothing in front of us except the Rocky Mountains.
After a quick start to the day we met our first climb and even though it was quite steep it seemed that the day would not be all that difficult. That all changed once we arrived in Wetmore. Michael pushed forward just before Wetmore while Nick and I took a bit of a break once we arrived. We found a bit of shade and there was even a patch of wild sage. I sat down to cool off before our big climb. Over 3,000 feet from Wetmore to the pass of Hardscrabble Mountain at just over 9,000 feet, all in less than 13 miles. As we relaxed in the shade the minister from the Wetmore Baptist Church offered us a fill-up on water but we politely declined, thinking we had enough water to get us to the next service station. I was mistaken.
Around mile marker 20 off of Route 50 we were half way through the 13 mile climb and 20 miles away from our destination, and I was nearly out of water. Although I made it to the summit with a few sips to spare, I would have been much more comfortable with an extra 50 ounces. And Michael was kind enough to wait for us at the top and he shared some of his water with me to get me to the bottom. The next 13 miles were pretty much all down hill.
I have found that I am not a fan of long climbs without breaks, but I am even less of a fan of steep downhills. While the two other fellas have no problem reaching speeds over 40 mph, I prefer to pump my breaks a bit, usually arriving at our destination a few minutes behind the speed-deamons.
The day was very trying, but also quite rewarding. As I was reaching my top speed, going downhill and arriving in Westcliffe my eyes began to water. I could feel the tears streaming down my cheeks, in to my beard, and flying off behind me. Luckily there was no one behind me or they would have been soaked. I am unsure if it was due to the wind coming in behind my sunglass, from the pain in my body from climbing 13 miles and in my hands pumping the breaks for another 13, or from the joy of arriving at our destination for the day.
We sat in front of a service station for about an hour. All three of us were a bit exhausted at this point, and although we contemplated moving on another 20 miles we found a wonderful place to camp at Wet Mtn RV Park & Cabins ( http://www.wetmtnrv.com ). There we met the owner Marlys who only charged us $20 and was extremely friendly! She seemed a bitconfused that I was sleeping in my hammock but was more than accommodating when I asked if could hang it off some posts outside of the front office.
Before calling it a night we stopped by Chappy’s, a local restaurant for dinner. Our server Emily was great and the manager Gil was extremely helpful! A wonderful place to end the evening.
Once my body got situated in the hammock I was asleep immediately. However, I woke up around 1:30am to a horrible chill. Apparently it had gone down to 50 degrees. I quickly grabbed my blanket and took shelter in the shower room. It was MUCH warmer there and I figured I would not bother anyone so late in the evening. I set me alarm for sunrise, woke up just before 6am, and warmed myself in my hammock where I slept until 8am. It was a rough but rewarding 24 hours!
Until tomorrow . . .