It’s been over a month since posting on here and that’s because we haven’t been sitting around long enough to type this stuff down. Time has now arrived to give it a crack…
We sat in 1024 East for a few days whilst Mark eyeballed dream bikes and mused over cliffs rides and enchiladas (the Moab kind). Reality struck and a plan to at least ride Durango was made. As a warm up, a spin on the Road Apple in Farmington and the Alien Run in Aztec were conducted. Whilst some have blogged that these are just big BMX tracks, I love them for it, and after seeing Durango and Moab (below) I do prefer the fast flowing single track – must be missing the speed as I’d normally have with engine power!
Durango was next: time to get into the hills – well, let’s call them mountains – and do some riding. Surprisingly the 10,000ft elevation was not too difficult though as Murphy’s Law would have it, a flat occurred on the first ride. Turns out the Stan’s ‘no flats goo’ had expired after 3 months! Engineer Mountain trail and Molas section of the Colorado trail were ridden and are amazing. By far the most amazing bit was the Alice in Wonderland flowers that grow above head height with the trail weaving through them.
Moab also had to be tried and after the usual bike choice delays we hit the MOAB trails and then Slickrock. My lasting memory will be the first proper hill at Slickrock that is about 10m high with 40 degree off camber rock, turns out you can just ride down it but a few minutes were spent psyching up for it. The rest of the trail had similar hills to go down and up and is a great experience that all MTBikers need to complete. The other achievement for Moab was getting out to the delicate arch after missing it on my previous 4 tries. Even got some photos of it!
Vegas: The target was to get Lacey out to Zion Canyon and do both Angels Landing and the Narrows. Our hire car was the first experience, a Mercury Grand Marquis, apparently a 2009 model that looked like it was out of the 70’s and had a boot sufficient for at least 2 bodies. Whilst we can bemoan the fuel guzzling V8 power, it makes for a smooth ride and a car that can dispatch speed bumps that way has to be tried to be believed. We only made it to Angels after a travel distance miscalculation, but it did mean we were back in town for a Black Bear Diner feed and some hot tub relaxation.
California: It’s a busy place and needs a different approach as there are no quiet corners. We tried Sequoia Park – it has big trees (as you’d expect). We missed Kings Canyon due to delays and swung through Yosemite again. California has a bear on its flag – I was a bit skeptical about this choice, but whilst taking some photos in Yosemite Valley (where the camp sites and hotel are) a bear and its cub wandered past the bridge we were on and continued on down to the campground! Guess they can justify the flag.
The drive from Vegas west was to meet Lacey in the Napa Valley. She was flying over for Opening the Kimono, an entrepreneurs event held at the Meritage Resort. The resort worked well for me as I could spa, swim and laze around, which was what I needed after 10 weeks on the road. Unfortunately, the Meritage food met Americans standards of quality requiring trips into Napa to eat. Luckily some great food is available in town, look up the tapas on main if you are there. My Napa highlight was hearing a big block again: it has been a few years and there is no better sound than big pistons spewing fuel out truck pipes. See my favourite car of the show below.
As of Friday, the countdown started: nine weekends left while based in Farmington! With four weekends already accounted for, time was running out for me to see the famous Million Dollar Highway everyone raves about, so Mark, Adam and I hit the road to Ouray… with a little stop in Durango to party with some the Navajo work gang 🙂 I’d post some of the photos of our fantastic night out on the town, but there’s only two types of photos: ones in which I look smashed while everyone else looks perfectly normal, and ones where everyone else looks smashed and I’m the normal one. In the interest of keeping my newfound friends and a modicum of dignity, I won’t post any evidence here.
We rolled out of bed on Saturday morning hangoverless (ah, the joys of being young) and hit the road to Silverton and on to Ouray. No matter how much of this countryside I see, I continue to be stunned by it. I think Colorado may well be my second home. Possibly aided by the constant presence of mining in this part of the world…
Ouray, much like Silverton, is nestled into a valley and, at this time of year, is awash with green. We headed to the end of town to visit Box Canyon and falls, which tumbles through a narrow slot in the earth and rushes towards the town with incredible force. Mark spent a fair bit of time assessing the ground for faults and seeing us safely through some hazardous areas…
We had every intention of visiting the Ouray or Orvis hot springs, but alas it was not to be: torrential rain set in around 5pm so we headed to our accommodation in Telluride. Lucky for us, the place was kitted out with a 4′ deep hot tub, from which comfort we could admire the piles of hail accumulated from the day’s weather. Ah, such a tough life.
There is some debate about the naming of Telluride – it may be a derivative of an element (which, of course, is not found here), it may be the name of a now-defunct postal station. My favourite myth is that it’s an abbreviation of ‘To hell you ride’, apparently the impression most people got back riding there back in the days before cars and proper roads.
Ah, Colorado, what treasures you hold. I will be sad to leave you. However, in the next three weeks the boys are road trippin’ and I have Seattle, Vegas and Napa Valley to distract me from the pain of separation. I think we’ll survive 😉
Nope, we’re not commenting on anyone’s behind. This long weekend, we visited Crested Butte (sounds like the ‘beaut’ in beautiful) in Colorado. We took the long way – through Telluride (a popular ski area) on the way there and via Wolf Creek Pass and Pagosa Springs on the way home. Lots of miles, but some jaw-dropping scenery as a reward.
There are definite advantages to seeing ski areas in the shoulder season – you have the hotel and trails basically to yourself (as you can see from the hotel carpark in the photo below). The downside is, most of the restaurants, shops and chairlifts aren’t open, and there’s an obvious lack of skiing opportunities. On balance, if you’re not a ski fanatic, we’d certainly recommend a shoulder season visit.
The folks in Crested Butte have had a rough spring – there’s still heaps of snow and the forecast predicts more snow tonight. As far was we were concerned, the lack of melt combined with sunny skies made the place magical. The town lies in a valley surrounded by the Rockies, and in the absence of sufficient snow for skiing, it’s full of the mountain and road biking enthusiasts we have seen throughout Colorado. The other popular pastime is hiking, and even though there was a fair bit of snow in the way, we enjoyed some stunning walks in the area. We’ve been told it’s best to come back in July for the wildflowers and the hikes at the top of the mountain, which you can access via the chairlifts, but we were pretty impressed with what we saw at this time of year.
All that exploring helps to work up an appetite. We feasted on French cuisine at Le Bosquet – would definitely recommend a visit for anyone in the area.
We opted for only 2 nights accommodation in Crested Butte, thinking we’d take our luck on whether we’d find somewhere else to stay. We headed to Pagosa Springs on Sunday via some very cool winding roads (Adam was regretting the lack of a motorbike) and a couple of 10,000 feet plus passes.
400+ miles was absolutely worth it – we’ll be back to Crested Butte in the wildflower season. Highly recommended.
Another stunning Saturday, another chance to hit the road. This time, Adam had planned out a 300+ mile route which would take us into four states and some spectacular scenery. The first major attraction was the Four Corners – it’s the only place in the US where four states meet at a single point. We queued up for the obligatory shots (see below), bought some very impressive jewellery, and that’s about it for that stop.
Adam had planned the journey well. We wound our way through the mesa (which can get rather repetitive, so I won’t put in another photo). We followed the San Juan River from Farmington through the first part of the journey, and it has created some amazing land formations. Occasionally while driving, we’d spot cavernous canyons and jutting formations that looked like the land had simply been cut in half and one side lifted. This place is a geologist’s wet dream. Nothing was quite as awe-inspiring as the view that awaited at Mulie Point… The San Juan snakes its way through the landscape, creating what’s known as the Goosenecks. From above, they’re beautiful, if hard to understand (where are those geos when you need them to explain something!)
We ate our lunch sitting on the edge of the cliff. The fractures are perfectly straight and quite astounding – there are rocks several tonnes each perching precariously which are the shape of boxes. It seems impossible until you see it.
We made our way down the hill – more switch-backs and sheer drops – to see the Goosenecks up close. Its’ hard to believe a river would take such a long, meandering path (it must be at least three times as long as the distance between it’s start and finish) but the effect is nothing short of stunning.
From there, we headed south towards the Utah/Arizona border, through Monument Valley. We didn’t exactly pick the best direction or time of day (into the sun at around 6pm) but the effect was still incredible. How these formations have remained after millions of years of rain, wind and snow, I have no idea. We drove through the Valley with our jaws hitting the dashboard.
As we turned around to head home, we saw a town called Mexican Hat on the map. We’ve had a lot of entertainment looking at the names of towns in this area – we will definitely be visiting a town in New Mexico called “Truth and Consequences” simply to get a photo of the sign (and hopefully an explanation of the unusual choice of name). We didn’t realise that Mexican Hat has a namesake:
Nine hours in the car altogether, but definitely worth it.
We arrived in town on the last weekend of the ski season. This could be construed as good or bad timing, depending on how you look at it. Regardless, the guys at work encouraged me to go north into Colorado ASAP, before the melt begins in earnest. First stop: Durango, 1 hour’s drive.
Turns out Farmington is to Durango what Boulder is to Kalgoorlie (i.e. the poor cousin). Durango is teaming with cute, colourful houses and cosy restaurants. It’s at the base of the Rockies, and a number of professional bike riders live there due to its proximity to some excellent training grounds. It’s quite stunning.
The naming of the Rockies is not accidental – there are huge boulders everywhere, as well as many that might be called small rocks by local standards (anything less than one metre diameter). As a result, ski season starts later and finishes earlier than elsewhere, as there needs to be enough snow to cover the rocks to prevent injury. So, even though the ski season was wrapped up, there was certainly plenty of snow to go around.
We kept going over the mountains, passing 3300 metres in places. We passed dozens of people out enjoying the clear(ish) weather – riding bikes up insanely steep slopes, riding their snow mobiles over untouched white expanses with what seemed like reckless abandon to us, the uninitiated. Apparently those snow mobiles can be quite the death trap – not because they roll, but because they’re a lot of fun at night and people frequently decapitate themselves on barbed wire fences they fail to spot at 40 miles an hour in the dark.
The drive was exciting, not just because it was inevitably hair-raising with its sheer drops and dramatic switch-backs, but because it SNOWED! We actually got to see real snow, falling from the sky. I’ve never actually been snowed on before, so of course we had to get out and touch it… for about two seconds, which is how long it took for the snow to melt through my non-waterproof shoes. Poor planning, I know.
As we rounded the last corner, we were treated to a magical view of Silverton, which sits in a valley. Much like Farmington (used to be a Farming Town), Silverton used to be a Silver Town. You can visit the mines – being in the mining industry, we thought we’d probably seen enough of that.
We saw the snow closing in from the north side, and decided we’d better turn our four cylinder Chevy around and head back, lest we suddenly need snow tyres (which, of course, we didn’t have). Back to the desert for us.