July 2, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 19 - Silverthorne to Hartsel

Go figure. I slept like a rock. I took advantage and got an extra hour or so before packing up. It was a later start than I would have liked, but my body was telling me I needed it. This ride was funny that way. I thought as the race went on, I'd be getting stronger. I was in some regards, but I also felt the accumulation of long days fatiguing my body. It was more difficult to get going in the morning, but once I was on the bike for a few miles I generally felt decent, saddle sores notwithstanding.

It was about 8a when I finally left my room and attempted to get my bike down the stairwell. Yes, attempted. I was about 2/3 down the flight of stairs when I got caught on my handlebars and a foot slipped out from under me. Crash, bang, BOOM! Down goes Johnny. Thankfully, no harm done to body or bike. I was glad to get out to the parking lot!!

In the meantime I had an idea for my ailing light switch, just needed some scissors. The hotel front desk obliged and I cut a sliver of cardboard from the sleeve of Nutter Butter cookies. I was able to roll a small dowel rod of cardboard and wedge the remaining switch into place and screw on the outer rubber cap. MacGyver would've been proud.
Primitive, yet effective solution.
I made the short climb up a neighborhood street to rejoin the route. Then I missed a vague turnoff leading up to the Dillon Reservoir. It seemed like it may have been a connector at one time, not sure why we didn't just stay on the path as they both went to the same place.
Silverthorne overlook.

Vague connector.

Yowza!! Dillon Reservoir.

Glorious morning, take note how clear the skies are...

This was a perfect warm up ride for the day.

At times you forgot about the surrounding mountains.

Eastern view of 14er Gray's Peak.

The route popped off the pathway and zigzagged through Frisco.

First, a stroll through downtown.

Then some neighborhood streets.

And eventually meeting up with the Breckenridge - Copper Mtn Summit County Recreational Pathway.
There was a section of the path that my GPS flagged for being 'off route'. Huh? I didn't see a turn, but I backtracked just to be sure. I found where the track was pointing, nothing there. It appears the pathway has been re-routed over the years. The re-aligned pathway now goes next to the Blue River Arm of Dillon Reservoir instead of cutting between two hills.

The old alignment bed is on the left in the trees.

A couple of riders had stopped and were aiming their cell phones across the highway. Moose!! Those must be city moose as they strolled right next to divided Highway 9.

I was starting to get CTR flashbacks from 2017...

Of all the sections of the Colorado Trail to overlap, this is the tamest, by a longshot.

Ten Mile Range.

The Peaks of Breckenridge ski resort.

The Colorado Trail crests the Ten Mile Range between Peak 5 & 6.

Another pathway re-route.

A very high & rowdy Blue River. Many of the trails next to the river were closed due to being under water!!
The mostly clear skies from a couple hours earlier could no longer hold their payload and the clouds opened up right as I was pulling into 7-11. I chowed down on pizza and loaded up for the next leg over to Hartsel & beyond. My timing couldn't have been better as this was the most intense downpour of the entire ride. It was a fast moving storm cell and I was back on the route in no time.
A soggy Breckenridge.
Since I was in a town loaded with shops I thought I may luck out and find a pair of baggie shorts to replace my blown out ones I've been riding since Brush Mountain Lodge. I didn't want to squander too much time, so after two swing & misses, I kept my air conditioned shorts and made my way to Boreas Pass Rd.

Now, THAT's a snow blower.

Traditional plow attachment. Cool little railroad park at the base of Boreas Pass.

I didn't know what to expect on Boreas Pass other than some views. They delivered. Mostly bare ski runs.

The pavement ended at this trailhead parking lot.

So far, so good. Was this finally the easy Colorado climbing I was promised? It seemed that way, but honestly, I didn't care much as I was too preoccupied with the distant mountains. Bikes sure do take us to amazing places.

Caught up with some tourists who kindly snapped my pic.

Goose Pasture Tarn

The rest of Ten Mile Range and a few more 14ers.

The gentle climbing continued but I was getting more and more uncomfortable on the saddle.
I could no longer simply shift side-to-side for relief, I had to move slightly forward or aft if I wanted to stay seated. While this worked, it compromised my hand position on the Jones bars. It wasn't preferred, but I had to keep pedaling while I could. At times all I could do was hold the bars with my fingertips. How long could I keep this up?
The climb kept going, winding up the flanks of Bald Mountain.

This turned out to be one of my favorite shots of the entire ride.

Baker's Tank.

Snow patches begin to appear. By the sound of it, the road hadn't been cleared for traffic until recently.

The pass finally comes into view. I was now in alternating seated & standing positions.
My legs and lungs needed a break. I couldn't keep the standing pedaling going too long once I topped 11k. As easy as Boreas Pass was to climb, I was once again off my bike pushing. I was beyond demoralized at this moment, but vowed to keep forward progress no matter the speed. I think I walked about a half mile, then felt rested enough to pedal to the pass.

Heck of a view from that tent.

New high point of the ride!! It's also the second highest of the entire Tour Divide, only Indiana Pass is higher at 11,910'.
Boreas Pass was also the easiest pass to climb, wish I could've stayed on the bike to fully enjoy it.

There were a handful of cars at the pass and about a dozen people checking out the scene.

Entering the Pike National Forest.

I had no idea about the railroad history of the pass.

Pretty wild to think about the heyday here.

No need to look both ways at this crossing.

Going down to South Park...

Looking north off the pass.
I knew to be on the lookout for the Gold Dust Trail off the south side of Boreas Pass. It never fails, each and every year a few riders miss the turn only to climb all the way back up to avoid relegation. I wasn't sure how obvious it would be...

About as obvious as it could be.  It's barely over the pass too.

Multi-purpose singletrack, doubles as a stream!!

Ahhh, there we go.
I'll go ahead and put this out there now. While riding down the Gold Dust Trail, I couldn't help but think that the Tour Divide really needs a bit more singletrack. The route passes through or near enough to some prime riding destinations, surely there's a worthy singletrack option to be routed. The High Rockies Trail in Alberta is a prime example, the TD uses two sections of it already, but skips a bunch too. Maybe the trail isn't as good as what we rode? I don't know, but I doubt it. Some other areas that may be of consideration: Butte, MT, Centennial Mtns near Lima, MT, Steamboat Springs, CO, Breckenridge, CO to name a few. It just seems like the bits of singletrack that are included are only token bits of trail. Up until this point there was at most 30 miles of singletrack. I think it would be cool if the entire route had between 100 - 200 miles worth. Easier said than done, I realize this. Perhaps just a pipedream. Anywho...

Gold Dust was generally downhill and fast.

I had been subconsciously craving more of this. So rad!!

Only one minor snafu.

The luge section of the trail.

More buff singletrack. The Gold Dust Trail was a bit longer than I thought and I was stoked about it.

Calorie intake break on the road to Como. This was another opportunity for the route to continue on the Gold Dust singletrack and still link into Como.
CR50 was a fast spin off the mountain.

Entering the rural community of Como.

Little pink houses for you and me.

DSP&P RR = Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad.

Rail car left to natural decay.

The Basin area of Central Colorado, this time with more favorable winds than Wyoming.

I couldn't tell if the skies were on my side or about to turn against me.

I was able to mix a steady dose of standing and seated pedaling now and making good progress.

The pavement was coming to an end, but I heard some chatter behind me...

It was Joe & Nathan. I must've passed them in the Silverthorne/Breckenridge area.

I love this area of Colorado, huge wide open spaces surrounded by a fortress of mountain peaks.

For the most part the road was good quality with a few climbs mixed in. I only had to walk one section near Elkhorn Ranch.

Fun downhill near Elkhorn Spring.
The skies were definitely growing more dense, but the cloud cover was welcome.
The Buffalo Ranch?? Now I'm getting hungry.

Elkhorn Community House

The miles were clicking by as the afternoon wore on. So far the storm clouds never materialized.

I had been doing a constant saddle shuffle since Como and my hands were starting to take notice.

One of the least desirable sections of the route. A small shoulder on US24. At least it was late in the day during midweek so there wasn't a ton of traffic, but what was there was flyin'. No uncomfortably close calls thankfully. At least this section of pavement rode very fast, was slightly downhill and only a few miles to reach Hartsel.

Looking southwest from US24.

Southbound view from US24.

South Platte River.

Hartsel is another in the long line of small isolated communities along the Tour Divide.

Perfect. I arrived around 6:30p and ordered a large burger & fries.
A few minutes after getting settled, Joe & Nathan rolled up. I had wondered what happened to them as they never caught up after snapping their picture. They said they took a roadside break as I sped off down the road.

We caught up on some stories while we ate. Joe was going to be ending his ride in Salida due to prior commitments, while Nathan would continue on to Antelope Wells, neither were carrying a SPOT tracker. Both fellas reside in Flagstaff, AZ and I'm surprised our paths hadn't crossed until the Divide.

While sitting at the corner table I could see my bike outside, something didn't look right. It took a minute, but then I realized what it was. I was missing one of my fork mounted bottles. I'm guessing the strap failed on the Gold Dust Trail like the first one did in Montana, but this time it completely came off taking the mount & bottle with it. At least it was my cheap cage & bottle and not my Ti cage & insulated bottle that was on the other side!!

The other thing I noticed while sitting down was my right knee had become more irritated, a bit swollen near the front of my quad. It didn't bother me, but as I looked closer at it there was a small puss head developing. This was no mosquito bite. My first thought was perhaps a spider bite. It was something I'd keep an eye on the following day for sure.

The three of us discussed our plans for the evening. We all figured we'd at least get close to Salida if not make a late push down into town. There was only one small pass to get over and the riding appeared to be more of the same from the previous hours.

The guys left a few minutes before me and were soon out of sight. It was now after 7:30p and not much daylight left. I was still hoping to knock out a good chunk of miles as I was only at 70 or so for the day.
The mercantile was now closed, but I was well stocked for the ride to Salida.
I was back on dirt and out into the Basin in short order.
The sitdown meal in Hartsel was great, but overall the stop didn't do my body any favors. I felt sluggish from the big meal, heavy legs and I lost whatever comfort I had on the saddle. The next few miles were slow going in a fitful state of being uncomfortable. To help matters, the road became increasingly covered in washboard.

The sun casts its final rays on Day 19.

Behind me the skies were clearing.

A few thick clouds remained but they were moving off in the correct direction.
A few miles out of Hartsel the road began to climb and I was out of gas. Walking once more as darkness fell. The Basin was mostly barren, but there were a few ranch lights sprinkled about. The Milky Way put on a show as I trudged forward.

The climb topped out, but the road still sloped uphill. It wasn't much, should've been an easy pedal, but now I labored through each pedal stroke. The miles were dragging on and by 10:30p I had enough. I knew the area had ranches, but hadn't seen any private property signs or much fencing. I figured it was relatively wide open, but I didn't want to camp too close to the road. From what I could tell by scanning my headlamp was only sage bush far & wide. I found a level spot just over a small rise and spread out my sleeping bag. Not two minutes after getting settled for the night I heard some cattle nearby. Fantastic. I listened a bit more and decided they were far enough away. I really didn't want to move.

I had only covered 8 miles since Hartsel in 3 hours. Brutal. Being so close still to Hartsel I had 4G coverage and checked in with K. I mentioned my knee and potential spider bite and she agreed that I should try and have it looked at in Salida. It had stiffened up a bit since dinner, but really wasn't an issue. I posted a quick social media update and crashed out under the stars.

That only lasted until 1:30a as I woke to take a leak. As I began to squirm out of my sleeping bag I heard a pitter-patter...pitter-patter...WTH?? Rain?!?? Good grief. Sure enough it started to increase intensity. I scrambled to find my camp light and riding goggles in the darkness (remember, they are prescription glasses too!). Queue the Yakety Sax music. As fast as I could in a sleep deprived state, I dug out my tent and set it up, then tossed all my gear inside before it was soaked. If not, this wouldn't be the first time I've slept in a soggy sleeping bag in Colorado. Somehow, I got it done quickly and as soon as I tossed the final bit of sleep gear in the tent, the rain stopped. Of course it did. From what I could see, I was still camped under a starry sky, but there was one lone rogue cloud of doom that flew overhead disrupting my night. All I could do was laugh, what the hell just happened?

It wasn't the most restful night of the ride and now my semi-stealth cowboy camp was out in the open in my bright yellow tent. Hopefully, the nearby ranchers didn't care.

Stats: 78.77 miles & 4,429' gained.


Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route.

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