Trans America Trail

September 5, 2018 — Colorado

140 miles

It was a chilly, low mileage day up in the Rockies. I saw the sun for about 45 minutes, and the rest of the day brought cold rain, hail, and finally snow at Slumgullion Pass, which is over 11,000 feet.

The rain started as soon as I pulled out of Salida, but the roads were wide and smooth so the riding was easy and the scenery fantastic. It got much rockier and slicker as I approached Marshall Pass and the Continental Divide. The rain also picked up.

I dropped down into Sargents, fueled the bike, and got an early lunch. I talked to a couple guys from Florida who were out for a couple weeks riding their brand new KTM 2-strokes. After lunch the skies cleared, and I dried out a bit. The ride over Black Sage Pass was pleasant, and it felt good to warm up.

After going through Doyleville, the weather ahead looked much worse. Dark clouds, heavy rain, and lightning to the west. I considered taking US-50 north in order to stay on pavement as the storm passed, but the clouds looked darker in that direction. A quick consultation of Sam's maps showed that the trail headed southwest for the next section, and I hoped I could skirt the storm by staying on the TAT. Amazingly this turned out to be true, and while I did get rain and some decent hail for 10 minutes or so, I think I made out better than had I stuck to the pavement. I passed a few bicyclists who faced the same weather, and I felt lucky to be in my heavy duty moto gear instead of their thin rain suits. I'm sure that hail was a lot more painful for them than me.

The rain continued through Los Pinos Pass and another dozen ranches, but the riding was still excellent as it followed the gorge created by Mill Creek. Interesting rock formations hung above both sides of the road. Just before the Deer Creek Campgrounds I ran into Kurt, whose SUVs suspension had crapped out of him. He asked if I could send a tow truck out when I got to Lake City, and I gladly obliged. He also mentioned that Slumgullion Pass was covered with sleet and to ride carefully. A couple miles later, a few inches of snow lay on the ground, and I rode cautiously. The pass was easy, but my fingers were frozen stiff at this point. It couldn't have been over 35 degrees up there. I saw a Forest Service truck and asked him if he could radio a tow for Kurt and passed along the coordinates.

The road down into Lake City was paved and provided nice views, surely even more spectacular on a clear day. It was only 4pm and I considered pushing on to Silverton, but the cold over the last pass had gotten to me, and I decided to stop in Lake City for the night.

At dinner I talked with a guy celebrating his 60th birthday by hiking the Colorado Trail. He'd been over 11,000 feet for the past week or so. I can't imagine what the weather has been like up there.