This Coloradan leg of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route continues to amaze and delight; a seemingly unending patchwork of dirt roads linking backwater settlements and their quirky mercantiles, through land peppered with sublime camping spots to rest weary heads. We’ve been lucky with the weather too, basking in wall to wall sunshine for the last week.
The riding has been almost exclusively on backroads. Some stretches have felt long and lonely. Others have been set, in these dwindling days, to splashes of autumnal colour. Mornings are so crisp and icy-cold it’s futile to resist cozy sleeping bags until the first fingers of sunshine have crept down from the mountains and tapped us gently awake. Then it’s time to gulp down a bowl of porridge, pack up our belongings, mount our faithful steeds, and take to the trail once more…
Leaving Como. An open road and Dire Straits' 'Telegraph Road' on the iPod.
Nancy and Greg hit dirt once more.
The tiny settlement of Hartsel, the geographic centre of Colorado...
As well as the eclectic South Park Mercantile Co and a wacky Mexican restaurant, it entertained us with this Godly-festooned truck.
JC's in the driving seat here.
Back on dirt. A classic Great Divide scene...
Blips in the magnitude of Colorado.
By now our travelling tribe numbered five: Nancy, Layl, Nicholas, Greg and me. Surly were well represented, with 3 Trolls clad in Porcelain Rocket framebags, and a Long Haul Trucker. Nick's Schwinn High Sierra flew the flag of 80s steel.
Talking of framebags... they're ideal for carrying jerky, a chewy, protein-rich US staple, omnipresent in every gas station across the state. These especially tasty salmon strips were posted to me all the way from Alaska. Thanks Marnie!
Camping out on public land, enjoying the late afternoon sun and a game of frisbee.
Refuel: guilt-free chocolate spread. Best eaten straight. With a spork.
It's late October and we're on the cusp of winter, teetering on the knife edge of Colorado's incredible fall colours.
After climbing up through the San Isabel National Forest, we crested the watershed divide. An imposing wall confronted us - the '14ers', the fourteen thousand foot peaks of the mighty Sawatch Range.
Down, down, down amongst the juniper and pinyon...
... with occasional breaks to take it in this incredible vista.
The outskirts of Salida - or Sa-Lie-Da, as it's pronounced locally, despite its hispanic roots.
Downtown politics. This immaculate little liberal mountain enclave abounds in characterful coffee shops, hip galleries and independent stores.
It's a mountain biking utopia, where bikes abound of all colours and creeds.
A sun-bleached Nick and two dusty dirt drop tourers.
Thrift store shopping, cowboy style.
Fresh kale from the farmer's market.
And good bread too...
Salida enticed us with miles of mellow singletrack unwinding straight out of its historic downtown.
We were staying a few miles out of the centre, with a Warmshowers host. How many places boast singletrack like this you can ride home with your groceries?
A little further afield, there's also the IMBA Epic Ride, the high altitude Monarch Crest Trail. We tackled it on our 'day off', rounding it off with the whirligig Rainbow Trail. A big day out!
And finally, a lovely surprise. I'd stayed with in the wondeful home of Chloe and Alexei up in Sitka, Alaska, back in 2009. Chloe, who happened to be in Colorado, drove over to Salida to visit and introduce me to their lovely little baby, Phoebe Snow.