Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Day 4: Gunnison, CO - Pagosa Springs, CO

Something we learned yesterday: the recent Tour of Colorado stage race sent the unfortunate riders up Independence Pass.  The names painted on the road were still visible and you had to wonder what the European pros made of it, even Jens Voigt.  The climb starts at an altitude higher than just about any climb in Europe.

Anyway, I'd better make this quick; I'm running on battery power as the back of the desk makes it impossible to reach the socket.  Note to the Pagosa Springs Inn & Suites: invest in some of those desk lamps with a socket built into the base!

First up today was a 170 mile loop from Gunnison, starting directly into the rising sun.  Not quite as bad as the day I heard Al-Qaeda had assassinated Johnny Cash ["Are you sure about this?" - Ed], running east from Durango, but not fun.  Over the 11,312 foot Monarch Pass and down to Poncha Springs, then south to Saguache and back to Gunnison via the 10,149 foot North Pass, which calls itself the North Cochetopa Pass on the sign, there being an unpaved Cochetopa Pass to the south.  See what they did there?

Refuel back in Gunnison, then head west a few miles on US-50 before turning left onto the wonderful CO-149, though first you have to cross the Blue Mesa Reservoir which resulted from the White Man messing up the Gunnison River.  First up is Slumgullion Pass, at 11,361 feet.  At the foot of the north end, just south of Lake City, is a memorial to the victims of the Packer Massacre, wherein one Alferd (sic) Packer  allegedly ate the other five members of his party while lost and snowbound during the winter of 1873-74. The story was later sensitively immortalised by South Park co-creator Trey Parker, as Cannibal! The Musical.

Next up is Spring Creek Pass at 10,901 feet before the long descent to US-160 at South Fork.  Passing through Creede, a vehicle I'd overtaken reappeared in front of me.  Must know a short cut.  US-160 leads to Wolf Creek Pass.  In the rather splendid America Unchained, Dave Gorman tells of driving up here late at night.  A loud noise caused him and his passenger/producer/camerman to stop the car; they had visions of being stranded all night and/or eaten, which seems to be a common theme in this part of Colorado.  They were reprieved when Andy discovered that a hub-cap had fallen off.

From Wolf Creek Pass - 10,850 feet - descend to Pagosa Springs for a there and back diversion to the Cumbres (10,022 feet) and La Manga (10,230 feet) passes.  This requires a brief incursion into New Mexico and as passes go, them have little to recommend them save that I hadn't been there before, because they're right at the bottom of page 40 or the top of page 48.  Retrace back to Pagosa Springs and decide to stop here rather than crack on to Durango.  The weather had been cloudy all day with some intermittent rain, so of course the sun has now come out.

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