We have been waylaid yet again by the weather so we are waiting out the rain and possibly snow in Walden, CO, about twenty miles from the Wyoming border. Before we pick up where we left off we’d like to announce that we are close to our fundraising goal for Action Against Hunger of $1,000! This week for everyone who donates $20 or more we will send you a postcard from the road. Additionally, anybody who donates any amount will be recognized in our book about this trip, which we will be writing in China. Don’t forget to send your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org
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We last wrote in Kremmling where we took refuge from the rain and cold. Once the sky had cleared we rode to the store in town and then almost twenty miles to Hot Sulphur Springs because we like to soak at every opportunity. At first, HWY 40 undulated over rolling hills and meandered beside the Colorado River which was dotted with fishermen in waders casting their lines into the icy water hoping to catch any of the river’s multitude of fish varieties (at every turnout, roadside informational signs detailed the abundant wildlife and river features). Then, the road narrowed as it entered Byers Canyon.
On our right was a towering rock wall which according to the signs was crumbling and threatening the road with falling rocks. On our left was a steep fall down to the river. Beyond the river the railroad backed up against the other canyon wall, equally at risk from falling boulders. Thankfully this section was downhill so we could zip through the canyon to town.
Just after exiting the canyon the landscape opened to reveal a quaint little town. It was lunchtime so we gravitated toward the first restaurant we saw, the Glory Hole. Suppressing juvenile giggles we decided that we had to eat there. The food was better than expected and the employees were enthusiastic about our adventure. Our next stop was the riverside campground across the street where we set up our tent so it could dry out from the previous day’s rain. Eager to commence relaxing we jumped back on our bikes to the hot springs next door.
The resort hosts 23 hot springs ranging from 90 to 112 degrees. The whole place reeked of sulphur and the water had not been filtered like in Glenwood Springs, giving the pools a somewhat murky quality but also indicating that the minerals would be all the more effective.
It was cold out so hopping from one pool to the next was a procedure accompanied by much teeth chattering but also made easing into the warm pools all the more satisfying. We tried a few before concluding that the most comfortable temperature was somewhere between 102 and 105. The pools at this temperature were indoors and not crowded. A few luxurious hours later we showered and headed back to camp for a hodgepodge dinner that resembled a Mexican soup.
That night was a cold one and when we awoke we found that our tent and bikes were covered with a layer of frost.
Although it was beautiful it did not make for a promising scene so we left our stuff to thaw in the warming morning as we went out on foot in search of breakfast.
It was 6:30 when we trudged up the main drag toward the Glory Hole so nothing was open yet. We made a loop of the small town to kill time and keep warm in what we learned was 30 degree weather.
At the first signs of activity we strode briskly to the Glory Hole to see what time they opened. We still had twenty minutes to wait before official opening time but we were ushered in anyway. Minutes later a few more people showed up so we didn’t feel as badly about coming in before opening. We spent a couple hours getting warm, charging our electronics, eating breakfast, and chatting with the gentlemen at the next table who generously paid for our breakfast. Thanks, guys!
By 9 the frost had melted and we could set off for Walden, 62 miles away. Our Adventure Cycling map indicated that the first part of our day would be spent climbing one big hill up to Willow Creek Pass at 9658 feet and then heading right back down to Walden at 8100 feet elevation.
The climb was gradual over twenty-two miles until the last two miles which were steeper and more challenging due to the thin air.
Our strength and determination by now has enabled us to stay on our bikes during climbs rather than walking them when the going gets steep; something we consider to be a great accomplishment. We rested at the top which was marked as the Continental Divide until the mosquitoes started buzzing around us and we headed back down to slightly lower elevation.
Our route took us on HWY 125 through the Arapaho Wildlife Refuge, which was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1915.
We were disappointed by the general lack of wildlife we saw in this area (we were, however, delighted to both see the same duck floating down the river tail first) and by the logging operations that were cutting large patches in the otherwise uninterrupted swath of trees that blanketed the mountains on either side of us. Apparently 198 different species of birds reside in the Refuge but we didn’t see them. We did see prairie dogs and Kelly saw a few antelope which is always exciting.
Halfway between Willow Creek Pass and the next town of Rand the topography flattened out. The spruce and pine trees that had lined the road were replaced by broad vistas of grass and wetlands. We had entered North Park, which is a basin 35 miles wide and 45 miles long surrounded on all sides by snow capped mountains (west: Park Range, south: Rabbit Ear Mountains, southeast: Never Summer Range, and northeast: Medicine Bow Range). We had intended to get to Rand before 3 to fill up our water bottles at the town’s only open establishment, the Post Office, but we missed it by ten minutes so we asked a neighboring resident. He obliged somewhat reluctantly to let us fill up from the garden hose out back. After a few minutes of strained conversation we were glad to be on our way. As we rode through Rand, which took ten minutes from end to end, we saw the town’s police car which looked like it hadn’t moved since 1940 and received the same bewildered look from all the resident cows. We had lunch at the edge of town before pressing on the 20 miles to Walden. The final stretch, which only took an hour and a half to complete, was largely flat and uneventful. When the road is flat for so long there is nothing to look forward to or dread, no gravity-assisted flying down hills or grunting up, just monotony. It was beautiful in its way, not staggering like the canyons or mountains we have passed but more subtle. The bright blue sky, when it peaked between the clouds, was reflected in great flat ponds where herds of horses and cows nibbled the sweet grass that once attracted thousands of bison to the area.
It was these bison that fed, clothed, and housed the Ute Native Americans here until white settlers came to exploit the area for beaver fur, mineral wealth, and pasture. These settlers killed the bison more for sport than function and before long the valley was wiped clean of these burly beasts.
The last twenty miles of the way we rode between the barbed wire boundaries of the Wildlife Refuge. It may have been too late to see anything or we spooked the animals with our smell.
We rolled into Walden at about 6:30 and met a few locals, including a policeman who assured us that the town is safe and gave us his card so we could call if we had any problems. The girl in the gas station reminded us that Walden is considered the moose viewing capital of Colorado and basically guaranteed that we would spot some on our way out of town toward Wyoming.
The campground marked on our map was actually the city park (the first one we have been able to camp in so far!). Keeping the rainy forecast in mind we set up camp under a gazebo at the center of the park and then congratulated each other for our good fortune when we learned that our new home had power outlets. The gazebo has a shingled roof, low walls, and is encircled by shrubs, minimizing our exposure to the elements. Plus, it was free. We scored!
Our spot is also complete with a grill so for dinner we diverted from our usual fare and grilled corn on the cob, mushrooms and onions, and baked beans.
Lately the cold nights have been getting to Mi, whose sleeping bag seems to be sub-par. Fortunately, Kelly thoughtfully picked up a second smaller sleeping bag specifically designed for biking and hiking for Mi to stick inside the original bag. Despite the wind and rain, we both stayed warm, at last!
The downside to sleeping in the park is that it is utilized by the neighboring elementary school as a playground. Much to our chagrin, our day was spent listening to screaming children who were incredibly curious about us and who delighted in running up to our tent where we were napping and yelling (apparently we are “poopy faces”) before running away squealing.
Today we decided to take a break from the elements and monster children to do laundry, use the wifi, and shower before heading back to the gazebo to spend one more night sheltered from the rain/snow before making our way into Wyoming, a mere twenty miles to the north.
Until next time, K and M. And don’t forget to check out Action Against Hunger!