Colorado - Salida to Del Norte

Oh Salida, you were awesome and I really wanted to spend more time wandering around your town but I rolled in right as Mumford & Sons was gearing up to put on a show and all the accommodations for the weekend were jammed.  

Salida is no stranger to fatties and Roland and the guys at Absolute Bikes were awesome to hang out with while they stripped the Colonel of his balding threads and put on a new pair of kicks. A shop that heckles you as well increases your stoke is nothing but solid.

While not the headliners, I took advantage of a fun music in the park night and street fair as everyone geared up for a weekend that increased the population of Salida five fold.  The following morning after staking out a spot at Brown Dog Cafe, I ran into a nice British guy named Andrew as we looked for a working ATM.  Andrew, turns out, is the business guy behind Mumford & Sons. And while some of my SF friends would be ashamed of me for turning down free tickets, bandit camping down under the bridge with the other 1000 people without accomodation was not super appealing.  Thanks again for the offer Andrew. 

So after a night of too many bratwursts and too many beers, I fogged out of town with Marshall Pass on the mind. Luckily after a painful road section with Velcro shoe wearing grandpa's driving their RV's over the white line, I hung a left and eased up through the aspen tunnel lining the buttery smooth dirt up Marshall Pass.  Perhaps to lull us into the arse kicking waiting in New Mexico, the passes in Colorado (except for Indiana Pass to come) are all gravy-train railroad grades you could ride to the moon without breaking a sweat.

Moody goodness at the Pass.

What the... apparently an unmarked black Dodge cop car is not out of the norm for Marshall Pass. Turns out an enduro rider got bucked off down on the other side. 

Oscar from NZ, whom I met in Salida, caught up to me on the backside and we enjoyed a windy descent down through towering aspens before rolling into Sargents

where we flopped next to a stream for the night and enjoyed a home cooked meal at the cafe.  

Fall is in the air as a frosty morning blanketed the area and clumped up my breakfast.  Oscar peeled out early to make a run for Del Norte while I chatted up a nice enduro rider and waited for the sun to inch a bit higher in the sky.

The stretch up towards Cochetopa Pass brought out some fantastic remoteness with a few Coyotes wandering around out amongst the sage.  After a nice roadside chat with Andrew, possibly the last north-bounder on the Divide, 

I eased up and over Cochetopa Pass.  Stopping on the backside to water-up and check out a small campsite for the night, either a socially awkward pine tree expert or serial killer sidled up as I was map reckoning.  The beat-up mini van, lump on the side of the head, and shirt tucked into shorts dirty then mine pushed the "best to keep moving" button...

Content I saved myself from ending up in little pieces stuffed into a pine pillow, I strolled up another railroad grade to the top of Carnero Pass and hit the summit at the perfect light of the day.

Southern Colorado started to reveal itself on the descent in Salida and just keeps ramping up its almost New Mexico qualities as I rolled down into the tiny town of La Garita the following morning. 

La Garita was a nice contrast after Hartsel's "locals only" vibe.  La Garita "Grandma," as she's affectionately referred, served up several huge glasses of water to help flush out the cattle water from the night before and chatted me up while I enjoyed a plate of French toast and coffee.  Super nice peeps and definitely worth a slightly off-route stop.

Nice to see some familiar names on the first Divide register I've come across. Australia might not like that John and Cathy!

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I thought the stretch into Del Norte was going to be pretty quiet, easing along Southern Colorado's increasing buttes and mesas.

until this ear to ear grinning awesomeness appeared as 

the "Primitive Road" backdoor entrance to town.

Another Divide favorite, peering down at Del Norte and its washed out fire season sky.

A final stretch of sandy washout the Colonel had for lunch before spinning into town and parking it at the Organic Peddler Hostel.  They served up needed veggie goodness at the Peace of Art Cafe and a bottomless cup of iced coffee.  One of the benefits of lateral dawdling for a while is that I have the Hostel to myself and someone left behind "From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah" for a night of musical pleasure and preparation for the final march to the border.  Sad to be leaving Colorado in less than two days.  In addition to catching-up with a bunch of friends, the aspen tree passes and remote stretches have been nothing short of beautiful and the passes are certain to be even more spectacular when they change color. Definitely on the list for some future rides.