I rolled out of Del Norte at first light and inched up Indiana Pass, a slow steady grinder compared to the Divide's previous Colorado passes.
The Pass tops out in a spectacular high alpine meadow at 11,981 ft. The climbing legs never quite turned on today, so a nice long lunch nap in the sun was in order
before dropping down the backside
and taking a quick swim to cool off at the Summitville superfund site. The early 19th century stream names in the surrounding area: Iron Creek, Alum Creek and Bitter Creek attest to an already acidic make-up from the naturally acidic and naturally heavy metal dense surrounding hills. In 1984, a Canadian Mining operation took over the previous mines and expanded it into an open-pit operation to extract more gold. In 1991, the US government took over the site after the EPA discovered over 85,000 gallons of toxic water had been leaking into the surrounding streams and Alamosa River further downstream. An additional 160 million gallons needing treatment was stored in leaking storage pounds.
Don't get your water out of that...
Apart from Summitville, this area of Southern Colorado is beautiful with a decreased human presence and a section of the route that links one lush high alpine meadow after another.
Morning easer up Stunner Pass, a tight winder prone to floods and washouts,
to a second breakfast in Platoro and sadly another map change...
Platoro is a quirky, hard knocks community set
at the southern base of Stunner Pass with a nice fly fishing stream that meanders its way down towards the border of New Mexico.
I fueled up with the best peach cobbler I've ever had at the Red Bear Restaurant in Horca. The Texans who run the place are super genuine and have lent their home cooking to Dividers every season. If you're fast, you take a homemade burrito to go. If you're slow, you take a cobbler...
Down that little squiggly line and it was goodbye Colorado
and hello New Mexico.
After a rainy night, the morning skies served up a continuous sheet of grey. In New Mexico this leaves little room for doubt that the rain and roads will conspire against you sooner or later.
After a little bit of morning climbing back up into the hills, it was time to enjoy the final push up Brazos Ridge before topping
out in another fantastic alpine meadow without a sole in sight.
An afternoon of edging around the left over puddles, left me cockily thinking I'd beaten the rain game...
New Mexico does not like cocky people and played her mud card less than two miles from the hardpack. Laughing at me, she doubled down and brought in another round of rain as concern of sleeping "in the mud" as one northbounder joked started to set in.
I don't think I've ever been as happy to reach the hardpack. With my belt drive mudded off the rear sprocket and rear brake pads all amiss it was rainy roadside diagnosis/repair time as trucks roared by.
Problem diagnosed, the Colonel was happy again and ready to grind up the final stretch to Hopewell Lake Camp Ground for the night.
New Mexico is as legit as every northbounder has expressed. She's beautiful but will break you a the same time...
After another night of rain and lightening, I had positive hopes the "impassable when wet" areas later in the day would be dry if I got an early start.
Three miles into the day, the mud knards and jammed belt drive were back in force...
With one squashed tomato, two soggy tortillas, an emergency scoop of peanut butter and three Cliff Bars, I made the food based decision to heed the book's advice and take the alternate road route instead of stubbornly plowing ahead past the point of no return. After a lengthy walk back up the pass, I found a mud puddled and soaked the belt drive back to life.
Chaffed to be road bound and missing part of the main route, the Sugimoto-eqsue atmosphere and lack of cars brought some solace.
Punching through the backside of the storm front, the New Mexico I'd always had in my minds eye took shape with bright blue skies and a multi-colored sandstone landscape.
The silver lining in the alternate route was sharing some time with Californians Dick (right) and Larry. Incredibly nice guys and seasoned tourers who have biked with different groups all over the world and know the Divide like the back of their hand.
I rolled on down the road a touch further into Abiquiu, rectified my food shortage at Bode's General Store and got back on route. While not a huge Georgia O'Keeffe fan growing up, it's clear why she called Abiquiu her home.
I spent the better part of the evening wondering at the changing light levels and clarity of the NM's evening sky.