Oh, Momma! to Guffey, CO

Tuesday June 30, 2009, 36 miles (58 km) – Total so far: 2,425 miles (3,903 km)

What a day!  I forgot to reset my alarm after we got to sleep late yesterday, so we didn’t get on the road until almost 7:00.  We started with a nice 1000 foot climb out of Canon City.  For some reason the traffic on US 50 seemed pretty heavy to me, but we had no incidents.  Yes, I used my granny gear getting up that climb!  Then we dropped a bit, but not too much, as we turned onto Colorado 9, which we’ll follow for a while.  It was pretty, but then it got steep again.  Finally we curved back to parallel Currant Creek, which has no water and no currents, but for all I know it might grow currants.

We saw some southern peaks before we turned off US 50 that still had snow on them, but once we entered the Currant Creek valley, visibility was limited to smaller peaks, only around 8-9,000 feet.  (Only!)  It seemed like all the birds disappeared, except for some crows, while we were climbing.  I didn’t recognize most of the wild flowers, except for what they told us yesterday is the cholla cactus blooming.  Oh, and some rock lilies.  It is interesting how the flora changes; there was one field where there was a stand of lush, thick grass on the bottom, and then it was almost as though someone drew a line and everything above it looked like concrete painted green.

Southern Rockies from the top of Royal Gorge

Road goes into "little" 9,000 footers

(Cholla?) Cactus blooming

and rock lilies

The plan for today was to make it to Fairplay, but after climbing 3,000 feet at a slow pace, I thought it would be better to save the next 40 miles or so for tomorrow.  Actually, I think I could go another 20 miles, but I’m not sure about 40.  There’s no good stopping point until we hit Fairplay, though, so we turned off to the eccentric town of Guffey.  That’s the thing I like about an unsupported trip; if we’re not having fun, we don’t have to push on.  (Of course, if somebody else was carrying all my gear, I might have been able to make it all the way!)  There’s a decent cyclists’ hostel here in Guffey, run by a character who is cleaning up his antique store and getting ready for the 23rd annual Chicken Fly.  You may have heard of it; they have a 12 foot high platform, stuff a chicken into a mailbox, push it out with a plunger, and measure how far it flies.  The record, if you want to know, is 136 feet.

There is a passel of campgrounds and RV parks 10 miles out of Canon City, and if we had stayed at one of them, I might have been able to go further.  But I think Guffey is just about the right distance outside of Canon City itself for west-bound loaded cyclists.

Why wasn’t I full of vim, vigor and vitality after a rest day?  I think it had something to do with how we “rested.”  We took a rail-raft combination trip, where we rode the train through the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River.  It’s a winding track, with lots of whitewater and a suspension bridge over the narrowest part of the gorge.  Just upstream of the suspension bridge is a longitudinal bridge, where the track is on a bridge supported by two A-frame type girders.

Suspension bridge over Royal Gorge

A-frame support for railroad bridge

Then we were supposed to raft the gorge.  Well, the water was too high, as the flow was over 3600 cfs, and the state won’t allow guided raft trips over 3200 cfs.  So instead, we went upstream, and rafted the Bighorn Sheep Canyon, also on the Arkansas.  It’s different from the gorge in that there’s room for a road through it as well as the railroad, where there’s almost enough room in the gorge for a railroad.  With the flow, it was a pretty solid class III-IV, which was fine with me.  We hit some of the standing wave trains just right, so we had to power through to keep from getting stuck.

I’d recommend the outfit we used (Raft Masters) to cyclists wanting to do the same thing, as their headquarters are in town, close to the Super 8 and Best Western motels.  You can walk from either of those, and take their buses to and from the train depot and the rafting.  I would not, however, recommend calling it a rest day.  Virginia claims she could have made it the next 40 miles, and maybe she could, but I’d rather recuperate and get used to the altitude.

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