Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grand Canyon Bicycle Tour, Day 2

Every morning of the trip, I woke up at dawn.  Mostly this was due to the fact that I was going to bed around sundown.  On the morning of the second day, as on most mornings, I got up and made oatmeal and coffee (both of the instant variety) on my little camp stove.  My tent had let some water seep through, so I pulled it out into the sun to dry a bit before packing everything up.

Soon after getting on the road, I came upon Santa Maria, a Catholic summer camp with a huge Christ the King statue on top of a mountain.

Santa Maria's Christ the King statue

About an hour into the ride, I finally reached a forest access road which would have allowed me to reach better camping.  I believe it was the Jefferson Lake Area.

Forest access road west of where I'd camped

Since I'd stayed in a dispersed camp site, I did not have access to additional drinking water.  I soon discovered that many of the communities along this stretch of US-285 had well water and could not offer an opportunity to top off my bottles.  I filtered a little bit of water out of the South Platte River, but I was not yet running low, so I didn't worry about it too much.

Kenosha Pass (10,003 feet) soon loomed before me, becoming the first major test of my fitness for the ride.  It wiped me out. For many stretches, I was stopping at nearly every pull-off to catch my breath and let the burning in my legs subside.  By 9:45 I reached the summit and took a good long break.

Kenosha Pass: conquered.

The valley which opens up on the other side of the pass is really quite beautiful.

The valley beyond Kenosha Pass

A nice descent brought me to the town of Jefferson, which offers a convenience store where I picked up a snack, but still no water.  Moving on, I climbed Red Hill (9,993 feet) and arrived in Fairplay.  A general store there had a snack bar with pizza and fresh fruit.  I ate well and was finally able to refill my water bottles.  As I was eating, a group of teenage campers was gathered in front of the store near where my bike was parked.  I noticed one of them look in at me occasionally.  When I finished eating and went outside, he approached me and asked about my gear and my trip.  As it turns out, he is working on getting equipped to start touring.

I left Fairplay around 13:00, aiming for Buffalo Springs campground, still in the Pike National Forest.  When I got there, I had the place to myself.  I got my cycling clothes washed as well as I could and took a shower by hanging my large water bladder from a tree and opening up the small spout on its lid.  Having access to water and a picnic table felt luxurious after the previous night's primitive camp site.  By 15:30 I was sitting around relaxing.

Buffalo Springs campground

My ride distance that day was a little bit lower than my target average of 50 miles, but given the two substantial climbs, I didn't mind it.  And it was the only campground anywhere close.

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