Friday, June 25, 2010

Grand Canyon Bicycle Tour, Day 6

It was a cold morning at the West Fork campground.  The surrounding mountains delay the rising of the sun, so that it didn't warm up as early as I would have liked.  I needed to do laundry before breaking camp, but I didn't want to get all wet and freeze my fingers.  So I spent some time taking inventory of my food and updating my journal.  That morning I built the only campfire I made for the whole trip, allowing me to stay warm while starting the laundry a little earlier than I would have done otherwise.

It was 10:00 by the time I got back on the road - the latest start I had since setting out.  It was a lovely ride down to Pagosa Springs.

US-160 between Wolf Creek Pass and Pagosa Springs

As I neared the town, I stopped by a gourmet food store called Choke Cherry East (there is a West counterpart on the other side of town).  They had lots of delicious-looking canned goods, but not much that I could carry on my bike.  And all of it was rather expensive.  I picked up some elk summer sausage.

The Junction Restaurant (just west of the junction of US-160  and US-84) was one of the first places I saw when entering Pagosa Springs, and they had an inviting patio where I could sit with some privacy (for talking on the phone) and fresh air (more for the sake of fellow patrons than for myself).  So around 11:30 I sat down to an early lunch.  The food was probably not the best that Pagosa Springs had to offer, but for a constantly-hungry bike traveler, it hit the spot.

While riding through town, I explored a little bit to see what was available in the way of a soak in the hot springs.  The only place I saw looked a bit run down and sketchy, so I decided to skip it.  There was a grocery store farther down the road where I stopped to restock my larder (i.e., the front-right pannier).

US-160 west of Pagosa Springs was very unpleasant, owing to the heavy traffic and shoulders which were at times too narrow.  I stopped briefly at a small bike shop in a shopping center a mile or two out of town (The Hub, I think it was).  There I talked to a guy who had lived in New Mexico and was familiar with the stretch of Arizona through which I'd be passing.  I received more warnings about "drunken Indians" and the scarcity of services along the route.  As you can see, the desert of Arizona was, after Wolf Creek Pass, the second of my major worries.

Grudgingly, I got back on the road.  The headwind had not let up, and there was an unsettling number of dead elk and deer in the ditch along the highway.  They were as common as prairie dogs back home.  Eventually, Chimney Rock came into view, and soon thereafter, my turn onto CO-151.

Chimney Rock, as seen from US-160

There was very little traffic as I traveled through the Ute reservation on CO-151.  But it was a Thursday, and I imagine that weekend traffic to Navajo Lake would be significantly heavier.  It was pretty nice going, with no major climbs, and the wind wasn't so bad since it wasn't straight on.

The Ute Reservation on CO-151

Around 17:30 I stopped at a convenience store in the town of Arboles, where the entrance to the Navajo State Park is located.  A ranger there told me that the thing to do was to secure a tent site at the Rosa campground within the park.  And as a fellow cyclist, he felt that it bore mentioning that there were showers there.  I couldn't believe it - it sounded like a tremendous luxury.

The tent sites at Rosa did not disappoint, and at $6 per night, it was one of the cheapest campgrounds I'd seen.  When I checked in at the visitor's center, I found that the best spot (on a promontory overlooking the marina) was taken, so I got the site right next to it, which was still overlooking the lake and had a very nice view.  I was worried at first that my neighbors and I might feel a bit crowded, but the campground nearly filled up over the course of the afternoon, so choosing a non-adjacent spot would have been pointless.

Rosa campsite, Navajo State Park

And as it turns out, the lovely family from Aspen on the promontory were the nicest camping neighbors one could hope for.  They had passed me on the highway some hours before, so they knew I'd had quite a day of riding.  The father of the family offered me a beer soon after I arrived.  I gratefully accepted the offer, along with some snap peas and string cheese his wife produced from the cooler.  Later, I visited with them at their camp site over another beer.  I was thankful for the company, but did not want to interfere too much with their family time.  I felt very lucky to have met such nice folks, and it was nice to see a family spending some quality time together like that.

While at the visitor's center, I asked the attendant whether or not I was still in bear country.  She said that I was not.  "What do I have to be afraid of, then?" I asked.  Mosquitoes, it turns out, were the worst that Navajo Lake had to offer.  But it was pretty breezy most of the evening, so aside from a brief surge of insects around dusk, they were not that big of a deal.

The campground at Navajo Lake is mostly set up for people with boats and campers.  That is a whole different type of camping, and I was amazed to see some of the amenities that they brought with them (one had a television satellite dish).  It was like packing up the better part of an entire house and bringing it along.

Boats docked for the night on Navajo Lake

The bathrooms at Rosa were very nice, with hot showers for $1 for four minutes.  And there were coin-operated laundry facilities with a big sink (not coin-operated) for hand-washing clothes.  There were electrical outlets which could be used for recharging batteries, etc.  I was able to get myself and most of my clothing clean for the first time.  It felt great.

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