Friday, June 25, 2010

Grand Canyon Bicycle Tour, Day 7

I got a good night's sleep at the Colorado end of Navajo Lake and woke up fairly early.  I wanted to get to the New Mexico end of the lake as early as I could, since it was Friday, and weekend campers would likely be filling the place up later in the day.

I continued on CO-151 to arrive at the town of Ignacio around 10:00, where I briefly turned north on CO-172 in search of second breakfast.  I found it at The Patio, a diner and evidently something of a bar.  It was farther up the road than I initially planned to go.  I had almost given up on finding an open restaurant and turned around when I noticed a parking lot full of trucks.  That's always a good sign.  I enjoyed a good meal and good service, though ironically, I sat at the diner counter rather than on the patio.  I had cell phone service there, so I called to check in with my family before turning south once more.

The Patio Restaurant, Ignacio, CO

It was around 11:15 that I crossed the state line into New Mexico.

New Mexico state line, CO-172/NM-511

Up to that point, the terrain had been relatively flat, but it almost at once became very hilly.  And there were few concessions made for tempering the grade.  The climbs, while short, were frequently 7% or so.  It was a very tiring day of riding.  The scenery was nice, though, and I got a good sampling of desert landscapes.

Desert scenery along NM-511

I arrived at Navajo Lake State Park, New Mexico, around 13:00 and stopped at the visitor's center to inquire about  the camp sites.  I was told that developed sites cost $10, but it is possible to camp anywhere else for $8.  I'm perfectly willing to pay $2 extra for a table, a clear tent pad, and easy access to water and restrooms.  I was also told that the Cedar campground was the only one with showers, so it was a no-brainer as to which of the three grounds I'd be using.

Navajo Lake near the park entrance on NM-511

It's worth noting that there are some services just past the state park entrance, but getting to them requires descending the Navajo Dam, which is quite steep.  Returning to the park would require a lot of effort, so when coming from the north, it is best to arrive equipped and save the shopping for the next day.

I got a good campsite right on the edge of the hill overlooking the lake.  None of the sites really had much shade, but I found a small patch to sit in while I ate my lunch.  Then, I made my way down the hill to the water's edge to explore and cool off in the water.

A lizard near the edge of Navajo Lake

Exploring the shoreline

After returning to camp, I was just sitting around when I was greeted by a friendly "Hello, brother!"  It was a bicycle traveler named Josh, who is making his way from Oregon to Florida.  He had been on the road since April and was expecting to reach the other end around October.  I invited him to come visit after he got settled into his own site, so soon we were chatting and sharing some laughs over the things we'd been through.  It was really good to meet another cycle tourist.

From a practical standpoint, I was lucky to meet him when I did because he had just covered much of the territory into which I'd be riding the following week.  He had come from the north rim of the Grand Canyon and rode about half of the route I had planned through Arizona, and basically all of it through New Mexico.  This was another instance in which a fellow cyclist was able to set my mind at ease concerning a part of the trip I feared most.  Just as the guy at Alpine in South Fork helped me gain confidence about Wolf Creek Pass, Josh had encouraging news about crossing the desert.  He assured me that there were services spaced no more than 40 or so miles apart through Arizona, and that it was much easier going than he'd expected.

A storm moved in that evening, and there was quite a display of lightening.  I was unnerved by my campsite's exposure there on the edge of the hill, but what trees there were showed no signs of lightning damage, so I tried not to worry too much.  Based on my experience from the first night of the trip, I did take the trouble to pull out my tarp and lash it over my tent to keep things dry.  Then I stood back and let the cool rain fall on me and headed to the shower once the storm had passed.  I was somewhat disappointed to find that, while they did not cost anything to use, the showers didn't have hot water.

My site at Cedar campground, Navajo Lake State Park, NM

As I anticipated, the campground did begin to fill up with folks moving in for the weekend.  I was worried that it might end up being too noisy, but as night fell, everyone was pretty respectful and kept it down enough that I was able to sleep without being disturbed.

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