Arches and Rockies

May 1st, 2013

Day 7,

Everything is covered in dust; sleeping bag, newly washed clothes, maps, helmet, chain, everything.  It really doesn’t bother me that much, it beats wet for sure.  I am so grateful the wind has stopped and I pack up quickly in case it decides to start up again.  As I’m getting closer to the highway I read a small bent-up rusty sign that says no vehicles and am glad to not have had read it yesterday or else I would have been paranoid of getting caught.  I take a little detour to check out some fossilized dinosaur prints which are supposed to be near the place I camped.  The idea of massive dinosaurs walking around the very same ground I am standing on is crazy to think about.

I get my fill of having my mind blown and head back again towards the highway having to honk at cows blocking the road.  Within only 40 minutes or so I am at Arches National Park, a destination I have been looking forward to more than any of the other national parks.  There is a man with a dirt bike in the welcome center parking lot and we talk for a while.  He spent 6 months of last year touring around the East Coast in his truck with the dirt bike in the back, taking it out for smaller more intimate explorations.  This year he is doing the same trip but on the West Coast.  He is a really funny guy and easily makes me laugh.  He tells me he’ll leave poverty at home for the time being; it will be waiting for him when he gets back.

arches

I put on music and drive through the beautiful park which seems unreal, like a theme park again.  Based on pictures, I picked out one arch that I find the most beautiful and drive to the backside of the park to take the 3 mile roundtrip hike to see it.  Having to work to be able to get a view of it makes it all the more rewarding when I finally make it there.  I have a nice little lunch in a miniature arch a few hundred yards away from the “Delicate Arch”, once again finding myself in a tranquil spot overlooking an awesome view.  I am happily interrupted by a troupe of elementary school kids on a field trip who invade my secluded spot.  The overseers apologize over and over for the interruption but I don’t think they understand how much it brightens my day to see a bunch of amazed kids seeing this awesome view for the first time.  Even the smallest things can amaze children so I can only imagine how they feel and it makes me happy to be surrounded by them.

delicate arch

Wind is picking up again and it is cold.  I head back to the bike and get going.  Today I will enter the much  apprehended territory of Colorado.  The reason I fear Colorado is because of its consistent high altitude from border to border.  The highest peak my bike has made it through so far is 8,000 feet which is the base height for much of the upcoming state.  I’m not sure exactly how high some of the passes will be but I can only imagine how my bike will react to the altitude change if it is already backfiring at 8,000 feet.  I also don’t know what kind of temperatures to expect but I know that I felt freezing sleeping at about 6,000 feet a couple days ago.

The only thing to do is go on.  After a recharge stop in Moab I go south and then cut into Colorado heading toward Cortez.   Before I even get to the border I have to pull over and put every layer of clothing I own on.  I sit inside a sandwich shop for about an hour, regaining my warmth and dreading the hours of riding ahead.  I’m at about 7,000 feet now and will only climb from here. I try to imagine what sleep will be like tonight as well.  I slap myself in the face and man up to the chilly highway.

The first thing that surprises me about Colorado is that there are so many farms.  I didn’t realize crops could grow at such high, cold places.  This is spring and its freezing, I can only imagine the winters.  I fill up my tank every chance I get just to have an excuse to stop and run my hands under warm water in gas station bathrooms across southwest Colorado.  My stops are quick and to the point.  I want to get out of this state as fast as I can.

campfire

I make it as far as the San Juan National Forest just past Durango and find my first legal camp site in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.  I learned recently that anybody is allowed to camp for up to 14 days anywhere on BML land legally which takes an edge off of my paranoia.  Maybe I’m getting used to it but it is not as cold as I had expected up here.  I make a camp fire anyway and gather some warmth before the sun sets.  I make sure to keep food outof my tent tonight in case of bears.  Just another things to be paranoid about…

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