Forty-Eight: Christmas in July (Hot Sulphur Springs to Walden)

by davidharries

Miles: 64
Total: 2,868

I imagine sleeping at elevation is pretty much like being on the moon. It’s bitter cold once the sun goes down, and as soon as it peeks its head above the horizon, the day starts in a hurry. I was cold last night on top of my foam-insulated picnic table, inside my sleeping bag with a wool shirt and jacket on. My alarm went off at 5:40 a.m., but I had to sleep in till 8 a.m. before it was a more manageable 50 degrees.

Once the sun came up, it turned into a lovely day. I put on my short-sleeve jersey and shorts and visited the Shell station for a box of off-brand cherry toaster pastries before heading down Highway 40. There’s no services between Hot Sulphur Springs and Walden, so I put water in all four of my bottles.

I turned north on 125 just past Windy Gap Nature Area and started climbing 20 miles and 2,000′ to Willow Creek Pass (9,683′) and my second continental divide crossing. I’m in the Atlantic watershed right now. The ascent was gradual and tree-lined, but the downhill on the north slope was treeless. And windy. I waited for a few minutes outside Rand for a pilot car (last time I had one was outside Ellington, Missouri) to take me through a repaving zone — the road badly needed the work. For some reason, just past the construction zone, a crew was restriping broken blacktop. Seems like a waste of paint and personnel to me. This segment of 125 took me through Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, full of birds and open range.

Home tonight is Hanson Park in Walden (the moose-viewing capital of Colorado). I met a father-son duo from Switzerland riding surprisingly stylish recumbents in the park. They started in Miami at the beginning of May and rode through New Orleans before picking up the TransAm. Once they hit Astoria, the plan is to ride down the coast to San Francisco. With six-month visas and an average requirement of 50 miles/day, they’re taking their time. They told me this is a good place to vacation — the Swiss Franc goes pretty far.

I spent some time in Walden’s library, and even found fresh fruit at a small bodega on main street. The shower’s $6 at the local indoor pool, though you do get a towel, wash cloth and swim included in the rate. The water was way too warm for me, but the Swiss took the plunge. In 1990, the White House Christmas tree was felled just outside Walden. How about that?

I put my tent up near the ballfields tonight, because the groundskeeper told me they’ve got sprinklers scheduled to come on between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. He said that’s the place to stay dry. I hope the double-wall tent keeps me a little warmer than a picnic table.