Overnight we had freezing temps and a moderate amount of rain. The rain didn’t cause any drama aside from reminding me I had to pee. I take the liberty of sharing this lavatorial detail only because the experience of extracting oneself from a toasty sleeping bag and getting out of a tent into the cold night takes more willpower than any other thing on this trip. Even though the clouds covered some of the sky, the clear parts were brilliant in the high alpine night sky.
"Brrrrrr", neighs an ice-covered Persephone --Hot Sulphur Springs Wildlife Area

“Brrrrrr”, neighs an ice-covered Persephone –Hot Sulphur Springs Wildlife Area

View from our campsite over the Colorado river --Hot Sulphur Springs Wildlife Area

View from our campsite over the Colorado river –Hot Sulphur Springs Wildlife Area

With no breakfast to slow me down, I got rolling out of the wildlife refuge just before 7:00 to be greeted by an unexpected gorge. The Hot Sulphur Springs gorge is breathtakingly beautiful. In addition to this natural beauty, the train tracks next to the rushing river are a marvel of engineering. The juxtaposition of excellence in human achievement and the natural beauty of the mountain scenery is stirring.

--Hot Sulphur Springs Gorge

–Hot Sulphur Springs Gorge

--Hot Sulphur Springs Gorge

–Hot Sulphur Springs Gorge

The Brits, Chuck, and myself met up with our former touring mates, Jonathan and Jerry in the town of Hot Sulphur Springs itself. We left town in a desultory, straggling manner as each of us set our own pace up the mountains towards the two passes for the day. The first pass we reached was Currant Creek pass. This moderate climb was followed by a steep descent. I’m sure I could have hit 50MPH, but chickened out as some cross winds threatened my stability.

The second pass of the day was Willow Creek Pass. This 1,500 ft ascent over 7-8 miles would have nearly killed all of us a month ago. But today words like “easy” and “manageable” were followed up by insane assertions that we all wished the climb would go on further. My body has changed significantly on this trip. I’m much stronger and thinner. But I didn’t start that way. The first week is tough, but trail wisdom tells us that “any person” on “any bike” can do the TransAm. The change I’ve experienced over the last 44 days is proof.

The moon looked beautiful with the mountains in the foreground. (click to see the full resolution picture) --On route to Currant Creek Pass

The moon looked beautiful with the mountains in the foreground. (click to see the full resolution picture) –On route to Currant Creek Pass

Beautiful mountain in the distance. --On route to Willow Creek Pass

Beautiful mountain in the distance. –On route to Willow Creek Pass

This cool rock structure looked a lot like a wall. --On route to Willow Creek Pass

This cool rock structure looked a lot like a wall. –On route to Willow Creek Pass

Mountains in the distance. --On route to Willow Creek Pass

Mountains in the distance. –On route to Willow Creek Pass

At the top, I crossed the Continental divide for a second time, bringing me back into the Atlantic Watershed.

At the top, I crossed the Continental divide for a second time, bringing me back into the Atlantic Watershed.

The final 20-ish miles of the day were forgettable flatness combined with poor roads. Or, that’s what they would have been if the North Park basin weren’t surrounded by dozens of snow capped mountains.

The road to Walden.

The road to Walden.

Chuck and I pushed through some tough headwinds to arrive at Walden. Our pre-penultimate plan had been to camp in Arapaho Wild-life refuge just short of town, but this turned out to be restricted. This gave way to our penultimate plan of staying in the city park of Walden. Alas, several armed divisions of mosquitos drove us from the low lying, damp park. Our ultimate plan was to stay in a motel. It certainly isn’t high alpine camping, but on the other hand, I’m clean and warm. So warm, in fact, that I think I might just rest my eyes for a minuteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee