On day 3 we started a bit ahead of schedule, thanks to our extra effort the previous night to push ahead up Hagerman Pass. Today the goal was to make Aspen and find a place to camp outside of town, hopefully up Castle Creek Road towards Pearl Pass.
This morning I finally got a decent shot of my new tent. The area we camped in was completey saturated and very humid, so the tent walls were quite wet by morning, but it's roomy enough that with a little care I and my sleeping bag stayed dry. It also has a vestibule big enough for shoes, helmet, and a few clothes (don't worry, I picked up the trash you see on the ground):
However, my shoes were completely wet from yesterday's rain and hadn't dried out at all. I had dry socks (I carry two pairs and make sure to get the pair I'm not wearing dry during the day), but that's no good if your shoes are wet. If we weren't so high, it wouldn't be a big deal, but we are, so it is. The solution? Gortex over socks! These were a new item for me, and as it turns out, worth every penny. I put them on over my dry wool socks and under my shoes. My feet stayed dry and warm. They are also great for stream crossings, I'll have pictures of them later when Rob and I both used them for this purpose on the other side of Pearl Pass.
Breakfast consisted of leftover pizza and a stop gap coffee alternative:
Pizza monster! (I stink at self-portraits...)
After a cold breakfast, we resumed the climb up Hagerman Pass. We didn't have a good sense of how far we'd come the previous night and were surprised how quickly we hit tree line (no wonder last night was so cold):
And here we have the obligatory pictures of each of us at our final divide crossing of the trip at Hagerman Pass at 11,900 ft. We're permanently on the Pacific side of the continent from this point on:
From the top of Hagerman it was a long downhill towards Ruedi Reservoir. Apart from one tricky stream crossing it was pretty non-technical. We ended up dropping surprisingly low, down to 6600 ft. just before the reservior, quite a drop from 11,900 ft. Needless to say, it was quite warm and the fact that the route changed to asphalt just before the reservior (another surprise) didn't help. However, it made for fast going as we climbed back up around the res, then decended again into Basalt around lunch time.
Here's a view of the reservoir with lots of sail boats. Apparently this is what the wealthy residents in the Aspen valley do during the summer:
Entering Basalt was a bit of a trip. As per usual procedure we immediately began scoping out restaurants on the main drag. We pulled up to one likely place with outdoor seating, started looking at the menu, then immediately notices the stares. Prior to this point, we'd gotten entirely positive attention; people asked about the bikes, what we were doing, and were surprised and impressed when we explained. Here it was totally different, the looks from the washed and pressed people on the main street were clearly disapproving. While we were standing on the sidewalk in front of this restaurant, we got two different people tell us to leave our bikes at a rack down the street.
Lamenting the lack of the dirtbag vibe we enjoyed in the other towns we rolled through previously, we backtracked to a deli that was light on business, and found the proprietor reasonably happy to serve us. We loaded up on coke, gatorade, sandwiches, chips, ice cream, you name it, and found a nice patio area next door. Partly out of necessity, and perhaps partly out of resentment, we decided to get all our wet gear dried out. We had tents and clothes scattered all over the place (maybe we should have put out a cup, made a sign and asked for spare change?), and it all dried quickly in the heat.
We found a bathroom, cleaned up a bit, and I soaked the clothes I was wearing to stay cool, then we set off south towards Aspen. The route was all bike path, which made for boring riding, but we enjoyed seeing all the incredible homes along the way (which one does Lance Armstrong live in, I wonder?). We also saw a few private jets fly overhead on their way to the Aspen airport. Clearly we were in the land of the 1% here.
A typical stretch of the bike path headed towards Aspen:
Once in Aspen, we decided to skip a proper dinner (lesson learned in Basalt, perhaps?), but to hit up a grocery store instead and stock up, eating dinner at or on the way to our next camping spot. We went by the local bike shop too, and asked about camping opportunities up the road towards Pearl Pass. We were assured there was plenty of public land along the way, and that there shouldn't be a need to pull a Rambo on some overzealous local sheriff.
Loaded down with food and water, we headed south along Castle Creek road. The mountains ahead of us will be the last pass we climb, Crested Butte is about 40 miles ahead on the other side:
Again, we surprised ourselves with how far we were able to go before crashing. As I joked to Rob "it's amazing what the body can do if you just ask nicely". More correctly, it's amazing what the body can do if you make an effort to keep your heart rate as low as possible throughout the trip and if you eat enough to keep up with the calorie burn. (I guess sufficient fitness and experience fits in there somewhere too... ;)
After perhaps two hours of gradual climbing up the asphalt road, we hit the beginning of Pearl Pass road:
As with the previous night, we just kept going and going. We considered stopping to eat, but we didn't even do that, we were just too stubborn. As is typical on a jeep trail climb, the road got worse and worse, with more and more hike-a-bike sections (notice the brake dust on my fork on the right, we've been burning lots of brake pad):
Finally, around sunset, we ran into a hiker who had scouted ahead on the road and mentioned seeing a good camping spot a few hundred feet above us. Excited and hungry, we continued on and found the promised spot, which was reasonably dry, reasonably flat, and had some nice views. We immediately tore into some food, and alternated between consuming mass quantities and setting up camp. Dinner for me was a large turkey sandwich with horseradish mayo, lemonade, salt and vinegar chips, and Justin's peanut butter cups.
I wanted to take pictures of camp, but it was too dark. I'll do it in the morning! Continue reading, day 4.