Waking on Thursday at Caballo Lake State Park, nervous anticipation hung over the team as we discussed the day ahead. We were starting our ride at just over 4,000 ft and Emory Pass, 35 miles away and 4,000 ft above us loomed large in our future. We had talked about this, our highest point, in the early days of the trip and it had always seemed far away. Today we would finally reach it. We've certainly done a good bit of climbing so far but nothing seemed like it had prepared us for this - 10 miles of climbing at altitude. Our mantras for the day became "rippling muscles" and "get in granny and grind" (which means shift into the lowest gear and get comfortable at a slow spin), and helped keep our spirits up. We paused part way up at an old mining town for a snack and then leaned into the climb. The view improved as we climbed and the air got noticeably thinner, each turn taking us higher into more alpine surroundings. Around the last few turns we could see snow at the top! Cresting the pass we could see all the way back to the valley where we'd started the day. What a reward! We all agreed that it really wasn't that bad - maybe we were better prepared than we thought.
On the other hand, the altitude and the exertion must have taken a minor toll. We all managed to space out at the top (hmm, low-blood sugar?) and miss each other near the vista when Chelsea turned and zoomed back down to pick up the van and run the sweep. Somehow we took off at different times and chased each other down the other side, all thinking someone else was ahead. Luckily after a few miles we reunited to regroup and refuel.
|Emory Pass - you can see the road cuts of our route up|
|View of the valley from Emory Pass|
|RASR with Pat and Dave|
|Pat's riding donkeys - smarter and easier than horses, who knew?|
|A couple of Pat's brood of Yorkies|
|Continental Divide crossing!|
|Gila National Forest|
|Chels and big rocks|
|RASR in the Gila|
|A Gila local|
|Fording to the hot springs - keep the chips dry!|
|Lightfeather hot spring|
|Scalding spring water|
|Gila Cliff Dwellings|
|"Students, this is an obvious example of igneous and sedimentary contact"|
|Sunset on the rocks over our campsite|
The afternoon took us through several old silver mining towns and back over the Continental Divide at a more noticeable spot. Of course we had to stop and document the event.
|Back on the Pacific side til the end!|
In Buckhorn we enjoyed a lovely sunset and toasted to our accomplishments of the last few days and our 9 weeks of the trip so far. We're in our final three weeks now, hitting our 11th state tomorrow, and have nearly 4,000 miles under our belts. Here's to feeling good!