After being told that the open hostel was four miles out of town, I decided to spend yesterday afternoon in the cafe and talk to the owner, Rita. She is quite a famous institution on the route, and didn’t disapoint – she was really friendly, and told me stories of other cyclists that had come through over the last decade. At about 15.00 she got a phone call telling her that the hostel in town was now open. So, under Ritas instruction, I cycled over to an old shack filled with relics from the years when it was a garage. I apprehensively knocked on the door and was glad I didn’t have to step inside as that struck me as a sure way to contract hepititus! I was met by an old, nearly deaf, heavily bearded and entirely toothless old man named ‘Charlie’ who showed me to Henry’s cabin. Henry’s cabin was a tiny one room log cabin built in 1880 that had belonged to the eponymous Henry until his death when it was adopded as part of the hostel. The cabin had no water or electricity, but, to my relief, had a fire and and a large pile of blankets to combat the plumeting temperatures.
I went back over to the cafe, and on learning that everything in Guffey shut at 17.00, ordered supper. I left at closing and wandered over to the cabin on the other side of town (not saying much as it had a total population of 20 – no exaggeration!) even at 17.00 the temperature must have been near freezing so it was good to get the fire going and get under the blankets. I was asleep by 19.00 and, woke early, ready to get a jump on the day.
I had a climb up to the top of current creek pass to kick things off today, but the grades weren’t steep and I was glad to warm up a bit – before sunrise the temperature was well below 0. Quite neer the top I came across a stopped car, and drew up alongside. The driver didn’t say anything but pointed up the road, I could make out a large animal in the road ahead. ‘Mountain lion’ the driver whispered. It soon made it’s way off the road, and the car drove slowly for a while so I had a bit of protection. While Mountain lions don’t usually attack people but they are highly territorial so I was lucky I had an escort! After that the I reached the pass really quickly, glad to put the big cat behind me.
Coming over the top of the pass was awesome – I was looking down into ‘South Park’ a large basin ringed by snowy mountains. This was easily the most jaw dropping scene of the trip so far – in the early morning sun it was just mesmerising. As I dropped down into the park I had 4 elk running beside me for a couple of minutes, only about 6 feet away – it was just magic. South Park is a nature reserve and is filled with elk and bison, which were both visable from the road, making for interesting cycling.
I quickly made it to ‘Hartsel’ a small town in the middle of nowhere, but for the 18 miles from Hartsel to Fairplay, I not only had the start of the climb up to Hoosier Pass to contend with but also the wind. It was with great relief that I stopped at a cafe to stock up on energy before the climb up to Hoosier Pass – the highest point on the transam trail. It was only 12 miles to the summit, and the first 6 were easy, but from there it got tough – although the more I climbed the better the view back down the valley got. Reaching the top was awesome – I felt on top of the world. After a break to savour the moment, I had a steep decent down through Breckenridge, a ski resort, to Frisco where I am now. Today was one of the best days so far – not only did I see some awesome vistas, and abundant wildlife but I also had great weather which is rare at this altitude at this time of year.