July 13th – Exploring Pagosa Springs

I have to say I’ve never woken up in a tool shed before, but there’s obviously a first time for everything. As usual, I awoke a bit before Gianna, and walked down to the river to smoke a bowl. The morning air was cold, and the ground still wet, but the skies gave no sign of the torrential downpour from the night before. I’ve always found moving water to be very calming, and it was quite nice to have a fairly wide, fast moving river so close to our camp. By the time I wandered back over to the tent, Gianna was finally starting to stir. Once she got dressed, we walked back down to the river for her morning bowl, and then it was time to move the tent out of the tool shed. We figured we’d take advantage of the clear blue skies to move to a spot much less in a tool shed, and much more isolated and near the river. Once we had relocated our camp, we decided to ride into town for breakfast.

We stopped at literally the first place with a sign claiming both breakfast and free wifi. It turned out to be a pretty decent bakery. I spent perhaps an hour calling my insurance company (then Allstate), and finding a new side bag to order. The representative from Allstate promised me I would be fully reimbursed for the saddle bag, all I needed to do was fax the receipt from the order. It’s nice when things are easy. I ordered the new bag, and had it shipped to the RV park we were at, paying the extra for overnight shipping, as that had also been promised to be reimbursed. Oh yeah, you can have things overnighted to a tent. The modern world, eh?

We’d been told about a large waterfall that was only a few miles north of town, so we set out on a ride to find it. About 7 miles outside of town, the pavement ended abruptly. I swear Texas is the only state capable of maintaining a network of paved roads. We stopped, and tried to make sense of a faded map on the side of the road. There was no “you are here” indicator, the roads were unlabeled, and there were no markers for attractions. Awesome. Very helpful. We decided to wander onward. We’d been told it was just a few miles north of town, so surely we must be close. Another 7-10 miles down the dirt road, and I began to have my doubts. Surely we’d missed it, or taken the wrong road. We decided to turn around, rather than risk getting lost in the middle of bum-fuck Colorado.

I’ll take this spot to talk about the climate here in southern Colorado. I had mentioned the cold morning earlier. It was past 90 degrees by afternoon when we were heading back into town. Trekking about this area required carrying a full assortment of clothing in layers, to allow for the very wide range of temperatures experienced throughout the day. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, especially when on the motorcycle. You can’t just throw a sweater on at the stoplight, you have to pull over, park the bike, get off, take off the helmet, jacket, and gloves, put on a sweater, and put everything back on, before finally getting back on the road. We noticed most other riders solve this problem by simply wearing no safety gear whatsoever. Having been in a high speed (50mph) crash on a bike, I am a firm believer in safety equipment. I also believe that if you don’t wear it all the time, you may as well not wear it at all, because you never know when that fuckhead in a truck is going to change lanes into you. So we wore it all the time, unless we would definitely not be exceeding 30mph, in which case we would leave our jackets behind depending on temperature.

It was approaching 4pm as we pulled into the gas station at the edge of town. Time for a Dr. Pepper. I asked the woman behind the counter about the Piedra Falls we had failed to find. Turns out whoever told us “a few miles” was a jackass. What they meant was that it was a few miles to where the pavement ends, and it would be at least 20 miles past that, and then a short hike. Damn. Well, it was getting late in the afternoon, so we decided we’d just try again the next day, since the bag wouldn’t be arriving til late afternoon anyways. Some girls we had shared a hot spring with the night before had tipped us off to a forest park behind the post office, so we went to try and find that, with much greater success.

It was nice to get on a proper hike again. We had hiked through Palo Duro Canyon, but with the southwest largely on fire, New Mexico’s trails and forests had been closed, much to our dismay. Apparently the fires hadn’t yet spread to Colorado at this point, so the woods were still open, and we enjoyed a relatively strenuous hike spiraling up around a large hill behind the post office. Something about being in the forest lights up my soul in a very primal way. Maybe there’s just more oxygen in there, or maybe it’s just humbling to be around organisms so much larger and older than you, totally indifferent to your passing. I don’t know exactly, but I do know I never feel more at home than under the protective canopy of the woody giants. We reached the top to find, as expected, a really nice view. Less expected was the awesome bench and totem pole carved out of a fallen tree. Detailed figures of animals had been carved along the length of the bench, and the totem pole attached to it bore similar carvings. A perfect spot to smoke a bowl. When the sun started to go down, we headed back down the hill, and peaked around at an old abandoned church in a nearby field. Sadly, all the doors were locked. It would have required damaging this beautiful old building in some fashion to gain access, so we decided against it, and headed back to the bike for the ride back to camp.

Gianna fixed dinner, I did the dishes, and then it was time to head to the Hot Springs. Before they closed, this time. We paid the rather high entrance fee, noticing that they had a much lower rate for those who live in the town. There are over a dozen different hot spring fed pools in the springs resort, and we probably tried all of them, including the 114 degree pool. That pool was so hot it was hard to breath, or even think. The frigid night air above the water made for an interesting temperature contrast as we rose out of the pool every minute or so to cool down. I have to say, it was kind of enjoyable just being a dirty hippie running around this relatively upscale resort in my boxers. At no point on this trip were we ever mistaken for tourists, instead always recognized as travelers.

We emerged from the pool tired, and in my case, rather hungry. The only thing open in town at this hour was the McDonald’s, so I decided to go to bed hungry instead. Tomorrow, we would set out for Piedra Falls, this time mentally prepared for the 20+ miles of dirt riding I would have to do. It’s not that it’s difficult or anything, but it does require much more focus to keep a big heavy touring bike upright on the dirt road than on a paved one. I had simply not been mentally prepared for such an excursion this day. Once back at camp, we quickly got into the tent, trying to escape the freezing night air. One more bowl before bed, while our eyelids turned to lead.

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