People are more confused than scared in the rural west. As COVID 19 spreads and the quarantine becomes more serious, many are trying to figure out what’s going on. Groceries and gas stations are still open, along with the liquor store. Restaurants are doing take out. Things are alive under the surface of this frozen world – people are finding ways to escape the paralysis.
And I will show you something different from either Your shadow at morning striding behind you Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you I will show you fear in a handful of dust
The streets are empty. An occasional single human walking in the dusk. The cattle trucks are running down the highway, the trains still roll the tracks. I look at social media; a whirlwind of opinion & self promotion even as the media falters juggling bits of incomplete information. I look at the world outside & it seems still – more quiet than normal, as if reflected in ice.
Rather than fear, I feel a sense of wonder at the strangeness of the world. Both because and in spite of COVID 19, the world is reborn, reimagined; the light casts different shadows. I haven’t had to use my voice much – silence is engulfing me, the distance between people ever greater as language fails and words fall out of thin air, muffled by a thin blanket of snow. The world is whole, outside, caressed by rushing wind… I’ll follow that wind to the end, into the canyon and across the Basin, asking for its truth.
What am I doing here has become a prescient question – more essential than existential. It’s a time to question my motivations, looking for what this journey can uncover both internally and in the world I move through.
It seems strangely appropriate traveling the vast landscapes of the American West during the outbreak of the CORVID19 virus. We are forced thru quarantine into involuntary isolation – it’s not so different being alone in these bleak landscapes – water and wind sculpted rock, sage, pinyon and blackbrush scrub and the feeling of infinite empty space between everything. Social distancing at its finest.
Arriving to grocery stores with barren shelves, 6 foot distance laws, and government regulated personal space feels post apocalyptic. Yet within it service workers, post office staff, bike mechanics and grocery clerks seem unperturbed… thank the working class for their pragmatism and willingness to help in the face of a perceived crisis.
Where will this adventure end? Is this the end already? I ask myself if it’s irresponsible to travel at this time – but there’s not going back at this point. Colorado is covered in snow, public transportation isn’t an option, and it’s unsure if return is worse than continuing. So the only way out is thru…
Every journey begins sometime and somewhere… leaving Leadville I was lucky to have Rafa from LeadVelo ride out with me. We drank some coffee, had some laffs and hiked thru some snow on the way to Salida.
Favorite Southwest resupply options. I love them vegan chili ramens – which I haven’t seen since Said Valley on the PCT in 15. Also, once you get far enough spin every bodega & grocery has instant dehydrated refried beans – perfect cold soak food with Fritos!
Made a fancy custom rain cover for my fancy Brooks saddle… dodging afternoon rainstorms our of Taos.
Branching with the best of them in Cuba, NM. It’s interesting coming back after hiking thru on the CDT last year and seeing how my perspective has changed.
Steel horses and dirtbag cowboys. Riding through the American West reminds one of many conflicting narratives – black cowboys, soldiers paid cash for scalps, a million miles of barbed wire, shooting bison from the train, the violence and genocide that surrounds how these spaces are occupied & my privilege in being here. It’s a lot to digest, but the long views lend themselves to meditative thoughts and potentially change… tho there are still uranium mining railings outside Grants (the largest federal SuperFund site) and endless ‘NO TRESPASSING’ signs.
Good luck finding this or yourself – spiraling ever inward & outward simultaneously, away from and into an invisible center.
After a mile of hikeabike we finished the climb to Marshall Pass – probably the high point for us, we would find out later, as we rerouted around massive remaining snow outside Del Norte. Cruises into Seargents for some super overpriced French fries and severely limited resupply, then onwards…
Town park between the tracks and the highway in Monte Vista, part of the reroute. At least there was a liquor store across the street…
Into Taos – we figured it would be easier to ride the Taos Plateau straight from Monte Vista rather than route back to the Divide. It was hot, empty and beautiful – and involved an itchy dip in the Rio Grande (probably too much pesticide?).
Long views leaving Colorado. After Seargents it was a long grind ringing the valley before descending into Del Norte. It was an exercise in getting the legs back – 2 days of climbing, 10,000ish feet. The flatish reroute our of Del Norte came as a welcome relief.
Sunset from the ‘M’ hill, Manassa, CO – home of Jack Dempsey and one million mosquitoes. We ended up traversing much of the southern San Luis valley which was pretty, but a buggy hell around sunset. We climbed an extremely steep slope to try and get a breeze but the bugs just followed us…
Finally in NM with the cacti blooming by the Rio Grande…
Fresh tracks on the trails at Colorado Mountain College. Built and maintained by the local bike club, the Cloud City Wheelers, these trails are groomed a couple times a week – especially after new snow. I beat the groomer this time, but because it was 8 degrees the ride was still pretty firm. I can almost feel my toes now…
If u need to ask why live in Leadville…. view of the Sawatch Range from Long and Derry Hill.
The local snowmobile club grooms county and forest roads on the East side of town. Here Jack the dog and ski our way up CR3A on some fresh cord. There’s often nobody out there…
Cold, also dead. The Evergreen cemetery is a few blocks for the house… there are some ornate tombs and headstones from the late 1800’s. The cemetery informally peters out into some pine forest with snowmobile and snowshoe tracks … you’ll often find random headstones with the markings worn off next to a tree deep in the forest.
Harpo – mane skiing down the pipeline. Lots of terrain to explore on the east side of town…
Done & done – 2900 miles border to border, triple crown, and 11,000 trail miles down. What’s next?
The southern terminus is a Crazy Cook, a nowhere place in on the NM/Mexico border, just a little bump on the panhandle 85 miles away from any roads.
Life is harsh out in the desert. Everything is sharp, the sun intense, and the bones bleached dry.
I was skeptical about the southern terminus, expecting another anticlimax. I’m happy we were there at sunset, where the light turned spectral over the western mountains. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but as the sun descended behind the hills there was intense pink and blue banding fading into a perfect butter yellow sky.
We waited for hours at the road after walking the 85 miles back – no luck hitching, only a couple of cars. Finally we got a ride from border patrol – we didn’t bother telling him Huck was a Danish national on a dubious visa.