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GDMBR Chapter 1

Chama, NM, to Platoro, CO

Day 1: 42 miles, 4,500 ft elevation gain

After backtracking up through New Mexico, Heidi dropped me off in Chama, NM -the southernmost launching point in the state.


It was a cool fifty degrees, overcast, windy and although I was taking a brief twenty one-mile detour to get to the actual trail, it felt so good to finally be on my bike.



I started around 10:30a and took highway 17 north over Cumbres and Manga Passes to Horca, where I hung a left on 250 onto gravel toward Platoro, CO. The wind became fierce, shifting quickly between a head, cross and tail wind. The sky darkened with the kind of intermittent downpour that had me stopping every ten minutes to put on and then take off my rain gear.


I was aiming for Platoro. But cold, wet and tired of fighting the wind, I decided to camp in a dispersed area right along the Conejos River, instead.


And I'm so glad I did! Although the rain persisted steadily all night, it was perhaps one of the prettiest places I'd ever camped.



There was one other person there, Brian, who was a kindred adventuring soul from all over, but most recently living in Las Cruces, NM. We had a beer and he gave me a jug of water before the rain picked up again.


Day 2: 8 miles, 500 ft elevation gain


The rain gave way to a beautiful bluebird morning! I went for a walk, then Brian and I had coffee and talked about books before parting ways.



I made some adjustments to the cleats on my shoes and waited for my clothes and tent to dry before starting day 2... which was going to be a short one.

Because of an unexpected cold front with snow and driving wind, and not having my winter gear yet (it was waiting for me inside a resupply box in Salida, CO), I knew I had to plan my trip across the upcoming Indiana, Shinzel and Stunner passes just right.


The segment that traverses all three passes is about 50 miles and includes the highest point on the whole trail: 12,000 ft. One small mechanical or injury could have me stuck alone at high elevation in a really cold and precarious situation.


I was going to need to make it up and over in one go.



So the plan was to ride the eight miles from camp to Platoro and hope anything in the small summer mountain town was open.



When I arrived, everything was still boarded up from winter. I rode up to the only car I saw, parked outside a building with a sign that said, "cafe." Unfortunately, they weren't open and hadn't yet had their water turned on for the season (no one lives in Platoro year-round).


A man suggested a ride over to a nearby lodge; they might be open. I knocked on the front door of the lodge... no answer. I peered in through its windows... no sign of life.


The wind was deafening and blowing me all over, and the temp was dropping quickly. I continued riding through town and eventually found a sign of life at the Gold Pan! Or rather, a woman, Debbie, found a sign of life in me.


She saw me riding past and came outside to see if I needed anything. Barely an hour later I had unloaded my stuff into a cozy bunkhouse and was helping Debbie and Becca prepare the place for the annual Memorial Day opening (while sipping hot chocolate)!



As the weather continued to deteriorate, two CDT thru hikers from Luxembourg retreated from the mountains and managed to find us, as well as three GDMBR bikepackers from Belgium.


That evening, Debbie's husband Michael made us the most delicious dinner with fresh-caught salmon, pineapple salsa, baked potato, ciabatta and lemon blueberry cake for dessert. It's going to be hard to leave this place.


With the weather looking worse on Tuesday, the hikers and I decided to stay an extra night (two total) and depart fresh on Wednesday morning for the big push over the passes to Del Norte, Colorado.


Video dispatches from the trail:





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Wow that is awesome! Safe travels!

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