430am Start and Rugged Climbing

Day 36: Beaverhead to Silver City, 84.1 miles, 7,691 feet

It ended up dropping down to freezing temperatures overnight, and with restless sleep in my 2.5 season Rab quilt, I decided to get up at 3am to make coffee and oatmeal, and get on with it. I hit the road in the dark at 4:30am with lights, 6L of water, and plenty of time to hopefully arrive early and gear up for tomorrow’s final day.

It was a very challenging day, a combination of little sleep, a loaded bike with heavy water, rough surfaces, and lots of climbing. I was glad to have started early. I hadn’t ridden much in the dark before, and was a surreal experience to watch the landscape emerge from night to day. I used a bike headlight mounted on my handlebars and headlamp to sea farther ahead on descents and into the turns. I loved the quiet of the night, the shining moon, and the lack of awareness from limited visibility ahead which dulled the challenge of grinding up rough, steep grades and making slow progress.

Sunrise emerging on the route.

I managed to get 20 miles in before sunrise on a high ridge, much of it climbing. My front light lasted 1 hour, 45 minutes on the highest setting (I should have turned it down) and the headlamp carried me through with dawn’s light assisting. In daylight, I could see the mountains rolling before me, and I paused for a moment before setting out to complete the rest of the dirt road section of the route up and over a few steep canyons.

All my layers and lights. And still waking up 3 hours into the ride…

The dirt road climbing behind me, I pedaled the last few miles riding directly along the divide to join highway 35, and I was glad to see the pavement which would take me all the way into Silver City around 50 miles into the day. I decided against the shorter alternate route along the CDT, assuming it would take longer and I was hoping to get in earlier and maybe grab a sandwich at a shop along the road.

Views in Gila National Forest. The route goes up and over a few of these ridges. Reminded me more of east coast riding than west.
A sad reminder to be careful on the roads. At the bottom of the climb to Pinos Altos.

Following the highway presented its own dramatic landscapes, a beautiful lake, cliff dwellings, with some ups and downs as well as headwinds at some places. Unfortunately the shop I was looking for was closed (maybe for good), and I ate a hearty lunch headed up the final (steep and long!) climb to Pinos Altos. My body was glad to be on pavement, and my mind rallied by one car that I kept passing me (it stopped at all the lookouts) with a passenger who sticking his torso out the window and shouting encouragements to me each time.  I reached the top with most of my energy spent, coasting down to Silver City.

Views from the climb.

I arrived in Silver City around 2:30pm where Anna and the kids had a comfortable hotel (Copper Manor Hotel) and were enjoying the city. Exhausted, I tried to wrap my head around one final day on the Great Divide Route, and the distance and energy it would take to finish it all tomorrow.

We cooked a huge dinner (and a breakfast to pack) in the town park and I spent the evening getting the bike ready and charging lights, the car packed and ready to pick me up at Antelope Wells, and transition into the journey home. I tried to get to bed early to start again at a similar time, with high winds and warm temperatures in the forecast starting early afternoon.