Big Mountains and a Broken Rim

Day 23: USFS Work Camp to Steamboat Springs (79.3 miles, 4,764ft)

We packed up, thanked the work camp hosts, and got off to a relatively early start (for us) riding on Wyoming Highway 70. With the exception of a short climb from the work camp, the road to Slater was almost entirely downhill for the next 17 miles.

Cruising downhill to Slater

At Slater, which supposedly has a post office but didn’t seem to be much more than a point on the map, we turned south and entered Colorado on County Road 1, following Slater Creek upstream. We’d follow that stream for the nest 30 miles to our day’s only pass.

Slowly but surely we gained elevation, and we made fairly good time thanks to the smooth dirt road. Soon after leaving Moffat County and entering Routt County, we arrived at the Brush Mountain Lodge—a lovely place tucked on the hillside, where you can grab a meal or a drink while chatting with the owner, Kirsten—and ate our lunches. From the lodge, we continued to climb the well-graded dirt road, which, with a tail wind, felt like a walk in the park.

Eventually, after passing through an open valley with majestic mountains on either side and into a grove of aspen trees, we turned left onto Forest Road 42—a narrow multi-use trail that began to climb more steeply.

The first couple of miles were relatively easy, since the the trail was smooth and well-maintained. Soon, however, the trail was littered large stones and rose more steeply. We rode what we could but had to hike several sections.

Rough uphill riding

Finally, we made it to the top of the pass, where we met Daniel and Simona—an Italian couple two years into an around the world bike tour (

World travelers, Daniel and Simona

Descending on the other side was a mess—large rocks were scattered all along the road, and despite our best efforts we and our bikes took a beating on the way down. (Both Dave and I agreed that this was the first time that we’d suggest just taking a route alternative—a dirt road through Columbine.)

I made it to the bottom … with a cracked rim.

Once on a smoother section of road, I heard an odd creaking when I pedaled. I stopped and noticed that my back wheel was seriously out of true. Checking for broken spokes—which I unfortunately didn’t find—I realized I’d cracked my rim.

Frankly, I was incredibly lucky—I couldn’t have cracked my rim at a better point in the trip: Steamboat Springs had three bike shops in town, and the next 30 miles into town ran gradually downhill along smooth dirt and paved roads. I rode as easily as I could and limped my way into Steamboat Springs. Once there, a local bike shop managed to replace the rim that same evening.

On the way into town, we witnessed a huge forest fire growing to our west—apparently the result of a lightning strike. Smoke billowed in the sky and blocked out the sun. Under the shadow of the smoke, we rode on while the occasional flake of ash floated down onto us.

A forest fire building to our west

With no affordable camping in town, we decided to stay in a motel for the night—a bit out of character for the trip but a nice chance to clean up.