Day 27: Hartsel to Sargents (88.6 miles, 6,124ft)
Our day started with a hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy at the local cafe—offering free camping to cyclists seemed to be a pretty solid business model for the establishment—after which we packed up and headed southeast on Colorado Highway 9. Quickly, we turned off onto dirt county roads and enjoyed rolling pasture terrain, similar to the latter half of the previous day’s ride.
After 30-some miles, we began a steep 1,000 foot climb through aspen forests to a watershed divide.
From the top, we descended 3,000-some feet over the next 15 miles to the lovely town of Salida.
We continued on paved county roads to Poncha Springs and from there began a long ascent—nearly 4,000 feet—to Marshall pass. Again the climb’s grade seemed quite moderate (Marshall Pass was another that once had a narrow gauge railroad), and the first 5 miles were on asphalt; so we made good time. The changes in scenery were wonderful—from the arid valley where Salida and Poncha Springs were located to the lush pine and aspen forests at higher elevations. Along the way, we passed many wonderful camp spots—not ideal for us because of the support vehicle and children (established campsites with water, picnic tables, bathrooms, and easy car access worked best for us) but perfect for self-supported tourers.
We reached the pass around 5:00pm, getting some rain and hail on on the way up, and quickly descended the final 16 miles to Sargents—a tiny little town with a combo bar, gas station, restaurant, and RV Park, which at $13 a person including showers, seemed like good value to us.