North to South Tour - Day 4608/14/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator
From: Dutch and Charlie State Park, near Ridgway Colorado
To: Sunshine Campground (USFS), near Telluride Colorado
Today: 50 miles - 2502 miles total
The San Juan Skyway is just plain in-your-face ...... BEAUTIFUL! Find time to enjoy it!
The Prince of Wales II was down, and we were packed up by 7:30. Both of us had a great night sleep, it was good to be back under his roof! We cycled down off of the mesa, of the state park (a very nice place to set up camp!), and down into Ridgway. We had breakfast in Ridgway and then began cycling the San Juan Skyway. Route 64 up and out of Ridgway, to Placerville, has wide shoulders. You pedal through fields of cattle ranches with mountains in the background. This 23 miles of the San Juan Skyway, alone, would make it a great cycling ride. You go up and over Dallas Divide (elevation 8,970), which is just a steady pedal. From Placerville you cycle on Route 145, which DOES NOT have a shoulder until after Telluride. However, this is a very popular cycling route....so the motor vehicles take great care.
As you cycle along rte 145, you pass through many habitats and climate zones. You start out at 7500 feet in elevation, and pedal along the San Miguel River (which is pretty hypnotizing alone). You then start to climb pass red canyons with hoodoos and other interesting weather created shapes and features. Then the red canyons give way to golden covered canyons, with views of mining activity (abandoned). You need to climb more up into Telluride, at 8600 feet elevation. Telluride is um......expensive, so bring plenty of cash if you wish to eat or stay in town. It is a very pretty town with the ski area, and is built into a box canyon. The Gondola is free, so if you are a mountain biker, this is the place if for you.
We had a picnic lunch at the gas station which overlooks the town of llium. Then it was more climbing, this time through an alpine forest of aspen, with 13,000 and 14,000 mountain peaks surrounding us. This has to be among the best rides we have had. So if your doing the Great Parks tour (north and south), you will either end cycling the San Juan Skyway, or Jasper National Park for last.....not bad if you ask us!
We are here at another beautiful (but buggy) campground, A National Forestry Service campground - Sunshine. The Prince of Wales II is up and resting comfortably at 9500 feet elevation. Our campsite is about 50 feet from the ridge trail which takes you up a gentle climb that runs along a ridge overlooking Wilson Peak and Sunshine Mountains. It is breath taking up there. Several campers have brought their folding chairs up to enjoy the sunset. We found some comfortable stones to perch on and enjoyed the sun setting while taking photos of the mountains. Tomorrow will be our last mountain pass on this tour, Lizard Head Pass at 10,222 is 7 miles up the road.