Carson Pass to Cook's Station - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

July 18, 2014

Carson Pass to Cook's Station

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HAVE YOU EVER fled in the face of the unsavoury? Today we did and it's why we're camping wild now, back from the road and as far into a shallow wood as a barbed wire fence will allow.

Why? Because we didn't like a conversation we heard up the road. Let me explain...

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There's a place called Cook's Station as you take the road down from Kit Carson pass. It has a café and a handful of posh houses and nothing else. But it's known to cyclists even though it's not shown on the Adventure Cycling map as a campground.

"I sometimes come back in the morning to open up and find half a dozen cyclists camped out here," the guy in charge said. "We're not in the guide books but word gets around in the cycling world and people turn up here. In fact, a while back we had a couple from Sweden who were travelling without a tent or warm clothes, because it was summer and they expected it to be hot, and next morning there was five feet of snow. It can happen here. Now, Swedish people, they're reserved and they don't complain much but they were obviously freezing and so my grandmother took them in and they stayed with her until the snow went.

"The next thing I knew was that this couple were well known in Sweden and they wrote about it in their journal and ever after I was getting people come in, saying 'This is where So-and-so stayed; we read about that.'"

He was in his early 30s, perhaps, with a gravelly voice that sounded older. He was running the bar with a slender, dark-haired girl, somewhat younger, whose boyfriend was an army policeman in Japan. The bar would close at five, the man said, but they wouldn't be leaving until six, so we were welcome to finish our meal, have a shower and set up on the wooden decking behind the restaurant.

"Don't worry if you hear a bear" were his final words. "Someone leaves the lid off the Dumpster and it comes poking about to see what it can find. But if it was ever a problem, I'd have done something about it." And he turned off the electricity generators, got into his car to drive the five miles to where he lived down the hillside, and left us to it.

We'd been there perhaps an hour and a half, long enough to wash clothes and to dry them and our tents. And then, to spoil the peace, two youths in their mid-30s appeared with a blue cooler of drinks bottles. One was lean and pale, the other fleshier, squatter and darker. Not only was their arrival unwanted but we felt uncomfortable in their presence.

They opened the back door to the café, alongside our planned sleeping area, and went down into the yard to revive the generators. When they returned, I asked them their plans. They were going to party, they said. They "lived here" and others may be joining them. We were free to move down to the yard, where it would be quieter, "but you'll still be able to hear the generators." Not to mention the bear.

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Well, without going into details, we overheard snippets of conversation which we didn't like. We were on the edge of something that made us increasingly uncomfortable. The café owner had said nothing of visitors and, presumably not expecting any, had turned off the power.

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We were in no position to protest. Nor did we have much time. The sun was starting to die. We repacked hurriedly and rode away, down the mountain a little further to, after three attempts, a small area between bushes and trees to shield us from the road, 50 metres away across scrubby grass. We were safe enough there, since people see only what they're expecting to see, and we could do all we could against bears by hanging our bags from branches away from the tents.

Moment of coolness on a hot day
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In the end, we are in a better place here than behind the café. And it has provided a story to end a glorious day, because the second half of the climb to Carson pass was far, far more beautiful than the humid hour of the initial rise from the valley yesterday. I stopped over and over to take pictures - to the unintended distress of Karen who, believing I'd been ahead of her all morning, was convinced, on not finding me at the top, I'd taken a wrong turn and therefore the wrong pass. I was gently and unconcernedly paddling the last few hundred metres of the climb when she arrived in the white van of a forest ranger she commissioned to turn out to look for me.

Quite a day.

Today's ride: 68 km (42 miles)
Total: 5,867 km (3,643 miles)

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