Day 8: Ojo Caliente to Taos, Rio Grande gorge, Manby hot spring - Passes Around the San Luis Valley 2019 - CycleBlaze

June 5, 2019

Day 8: Ojo Caliente to Taos, Rio Grande gorge, Manby hot spring

Today is a long day if I do the detour to Stagecoach hot spring. I'm going east and north, so I was hoping for the usual southwest tailwind. Instead I have a strong and relatively rare northeast headwind. Overcast and drizzly with temperature in the 50's. Not what I expected at the lowest elevation of the tour.

On the road at 8:40 after breakfast at the resort's restaurant. I stopped to look at the church on the way back to US 285.

The sign says that Santa Cruz Catholic church has small gun holes for shooting Indians.
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Going east on US 285 the first few miles have good views looking north into the remote canyon I descended yesterday.

Yesterday I descended the canyon between these mountains.
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The miles went by slowly on US 285, climbing 1100 feet (335 m) to the Taos plateau. Near Ojo Caliente the landscape is mostly sagebrush. On the plateau the landscape is mostly junipers.

Traffic is light on US 285 but it decreased substantially after I turned right onto NM 567 which goes east and north to the Rio Grande Gorge. I shared the narrow road with a group of cyclists on a Trek Vacations van-supported commercial bike tour. Surely we were all disappointed about the rare headwind and cloud-shrouded mountains. A few cyclists rode in a van up to the turnoff to avoid the traffic and 1100 foot climb on US 285. Most started in Ojo Caliente like me. But they started later and pedaled much faster, often drafting together. The slowest of the group passed by while I was stopped at the bridge.

Gloomy skies all day. NM 567 looking east towards Taos and the mostly shrouded Sangre de Cristo mountains.
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NM 567 ends at US 64 just west of the Rio Grande gorge bridge. I went into the state park rest area to get a good view of the bridge. The steel arch bridge is amazing. Completed in 1965, the nation's 7th highest bridge.

Rio Grande Gorge bridge from the state park overlook. 1273 foot (385 m) span. The roadway is 565 feet (171 m) above the river.
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The park doesn't have the best views into the canyon, though. You have to walk (or bike) onto the bridge for that. The view from the bridge is amazing in both directions. It's a popular tourist attraction.

Rio Grande looking south, downstream.
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Rio Grande looking north, upstream.
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The bridge has a good walkway on both sides and 6 balconies overhang the bridge. Every balcony has a call box. The suicide rate is about 6 per year. Sturdy suicide barriers would add too much weight to the bridge.

The balconies have call boxes. It's easy to jump over the railing.
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Visiting this bridge was especially fun because I vividly remember taking a detour from the Enchanted Circle to this bridge during my first self-supported bicycle tour in 1988.

September 1988, my first self-supported bike tour.
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This year I don't have to take a detour. The bridge is on the route from Ojo Caliente to Taos.

June 2019 on the same balcony.
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I had uniformly okay views of the river in both directions. Maybe the view is best on a shadow-free cloudy day like today. But I definitely didn't have the best mountain views. Clouds obscured the highest peaks.

People drive 15 miles from Taos just to see the gorge.
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After leaving the bridge I decided I have the time and energy to do a strenuous detour to Manby (Stagecoach) hot spring way down by the river. About halfway between the bridge and "the junction" I turned left onto Tune road which is washboard gravel, 4.8 miles to the trailhead. The trail is 0.6 miles with 500 foot descent to the river.

When parking the bike I noticed that a full water bottle was ejected by the washboards. On the way out I found the bottle but it had been driven on. I never bothered to replace the bottle because the weather has been so cool that I don't really need it. I finished the tour with 2 big water bottles instead of 3.

Stone ruins near Manby (Stagecoach) hot spring. There must have been some kind of river crossing. There is no trace of a bridge.
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While soaking at the hot spring the clouds broke up a little bit and it warmed up to 65F (18C). The wind shifted from northeast to northwest and it no longer threatened to rain. It stayed about 65F for the rest of the afternoon.

Manby (Stagecoach) hot spring was 93F. Warmer pools below were flooded.
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Most of the time people soak in hotter pools on the river bank. But those pools are flooded right now. I soaked in the 93F pool for only half an hour because it's a lot of work to get from here to Taos.

Rio Grande and Manby (Stagecoach) hot spring.
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First, the 500 foot ascent on the trail. Going up took twice as long as going down.

View from the 0.6 mile trail that climbs 500 feet from the river to the canyon rim.
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Then 4.8 miles of washboard gravel to return to US 64. The view was finally getting good with the low sun behind my back. And now I finally have a tailwind. The hot spring detour took more than 3 hours and was very hard work.

Returning to US 64 on Tune road.
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Then a few easy miles east on US 64 to the junction, and south to Taos with nonstop traffic. Getting into the center of Taos is a pain. The 2-lane highways are clogged with traffic because there is no bypass highway. All north-south traffic goes through the middle of town.

Navigation was easy, though. I stayed on US 64 all the way to Casa Benavides, arriving exhausted at 5:45 PM. I went to bed for more than an hour, then walked to dinner at Taos Mesa Brewing Company. Didn't like the pizza or the black IPA. I still felt miserable after dinner.

The hot spring detour made today much more strenuous than usual. On a normal day I would have aborted the hot spring detour because of the headwind. I did it today only because tomorrow is a rest day.

Distance: 52.5 mi. (84 km), 9.8 miles unpaved
Ascent/Descent: +2808/-1999 ft. (+856/-609 m)
Average Speed: 8.6 mph (13.8 km/h)

Today's ride: 53 miles (85 km)
Total: 330 miles (531 km)

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