Today was a lot more challenging than we expected. We knew it would be hard--duh--but I really thought we'd have an easier time than Towne Pass. I was wrong. But we came for this, for the hard work, the times when you have to dig in, find the reserves at the bottom of the cup and keep going. So it was a great day to be alive, to struggle and strive.
We awoke to mild conditions and a clearing sky, beginning the best couple of days of the tour--sunny, bright and warm, freaky warm. Shortly after 8AM, our now regulation starting time, we immediately started climbing. And that's what we did for the next five hours, not counting breaks, of which there were plenty. We climbed in gears usually a couple of notches higher than Towne Pass, but what Salsbury Pass lacked in absolute steepness it made up for in length. We cleared a preliminary bump--Jubilee Pass--and continued on the main ascent. The bugger kept going and going and going.
At one point, a lone coyote topped a nearby ridge to keep an eye on us. The animal looked fat and healthy, a thick winter coat shining in the sun. Django, who hates coyotes, didn't smell or notice it so high above us. We crept along quietly, no threat to Mr./Ms. Coyote's home life.
In the mid-afternoon, we at last hit the summit, sweaty, aching, triumphant, both convinced that Salsbury trumps Towne on a loaded tandem trike. Maybe it was the heat? Chilly weather is always best for climbing. No matter, both were now history, and we knew only a simple descent remained for the day's work. In a frustrated panic, however, Jodi realized that she'd left her camera at the last break spot. Fortunately, a friendly Belgian couple drove back down the hill to get it for us--phew. Go Belgium!
Fast and cool at first, the descent flattened for a while near the park border where we had to drag Django for a stretch. In the distance, the Spring Mountains stood highest, capped in snow. Soon we were rolling into Shoshone and camp.
Our first visit to this quiet and remarkable valley came over ten years ago during our first epic tour, one that ended in defeat in Death Valley when my Achilles tendon began acting up. We came in late in the day, unable to cook because we'd lost a stove part and bummed because we couldn't brew coffee. What did we find? C'est si Bon, an espresso cafe in an old converted railroad building. Tucked in amidst enchanted tamarisks, the funky theme, pastel colors, good coffee and great conversation were a true blessing. We camped in back of the cafe under a tin man sculpture hanging from a branch. Over the years, we'd stop by to catch up, visit Pizza the Pig and David's new son. But Jodi had read something on the Internet that the cafe had closed. Could it be true? The rumors were true. Most of the grand tamarisks had been chopped down to stumps, the garden structures fallen over, the old sheltered campsites ruined. It was heartbreaking, the end of an era. My Buddhist friend Pete once said: "Impermanence is a mofo." Damn if that ain't the truth.
Fortunately we had an excellent option for camping at the RV park at the north end of town. The tenting sights have established windbreaks, and we would need them this night. As I was coming out of the Crowbar Cafe with our dinners--chicken burrito for me and grilled trout for Jodi--a strange, warm wind had kicked in, and it raged all night.
Miles: 29; Total: 201
Climb: 3689 ft.