A long night was met by the first streaks of dawn. At that first crack, I finished packing up amidst the receding smoke. Cattle mooed around me with the morning come. I jumped on my bike and pedaled past the CDT trailhead I had visited the evening before. I rounded the cinder cone adjoining my night's campsite and there, a smoldering mess of trees and landscape lay. I took one photo of it before pushing on. The photo of the morning's reveal of the previous night's fire looked SUPER LAME but definitely was one of those times when a photo just didn't capture the reality of a scene.
I sped off and felt surprisingly strong. But I was mentally done. I wanted to do this route with a companion. I felt the tug of my slit foot from stitches in the deep wound just a few weeks before, I felt hiker-strong but my bike muscles felt weak, and I felt exhausted.
The route led around gorgeous plains of black lava and gnarled pine. Elevation came and came until I was sweating so hard. I stopped, looked back on the El Malpais, and sped down through thick forests of ponderosa pine. Ranches became more frequent, and vacation homes started to pop up by late morning. The dirt road led down the most amazing descent ever. I let go of the brakes, didn’t pedal, and just absorbed the beautiful scenery as it came. The GDMBR wove through the bottom of a gathering canyon. Walls shot upward with reds, oranges, and evergreen pines. Flanks of black lava spilled to my right. I couldn’t believe the scene.
The descent continued for miles until the walls of the canyon lessened, views of mountains in the distance rose, and I found myself hitting pavement straight into the heart of Grants, NM. A former Route 66 highlight, the city now seemed less than what it once promised. I biked the length of town and found a Motel 6 at the other end. I walked into the front office. No matter the soot, ash, and smoke all over me, I wanted a room. They let me grab one by 10 am which made me ever grateful. I entered my room, took a photo of my disheveled appearance, and set to work washing and rewashing myself. I promised to come back and do this route again, but next time with more experience under my belt, a companion, and in better fitness. To get home, Melissa and Grecia agreed to grab my car, drive out to Grants, NM, and pick me up the next day. To those two, I am so indebted.
There was a feeling of desire to push on the next day, especially when I saw a cyclist packing up at the Denny’s for breakfast. But leaving the route was a decision of confidence.
A time to return to the Great Divide will come again.