At Ladder Ranch breakfast is at 7.00 am and it was help yourself to coffee, eggs, sausage, french toast and hash browns. We also used up some of our cereal (breakfast is not complete without frosties), once all this was consumed we wobbled away from the table.
Also joining us for breakfast were three Peruvian ranch hands, they have come to the USA on a 3 year work permit and stay on the ranch (full food and lodging provided). They work very long hours, out by 8.00 am and not returning until 7.30 pm, spending the whole day on horseback doing ranching stuff.
It did not take us long to get ready and we were bouncing along singing a song by 8.00 am. Plus a picture of the state boundary.
The initial valley cycling was beautiful, no wind and blue skies. It was not long and we were passed by six large wagons towing cattle trailers, a little later on we stopped to watch 3 Forks Ranch loading a herd of cattle onto these wagons. They were being moved to their winter grazing somewhere near Silverthorn. Again lots of real cowboys doing real cowboy stuff.
We continued up the valley, right across the middle of 3 Forks Ranch, passing one huge house set in well kept grounds.
The track continued to be good quality only deteriorating once 3 Forks land was left well behind. At this point it began to climb more steeply. This does mean we stop a lot more often to “admire the scenery” or to look at “something over there” continuing only once we have got our breath back (not that we ever lose our breath or even accidently misplace our breath).
The scenery just keeps getting better and better the higher we go, pictures cannot truly capture the subtleties of colour you see in this landscape (well they probably could if you knew how to use your camera).
There was even time for more fashion tips from the ladies in Colorado, red is the colour to be seen in this autumn.
Now for something random, I have discovered I do not like Grape powder but do like Pomegranate Lemonade powder. We have now taken to carrying one bottle of flavoured water making a change from old fashioned natural water.
We had seen very few hunters today, that was until the National Forest started, then everywhere you looked there was a man wearing camouflage. On a particularly steep section we had stopped to “admire the scenery” when a Labrador called Bob came bounding over from a parked RV. On talking to the owner we found out it is now Bow Season in Colorado and he was hunting Elk. He had had a successful morning killing a large bull Elk. The compound bow he used from about 30 yards away and the arrow (I can confirm it has a razor sharp tip) went clean through the animal. It was tagged as an official kill by a licenced hunter and has to be reported, the animal will be butchered and frozen, giving around 350 lbs of meat.
Ever upwards our track wound it’s merry way (we were so merry we could have smiled at least once). Up 100 ft then down 75 ft to give a net gain of a mere 25 ft (I can tell you liked that calculation).
After our lunch stop the real climbing started, the whole thing was very enjoyable though, it will have to be said again amazing scenery.
The final mile arrived, this was through a narrow gorge, there were several tyre (or tire it you are from the USA) tracks very very close to a disastrous encounter with a steep bank and a stream. Then it was suddenly a paved road and we arrived at Columbine General Stores after 25 miles and 3300 ft of climbing, we are now 8700 ft high.
We saw our first live Elk run (not that Elks run at all, more of a trot like a horse trot but more graceful).
There was nowhere to go now apart from down, and is was a good one as well. No pedalling and great views what more could you ask for? (Well now you mention it, world peace, wolves to win a match etc etc etc).
Pausing for a moment to admire the sheep herding skills of 3 men and 7 dogs, they had contained a large flock by the roadside, and of course all the men were on horseback.
4 miles later we were at the state park campground of Steamboat Lake, a beautiful site but no facilities. The site is strangly quiet for a friday night, maybe the colder weather is putting off a few people.
One cooked meal later and we are relaxing in our newly cleaned tent all very comfy.