Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pueblo, CO to Time Off: Spotting a BEAR, Spotting a FOX, Delicious Balls in My Mouth and Other Stories

Miles Per Day: Day 49=REST; Day 50=58.00; Day 51=59.34; Day 52=48.92; Day 53=49.55; Time off to rent a cabin and explore Colorado via car.

Total So Far: 2,401.82

Inspiration: Lynyrd Skynyrd; heading down past Hoosier's Pass listening to Beethoven's 9th (Karajan); Howard Stern; Cat Stevens; Jane's Addiction (mostly Ritual); Into Thin Air; and, of course, John Denver.

Spirits: intensely emotional; happy; amazed; insignificant in the face of so much natural beauty.

Things Seen On the Road/During Time Off: a BROWN BEAR!; a WILD FOX!; a buck and a doe; discarded antlers; a deer carcass that had clearly been eaten recently; the Rocky Mountains.

Favorite Quotes: (1) girl behind the counter at an ice cream shop after I asked for yet another 3-scoop cone of vanilla and chocolate ice cream: “You want ANOTHER one?” (2) my response to the girl behind the counter at ice cream shop: “I'm kinda biking across the country and need all the calories I can get. You know what, can I actually get two?”

I just can't believe it. Just yesterday I saw a brown bear. AND a wild fox. All within 3 minutes. Unbelievable.

It started innocently enough. The guy who owns the cabin I rented here in central Colorado mentioned that he likes to leave dog food right outside the cabin so he can photograph wild foxes. The cabin is, in fact, filled with photos of foxes and elk taken right outside the cabin door. Intrigued, I decided to leave a bit of dog food on the ground every so often in the hopes of spotting a fox or two.

One day this week, as I was grilling some pretty tasty steaks in the back of the cabin, I noticed an unmistakable furryness underneath my rented SUV. Sure enough, it was a wild fox staring longingly at some of the dog food scattered on the ground. He was tentative, but he eventually gathered the courage to approach the food and began munching away. Here's video of the fox munching for your viewing pleasure:

NOT THREE MINUTES after the wild fox had finished munching and had walked out of sight I spotted something much larger and furrier out of the corner of my eye. It was a BROWN BEAR. This beautiful creature was walking slowly along the edge of the tree line, not 25 feet from where I was standing. My jaw dropped as I scrambled to find my camera. I will treasure this video for the rest of my life:

Here's some more video further down the mountain. Notice the excitement of some of the locals who gathered around to see the bear:

[for the record, I am now aware that it is not a good idea to leave food out for wild animals. In my defense, (1) I am a total city boy and generally don't know any better; (2) I was following the advice of a local]

You would think that seeing a wild bear and a wild fox would top the list of things that have happened on this leg of the trip. What's really amazing is that they probably don't.

*Ascending the Rockies and Crossing the Continental Divide: The moment I left Pueblo I knew this part of the trip would be special. There is nothing like seeing the snow-capped Rockies off in the distance and realizing that with every revolution of your pedals they are getting closer and closer. By the time I reached Currant Creek Pass at 9,400 feet I just couldn't contain my emotions. Something happened to me on that pass. I don't want to go into it, but I will say that it was very powerful and I will never forget it.

Later on, the sense of accomplishment when I reached Hoosier Pass at 11,542 feet was palpable. I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I had gotten to the top of the continental divide. On a bicycle.

*Stealth Camping: I don't know what it is with Colorado ski towns but by the time I got to Breckenridge I realized that a guy on a bike is persona non grata. Brechenridge, in particular, does not allow public camping of any kind and when I was there not a single church allowed me to camp on their grounds. I basically had no choice but to go further north to look for public lands and/or a secluded place to camp for the night, AFTER having made it over Hoosier Pass. But, hey, there could have been worse places for me to stealth camp:

Here's some video I shot the morning after. Notice that the area is surrounded by brush and trees. I would be surprised if anyone could have spotted my campsite:

*I love balls in my mouth: Nothing like heading to the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant in Denver to try some delectable dishes. On the menu was the following: Porterhouse steak, ostrich, buffalo, elk, Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull testicles, for you philistines), and alligator. For the record, the elk and the rattlesnake were just awesome. Oh, and those balls were delicious:


The beauty of Colorado:


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