Day 20 – Monarch Pass to Mt. Princeton – 40 miles

July 29, 2009 smccormick

For those of you that have been actively watching our ride progress via this blog and our other web resources, we’re sure you have noticed a slight reduction in forward progress.  Like our side trip two days ago, today we have taken another turn north to do some sight seeing and maybe a bit of indulging.

Last nights’ stop just short of the top of Monarch pass turned outride 015 to be one of the best nights of camping so far.  We pitched the tent on a spot literally in the middle of nowhere (although we did have cell service to post).  It was quiet most of the night and we awoke to a spectacularly clear morning with calm winds.  We could see every valley around. Steve enjoyed the 39 degree morning a bit more than Cyndy, but we were up and taking it all in.  Steve took a couple of little hikes around to see what there was to see.  Cyndy made breakfast that came in the form of rehydrated goodies.  It was peaceful and beautiful.

With only 1.5 miles left to climb we headed off about 9am and ride 016 were at the top in no time.  We stopped at the tourist haven, perched right on the peak, to fill water and grab some goodies.  Couldn’t pass on some photos at the sign documenting our highest ascent.  Then it was off to enjoy 10 miles of a 6 percent down hill.  To our benefit, the wind was blowing uphill so little brake application was required.  We wound around and through the valley following the river and enjoyed 360 degree forest and mountain vistas changing with every turn.  With little effort we had gone 19 miles and had arrived at Poncha Springs.  Time for a snack and a little negotiation.

Back in Montrose it was recommended that we stop in Mt. Princeton ride 021 if we have the time.  Well, it turns we have the time and we took the 21 mile diversion.  The place has natural hot springs that provide heat and hot water for the entire facility and keeps a couple of pools at temperatures above 90 degrees. Down at the rivers edge you can just sit in the river to enjoy 130 degree water percolating up through the sand.  A bit cushy and enjoyable.  Of course the place wouldn’t be complete without a first class restaurant too, so we dropped in there as well.

When we first arrived we met Joyce at the front desk.  She was full of energy and a joy to deal with.  Hearing of our adventure she told us all about the facility, then gave us passes for the day cost free and invited us to store our bags in the office.  This was the first place in Colorado where the folks were openly nice and we enjoyed every minute of it.  Unfortunately when we asked for a room all was not as bright.  Who would have thought the place would be sold out on a Wednesday night.  So we went off to the pools and enjoyed the soothingly warm water as Cyndy eyed the massage facility.  

The lower pool area consisted of two large pools one hotter than the other and the adjacent river with the hot springs percolating up through the bed.  There was also a steam room.  After some time in the pools we headed down to the river to enjoy.  It was odd.  The water flowing by was cold and water/sand under the behind was hot.  We decided we liked the pools better.  Unlike other places these hot springs pools are surprisingly smell free!

Cyndy never did get her massage but when we went back up to the front desk to collect our bags, she inquired once more about a room and sure enough there had been a cancelation.  Didn’t really think to negotiate the price given the prospect of having to ride 10 miles or so with no guarantee of a room.

Headed up to the room to unpack then we cleaned up everything ride 028as usual then we were off to dinner.  It was a grand room with wonderful views and helpful staff.  We enjoyed just sitting and basking in the luxury.  It’s fun to be dirty and live out doors and it’s nice to have refined accommodations too.  After dinner we walked through the grounds at the back of the facility along the same stream we had been bathing in earlier.  Part of the creek bank was held up by old cars, another strange thing to observe.  It was surprising to feel some of the flowing ground water around the site, it was warm! However the other creek was snow melt cold. 

So as we write this we are sitting on the pleasantly cool ride 019 patio of our room overlooking the 14,000 foot tall Mt. Princeton as well as a number of other towering peaks.  A little lightening to the east, cloud shrouded tops to the south and clear overhead.  Bellies are full from a fabulous meal at the restaurant and legs pleasantly stretched with an after dinner walk around the creek and back up the 25% GRADE HILL TO OUR CLIFFSIDE ROOM.

Our last observation of the day is that Colorado drivers have been the most ungenerous, the really considerate ones moved over to the left edge of their lane.  We also have generally found the people to be overtly rude.  Overall, another wonderful day!

See more photos of this leg