Today was supposed to be the last full day in Colorado, but it ended up being the day of the unplanned and unexpected. Originally, I had intended to go to Mesa Verde in the morning. However since I already did that yesterday afternoon, I got to looking at the map last night for inspiration.
I noticed that I wasn’t far from Ship Rock, New Mexico. Ship Rock was actually on an early version of my itinerary when I first started planning my trip, but I quickly removed it once I realized that it was really out of the way. The truth is, Ship Rock is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and I would never be in the area again, so if I don’t see it now, I never will.
I also figured that the best way to see it would be at sunrise, so I roused myself at 4:30am, quickly scrambled to load everything up, then headed south.
After about a 45 minute ride at dawn, I saw Ship Rock rising up 1500 ft from the New Mexico Desert. When I said it’s in the middle of nowhere I wasn’t kidding. There are no roads leading to it, and it’s in the middle of a vast desert plain. In fact it’s actually in the heart of Navajo territory, and it’s considered a sacred site, so it’s forbidden to even approach it.
I went down a small local road that went to the south of Ship Rock, and then, found a dirt track leading in to the desert. I rode down the track a few minutes but didn’t want to go too far since I was definitely on Navajo land at this point.
Fortunately, it was all worth it. The sun started to rise and lit up Ship Rock in an amazing orange glow. I took a few great photos and watched the sun rise as I ate my breakfast (ok, actually just a Clif bar).
After that little adventure I started riding East through New Mexico. The land here is very dry and dusty. After a while I was back on US 550 (which is the million dollar highway in Colorado) and worked my way back north into Colorado. As soon as I reached the state border everything turned green again.
Since it was still early, I thought I’d find a cafe somewhere and take a break. I followed a sign to the historic downtown of Bayfield and parked outside a window that just said “coffee”. As it happens this was a brand new cafe and the hottest ticket in town. Within 15 minutes of being there the place was packed and people were waiting outside. I opted for the breakfast special and tucked in to a great meal.
I got back on the road to my next stop, but since I just had a big breakfast, I opted for a small detour to Chimney Rock which was on the way. I figured it was just a neat rock, but it turned out it was an ancient Pueblo site (like Mesa Verde) from over 1000 years ago. As a bonus, it was free to enter the park, but with a catch. There was technically no entrance fee, but it cost $12 to drive one’s vehicle up to the top of the small mountain. The alternative was to walk up 2.5 miles on the gravel road. It seemed a little disingenuous to say it’s free to enter but costs $12 to reach the attraction, so I opted for the free option.
The archeological site was pretty cool and well preserved after the excavation. I took some more photos, enjoyed the view and then headed back down the road.
Back on the bike and on to my main stop of the day: Pagosa Springs. This town is known for all the mineral hot springs right in the center of town. In all the other towns that had hot springs, they would have a big public pool, which was full of people, and not that appealing for me. In Pagosa Springs the hot springs were all private hotels, and though I’m sure they had a day pass option, they all still looked pretty full and also not very appealing. As I was walking along the riverfront though, I happened on a natural hot spring bubbling up on the rocks in to the river. It was a perfect spot just to soak my feet for a few minutes (though it was very hot!).
Eventually I got back on the road and headed to my destination of Alamosa. There was nothing in particular that I planned to see in Alamosa, it was just a place to stop. In fact my impression of Alamosa was that it was dirty, noisy and ugly. Nevertheless I think I had the best dinner of the trip so far: Tom Yum soup at a local Thai restaurant.