Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Silver City to Hillsboro, NM

Snow on the downhill section

View from the slopes of Emory Pass

Filling up the gas bottle with Nate's approval.

View from the very top of Emory Pass

Finally made it to the top

Rio Grande Watershed. All of that poor water that runs from here gets to divide Mexico from Texas. Sounds like a crappy job.

That black dot in the distance is a huge shovel at the pit mine.

The expanse of the Santa Rita Copper Pit Mine.

Silver City to Hillsboro, NM
Day 63
53 Miles

Ah, what a day. Dani and I had been looking at the big bump on our elevation profile that is Emory Pass for quite awhile. Today we finally got to ride over the highest place on our whole tour. But I am getting ahead of myself. This morning we thawed and then dried our tent from last night. The temperature dropped low enough to leave a nice thin sheet of frost inside and outside our tent. Nate stayed warm enough in his little cocoon thanks to two Western Mountaineering sleeping bags that he wrapped up in. We were in no hurry to leave before the cold air lifted off the ground, so we messed around and sat in the nice warm Rec room at the KOA.

Once we finally got packed up to leave, Nate drove ahead of us with his bike and our gear and parked at the top of Emory pass. In the meantime, we were given the opportunity to ride one more day unladen. From Silver City to San Lorenzo, the road was filled with big rolling hills that gave us a good warm up and some fun. On the way, we stopped and gaped into the abyss of the Santa Rita open pit copper mine. This thing is huge. Over a mile wide and 1,600 feet deep. We could hardly even see the electric shovels that fill the 80 yard dump trucks. After the mine we rode down a nice long and fast descent to San Lorenzo.

Only a mile or two out of San Lorenzo, the climbing began. Right around here, we caught up with Nate. He was just finishing coming down from Emory pass only to turn around and climb up it again with us. It was instantly obvious that this climb was going to be beautiful. The Gila National Forest provided us with an oddly familiar backdrop for our riding today. As we climbed into the timbered elevations, we were reminded again of Montana and the Black Hills. The road was fairly smooth, narrow, and winding, but with almost no traffic at all. Perfect for riding. We wish all roads could be like this one. It was very nice to ride with Nate for another day. He probably isn't used to riding at our slow turtle paced touring speeds (even unloaded), but we were busy recounting all of the fun times we had doing stupid stuff in high school. Yes, we are nostalgic at 24. We rode up quite a long way, and then, much to Dani's chagrin dropped back down again before beginning the final ascent to the top of Emory Pass. Truthfully, it wasn't as steep as the pass we did between Three Way and Buckhorn, but the descent was nicer.

Once we reached the top I was surprised to find that we had crossed into the Rio Grande watershed. That is, like, almost Texas. Who knew? We grabbed some water and food at the top and then started down the consistent drop on the other side of Emory. Nate rode back down the pass with us for a few miles and then climbed back up (again) to his car. Dani and I continued our way down the pass enjoying the downhill after so many days of consistent climbs without much for descents. The sun dropped behind the mountains almost as soon as we began coasting and the air became very chilly. By the time we reached the small little town called Hillsboro, Dani and I worked up a chill. We found a nice little free campsite in the town park. Town, by the way, is being quite liberal. Hillsboro was totally deserted. We could hardly even find a person or a vehicle moving around to prove there was indeed still life on Earth. This town looks like 30 years ago, a big bus came in and shipped everyone out of town while they were in the middle of dinner. The builds looked lived in and as though they used to be nice, but they were all closed and frozen in time. We started getting creepy feelings and started wondering why Nate hadn't caught up with us yet.

Once Nate did arrive, we set up tents and livened up the town with laughter and a nice warm meal. The temperatures dropped off as cold arctic air moved into the region. Shivers and numb feet eventually forced us into our tents. It was good riding one last day with Nate, and one last day without our gear.


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