Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 30: Piedra hot springs to the freezing Animas River (via dirt)

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We started the day off right: By scalding our feet and tushes in the Piedra Hot Springs. Seriously, for the rest of the day, the two main contact points with the bike felt raw and tender. It was totally worth it.

I woke up to Scott having already retrieved our food from the tree and urging me to move so that we could eat and go down to the hot springs that we’d planned our route around. We made quick work of bagels and cream cheese and headed down the trail, on foot, to the springs. We had vague directions and a GPS point.

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The world wide internets claims that the springs are 107 degrees. I don’t doubt it. Nestled up against the river, there are five or so pools, most luke-warm, and one scalding. We went for scalding. It was pretty neat to go from being sub-warm in our sleeping bags to sitting on the rocks by the side of the spring trying to cool off so that we could get back in.

This is quickly turning into a hot springs tour. Next we just need to figure out a way to hit up the new Idaho Hot Springs Route from the ACA.

We still got moving pretty early and were down to the bottom of the Piedra by 9am where we found ice cream and sodie-pop at the Snack Shack. Brekkie #2.

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We (and by we I mean Scott) spend a good amount of time staring at maps trying to figure out a route from Pagosa to Durango. Our issue was the Piedra Area. It backs up to the Weminuche Wilderness on the north end and extends all the way down to Hwy 160 on the south. It’s treated like a Wilderness (capital W) area, so it effectively closes off any corridor for bikes between 160 and way north. Suck. (I’m one of the few mountain bikers who doesn’t actively argue against mountain bikes being excluded from Wilderness, but having non-wilderness areas closed irritates me for sure.)

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So we took 160 west for about half a mile before starting up First Notch Canyon. A burley 2,000 foot climb got us to Ute Road, a gently contouring 4×4 road which was delightful to ride. And then down 1,000 feet back to the highway, 7 miles down from where we left it. Seeing how terrifying that highway is…it was totally worth it.

We then rode east (yes, back towards Pagosa) for a mile, before jumping south onto a series of gravel roads and ATV tracks that took us to Bayfield. It was convoluted, but actually a lot of fun. The main roads had fun ATV tracks paralleling them, double track that often rode like singletrack.

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Lunch in Bayfield, then county roads north and west to drop into the backside of the Horse Gulch trails in Durango. Cresting the final climb before dropping into the main trail system was like coming home. Durango!

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We rode trails down, taking trails around the rim, remembering the gimp rides that we’d gone on last summer on the same trails. So many sunset rides, so much marveling at the beauty that surrounds this town, and we were back, at least for 12 days.

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We stopped by the river for a quick soak, Zia for burritos, and then to a good friend’s house for the night. We’re house/dog sitting until the 23rd, at which point we’ll hope that the snow is melted, and we’ll head north on the Colorado Trail to rejoin the CDT at Stony Pass.

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Until then, I foresee soaks in the Animas River, breakfast at the Durango Diner, burritos from Zia, and pastries from Bread. And some fun day rides interspersed with rest and recovery.

Or something like that.

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3 thoughts on “CDT Day 30: Piedra hot springs to the freezing Animas River (via dirt)

  1. It’s great that you found a decent Pagosa to D-go route, even if a bit convoluted. I’ve been looking for one and might retrace it in the fall as I’ve been wanting to do a Del Norte to D-go ride but this section has been problematic. Enjoy your time off the trail!

  2. Hi there, I’m Patti’s friend Dana. I’ve ridden from Williams Reservoir which is North of Pagosa. We took Mosca creek road 18 miles to the end and then there is an old logging road/ single track into Vallecito Lake. There was some bush whacking at the end and we actually ended up riding through a ranch because of downed trees from the fire…..but great ride. Check it out on your map sometime. Just another alternative to Durango. Although your way sounded interesting. Have fun on your journey and enjoy Durango.

    • Hi Dana, unfortunately that section with the downed trees is in the Piedra wild area. According to Steve H. (USFS) it’s off limits to bikes. You guys apparently (unknowingly) poached it. 🙂 Scott and EZ are doing routes they can legally share with all of us for future adventures. The Pagosa to Durango routing has been challenging because of the Piedra area being off limits to us.

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