I’m really enjoying Salida – quite a few people have said its maybe the nicest town on the route, and I’m inclined to agree. While Steamboat and Breckenridge are very nice, the whole ski thing can get a little too much – Salida’s saving grace may be that while its surrounded by beautiful mountains, and has some great mountain biking and rafting, it doesn’t have any ski slopes. So there are fewer upmarket restaurants and pretentious shops, and even fewer monsterously oversized second homes owned by rich ski fans. Its just a very nice town with a very good vibe.
In some ways it reminds me a little of Butte, or a Butte that didn’t fade away with the price of copper. Maybe its the solid brick buildings of the town center – even the nice towns elsewhere i’ve seen here have an air of temporariness, as if nobody was quite sure they were settling for good.
I hired a very nice mountain bike (a Specialized Stumpjumper) and I’ve been riding the local trails. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ride the most famous high altitude trails here because they are snowed out, and the shuttles stopped running last week. So I can only ride those within easy cycling distance – which is essentially the Arkansas Hill trails. The locals consider them ‘beginners’ trails, but they are fine for me!
As you can see from the pictures, in coming over the final pass, I came into a very different climate zone. The pines here are mostly bristlecone, and instead of sage, there is pinon and cacti. Its the first sign that I’m approaching the high plains of New Mexico. Even some of the buildings here are adobe style. It also means I can ditch the bear spray I’ve been carrying for two months. I just have to worry about rattlesnakes now!