The trail from Breckenridge promised to be both beautiful and quite difficult. The main difficulty is not just the highest Divide Crossing (not the highest pass on the route, thats still to come, but the highest crossing of the Continental Divide), but a lack of accommodation options between Breckenridge and Salida. The official maps and book offer no suggestions and Eric mailed me to say that wild camping was very difficult in the wide open space of the South Park basin to the north. I decided on another detour, this time going to the town of Fairplay, looping back to the official route a few miles south.
I had a look around Breckenridge before leaving – its beautifully preserved, even the sole Starbucks is forced to keep a low profile. The town is very touristic, based on the top class skiing in the area. But the snow hasn’t come quite yet.
So after breakfast, off I went on a 2,000 foot climb up the Boreas Pass, named rather ominously from the Greek God of the wind.
I wish all climbs could be this nice. Thanks to a very gentle grade (its a former railway line), and great scenery, it was a great mornings riding.
The Pass is a beautiful spot, and used to be the site of one of the highest towns in the US, where a settlement grew up around the maintenance depot for the narrow guage railway between Beckenridge and Leadville (both very important mining towns at the time). They’ve restored the old railway buildings and a section of railway. You can see why some of the earliest bike tourists on their penny farthing bikes used to prefer to ride on the ‘ties’ instead of the roads at the time.
So after lunch at the Pass, it was time for another big descent, down to the small town of Como and the dry basin of South Park County.
Near the base of the Boreas Pass there is a sudden change in the landscape. South Park County is a shallow, arid basin, with only a handful of people living there. Everyone still argues over whether its the ‘real’ South Park.
The curious little town of Como, an old and fading coal mining center, is the first thing you meet at the base of the Boreas Pass.
From Como, I left the ‘official’ route to go west on the main road to the town of Fairplay, seemingly the only place between Como (where the one guesthouse had closed for the season) where I could stay or camp for about 60 miles. It was a surprisingly hilly road, but quite easy riding.
At first glance Fairplay seemed like a pretty grim place, with the usual sprawl of liquor stores and truck lube stations, but working my way to the south I found the original old Main Street was very well preserved and a really nice place to stay and visit. I stayed in the Hand Hotel, which looked like it had hardly changed in a century (although thankfully, that didn’t include the shower, which was nice and hot). The rooms didn’t even have a phone or TV, which all the customers seemed to think was ‘real cute’. And it is. Oh, and its allegedly haunted too, but I slept too soundly to notice.