Monday Day 11 - June 23

On Monday we brought the bikes down from the parking lot for packing and set about breaking camp. After packing all of our camping gear and reloading the bikes we headed out to the local school for showers. Although the parking lot was full the door to the showers were locked. As school was in session, there were to be no showers. We grunged into town and enjoyed repeated our breakfast burrito breakfast of Sunday. A conversation with a Telluride local alerted us to little know route of dirt and gravel roads through the town of Ophir (pictured above) and across a beautiful pass. He made a brief reference to riding the road on his old GS750 sop We studied the map and project our first stop on the other side of the pass at Silverton and looked forward to another exciting day on the road. We had no idea.
Our trip through Ophir began beatifully. We headed west out of Telluride and picked up 145 south, making a turn onto CO63 a hardpacked dirt road that turned to gravel before long. We entered Ophir from dirt road, the only road leading into town. After about a minute at just above walking pace we turned right following the "Ophir Pass" sign out of town. We headed up a gravel road and crossed a stream, enjoying the scenery and the sunshine.
That is CO63 up to ophir pass. It is difficult to capture how steep and rugged this road is. The bouncing of the loaded bikes over the rocks and ruts makes the huge drop-off on the right a menacing threat. rocks bigger than my head littered the road along with dips that would drop the wheel before slamming you into the next big rock!
The snow was thick as we approached the summit. In the snow were large chunks of rock indicating the snow was scraping up earth as it slid down the mountain. The GPS showed we were at 11,800 feet when we crested Ophir Pass. We dreaded the descent down the other side until we talk to a byciclist at the top who said the other side was much easier -- he made a point not to venuture onto the side we had just ridden up. I posed in front of my bike for a summit photo shortly before the bike fell over on me and Don, pinning us between the bikes on the gravel and breaking the lid to my open Givi side bag. The Givi bag would have been fine (it was on the other tip overs) but it had been open at the time of the fall and caught the weight of the bike. Jeff had to dash over and get the KLR off us so we could get up. The V-Strom posed smugly on the summit, being the only bike to cross the pass without getting horizontal.

The ride down the other side and into Silverton was uneventful and we stopped for a while in Silverton to savor a well earned beer and some buffalo wings while the barmaid told us about the bluegrass festival that is held in Silverton. After our rest we headed south to Durango and turned west. On the way to Mesa Verde we made a stop at an auto parts store to buy more fuses, black duct tape, and make repairs to the damage from dropping the KLRs on Ophir Pass.

Mesa Verda National Park - The Cliff Dwellings

The ride to Mesa Verde was nice. When we got to the front gate I thought we were there. It turned out to be a 25 mile ride from the front gate of the park to the site of the tour! Big park. We had thought it odd that the front gate ranger had warned us at 4:00 that the last tour started at 6:00. We had to stop at the visitor center to buy a $7.50 group ticket for a 5:30 tour.

From their web site: "Mesa Verde, Spanish for "green table" ... reflects more than 700 years of history. From approximately A.D. 600 through A.D. 1300 people lived and flourished in communities throughout the area, eventually building elaborate stone villages in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Today most people call these sheltered villages "cliff dwellings". The cliff dwellings represent the last 75 to 100 years of occupation at Mesa Verde. In the late 1200s within the span of one or two generations, they left their homes and moved away."

This was a really cool thing to see and I'm glad Jeff steered us this way. Some of the walls still standing were originally built over 800 years ago, as old as structures get here in the U.S. The tour was a lot of fun, but not for the infirmed or immobile. We formed up on a promintory overlooking the dwellings and then descended a set of very steep steps. After getting a history lesson from the parks service lady we walked over to the dwellings and got to walk around (not on) the walls of the dwelling. One of the most interesting features was the round rooms. These rooms were set down into the rock, and would have been covered with flat wood roofs that formed the floor for the public area of the dwelling. Check out the photo of Don and Jeff peering down into a room while be told about the air vent at the roof (where the are standing) level that provides air for the fire inside the round room. The small wall standing in the room is thought to have blocked the downward draft from blowing out the fire which was built in the round pit in the center of the room. The purpose of these rooms is not known for sure, it was suggested that they served as sleeping rooms, perhaps during worship periods. In fact the theory of the purpose of the entire cliff dwelling is under revision. Possible purposes were community common use such as food storage or worship. The current theory is that they were not full time residences as previously thought.

The trip back up to mesa level was more interesting than the trip down. We had to climb steps hewn in the rock cliff side and climb three natural wood ladders that covered a combined 100 feet vertically! The cliff dwellers had climbed up the rocks without use of a ladder and you could still see the hand holds that had been hewn out of the cliffs.

We were five hours from (although less than 200 miles) our destination for the evening, Mexican Hat. Don and Jeff fired up the GPS units and found the San Juan inn, and called to make reservations. Long live technology. With a room reserved for late arrival we headed out. We finally arrived at the San Juan a little before midnight. Fortunately we got a 3-bed room so there was no scrambling for a roll away. We did some laundry, drank some Poligamy Porter ("Have More Than One!") while doing much needed laundering, and turned in for the night.