Our journey took a different direction. We headed east on US 160 past Chimney Rock and on to Pagosa Springs where we had brunch at the ElkhornCafe.
The scenery was mesmerising and the road seductively beckoned to be ridden much faster than the speed limits permitted. We reached Wolf Creek Pass at 10,850 ft before we knew it, and stopped briefly at the top before setting off down the other side to the town of South Fork, where we met an old friend, the Rio Grande. It is a beautiful clear river in the mountains. It passes through yellow soils on the mexican border which changes its colour.
Turning northwest onto CO 149, our route took us up the valley of the Rio Grande to the delightful town of Creede, nestled at the south end of a narrow canyon. All these towns in the mountainous area are cool and pleasant, a stark contrast to the lower areas of the last few days.
We stopped here for coffee and some delicious Key Lime Pie at Ric's Grill. We were given a warning that the cold weather could set in within two weeks.
Continuing on 149, the road kept following the Rio Grande before striking off and upwards again, this time to Spring Creek Pass at 10898 ft. The higher we went the further Autumn had advanced. Many trees in the highest regions had completely lost their leaves already.
Our descent was shortlived and we were soon climbing again, this time to Shamgullion Pass. At 11361 ft it was the highest point of our journey today, and the third pass we crossed at over 10,000 ft. (You can't do that in Australia) Going down gave elevated views.
As we rode north to lake city the vegetation changed from high alpine to something similar to the New Mexico desert - bare hills with no vegetation except Rabbit Bush. The winds blew strongly and uninhibited across the high plains, buffetting our bike relentlessly. We looked for Powderhorn, our planned stop for the night, but saw nothing except a few straggling buildings and a sign pointing down a side rode to the Post Office.
Except for the occasional car you were quite alone on the way to Gunnison. The landscape changed.
We rode on to Gunnison where we found a comfortable motel, washed our clothes and purchased dinner at a local supermarket. Pumpkins are ready for Halloween.