Let me start by saying how rad Salida is, or as the guy at the outfitters described it “the last undiscovered mountain town.” Its a cool little place that the trail takes you right through. Definitely one of those places that people just end up at and never leave. You go through town, and through Poncha Springs. By this time it was evening and we saw some camp spots next to the little creek along the dirt road. We pitched camp for the night.
Come morning, we found we had a neighbor that came in late and camped in a small site next to ours. He approached me asking about my thoughts on tiny homes (way into them) and we ended up talking for a few hours about his ideas about tiny homes, and a game he invented called “peace ball” and in the end he gave us a “peace plant” which was a little rosemary plant in a soda bottle. Peace plant took quite a beating in our tiny truck though. He did not make it. I think Chelsea wants to write a bit more about Ross in a post about the characters we’ve met along the road. This conversation took up most of the morning and some of the afternoon and I was getting a bit antsy about hitting the trail.
So we moved forward, well….sideways sort of. In our hurry to make it back on the road, we forgot that we had passed the trail by a couple hundred feet to get to this camping spot. If you are following the maps and roll chart, it is sometimes hard to discern certain details, and even confuse turns as what is meant to be on the route. You learn a method of “close enough” when it comes to counting the mileage to get to turns.
That “close enough” turned into a pass called the Otto Mears Toll road. This road was fairly steep and our first actual experience with the Colorado mountain passes. Climbing rocks, shelf roads, and climbing through the different forest types. It was a bit exhilarating and simultaneously stressful for a first timer like me.
We finally reached a shelf road that had a 90 degree turn to continue onward, one problem, there was a truck headed in the opposite direction and the road was what felt like 8 feet at its widest (I don’t like heights). We both stopped and had to talk over the situation and settled on him driving to the outskirts of the thickest part of the road at the turn, and me skirting my way through whats left between him and the solid rock wall on the inside. I would say at this point I am happy to have a tiny truck. Chelsea swore the vehicle was going to topple over the edge a couple of times but I clearly had it under control. I did have to switch into 4wd to get a little more stability and we inched past each other without any further issue, we waved goodbye, honked our horns and moved on. He moved on anyway, thats when I noticed my 4wd had somehow lodged itself into neutral and we were going nowhere fast.
A gust of wind came and blew my hat a hundred feet down the side of a mountain, I had to climb down and get it. That was about enough time for me to cool off enough to figure out the issue and look into fixing it. With the help of the essential library on suzuki samurai that we’ve collected we figured out how to take apart the clutch, it was loaded with gritty sand and dirt and I was able to clean it out and get the clutch working again. WE CAN MOVE! I told Chelsea not to mention what had happened until we were down the mountain, no jinxing it.
Summited the mountain pass, it was over 11000 feet, suck it guy in Salida that told us the engine wouldn’t make it past that elevation. So much worth the work and worry.