Leaving the touristy ski resort of Breckenridge we cycled higher, up over the Boreas Pass. Heading down the other side was not such fun as the 25 mile descent had a washboard surface which is what happens when cars are driven badly on dirt roads and meant that by the time we reached the valley by recently broken hand was badly bruised.
Arriving in the valley was like moving into another universe after being in affluent, touristy Breckenridge. At first sight the near ghost town of Como looks like any other, until you realise that all the well maintained houses are empty and only 14 people live here. This was the first place people had refused to give us water on the grounds that it was so polluted that even filtering it did not remove the foul smell. We camped behind the large community hall and watched as no lights came on in the houses. The spooky feel was added to later, once it got dark, by the howling of a pack of coyotes nearby.
Arriving in Hartsel we found one or two more people, but the town was very run down. They did have a great cafe, which was good as we were running low on food. They were happy for us to fill up with water, but this still had the smell of old mine pollution.
After that the climbing got more serious. We started climbing some high and steep passes, generally camping at around 3000 meters (9850 feet) at night and cycling over passes of 3500 meters (11,500 feet) during the day.
The weather was getting unpredictable as we arrived at the appropriately named Storm King Pass campsite. As we had hardly seen a soul for a couple of days it was a suprise to find about 50 people sitting in rows in the campsite. The women were wearing long dresses and had covered hair. It turned out they were Mennonites on a picnic. Several of them came over to chat with us, and as the skies opened and the torrential rain started they cut us extra logs for a fire and gave us home made stew and cheesy potatoes. If any of you are reading this, thank you, it was very much appreciated.