The ride from Colorado Springs to South Fork, where we spent the night in this motel, was long, cold, dark, and draining. We woke up sore and tired. Here Dad and I are sipping our last cup of coffee before we have to hit the road again. We're headed first to the Blue Moon Cafe, which is just south of Creede, Colorodo, the last town before the turnoff into remote country. The Blue Moon is where we'll meet Pete Kieliszewski, a friend of Tim's who guides on the river in the area. Pete will be our unofficial guide in the skinny water stretches of the Rio Grande just below the Continental Divide. We plan to camp up there tonight.
Tim snapped a quick photo of this sign, which was hanging on the roof of the gas station we fueled up at before heading to Creede.
Our first daylight ride in the mountains was both cold and beautiful. Bright, peaking aspen trees caught the morning sun, flaring so brightly that I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road.
During our ride the night before we’d watched the moon rise over the peaks. This morning we got to watch it drop from the sky.
Delicious pies at the Blue Moon Cafe, just south of Creede. A Mennonite woman brought them in, fresh baked, a few minutes after they opened the place for the day. Can you guess what we had for breakfast?
Just up the road from the Blue Moon is a rock formation known as the Wagon Wheel Gap — a deep cut through the mountains that lets the Rio Grande flow south out of the upper valley. Dad and I are standing at the top of the gap here, checking out the gorgeous (but private) water we’ll be riding past on our way to the headwaters.
We stopped in Creede to pick up licenses and groceries, then continued northwest along the highway for another 15 miles or so before turning off onto this unimproved forest service road. This road follows the river into the highlands, past a couple of reservoirs and into seriously beautiful country. Dad and I had to regularly stop and wait for Tim to catch up to us — He couldn’t resist shooting the scenery.
Finally rigging up to fish. It’s early afternoon here. We’ve already set up camp further down the road.
Hiking down into the river bottom. That’s me on the left. Pete in the middle. My dad’s on the right.
The old man can cast. We worked this water hard for three solid hours, up and down the river, and nobody drew a bump. It was a little discouraging, being in such a gorgeous place with no fish to photograph.
Here’s a wider view of the valley through which the upper Rio Grande flows. It looks ridiculously trout-friendly (and, judging from the trails cutting the willows along the river, pretty appealing to moose as well). But we didn’t want to ride the rough road back in the dark, especially since my Dad had dumped his bike on the way in during daylight hours. We called it quits as the sun dropped below the mountains, packed up our gear and rode back to camp in time to cook pita pizzas on flat rocks next to the fire.
It’s hard to stay discouraged when you’re camping in a place like this one!

Last fall, Field & Stream Online Editor Nate Matthews and his father, Bruce, spent 15 days fishing the Rio Grande River from its headwaters in Colorado’s Continental Divide all the way to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. These excerpts from their journals tell the story of their 2500-mile motorcycle ride along the historic river, taken during momentous times in the lives of both father and son. Photographer/vidographer Tim Romano documented the excursion. Look for the print feature in June 2011.