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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Jul 21, 2019.
Looking forward to seeing and reading more.
Day 3 381 miles
Loveland (CO) has a valentine remailing program. People from all over the world send valentines here to be hand stamped with a special postal cancellation and an added valentines verse. The chamber of commerce hosts a contest to come up with a new cancellation and verse each year. They average about 160,000 cards from the US and more than 110 other countries.
There is a nice lake in town. Water can be a little scarce in this region.
The Devil's Backbone - a notable geologic feature.
As I mentioned, water can be a concern.
The ride up this canyon was really nice. Scenic and fun.
In 2013, this part of Colorado had four days of rain that caused a problem with water. Estes Park (at the top of the canyon) got 8-12 inches which forced them to release water through a dam which took out parts of this highway.
No, not this dam.
Stanley Hotel. Built in 1909. Stanley of the Stanley Steamer car had tuberculosis so he came here for a while to improve his health. Apparently it worked because he lived to be 91. He wanted to turn Estes Park into a resort town so he built a hotel.
Steve King checked in here as other guests were checking out since the hotel was shutting down for the season. He stayed in room 217. He roamed the halls of the near empty building and noted the eeriness. He realized he had a book idea going which ended up becoming The Shining. I think they shot some of Dumb and Dumberer here.
I'll have more information about Estes Park once I loop around a scenic byway that will take me back here.
Nice overlook just outside town.
The Big Elk Fire started up on July 17, 2002, when a catalytic converter on a vehicle malfunctioned. The heat from the exhaust pipe started a grass fire on a county road. The fire burned 4,413 acres until they were able to contain it on July 27th. At the peak during the battle there were 749 firefighters, 14 aircraft, and 75 engines working the blaze.
I am riding into the terrain where the fire was going.
The fire threatened Big Elk Meadows Pinewood Springs, and Estes Park. No homes were lost because firefighters did some strategic backburns and had some luck with changing winds. A few outbuildings and a historic cabin were lost . . . along with some pilots' lives.
A helicopter went down in this area.
The wing came off this tanker killing the two pilots. By the way, these old warplanes are no longer allowed to fly fires which I'll cover more about later.
I think they were on their 8th drop of the day when the wing separated from the plane. They had 2,000 gallons of retardant on board and 550 gallons of fuel. The cause was thought to be fatigue cracking in the wing spar.
The pilot of this helicopter died when he crashed while making a water drop. The official cause talks about improper use of the collective during a drop and a vortex ring state. This can involve a situation where the aircraft is settling with power because the air movement with the vortex is actually causing the aircraft to descend. Adding power to pull out of it can make the situation worse so a pilot can run out of the power needed to overcome the situation. An examination of the engine revealed that it was cooked in a fashion often related to a vortex ring state mishap. Another pilot told me that this is a hazard and that a solution can be flying out of the vortex. Doing so can cost altitude which can be a problem as well.
I didn't take this picture, but it is a memorial to the three aviators and it is at a fire station in a gated community nearby.
The terrain may have made air tanker drops challenging.
Despite the tragic events of the past that most travelers wouldn't know about, it was a nice ride through this area.
FYi: At EAA ADVENTURE OSHKOSH 2019 Oshkosh, WI https://www.eaa.org/en/airventure yesterday, the air show featured firefighting planes that dropped water as well as the aerobatic planes and the parachuters.
All caught up, thanks for taking us along!!
Thanks for your ongoing RR, Cannonshot...vested interest as a municipal FF that does a fair amount of interface firefighting. We're a bit behind up here in Canada, in terms of organizing resources on the same scale as the USFS, typing/classification of resources and inter-agency operations. We do have the "luxury" in Alberta of sparse population density in our boreal forest and mountain areas. Changing weather patterns in combination with topography, lead to extremely challenging conditions.
I mentioned that I rode by the steam shop the Union Pacific has in Cheyenne and that they restored the Big Boy locomotive. That locomotive and it's train are on tour right now in the midwest. A friend and I stopped to see the rig when it paused for 45 minutes in a small town in SE WI. This engine was decommissioned for 60 years. Two years of restoration brought it back.
It was very hot standing next to the firebox.
Day 3 Continued
I rolled into Lyons. Lyons is known for their red sandstone.
Back in the 1880s demand took off for paved streets and sidewalks. Sandstone from here for cobblestones came into big demand. There were/are several quarries in the area. They even competed with some quarries that the Union Pacific brought into being. When asphalt and concrete came along the place fell on hard times. I think one quarry stayed alive by providing road gravel. Eventually the demand for this kind of sandstone came back.
This town got flooded pretty badly back in 2013. The National Guard had to evacuate people with some having to be hauled out of the area on Chinook helicopters.
Today I saw in the news that a bear tried stealing a dumpster from a marijuana shop here in Lyons. The bear busted the gate and rolled the dumpster out. Caught on video.
Back out onto the scenic loop. This soon joins the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway (Colorado's oldest scenic byway).
Like most scenic byways, it is good to explore places along the way.
This is Allenspark which is pretty nice to drive through - as is the road itself.
During the 1859 gold rush, a fellow from Columbus WI came out here trying to get rich. He was the first to build a cabin here so the place is named after him.
Chapel on the Rock. Part of Camp St. Malo. Pope John Paul II visited here in 1993.
Coming back in toward Estes Park.
Someone has a collection of 20,000 keys on display at the Baldpate Inn along here. The place was locked up when I went by.
There is a water tunnel going under this mountain. Earlier I mentioned that there were water problems on this side of the mountains. About 80% of Colorado's precipitation falls on the West Slope in the Rockies. About 80% of the state's population lives along the East Slope between Fort Collins and Pueblo. So, Colorado undertook a massive project of reservoirs, dams, tunnels and the like to get water from the West Slope to where they need it. More on this later. They also produce some power as they move this water around.
Speaking of water, back in 1982 an 80 year old dam in the national park west of Estes Park ruptured sending 5-7' of water down Estes Park's main street. It left about 3' of mud in town. Snowplows and bulldozers were called in to help open things up. Back in 1976 a flash flood along the Big Thompson River killed 139 people
Day 3 Continued
Into Rocky Mountain National Park
Obviously the park is beautiful.
It is also crowded with tourists. One of the top three National Parks for visitors.
It is expensive to enter the park. Best to have a pass that will pay for itself in just a few visits.
Troubling snow comes in summer too.
Who would try to live up here (especially a hundred years ago)? These people were pretty tough.
A few elk sightings.
Such a great report. Keep it coming!
Day 3 Continued
Grand Lake is a tourist town that goes back to 1881. Tim "Tool Time" Allen is or was a resident.
This boardwalk runs up and down both sides of the main street taking in about 60 shops with an old west style.
Grand Lake is situated on Grand Lake which is the largest natural body of water in Colorado. The town started out supplying mine settlements.
Another fine example of a military bridge. You can add more panels to increase the capacity of the bridge. It was designed by a British hobbyist during WWII.
The EMS in Grandy is ready for some backcountry operations.
The town started up as a railroad town and had homesteaders in the area as well. In 2004 a local resident tore up the town with a modified bulldozer. This is not publicly commemorated here.
Marv Heemeyer was pissed off about some zoning actions. Apparently he didn't want a concrete plant next to his muffler shop. Marv spent about a year and a half building his "killdozer". He was planning a revenge attack on the town as he built the dozer. He built armor for the dozer a foot thick made of steel and concrete. He had video cameras and monitors so he could see. These were protected by 3" bulletproof plastic. He even thought ahead enough to rig compressed air nozzles to blow dust away from the cameras. Marv had three gun ports rigged for a .50 cal, a .308, and a .22 which he used to shoot at transformers and propane tanks. Apparently he had no plan to come out of the dozer because he rigged a crane to drop the lid on the cab once he was in.
Cops jumped all over this thing during the rampage looking for a way to get a shot inside. One even dropped a flash-bang grenade down the exhaust. The assault on the town, in 2004, went on for more than two hours. Marv took out the concrete plant, city hall, the police department, a former mayor's house, and a bunch of other stuff. The State Police confirmed that the Governor wanted the National Guard to take out the dozer with an Apache Helicopter/Hellfire Missile combo or a Javelin anti-tank missile. Concerns about collateral damage cancelled that option.
As Marv was destroying the Gambles store he ran into a little trouble. He must have damaged the radiator and he dropped a track into a shallow basement that the Gambles store had. Once he could do no more he shot himself in the head with a pistol. The cops used three charges to try to blast into the dozer but couldn't overcome the armor. In the end they used cutting torches. The dozer itself was carefully scrapped with parts being distributed over a number of yards to deter souvenir hunters.
Granby also has an Amtrak station that serves the California Zephyr. It is the busiest of all the stations in Colorado.
Sure enough, here comes a train.
They need to do a little dozer work on their platform to raise it up a bit.
Day 3 Continued Fraser, Berthoud Pass, Henderson Mine, Empire
Fraser had one of Ike's favorite fishing spots.
Fraser also had a dispute with International Falls (MN) about the slogan "Icebox of the Nation". Eventually the Patent Office registered the trademark with International Falls. Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have these guys beat anyway.
Sometimes this involves artillery in a direct fire mode.
Some nice switchbacks involved with Berthoud Pass. Jimmy Bridger was scouting for railroad engineer Berthoud back in 1861 looking for a path for the railroad. By the way, the railroad currently goes through tunnels in this area. Berthoud determined it wouldn't work for trains but could be a wagon road.
This pass is one of the most notoriously difficult for Colorado motorists (height, steep grades, and switchbacks). There are 55 avalanche paths mapped in the pass.
In 1902 they put together one of those water diversion ditches here to get water over the continental divide. Golden and Northglenn purchased the ditch in the 1980s to provide some water for their cities. There are other water tunnels around here of a larger scale.
The Henderson Molybdenum Mine has been operating since 1976. It is North America's largest primary producer of molybdenum. At one time they looked at this place for a deep underground lab but the Homestake in the Black Hills won out. Ore from this mine is carried by a 15 mile long conveyor system to the mill that is on the other side of the divide. That 15 miles includes a very long tunnel through the mountain. This post from my Great Divide Ride report shows the mill and part of the conveyor system.
Exhaust vents for the mine.
If you visit the nearby town of Empire, look up at the mountainsides. You will see the remnants of a lot of small mine excavations.
Day 3 Continued
Georgetown and Silver Plume
Georgetown doesn't look too substantial today, but back in the late 1800s this place was considered the "Silver Queen of Colorado".
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a remarkable tourist railroad.
Georgetown has a bunch of historic buildings. Some movies were filmed here. The final showdown between Philo Beddoe and the Black Widows (Every Which Way But Loose) was downtown. The movie Phantoms (Ben Affleck) included the post office and the Hotel de Paris. The Christmas Gift, starring John Denver, was filmed in Georgetown.
The power company has this museum in town . . . but I didn't have the energy to visit. It is a hydro generating plant that has been in operation since 1900.
This hotel was opened in 1875. Now it is a museum. Originally it was luxury with high class French cuisine.
Silver Plume is just up the highway and is considered to be a living ghost town. Gravel streets and not a lot of improvements like Georgetown.
"One involves a much-beloved citizen from the mining days, Clifford Griffin. According to legend, Mr. Griffin came from the state of New York, where he was raised. Griffin became engaged in New York, but his fiancé tragically, and mysteriously, died the night before their wedding. Her death was contributed to unnameable "natural causes", and to escape the painful memories of his beloved, he moved to Colorado with his brother, who eventually became the owner of the 7:30 Mine (so named because their day shift started a generous hour later than the other mines, who started at 6:30 AM). Clifford became the manager of the 7:30, and was much loved by his miners for his kindness. According to local legend, every Christmas he bought all his miners a goose for their families, and every Fourth of July, he paid off every bar between Silver Plume and current-day Bakerville 4 miles (6 km) to the west, so his miners could enjoy their holiday without spending their family's money. Not only did he take care of his miners, every evening he provided them with entertainment as well. Since he could not bear the daily sight of his men with their wives and families after his tragedy, he spent a great deal of time near the entrance to the 7:30, which sits about 1,500 feet (460 m) above the town of Silver Plume. Every evening he would sit near the edge of a nearby cliff and play his violin. Due to the incredible acoustics of the valley, the entire town could step outside and listen to his concerts. According to local legend, one evening, after a particularly beautiful recital, the residents heard a gunshot. Assuming the worst, the miners of the 7:30 raced up the trail to the entrance, and there they found Clifford Griffin, shot through the heart, in a grave he'd dug himself. A note in the nearby Manager's Office told the tale. It asked the residents of Silver Plume to leave him where he lay, because that's where he'd experienced the most happiness since his wife died. Not only did they follow his request, the town erected a 10-foot-tall Gunnison Granite monument in his honor, directly on top of his grave site. The monument can still be seen today, on the cliffs directly in front of the 7:30 Mine. "
The town is at about 9,000 feet.
This spring supplied the west end of town. It was named Brewery Spring because there was a brewery across the street.
Day 3 Continued
Loveland, Dillon, Frisco
At 11,990 feet, Loveland Pass is said to be the highest mountain pass in the world that regularly stays open in winter. That said, there are some avalanches that can cause a problem. I think I read that some motorist was killed this spring along the highway in this area because of an avalanche. Loveland Pass is on the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway.
One thing is that hazardous material like fuel trucks are prohibited from using the Eisenhower Tunnel on the interstate so they have to take this road and go up and over the pass. As a side note, the Eisenhower Tunnel also serves as a water diversion tunnel to get water over the divide from west to east. The water that goes through the tunnel goes into Clear Creek where it is delivered to the Coors Brewing Company among others.
I was impressed with how well these fuel truck jockeys roll up and down the pass road.
Nice and cool up here on an otherwise hot day.
Passed the fuel truck (finally).
What the heck? Something in the road ahead.
I don't know what they were after but they sure liked it.
Rolling on the Dillon Dam which is 231' high. At times the dam road has been closed for security reasons.
Silverthorne is down in the valley below. There is an old town underwater somewhere that was flooded by the reservoir. The purpose of this thing is to supply water to Denver. The Denver Water Board starting grabbing land during the depression at the price of back taxes. Eventually they built a dam. A 24 mile tunnel helps to get the water past the divide. They started the tunnel in 1942, holed through in 1960, and finished it in 1962. Dillon claims the guy that invented the smoke detector.
Frisco is kind of touristy with four nearby ski hills. They also hosted the state's first BBQ challenge.
Day 3 Continued
Heading toward Leadville.
There were a bunch of mining towns here back in the day. Now it is a big tailings remediation project.
Still working the area.
Leadville sits at about 10,000 feet. It started up in 1959 with mining in the area. It has a colorful history. At one time this town was only second to Denver in size. They took a lot of precious metal out of this area.
Horace Tabor came in and later became fabulously rich. His wife (Augusta) worked as a camp cook, laundress, and postmaster back when they were getting started here.
They had a lot of culture here with an opera house and such. In the 1880s, Doc Holliday moved here right after the gunfight at the OK corral. He shot an ex-cop here over a $5 debt. Despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, Doc got off.
The first marshal in this town was run out of town within days. His replacement was shot dead within a month by one of his deputies. Tabor, mayor by then, sent for Mart Duggan who was a fearless gunfighter. Lawlessly using strong arm tactics he straightened the place out. After he stepped down he was killed by an unknown assailant.
Unsinkable Molly Brown moved to Leadville when she was 18. She married a mining engineer and they later became rich. She survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Meyer Guggenheim started out in mining and smelting here. That family went on to possess one of the largest fortunes in the world.
Poker Alice Ivers (Poker Alice), a cigar smoking dealer, learned her trade here when she needed to find a way to support herself after her husband was killed in a mining accident. She claims to have won over $250,000 at the gaming tables while never once cheating to do so.
Oscar Wilde appeared at the Tabor Opera House.
Baby Doe Tabor. She was born and raised in Oshkosh, WI, and eventually moved to Colorado with a deadbeat husband. She got divorced and ended up marrying the millionaire Tabor. Anyway, she lived a good life as the best dressed woman in the west and even as a Senator's wife. Once Tabor lost his fortune and died, Baby Doe moved into the tool shed of a mine she was trying to hold onto. She lived there destitute for 30 years or so. They found her frozen to death in the shack after a big storm. Tabors first wife prospered in Denver.
I rolled past her Matchless Mine site. It was gated. It belongs to the miner's hall of fame here.
An old shack near the mines.
Leadville has an excursion railroad.
National Mining Hall of Fame
Has an elaborate model railroad, replica underground hard-rock mine, gold and mineral specimens, and some information about notable people in mining.
Day 3 Continued
There are some memorials for the 10th Mountain Division (and others) in the pass along with some other interpretive signs. 990 members of the division were killed in Italy and the Aleutian Islands during WWII.
In addition to the 10th Mountain, the 99th Infantry Battalion trained here as well. The battalion was formed in MN with Norwegian speaking Americans and began their training there. They came to Camp Hale for advanced winter training. While here, the OSS recruited 92 soldiers from the battalion for special operations work in Norway. Initially those folks worked behind the German lines in France but later they went to Norway and sabotaged railroads until Norway was liberated.
Hard to believe that 15,000 people were stationed here.
Back in the day.
There is a self-guided tour of the site.
The place also had a prisoner of war camp that held 400 of the most incorrigible from Rommel's Afrika Corps. In 1944 a guard drove away with two German sergeants. They made to Mexico where they got arrested. In 1944, five WACs were charged for exchanging notes with prisoners. Three of those got 4-6 month sentences and a dishonorable discharge.
One of the troops that trained here later went on to found the Vail ski resort.
Between 1959 and 1965, the CIA secretly trained Tibetan guerillas at Camp Hale. The terrain was similar to the Himalayan Plateau. To cover it up, the CIA circulated stories that atomic testing was going on at the camp which explained the heavy guard presence. The idea was for these guerillas to give China some grief. Maybe these flags on the site are related to that.
Day 3 Continued
Red Cliff, Minturn, Avon, and Eagle
Got off the scenic byway to explore Red Cliff. A nice diversion.
The notable Red Cliff Bridge is the only cantilevered steel arch bridge in Colorado. An engineer at Colorado DOT designed the bridge. The people that built the bridge spent each day 200 feet in the air, sometimes in bitter cold. It was built in 1940 and has been rehabbed since then.
Red Cliff is a tiny town that used to be a mining camp.
It is kind of stashed out of the way of things.
I had been seeing a lot of water damage on this trip. It looks like the National Guard was here working with the town on the sand bagging.
Taking the back way to the highway.
Tough terrain around here.
Gilman is an abandoned mining town. It started up in 1886. In 1984 the EPA ordered the town abandoned because of toxic pollutants. The place is strictly off limits.
Several cars and trucks are still parked in garages.
Wooden water line.
I didn't research it. Maybe someone else knows more about it.
Trestle for the water pipe.
Minturn was a railroad town. Not so much today.
They still have some railroad activity here, but not like it was.
I was looking for the site of the old roundhouse. I found a roundhouse restaurant and an old wye but no location for the roundhouse.
Someone put an engine through the roundhouse wall here.
This site was listed as an elk feeding station in the winter. Not sure if it is still active. Ranger station nearby.
Rodeo grounds. Big doings apparently.
I went looking for the site of this old STOL (short take-off and landing) airport at Avon. The surrounding terrain required some planes that could get in and out with STOL capabilities.
It is gone now. The base material for the runway is still visible but there is new development all around.
Rocky Mountain Airways used to fly regional airline service here at Avon using de Havilland Canada Dash 7s which is a STOL turboprop.
"Tim Fitz-Gerlad recalled, “I use to live in Avon, Colorado from 1972-92. This airport was actually called the Avon STOLport. The airplane that was frequently used by Rocky Mountain Airways was the DeHavilland DHC-7 (Dash 7). The contract for keeping the airport cleared was under the Nottingham family (Randy) and they installed an underground heating system to actually help heat the ground and make cleaning/clearing the runway easier & at times also completely unnecessary. Rocky Mountain Airways had a local nickname of Rocky Mountain Scareways and the descents into this airport occasionally produced a zero-G sensation due to the steep descents (I have flown into that airport at least 4 times & it was better than any roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on with steep banks & rapid descents)."
As long as I was in Eagle, I swung by the Butler storefront to see what it was like.
End of day 3. A nice ride.
Day 4 Overview, 490 miles
Gypsum (CO) is home to the American Gypsum drywall plant and mine. The mine is open pit but instead of using drill and blast methods they use machines that are like pavement mills to cut 6" deep swaths through the soft material.
I started into Glenwood Canyon which is considered to be one of the most scenic on the interstate highway system. The highway itself has some interesting features that were required to keep people happy about not ruining the sometimes narrow canyon and river. Some canyon walls are 1,300 feet above the river.
Sadly I somehow unseated the memory card so I quickly used up the base memory in the camera and did not get shots of some of the remarkable features of the canyon.
I got it worked out in Glenwood Springs where you can hike up to a cemetery if you want to visit Doc Holliday's grave.
Doc lived in one of the buildings along here (732 is the address).
This was a tough town when it started out. Seems pretty nice now. Serial killer Ted Bundy escaped from Jail here back in 1977. Outlaw Kid Curry is from here as is astronaut Jim Irwin who once walked on the moon. The town was one of the first places in the US to have electric lights. They later got a dam to produce electricity.
Started to notice these along the way.
The Colorado Hotel started up in 1891. It turned into a nice summer retreat. Presidents Ted Roosevelt and Bill Taft made extended visits here giving the place the nickname of "the little White House of the West". Herbie Hoover stopped in to give a speech. In 1942 the Navy leased the place as a convalescent hospital. And of course, what old hotel isn't reported to be haunted? "Notably a young girl in Victorian clothing seen playing with a ball, a female that peers over sleeping male guests, and a male presence on the fifth floor. The elevator moving on its own without passengers, strange smells and sounds have also been reported by guests and staff. "
Apparently is was a nice day for a gondola ride up the mountain.
The Colorado River was moving right along with a lot of water.
14 wildland firefighters were burned over and killed in a nearby wildfire. There is a memorial here in town. Fourteen smokejumpers, helitack firefighters, and hotshots were killed.
The memorial includes information about each of the firefighters that were killed. I'll share more information about that in the next post.
Some may want to read an excellent book that details what took place with this fire. There are a lot of moving parts to this story - more than I could cover in a ride report. That said, I rode over to the site of the fire and will share more about that in the next post.
Day 4 South Canyon Fire, Storm King Mountain
Storm King - the scene of the fatalities.
Tough and steep.
There is a memorial trail that allows you to explore the mountain. It has interpretive signs and takes you to places where significant events took place.
The visitor register was covered with stickers from various fire crews that have visited the site.
Officials prepared a staff ride with supporting materials to teach firefighters about what happened here. It involves being on the site to consider what events were taking place and what decisions were made.
I was very interested in hiking the trail up the mountain to see some of the sites that I read so much about. Frankly, it was just too hot and motorcycle boots weren't a good choice for this kind of terrain. I had planned to hike into Mann Gulch later in the trip but was discouraged by the hot days recently and pretty much decided that wasn't going to happen either . . . (but the weather changed).
Canyon Creek Estates is the subdivision next to the mountain. I was pleased to see that they were remembering this tragic event as it approach another anniversary in a couple of days.
This central park area in the subdivision was open and without trees at the time of the fire.
The open space was converted to a fire camp as it was close to the scene and big enough to do the job. Helicopters, crews, trucks, busses, and supplies came in and out.
A view of the mountain from the subdivision road.
It is difficult to imagine the struggle that some endured as they tried to escape the advancing fire.
There are two videos that will walk people through much of what happened with the fire. If you read the book, they will have an even greater impact as some of the survivors are talking about what happened while they are back on the mountain where the events took place. It is interesting to hear from these men and women as to what they saw and did and what was going through their minds.