Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by thechief86, Jul 21, 2020.
Campsite on Owl Creek Pass
"I was definitely using my KLR for its intended purpose, as a willing pack mule to get me to places that recharge my soul, and help me clear my mind of all the other stuff that is going on. No race wars here, nobody to catch a plague from, no politics, no inequality, no hate. Just nature. Trees, Rocks, Water, and Critters."
Well said sir! Well said indeed!
After a great night's sleep on Owl Creek Pass, I woke up , made breakfast and coffee, packed up my camp and got moving again. My capmsite was roughly an hour's ride from Ridgway, which is a nice little hub town that is more or less between Ouray and Telluride, if you were to take the paved route from one town to another. There are a couple of restaurants, gas stations, and even a weed store. But I had all I needed, and came into town, and took a right at the main intersection to go toward Telluride. A few miles down the road on the left is a gravel road that is a more interesting and scenic way into Telluride, called Last Dollar Road. This route is so pretty, and quite easy to conquer on a dual sport bike, or probably even a Prius, in the right hands. So I took this great road, and although some places that were smoother last time happened to be quite bumpy this time, the one big washout that was a little treacherous 3 years ago had been built back up and repaired, making the road much less of an adventure, and much more of a scenic ride in the mountains. Absolutely Lovely.
I was headed to this part of the state because I really wanted to see Imogene pass and do some of the Alpine Loop, but since I had come alone, my bike was HEAVILY loaded with camping gear, tools, food, water, cooking gear, and even some clean undies. I came prepared for things to go badly. I was prepared to live off the bike for a couple of weeks if the opportunity arose, and maybe longer if need be. I've always been guilty of not carrying enough stuff, according to the Canadian dude that I usually Moto-Camp with, but I know better, lol. He usually has way too much stuff, so I usually bring the tools and my own tent, and he usually brings all the cooking stuff, so I don't bother, lol. But anyway, back on the subject....
My bike was heavily loaded, to the point that I didn't want to carry all my junk with me into these somewhat heavily-trafficked sight-seeing areas, because even if something did go bad, it's not like I'd be stranded for a long period with no help. These were places sure to be packed with folks in rented jeeps and whatnot, so I wasn't too worried about not having stuff. SO I decided to try and find a place to stash all my gear. Once I got into Telluride (Last Dollar Road spits you out right by the Telluride Airport), I parked for a bit, and walked around for a minute looking for something to do, and maybe something to eat, as my "breakfast" from earlier had been a little meager and had worn off by now. But the town was full of tourists, and crowded by my standards. I don't really like crowds, and everyone wearing masks reminded me why I was avoiding people in the first place. Breakfast wasn't to be had easily, and I was just a tad uncomfortable with the lack of personal space in this setting. So back on the bike, I headed back out of town, and stopped at the gas station on HWY 145 and topped off my fuel once again. While I was here, I asked the owner if he'd let me pay him to store all my heavy gear somewhere in the store while I went exploring, and he was gracious enough to let me hide everything under a table for a few hours, free of charge. This was so helpful! Now I could handle more rigorous riding, and hopefully be able to lift the bike in the event of a spill.
So after dropping off my gear, and chugging a lot more water, I headed back into Telluride, and up Tomboy Road, toward Imogene Pass.
I was so excited! Even Tomboy was pretty rough and somewhat challenging, but totally doable, and absolutely breathtaking. In more ways than one! The views were stunning, but my bike is heavy, I'm out of shape, and probably only a mediocre rider in the first place, and the air was getting THIN. QUICKLY. But we kept chugging along, dodging rental jeeps and RZRs, as well as tour trucks with a dozen passengers, and even a couple of Soviet-Era Pinzgauer trucks, and made it to the old mining site called Tomboy! Wow! The structures here had all more or less fallen to decay over the years and were basically a pile of rubble and timber, but still had an air of the thriving production that once was.
Before I came to Colorado with a goal of riding over Imogene, I looked up the Wikipedia entry about the pass, and read abut how it was one of the first long distance runs for AC power. This was some cool history, and had me imagining Nikola Tesla coming to this part of the state to survey the feasibility of the project. The whole thing reminded of how much we take for granted, and how strong the infrastructure in this country is, thanks to giants of engineering such as Tesla and so many others from this particular time period. I really feel like if you missed this part of the story, the "Why is all this junk up here" part, you're only getting a small portion of the experience. Sure it's pretty, and getting there is a challenge, but you HAVE to take into account how much more challenging it must have been with the technology available over 100 years ago when the pass truly had a function other than tourism. I'm damn near Amish riding a KLR in comparison to bikes available today, but it's STILL a huge step up from a horse and buggy!
After catching my breath at the first big Tomboy site, I continued along my merry way, as the trail got rockier and steeper, and the air got thinner and thinner. I came to some steep, rocky ledged switchbacks, and after a few of these, finally dropped my bike in a tight left-hander with a big ledge in the middle. Huffing and Puffing, and realizing I was getting weak, I got up and had to stand there next to my bike for a while, sucking wind, trying to build up the cojones to pick this big bastard up again. Luckily, just ahead of me a guy in a sweet built up Tacoma named Cameron noticed I was down, and hiked down to help me pick up my bike! I was so grateful! His help really gave me what I needed to keep going! I had bypassed my clutch safety switch, so I was able to use the starter to drive the bike uphill a few yards to a flatter spot so I could climb back on, and away I went, with Cameron following in his Taco, and fading into the distance as I rode just a bit faster than a Truck in 4lo. Higher and Higher I climbed, past more mining remnants, and finally up the last few hundred yards to the summit! At the top were a couple of built up 4x4's, and the famous Imogene Pass sign, as well as a little weather monitoring station, and the ruins of a little shack that must have at one time been Fort Peabody.( https://durangoherald.com/articles/7279#slide=4 )
Here I stopped for a couple of photos, and chugged more water, and tried my best to catch my breath as people kind of filtered through and did the same, mostly in rented Jeeps and side-by-sides. I hung out for a good 10 or 15 minutes, and talked to a couple of people, and got told by more than one that I was either quite ballsy or quite stupid for riding such a large motorcycle over the pass. I'm not going to lie, it was quite challenging, and with the thin air easily is in the top 5 hardest places I've ridden my KLR. The KLR was also struggling, having been jetted for 500 feet in Middle Tennessee, it had way too much fuel, and not enough air to burn it. On several occasions I had to turn the extended fuel screw on the carb in a bit to keep it running, but up here, it was all but totally closed off, and had a HARD time getting started again. I even ended up killing the battery trying to start it, twice. It was getting unwise to shut the thing off when I took breaks. Eventually, Cameron from before caught up to me, and was kind enough once again to bail me out by jumping the bike off for me, So I headed back down. About 20 minutes into my descent, I saw the first group of bikes I had seen up here, a couple of KTM's and a KDX 200. These guys gave me a little direction about the safest way down on one hairy section, and we continued on our opposite ways. I made it down without an issue for the most part, other than dropping the bike once in some baby heads, and one time I stopped for a photo and the battery was too weak to start the bike again. Luckily I was able to roll start the bike since I was going downhill anyway, and when I dropped the bike this time I had descended enough that I was able to breathe pretty well once again, and had what it took to get the bike up a lot easier this time. The descent down into Ouray was once again filled with stunning views, and once I got into town, I stopped and took a picture of an awesome old Dodge M37 4x4 ambulance that had evidently been used as a Mountain Rescue vehilce at some time, although it must have been a while, since the tags were last current in 2004. Boy, I'd love to bring that thing back home just to use as a camper!
Once down, I decided to ride back to Telluride to go get my stuff back from the gas station, and just rode paved roads as fast and as far as I could before coming to some road construction that had everyone sit until my bike literally began to overheat, but I was afraid to shut it off because of the weak battery issues I'd encountered over the last few hours. So right before Kermit began to boil over, I doubled back, and saw a gravel road that had a sign mentioning "National Forest Access", and took it. after about 15 miles or so, this road came to a T at a highway, with a sign pointing left for Telluride, so I turned, and popped out at the roundabout right next to the airport! Woohoo! I had made it into Telluride and totally bypassed the construction traffic! So a couple more miles and I was back at the gas station, all loaded up again, refueled, and headed back toward Ridgway via Last Dollar Road, which had no delays, and then was back on 550 headed into town. Along the way I saw a real nice looking KTM 530 EXC on the side of the road, with the rider off and looking intently at his phone. Being the kind of guy who has been on the roadside in trouble a time or twenty, I stopped to check on the guy, to be sure he wasn't lost or stranded or whatever. Turns out he was just looking at his map to be sure he was on the right path to Ridgway. Cool! Glad you're ok, man!
Since we were both going the same way, I offered to convoy with him, and we could get a beer! Being a tad disoriented by his location, he took me up on it, and we pulled into the True Grit Cafe in Ridgway, and ordered a couple of beers and a burger, while he waited for some friends to join us. It turns out, his group was the guys on bikes on Imogene that had spotted me down some big rocks, and Lenny's Fiance only lived a few miles from me in Tennessee! Small world... Once they arrived, we had a great meal and some great conversation, and rehydrated from the day's events, Lenny paid for my dinner, as well as for his buddies! we fist bumped to avoid contact a bit, and then went our separate ways. Them to a rented cabin in Ouray, and me back up Owl Creek Pass. What a good experience that was!
I enjoyed the last night's campsite so well, that I just rode an hour or so back to the same spot. About a mile before I got there, I saw a baby bear and his mother, and the baby ran right across the road in front of me on my bike!
The baby was like 5 feet tall, and the mother twice his size! Wow! Bears in Tennessee are never this large... could they be Grizzlies? I didn't hang around to ask them, and pulled into my campsite on the summit right as the sun was setting, and got my camp setup just as it got dark. What a great day!
A couple hours later, the beer, burger, and delicious french fries had decided it was time for an Exodus. I had to find a place to squat in the woods, in the pitch black. With my LED headlamp and some TP, and my trusty Poop Shovel,
I went and dug meself a hole, and prepared to fill it, lol. Then I remembered the Bears. So I ran back to camp and got my pistol, haha. It may not have done me any good, but I was going to attempt to not go out with my pants down, come Hell or high water! So there I was squatting in the woods with a flashlight and a pistol, acting like a special forces commando badass, just long enough to drop one, bury it, and scurry back to my tent.
Probably a little bit of unnecessary concern, but a man is never more vulnerable than when dookin in the woods, haha.
Once back at camp, well fed, relieved, and exhausted, I ended my day precisely where I had begun it. ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz.
Continuation of photos
The following morning I was awakened at the crack of dawn by the loudest woodpecker hammering I've ever heard in my life. Actually frightened me at first! The woodpeckers I saw were at least twice the size of the ones I'm used to in TN! These dudes were like 3 feet tall! Unfortunately, I was unable to get a decent photo of them, but they were certainly huge, and apparently pack a real wallop when pecking on these trees! What a racket!
Now that I was totally awake, I went over to the running stream near the campsite with a bar of soap, and cleaned up the grungiest bits of myself, and brushed my teeth, shivering and teeth chattering, as it was about 32*F here, and the water wasn't any warmer. It really helped get the fog out of my head, though, and some fresh clothes and socks made me feel like I was ready for the day. I was still a little sore from the events of the day before, but feeling great, mentally energized from the day before. I rode back to Newberry's Store, and hung out for a bit, and topped off my fuel tank, and decided to head north on the slab through Gunnison, Sargent, and over Monarch pass into Salida.
My poor KLR was wheezing and struggling above 10k ft, and I had to climb all of Monarch pass at 50 mph in 4th gear, but I wasn't being passed by anyone, so maybe what I was doing was at least acceptable, even if it did feel pretty pathetic at the time. Downhill was sooo much easier, haha. I wanted to see what "Old Monarch Pass" was all about, and should have, but I wasn't sure where it would take me, as I hadn't done any research on it yet. From what I can tell, it wasn't a through route, but rather just a scenic loop?
Anyway, I continued on and eventually stopped at a gas station with a tiny Mexican restaurant in Poncha Springs, right before Salida, and got a delicious burrito, and spoke with a gentleman on a new BMW R1250GS-A, and then continued toward Colorado Springs, where I began to look for a decent place to camp. I ended up going up a scenic dirt road with several rough-hewn rock tunnels from the mining days called Gold Camp Road, which I had ridden a couple of times before. This time, however, I followed some single track off the side for a few miles back to a secluded clearing, yet again next to a flowing stream. It wasn't quite dark by the time I made it here, but I went ahead and set up camp and made some dinner, then went for a short hike up the trail I was on, that quickly degraded to something that I could not have conquered on the KLR, at least with my current skill level and overall physical condition. Either way, It was fun walking the trail to see where it went for a little ways. Back at camp, I decided to sleep in my hammock this time, rather than the tent, because it was a little lower elevation than Owl Creek was, and consequently, QUITE a bit hotter. Everywhere I had been since arriving in Colorado had had signs posted stating there was a burn restriction, so I hadn't had a campfire. This particular evening started out so warm that a fire wasn't even in my thoughts. I had been boiling water with my tiny propane stove, and did the same here for dinner. A campfire would have been nice in the cooler areas, especially with a few friends to share it with, but alone, and already hot, it certainly wasn't missed. As the sun went down, things cooled down, and by the time I was ready to sleep, the weather was just about perfect. Looking up from my hammock, as long as I had my glasses on, I could see stars in any spot I looked. Even the seemingly vacant patches of sky would yield a sparkle once I truly focused on a spot. A gentle breeze and the sound of the water flowing nearby soon rocked me to sleep, the best I've had yet on this trip, as my aching body conformed to sag of the hammock, and my general uneasiness of being away from my home and family faded. If I ever find myself alone and homeless, I think I could be pretty content for quite a while before I'd really miss all the things that go along with owning a house and land, and holding down a job, and always trying to compromise my own desires to keep everyone else happy. Don't get me wrong, I missed my wife and kid, and would truly be lost without them. But if my life had taken a different path that left me alone up to this point in life, I can't say I'd complain that much.
These thoughts take me back to one of my favorite lines from Mitch Hedberg: "If you are walking in the woods and get lost F*ck it, build a house! You live here now!". This has always come across as good logic to me. You won't be lost long, if you simply make yourself at home... Yes, I realize it's not that easy. That's why I'm back in Tennessee typing this ride report from the comfort and stability of my computer at work. But I'd say just about anybody who has made it this far in my long winded report can at least relate to the call of the wilderness and a love for seclusion. Even at my actual home, I've done all I can to distance myself from the public at large, and tend to only encounter people when I go into public, or invited parties show up. It just makes for a much more peaceful life. :)
Anyway, after gently swinging in my hammock and talking myself back around to appreciating my life back home, and missing my family and my dog, I finally drifted off to sleep once again. ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzz.
Hell yes, Sir! People suck, that's why we live in the sticks and why I ride a KLR in places where cars cant go. Lost is a state of mind. When one feels lost, it is as simple as telling yourself...hey I'm not lost, I'm right here. Some may argue this and that is their choice to do so. Having taught wilderness survival for over a decade to every branch of the military and others, I am here to tell you that it IS A STATE OF MIND. I have been on four different continents, far removed from civilization and I have always been right where I was. Great stuff Chief! I'm going to make every attempt to join you next year when you go out. Keep it coming as some of us are only able to live vicariously through others. lol
Jack, I'd love to get some pointers on Survival tactics from you sometime. One can only glean so much from watching Bear Grylls drink his own urine, haha! I've been solo camping far from civilization on many occasions in my life, but have only ever done it at my own leisure, with the luxury of preparing for several days before heading out. It would be awesome to have the skills to stay somewhat comfortable for days on end without leaving the house with everything I need.
I like to think I could get pretty far with a good pocketknife, a couple of litres of water, and the clothes on my back, but you never know what you can do until you have to.
I've had this dream of growing up to be a hermit in the mountains ever since I read "My Side of the Mountain" back in elementary school. Now the best I can do is go out on my bike for a few days and pretend I'm homeless, lol. It is still always a great time.
Yeah Man! Lets do it! I am always down to share. I have found that having the skills to survive with little to nothing on me, rarely takes the place of me carrying a bunch of shit I probably wont even use, LOL. There is however, a sense of comfort that comes from being able to keep one's arse alive when in a precarious situation. I have a book or two that I will lend ya next time we link up. We need to organize a moto/camping trip locally and we can practice survival skills, drink, and tell lies. There is a reverence being alone in the wilderness, that I have not found anywhere else. I too would disappear into the wilderness if weren't for my love of my family.
I got up Saturday morning, and rode back into Denver, avoiding freeways for the most part, and rode near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and saw signs for Manitou, but I was still trying to avoid people best I could, so I kept on going, making a mental note to check these out on a future visit to the area. But today I had something going on. My wife had dropped our son off with her mother the night before, and had boarded a plane in Nashville, and would be at the Denver Airport at 10am!
I had missed her quite a bit, after several days of camping on my own with the bike. Her flight was mostly uneventful, but she surprised me by showing up in full motorcycle gear, using her helmet as her carry on! We hadn't really talked about it, but she had plans to rent a motorcycle while she was in Colorado! Awesome! But before we could do that, we had some other things planned. From the airport, we were headed back to the San Juans, because my aunt had rented us a hotel room in Ouray, at the Twin Peaks Lodge, for 2 nights! I'm not sure how much this place costs, but it was pretty nice, and in one of the more popular places for people to visit, so I'd assume I probably couldn't have afforded it otherwise. It turns out the place is dog friendly as well, so my aunt and uncle brought their two rowdy dogs with them.
On our way south, I convinced my wife that we needed to take the truck over Tincup Pass, because I had never done it before, and the truck should be able to handle it just fine. So we went into St. Elmo once again, past the hoards of tourists, and started our way up toward TinCup. The trail started out a little rocky, but pretty tame, but as we went on, it just got rougher, and rougher, and rougher, and eventually became the hairiest trail I'd ever taken my stock Toyota Tacoma on, and was at that point no longer fun, to the point of being almost unpleasant, and nerve wracking. We made it to the summit of the pass, but after talking to some guys on KTM dirbikes, we learned that from the Summit we still had 10 miles to go before reaching the Ghost Town of TinCup, and the trail only got more challenging from here.
I really didn't mind, and was having fun seeing what my little pickup could do, quite impressed with myself and the truck both. But my wife had been over it for at least 30 minutes, and this was the point at which she decided to let me know, haha. So we turned around, and went back into St. Elmo, and came to the conclusion that we would try again another day, maybe after lifting the truck and adding better shocks and tires, to soak up a bit of the bumpiness...
So we took the same path south to Salida, then Sargent, then Gunnison, then Cimarron, then Ridgway, and into Ouray, utilizing Marshall Pass and Owl Creek passes once again, just for the views and encounters with wildlife, and more or less to avoid traffic and people. It was a nice ride, and a nice bonding period with my wife. We don't often get time together without the kid anymore, and probably come close to forgetting why we're together in the first place, other than survival and the bond of raising a kid together. It turns out, we still love the same things, have the same values, and the same goals, and think the same things are funny. This is a good thing to be reminded of when you've been married over a decade, but haven't had much time together to talk about things in a while.
We stopped in Gunnison at a delicious Indian/Nepali restaurant called the Sherpa Cafe, and had a fantastic meal of Tandoori Chicken, creamed spinach curry, and NAAN bread. It was downright fantastic, and we got back on the road toward Ouray after a while, and made it to our hotel around 10pm or so. Once we got in our room, we were both so tired that we simply went straight to sleep. We had both been going since before dawn, and had traveled quite a distance for one day.
On Sunday, we walked around Ouray for a bit, but with didn't have much luck finding the type of breakfast we were hoping to find, so we hopped into the truck and rode to Ridgway, and had a great breakfast at Kate's Diner. We split an omelette and some blueberry pancakes, and began planning what we would do with our day. My aunt, uncle and cousin are all late risers, but we happend to see my aunt out walking the dogs as we came back into town, and let her know we were about to take the truck around the famous Alpine loop that goes between Ouray, Silverton, Ironton, and Telluride, via some of the more scenic high altitude passes. My main goal for all of this was to see Animas Forks, a mining ghost town near Silverton that was inhabited around the turn of the last century, and later abandoned, but there are still some of the old buildings and houses up there, thanks to the efforts of preservationists in the area. Despite the beauty and history of this place, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed by just how manicured everything was, and how well documented everything was. My expectations were for things to be more haggard looking and forgotten, I guess, like a step into some forgotten corner of history that is rarely ever visited, and only then by the most dedicated off-road enthusiasts. Come to find out, there was a parking lot at the site, full of Toyota Highlanders and Subaru Outbacks, making my 4x4 Tacoma look like overkill for the terrain. The ride from here down into Silverton was gorgeous, with more remnants indicative of the mining history, and the little town was very cool, with rich history and some great old buildings, most now turned into random knick-knack shops, but charming nonetheless. We stopped into Silverton Harley Davidson, which we were hoping might have been a motorcycle shop, complete with rentals, but it turned out to just be a t-shirt shop. We did find a couple of neat shirts on the clearance rack, and still spent $50 patronizing the Motor Company .
We then took the Million Dollar Highway back into Ouray, where we met up with my family for dinner and a couple of beers, and said goodbye to my aunt and uncle, who were headed back to TN to check on my grandad and put out some other small fires back home. My wife, cousin, and I went back to the hotel and took a nap in our rooms for a bit, then got up and drove the truck back to Last Dollar Road, to get a good view of the sunset, and then back to the hotel for the night.
Monday was basically used up driving back up to Denver, via Grand Junction, for some different scenery, but we did stop for some nice meals, and made a few hour detour into Steamboat Springs. This detour ended up being quite stressful, as I misjudged the likelihood of finding fuel along the way once we got away from the main roads, and nearly ran out in the middle of the high desert before finding a Sinclair station about 30 miles from Steamboat. Once in Steamboat, we got some local beer and a great cheeseburger, and a few souvenirs for ourselves, friends, and family. We even mistakenly walked into the Big Agnes headquarters, thinking it was a store or outlet, and were kindly but swiftly shooed out of the building full of cubicles and offices. Oh well, lol.
Once we got into Denver, we started looking for a place to rent Mallory a bike, and settled on a BMW dealer on the other side of town that also happened to be an Eagle Rider rental service. We didn't reserve a bike just yet, but the plan was to go first thing in the morning to see what was available, then ride out to Estes Park. Tuesday was going to be a fun day!
1954ish Chevy Suburban
Some cool buildings along Red Mountain Pass on the Million Dollar Highway.
The Elks Lodge in Ouray, across from where we ate dinner.
Great ride report. Thank you for sharing.
Based on the anticipation you felt before your departure and the joy of your report, I think you belong out west. I know I sure did.
I moved to Utah in 2017 and it felt like I finally scratched an itch that had been bothering me for 20 years (I had to wait to retire from my previous occupation). Make the move - you won't regret it.
And good on you for doing this on a KLR... I clocked 37K miles on my '97 before I sold it in '07. This included a solo ride from Panama to San Antonio.
You literally bet your life on your bike (and your care of it) when you head out on your own. If there's a cast iron skillet on wheels, the KLR is it.
A toast to you and a great motorcycle...
Great ride report!
We are headed to the Salida/ Buena Vista area to ride single track in a week on a Beta 390 and my buddy has a Husky 501.
Tin Cup is now on the agenda also as we had rode out there previously on "big bikes" (KTM 1190, VStrom 1000, Super Tenere) and were stopped 1/2 way up by a 3 foot drift of snow 100 yds long. Went in mid June last time.
Yeah, I really love the West, and would love to live out there. I am an industrial engineer, specializing in automation maintenance, so I need to find a place with a lot of manufacturing facilities so I know I can find work. We have been looking for jobs in areas of interest, and coming up empty handed so far. One thing I have here in Middle TN is guaranteed employment, and I've got a great home here. At least I have a career that allows a decent income and lots of paid time off, so I'm able to go on interesting vacations at least once a year.
I'll post the last few days of this trip once back in my office at work.
Great ride report. Awesome pictures too !
I`ve never been lost either . Been bewildered for a minute or two. Ah` ok ,maybe it was for a few hours.
Nothing wrong with getting lost in the woods for awhile. It`s kind of a Zen feeling.
If you don`t let your mind play tricks on you .