Adventure Rides

Shearboy has long thought about the possibility of running arguably the toughest trails in Northern Colorado sequentially (There) and then in reverse (Back). In fact, last year he made an attempt at this very ride…quite unsuccessfully though. The main reason was group dynamics. It is just too difficult to pull a big group through terrain like this.

Some people wondered why they didn’t see a ride invitation for this one or any sort of advanced notice. First, we needed to prove to ourselves that this could be done. Second, we wanted to set a ‘ballpark’ time that this ride can be completed in so future riders would have a yardstick to measure the ride with. Third, this ride MUST be done in small groups. There is simply no way you can get a large group through these tight singletrack trails efficiently. The ideal group will be 2-4 riders. We went with 3 and it worked perfectly.

So on with the report. The plan was to meet at the base of Moody at 7am, and as with any great plan, things change. I get caught behind a hay-hauling truck coming up Horsetooth and can’t get around. I am late. No matter, when I get there Mark has only just gotten there and Crash isn’t there yet.

Firing up the thumpers, the adrenaline begins to pump, this is going to be a ride to remember. Grabbing judicious amounts of throttle we blast off into our latest adventure. Moody Hill is torn to bits and I manage to nail a sharp rock somehere on the ascent. I get to the top and nearly hit cRAsH headon! Holy Schneikies…we both thought we had the trail to ourselves!! He spins around to meet us just as I am getting the front tire pulled off the bike. As a side note, I have had three flats in my life and 2 of them have been on Moody Hill! WTH?!

Mark enjoys his only only smoke of the day!

Cooling the bikes off on an already brisk morning. September is perhaps the best month of the year to ride in Colorado.

Mark is really enjoying that new trials tire!

Heading up Donners Pass you never know what to expect. Somedays the trail is managable, other days it is a slippery, slimey mess. One thing pretty much stays constant…it is Rocky and Steep!

A little video of the boys climbing Dante’s Inferno

Eventually, just after you think Satan has no mercy, it levels out and you can finally catch your breath!

The 450exc is in her element up here. Unfortunately I have been battling a bug all week and pretty much feel like somebody took a baseball bat to my entire body…and this is just the first climb of the day! Oh boy!

Who knows what the signs says, but we were there!

Mark makes it to the top of Satan’s highway.

cRAsh makes sure no man gets left behind.

Mark continues to puff on his first cigarette of the day…you will soon be amazed at how long ONE cigarette can last!

I asked Mark if I could borrow his new tire, he graciously told me where to go!

“If you haven’t ridden the Rowdy Section, you haven’t ridden Donners” – Mark

I don’t have a picture, but the other two guys do, but I had my first off-trail-excursion (OTE) in a long, long time on this trail. My shoulders bounced off a tree and sent my handlebars in the wrong direction at the wrong time! Oooops! Did I mention I felt like crap before the ride even started?

We all worked up a sweat on this ride on a cool September morning!

I asked Ray if he wanted me to ride his bike down for him…he politely declined.

One thing becomes apparent really quickly. These boys CAN RIDE! Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

Where were we?

Oh yeah, we just got to the bottom of the Rowdy Section and Mark is wondering why his rear brake isn’t working. You didn’t have to be the head checker at WalMart to figure out that his brake lever was bent clear around.

Keeping on task was really important on this ride. If we were going to get this done before dark, we had to keep moving. We made our way over the switchback section of Donners and then off to Monument Gulch. As we approach the open meadow area of Monument Gulch we are given a little gift. A whole bunch of Wild Turkeys!

Can’t see them? How about a little ZOOM!

Monument Gulch is not a technical trail by any measure, but it does have a nice rhythm to it. We motored on through and headed down Pingree Park Road to Poudre Canyon. We had wondered if the recent asphalt truck accidents were going to cause us any problems, but luckily the canyon was open.

Gateway to Poudre Canyon

Shearboy motors down 63E

Motoring up the canyon we head to Rustic. After grabbing a Gatorade at the store we were up Seven Mile trail like a flash. We are really working hard at keeping the stops to a minimum. And there weren’t any pictures until we got to the top.

cRAsH was loving the pace!

Shearboy, do you like riding fast? YUP!

Swamp Creek Cutoff is a rocky, rooty, roller coaster of excitement. The excitement begins as soon as you pass through the fence and never reallly lets up until you get to Bald Mountain Road. Shearboy, cRAsH, and I rode well together. No matter who was leading, we never had to wait long for any rider to catch up. Riding with 2 other guys that share the passion for riding is a great feeling.

The crux is a wonderful challenge. I don’t think I have ever gone the same way twice.

More Swamp Creek action

Popping out of Swamp Creek we run into two guys from Longmont that had never ridden the area before. We download our limited knowledge and talk the guys into riding Swamp Creek. I think perhaps they enjoyed themselves. We zip up Bald Moutain Road and get to Killpecker. Our goal is to get up and over Killpecker by noon. The clock is racing so we get moving.

If I had to design a trail from scratch, I think I would end up with a trail like Killpecker. There is really nothing else like it in the area. The trail is three different sections all linked together. There are rocks, roots, water crossing, ledges, climbs, descents, singletrack, and narrow trees. Sheer nirvana.

I am pretty sure the other guys love this trail as much as me.

We roll into our lunch break at 12:10. Only 10 minutes past our goal. Not bad. We made excellent time over Killpecker.

Trailside Cuisine is served.

After laying on the ground for 45 minutes, letting the feeling return to our arms, it is time mount up for the return trip.

Killpecker just flowed well. We never even stopped so no pictures!

Before we know it we are back at Swamp Creek Cutoff!

What is not to love??

We are really putting the hammer down now. Not a single stop on Swamp Creek on the return trip. We are in the zone now. We stop at the top of Seven Mile only long enough to regroup and we are off again.

Down at Rustic we are greeted by a high mountain shower.

Cheddar Harvest Sun Chips and an Orange Gatorade and a few gallons of gas. Getting resupplied takes long enough to let the storm pass.

This is my last image as we don’t stop again until we reach the bottom of Donners Pass. I will have to rely on my riding partners to finish this off!


Having grown up in Durango and now living along the Front Range, it has been a dream of ours to ride our dual-sported 450 dirtbikes from Fort Collins to Durango for a long time. Life tends to get in the way of a lot of these Adventures, but this time we decided come hell or high-water, we were doing this ride this year!!

The general outline of the ride had been planned for several years, however there is nothing like the actual ride date on the calendar to make you finish all the small details! I had planned out every road on the GPS, checked with friends and other resources to make sure the route was good and even drove every inch of the route before hand on Google Earth. Everything looked great.

The route was near perfect, except for one slight problem about midway through the ride. What had been labeled a Country Road around 11-Mile Reservoir was actually Private Property so we had to backtrack and go around.

Our goal was to get to Lake City on Day 1. As luck would have it, we were up late on the night before the ride and decided to delay our departure time by one hour so we could get some much needed sleep. Hour #1 lost! After getting the bikes loaded into the truck for the ride to Rollinsville, Travis quickly discovered that he had left his SPOT at home!! NOO!! Since we were using our SPOTs to communicate our whereabouts with our families back home, we HAD to go back and get it. Hour #2 lost!

A fellow rider in Rollinsville, FlyingHorse, had agreed to let us leave the truck in Rollinsville at his house so it would be safe! Thanks Todd!! So we arrive at Todd’s house and unload the bikes, gear up, and go over the bikes one last time. The ride has officially begun!

Final bike prep

Unloading at camp FlyingHorse

We head out of Rollinsville full of energy and vigor. Up through Tolland and on our way to Kingston Peak. The view of Kingston Peak from Rollinsville looked ominous! I am sure we will encounter some weather up there. Riding our bikes loaded down for the first time was quite an eye-opener for both of us. Normally riding Kingston Peak would not be particularly challenging, however this day would be different. We quickly realized that riding with about 30lbs of extra weight would require and adjustment in our riding style. For the first 5 miles we were more like ‘voting members’ on where our bikes went. After adjusting our riding style to match the new weight of our bikes, things went great. On the top of Kingston Peak we ran into the weather we had seen from the valley below. Turns out the precipitation was not rain, but SNOW!

Just above Tolland

The snow was just starting to fly

A short break before we had to get moving again

We were soon over Kingston Peak and on our way down into Idaho Springs. We quickly passed through Idaho Springs and found our way over to Saxon Pass. Saxon Pass sits right over Georgetown and provides spectacular vistas of the I-70 corridor. The switchbacks of Saxon Pass can be seen from I-70 as they zig zag across the mountain. The rocky terrain on the descent into Georgetown definitely commanded your attention.

View from Saxon Mountain

Some singletrack we found that goes to an old mine

The Saxon switchbacks

Once in Georgetown we fuel up and grab a quick sandwich at Subway. I must have been hungry as I don’t remember Subway ever tasting so good! We head south out of Georgetown towards Guanella Pass. No sooner had we left Georgetown are we stopped for road construction. There is a massive Public Works project going on at Guanella Pass road which results in a one lane road for several miles. After a 15 minute stop, we are back on our merry way. The terrain mellows out for a while and we start making some really good time.

Rush hour in Georgetown

More in a bit…

Guanella Pass to Grant. From Grant we zip down 285 to Jefferson and make our way towards Tarryall. We top off our tanks in Jefferson and discover we are getting 50+ MPG!

Beautiful high mountain lake

It is from Jefferson south that is an entirely new experience for the both us. This is a part of Colorado that very few people see or visit. It is a beautiful part of Colorado and I am glad that it is relatively undiscovered. It reminds me of a time 25 years ago in Colorado when things weren’t quite as busy.

On our way to Tarryall

Rain was all around us, but we stayed remarkably dry

The valley towards Tarryall had wonderful rock formations

More great views in the valley

We even found a dude ranch! Everyone waved after I took this picture!

We work our way through Tarrryall and head onto LaSalle Pass Road. The road to the top of LaSalle Pass isn’t challenging and is a very beautiful ride except for the deep sand which keeps you on your toes.

LaSalle Pass…that way <—

Typical conditions on LaSalle

We work our way off of LaSalle Pass and onto the 11-Mile and Spinney Lake recreation area. There is weather all around us, but so far we have been able to avoid all of it. We head west down Black Mountain Road and we know our luck in avoiding the rain is over. We pull over and don our waterproof jackets and press on. About 10 miles down the road we run into a BIG problem. There is a big green locked gate crossing the road with a huge PRIVATE PROPERTY sign on it! Uh oh! Now what? After checking all of our maps and looking for a route-around on the GPS, we decide that there is no go around and we will be forced to back track and find a new route.

Heading into Spinney and 11-Mile

We were a little skeptical of this section and double and triple checked our route

You think we are going to get wet??

Looking back at 11-mile

Luckily there is a nice dirt road that will take us around to Hartsel. Heading from Hartsel over to 307 our luck in dodging the rain ran out. We got pounded for about 15 minutes and then the rain was gone as quickly as it came in. Our rain gear proved effective as we were warm and dry.

Our reroute takes us into Hartsel

Don’t freak out, we dropped down into 307 in the Fourmile Recreation area and had an absolute blast. We connected with road 300 and thoroughly enjoyed every inch of that trail. The route connected us with Nathrop which is just south of Johnson Village. From there we ripped on over to the resort village of Mt. Princeton and topped off with gas and had a well deserved ice-cream bar. It was 6pm and the sun was starting to hang low on the horizon and we still had about 140 miles to Lake City. Time to mount up and get down the road.

Heading down 307

Don’t Freak Out

Bald Mountain Gulch…super trail!

The Collegiate Peaks

Things are going great!

The lady at the gas station told us it was 12 miles to St. Elmo and then another 6 miles over to Tincup. The first 12 miles to St. Elmo went by in a flash, however the next 6 miles to Tincup were a slow grind of a ride over a very rocky trail. At the top of Tincup Pass we were rewarded with stunning vistas and a light rain shower. We had enough time to snap a picture and then we were off to the village of Tincup and racing the sun.

Time for gas and an ice-cream

Racing the sun up Tincup Pass

Just above Tincup

Be careful, it is Open Range

Finally in Tincup

We rolled into Tincup, looked around for a second or two and then headed South towards Wuanita Pass. Neither of us had ever been to Wuanita Pass before and didn’t know what to expect. The pace was brisk and the scenery breathtaking. We were the only people on the entire trail. We stopped periodically to take some photos and then hopped on the bikes again and raced down into the village of Pitkin. Pitkin is a great little mountain village with a gas station. Why it didn’t occur to us to fill up is beyond me. I hope this doesn’t bite us down the road later as we head deep into the forest in the dark!!

Climbing up Waunita Pass

The pictures don’t do this justice…

Got any Capt. Morgan?

Heading out of Pitkin we ran into a couple of campers out playing on ATVs, but that was really the first encounter of any type on this trip so far. Running back down the road we eventually get to Wuanita Hot Springs and on to the plains of the Gunnison National Forest.

The sun is quickly setting and we still have about 100 miles to go. This is going to be interesting. As the sun dips behind the horizon we are climbing up to Los Pinos Pass. This pass sits at 10,600 feet and with every foot in elevation that we are gaining the temperature is dropping. Every gap in our clothing is becoming more and more noticeable. We stop to close all the gaps in our clothing and to don our balaclava’s to keep our head warm. We manage to squeak out 10 miles before we HAVE to stop to warm up. We get off the bikes but leave them running and huddle at the exhaust pipe trying to grab every bit of warmth we can. Three or four minutes goes by and we begin to regain feeling in our fingers…time to press on. We repeat the tailpipe congregation two more times before we finally leave the Forest and head on down into Lake City. As we are rolling down the pass, I begin to flameout and am forced to switch my gastank to Reserve. We roll into Lake City on fumes and stop at the first gas station we see.

We have made it and survived Day 1!

Day 2

After securing a camp spot along the river in Lake City the night before, we wake to a beautiful morning along the river. Temps dropped to the mid 30s overnight and the air was clean and crisp when we woke up. We had apparently pitched out tent just off of a jogging trail and were awoken by early morning dog walkers!

As we broke camp and loaded up the bikes for the day’s ride, I give my bike a quick pre-flight inspection and notice that I have lost 3 out of my 6 sprocket bolts! And the three that I have left are LOOSE!! Of all the spares that we carry, we don’t have any sprocket bolts. We look at the option of ‘borrowing’ a bolt from Butta’s bike, but decide to roll into Lake City first to see what we can come up with.

Missing bolts…not good!

My tool bag is taking a beating as well!

There is an old school Service Station with a Polaris Dealership at the end of town so we pull in there hoping that they might having something that will work. We run into a good ole boy named Charlie that is the local mechanic and he is sure that he doesn’t have any ‘official’ sprocket bolts, but he does have a huge bucket-o-bolts that we can root through to see if we can find something that will match. While we are rooting through the bolts, Xplor and his crew roll into the same filling station. We recognize each other from previous MOAR rides and catch up for a while. He and his crew are heading over to Ouray for the day. We swap stories for a while and then they head off to have some great adventures of their own.

Lake City Auto & Sports Center

Back to the bucket-o-bolts we manage to find three hex bolts that will fit the holes on the sprocket. This is a bit of southern Engineering going on here, but at this point our goal is to make it to Durango and get to a real motorcycle shop. If you are ever in Lake City, be sure to stop in to Lake City Auto & Sports Center and say Hi to Charlie!!

Butta is putting all the bolts back…

Charlie really helped in a pinch! Thanks Charlie!

We peel out of Lake City and start chewing some miles off. We are both ready to ride. Ride Sally Ride!! Heading up the valley towards Engineer Pass I am instantly reminded of my happy childhood. How could I forget these mountains? How could I have possibly waited 20 years to ride in the San Juans? Up until this point I have been very happy with my little P&S Olympus Adventure Cam, but I am quickly running through scenarios in which I could have packed my Big Rig Canon and done a good job capturing the beauty that was surrounding us. Well, I didn’t bring the nice camera so the pictures I took are going to have to suffice. I need to plan about 5 days to play in the San Juans.

The Valley approaching Engineer Pass

More of the valley

Butta is wondering what is taking me so long…I am taking pictures! :duh

Token shot of me admiring the beauty!

Who doesn’t love a waterfall?

It was cool and windy at the summit

The 450s were working great at 12,800 feet!

I couldn’t get enough of these views…

What started out as a nice warm and clear run up the valley, quickly turned windy and VERY cold as we approached the summit of Engineer. We have lived in Colorado long enough to understand the weather patterns, but it still blows me away at how dramatic the temperature can change in 20 minutes. We stay long enough to grab a few pictures and boogie on down into Silverton.

The descent was equally beautiful

Fun switchbacks

More waterfalls…

We top off our tanks in Silverton and head on down 550 into Durango.

Nothing like 50 miles of slab to kill all the feeling in your arms, legs, and butt! First stop in Durango is at Handlebar Cycles in Bodo. Gary Wilkinson is in the shop today and quickly hooks us up with some sprocket bolts and an oil pan and funnel for a quick dump and fill on the oil. The guys at Handlebar were awesome and very accomodating to us. Loaned us tools and equipment and had plenty of ice cold water! Thanks guys!

We grab some lunch at Oscars and meet up with some old friends and turn around and run this trip in reverse!

After getting our bikes all situated at Handlebar Cycle in Durango and a quick burger at Oscars we were off again headed back to Silverton.

Have I mentioned how 50 miles of asphalt on a 450 doesn’t do the body good?

We pull into Silverton and top off our tanks, grab a few rations, and head back into God’s Country.

When we came over from Lake City we rode Engineer Pass. To keep things a bit different, we decided to take Cinnamon Pass back over to Lake City this time. Cinnamon Pass is not quite as rough as Engineer Pass and not quite as scenic, although we are splitting hairs here as pretty much everything in the San Juans are more majestic than most places on earth!

Looking back down over Animas Forks from Cinnamon Pass

Summit of Cinnamon Pass

Here is the descent off of Cinnamon Pass. This is a gorgeous descent so I figure I will stop at the top and get a picture of Butta as he gets down the road. One of those perspective type shots. Well, I miss getting a cool shot of Butta, can’t get my camera back into it’s holder and am getting pretty far behind. So what do I do?? Whiskey Throttle Time and play David Knight and try to catch up! Oh…and I am flying too! I jump off a nice rock lip and catch some seriously sweet air, land like a pro, and then tag a big rock with the side of my front tire…damn…did I pinch flat? Nope…I am good! Wait…I DID, I did pinch flat! CRAP!!

Butta is down at the first switchback when I start my chase

My spirited descent results in some tire repairs! We are reminded that sometimes “slower IS faster!”

It took us about 20-30 minutes to get the tube replaced and then another 20 minutes to talk to a kind hearted gentleman that wanted to send us off on some cool trails even after we told him we were in a hurry to get North of Lake City to find a good campsite. It is all good when you are out on trails like these!

I just don’t think I would ever get tired of looking at this

We roll back into Lake City with about an hour of daylight left. Quickly gas us and head up Slumgullion Pass on our way to Los Pinos for the night.

I should be back shortly to finish this little Adventure up…

A ride always starts somewhere, and mine started with Mark. He rolled up at my house at 11:30am. A well seasoned, large displacement, KTM rumbled up the street. Old by some standards, this particular machine is a bit of a rare bike, cleaner than a bike of this age should be, and slightly tempermental as all good KTMs are.

Finding my house with little difficulty, Mark ambled up the driveway and asked “are you ready for an Adventure?!” I suppose you always think you are going to have an adventure, but you never really know until you are right in the thick of it. But, I answered “Hell yea!” all the same.

We had decided to trailer down to Nederland to join up with the crew. Normally I would like to ride to the event, however, my front tire is so square that I thought it best to trailer on down. All my fillings are loose these days and my front wheel bearings show wear of a bike with twice the mileage. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the engineers in Austria who had the foresyth to put a 16lb bead lock on the front tire!

Eager to get riding, we departed the house well before any sane person needed. Even after some detours and massive road construction projects, we arrive at the rendezvous area well ahead of any others. Quickly unloading the bikes with great anticipation for the ride ahead of us.

Instead of waiting in the parking lot, we decide to looking for some roads to ride. Mark quickly suggests Caribou, and I say let’s do it!

Little did I know how prophetic this little ride would be. When we reached the top of the road I noticed that I had lost my toolbag. In the meantime, the new caretaker of the area stopped to talk to us and suggested that it was okay for us to ride on a closed trail, 505. Mark politely informed the rookie that riding on closed trails was strictly verboten! About 1/2 mile back down the trail I located my lost toolbag and quickly refastened it. Little did I know what was in store for my toolbag!

Back down in the parking lot, a crowd started to gather.

Mountain Eagle enjoying a hoagie.

Dave and Mouse are amused by my tall tales!

We finally make it to the trailhead.

…more in a bit.

I am catching up on some old riding news as I get my blog fired back up. Back on September 25, Travis Wilcox and I headed out for an early Fall ride.  We decided to ride a relatively easy trail just outside of Masonville.  The ride comprises about 20 miles of asphalt before hitting the trail at Stove Prarie

Map image

The fall colors were just beginning to hit the valley when we rode up.  It was a picture perfect morning.

Travis was riding his reconditioned XR600R.  It is a wonderful machine that is well setup for our style of riding.

I am pretty sure Travis was having a great time.  Me, on the other hand, I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.  My new KTM 450 was working wonderfully.

We ended up heading down Monument Gulch trail and found this waiting for us at the bottom of the road.

This moose was happy to just hang out in that meadow until a Forest Service truck came zipping by.

After working our way to the bottom of Monument Gulch and snapping a few pics, it was time to head back down to town and into work.

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