Rollins Pass, Rollinsville, CO

This past Wednesday I rode up from Rollinsville, CO to Rollins Pass and the Continental Divide.  This is the former path of the Denver, Northwest and Pacific Railroad.  It was used by trains to get over the Continental Divide before the Moffat Tunnel opened in 1928.

This road is also called the Moffat Road. 

The Moffat Road
The Moffat Road

David Moffat was an American financier and industrialist, and one of Denver’s most affluent citizens.  He was big into railroad development and envisioned a tunnel through the divide, but started with putting a line on “the old Ute Trail” over the divide until he could line up financing.

Building the tunnel was much more expensive than anticipated, and it wasn’t completed till 1927, 16 years after Moffat died penniless.  Building the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway and tunnel had cost him his entire fortune.

A short distance from the trail is the tunnel which is still in active use by Union Pacific.  When the snow is flying, the Winter Park Express will take people from Denver’s Union Station through the tunnel to Winter Park.  

east portal of Moffat Tunnel
east portal of Moffat Tunnel

It was a long ride, roughly 50 miles out and back, but on a gentle 3% grade the whole way.  The fall color along the way is quite spectacular.

fall color
fall color

As you climb you come upon Yankee Doodle Lake nestled in a hairpin turn of the line.  

Yankee Doodle Lake
Yankee Doodle Lake

At the lake there is what appears to be a cave.  It is actually an attempt by the old railway company to drill a tunnel to reduce operational costs.  It was abandoned because of high cost.

abandoned tunnel attempt
abandoned tunnel attempt

Needles Eye Tunnel

As you get above tree line you will see the Needle’s Eye Tunnel in the distance and another lake, Jenny Lake, down below.

Needle's Eye Tunnel in distance
Needle’s Eye Tunnel in distance

The tunnel itself is closed because of falling rock.  

Needle's Eye Tunnel, closed
Needle’s Eye Tunnel, closed
view into tunnel
view into tunnel

Native American Game Drive Blinds

At this point, you can climb a trail above the tunnel.  Once you get up there, you’ll find what appear to be stone foundations.  These are blinds created by early Native Americans over 3000 years ago for game drives.  Bighorn sheep and elk were driven toward these blinds where natives were waiting.  There are more than 96 of these drives in this area.

above Needle's Eye tunnel near Corona ghost town
above Needle’s Eye tunnel – 3000 year old Native American game drive blind

The Trestles

The rails were removed in the 1930s, but there are trestles still in place along the route.  They are in pretty good shape for being out in the high mountain elements for 100 years. 

100 year old trestles still rideable on bike
100 year old trestles still rideable on bike
looking down from trestle
looking down from trestle

On the way back from the top of the pass I rode over them (with some shrinkage!) and they were fine.  See the video below for that.

The Summit

Once you get to the top you intersect with the Continental Divide Trail.  And then it’s a fun 20 miles down all the way back to the car.

summit
summit

Video Highlights of Descent

Gallery

N160JN Plane Site (4th of July Trailhead), Nederland, CO

N160JN Plane Site

A few days ago I was looking at trails from the 4th of July trail head in the Indian Peaks Wilderness  near Eldora, Colorado and came upon a blog post about a plane that went down in the area many years ago. 

From what I saw in my mapping app there is a road, but then you need to bushwhack your way for a few miles.  My son and a few friends joined me this morning for the trek.

We got up early and were hiking by 7am under cloudy skies.  As we proceeded along the road we quickly came to private property signs.  We turned back and got onto the Arapaho Pass Trail.  At about 2 miles we hit an old mining camp with an abandoned house in the forest.

remnants of mining operation
remnants of mining operation
cabin in the woods (be afraid!)
cabin in the woods (be afraid!)
mine in the hillside
mine in the hillside

At that point we starting the bushwhacking, but we stuck pretty close to a stream that flowed from the lake by the wreck, and that worked well.  

After a short stint of climbing directly up hill in the forest, we came upon a marshy mesa.  We jumped from grass clump to grass clump to avoid swampy feet.

walking through the marsh
walking through the marsh

We then began another climb up scree and boulder fields and had to choose our foot placement carefully.  But the views were stunning.

stopping for a bite to eat
stopping for a bite to eat

Then we had a few snow fields to cross.

one of a few snow fields
one of a few snow fields

Finally we got to the lake.

an unnamed lake
an unnamed lake

Right about this time it started to rain.  With some sadness I thought about the poor guy who lost his life up here.  A bit more about him.

Michael Henry “Myke” Baar was a 29 year old flight instructor and United Airlines first officer.  He had 4200 hours of flying experience, and 99 hours flying time in the North American T-6 Texan, a single engine training aircraft used during WWII and beyond.  

USAAF AT-6Cs near Luke Field, 1943
T-6 Texans near Luke Field, Arizona 1943

According to his widow, Myke “always used this route to cross the mountains, which he referred to as Jones Pass, because he could usually slip right over in any kind of weather.”  On December 14, 1971 he was once again flying from Denver to see his family in Steamboat Springs, but downdrafts (per the NTSB report) contributed to his plane not being able to get over the continental divide. 

We continued along the south edge of the lake up the hill, as I had read the wreckage was above the lake.  We spread out and my friend Segundo found it first.

friend Segundo and son found the wreckage
friend Segundo and son found the wreckage
plane wing
plane wing
pilot chair and dashboard
pilot chair and dashboard

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view from below
view from below
view from above
view from above

We then started our return before the afternoon storms would hit.  After a bit of hiking we found another section of the plane, and speculate someone dragged it but gave up and dropped it.

another piece of the plane
another piece of the plane

It was a solemn day.

Gallery

CT Segment 7 – Copper to Breckenridge

at the summit, 12,400 ft
at the summit, 12,400 ft

Last year when my son Kyle and I did the Colorado Trail, we had to route around Segment 7 because of wildfire.  So I decided to ride it with my friend John Bissert, from Copper to Breckenridge. 

It’s a technically challenging trail for a bike, with lots of “hike-a-bike” sections  particularly near the summit. 

We started on the Copper side as I figured most CT hikers will be on the other side heading west, and we’ll cross at the summit.  That would give us a relatively free descent, and that proved right.

Just shy of the summit we heard a booming sound in the distance.  We then saw six slurry jets headed west to drop flame retardant on the massive fires near Durango.  It was cool to see them fly in the valley, lower than us.

On the Breckenridge side we ran into a CTF Trail Crew working on improving the trail, led by Brent Adams and Anne Englert.  Kyle and I will join a 7 day crew in mid-July and it was cool to meet some of the folks we’d be working with.

Photos

Video Highlights

Mayhem Gulch, Golden, CO

Today I geared up to ride Centennial Cone between Golden, CO and Idaho Springs, CO in Clear Creek Canyon.  I started out on Mayhem Gulch.

parking lot from the trail
parking lot from the trail

However, when I got to the top of Mayhem Gulch I found that the loop was closed.  There are wildlife habitat restrictions until June 15.

no ride for you, 15 days!
no ride for you, 15 days!

No worries, I got to ride Mayhem Gulch for my first time, and what a fun ride it is!  The trail is a perfect 8% grade which makes it easy to climb, and just enough decline to get a fast descent on.  I look forward to coming out later in the year and ride the whole Centennial Cone loop.

Video Highlights

Poison Spider, Moab, UT

Poison Spider is an old trail in Moab, and strictly a “meh” ride for mountain bikers.  It gets only 2.5 stars at MTB Project, and I can see why.  Pros are great views and a fun technical section called “The Waterfall.”  But cons include long sand traps and tons of ATVs.  Next time I do this it’ll be on an ATV.
 

 

springtime in the desert
springtime in the desert
ATVs galore
ATVs galore
sand traps galore
sand traps galore
fun on The Waterfall
fun on The Waterfall

Video Highlights

Heil Valley Ranch, Boulder, CO

I was psyched when my old friend John Bissert texted me over the weekend.  “Let’s ride and catch up,” he said.  John and I have been friends for 15+ years, and met when our girls (the two Taylors) were in girl scouts together.  We became fast friends, mountain biking and road riding whenever we could.

the two Taylors at Cal-Wood, 2002
Taylor Bissert and Taylor Pfromer at Cal-Wood, 2002

As our respective careers grew, we got busy with travel and family, and lost touch with each other.  John was curious about the Colorado Trail bikepack epic that my son Kyle and I did last year, and reached out.  We settled on Heil Valley Ranch on a beautiful 70 degree spring day.

John was always wicked fast and strong on the uphill, and he still is.  The pecking order was re-established with me in the back.  But this time I had a good reason – to follow cam our descent down this great Boulder trail.

Heil Valley Ranch Highlights

Mack Ridge, Mack, CO

Now that it’s starting to warm up, I headed back out to Fruita to take advantage of the sun.  One of my favorites is Mack Ridge.  You can ride the trail as part of a loop, or as an out-and-back.  I combined it with a fun new trail called Hawkeye which I’ll save for another post.

Mack Ridge start
Mack Ridge start

The ride starts with a long climb that isn’t too difficult, although you’ll pass through some gnarly rock fields that will probably have you off the bike.  There’s also one hike-a-bike technical section that is a bit of a challenge to get through.

Once you get to the top, you can take in stunning views of the Colorado River down below.

stunning views of the Colorado on Mack Ridge
stunning views of the Colorado on Mack Ridge

Then the fun begins as you ride the ridge along the river with some exposure. Once I moved away from the edge I turned around to descend, and bomb down through the rock fields back to the start.

Video Highlights

Gunny Loop (Lunch Loops), Grand Junction, CO

Back in October I went out to Grand Junction for a few days to ride the Lunch Loops.  It was my first attempt at riding here, and I started with Gunny Loop.  Such a great ride!  But a difficult one – I endo’ed twice and got both on the highlight vid below.

Gunny Loop, Grand Junction, CO
Gunny Loop, Grand Junction, CO

Video Highlights

 

Navajo Rocks Chaco Loop, Moab, UT

One of my favorite rides in Moab is the Navajo Rocks Chaco Loop, which is an easy ride through and next to really scenic rock formations.  The total ride is about 18 miles, so it’s pretty much a full day. 

I always thought the direction to ride was counter-clockwise.  But after my third run last week, I thought this would be really fun clockwise.  Sure enough, when I looked at the ride on MTB Project today, the recommend direction is clockwise.  I can’t wait to go back in 2018 and ride it that way.

 
 
can't let it tip over
can’t let it tip over

Video Highlights

Gallery

Alaska & Homer (Klondike Bluffs), Moab, UT

As you head down Highway 191 from I70 towards Moab, the first set of trails you hit are in the Klondike Bluffs area.  There are several fun rides here. Because they are short, you can stitch them together in a variety of ways. 

At the north end of the park are Alaska, Homer and Nome.  I rode up Mega Steps to Alaska.  At the top of the trail the views of the Salt Valley below are stunning.  And you have great views to the south and west too.

on Alaska
on Alaska

Video Highlights