After almost 6 weeks away from home, I decided to take the truck up to the Continental Divide and play. I have been away so much this summer that I haven’t really made it to our natural Colorado playground at all this year. Here are some Google Earth kmz files : .kmz file for Saturday, and a .kmz file for Sunday
I grabbed a couple of my 4-Wheel Drive books and looked for something that was relatively close by, but rated a little more than something “easy”. In my “Guide to Colorado Backroads and 4-Wheel Drive“, I found the “El Dorado Mountain” trip which travels from Caribou to Eldora on Road 505. I’ve done the Caribou Creek trail before, but not the El Dorado Mountain trail. There are some beautiful views from up here. However, after reaching the trees just above Eldora, I turned back. I talked to a few people I ran into and they mentioned that the down-trip had a couple switchbacks in it that they wouldn’t recommend for a full-size vehicle like my Tahoe. One ranger in a Jeep mentioned he didn’t like doing it in a jeep, and thought ATV’s were more appropriate. Since I was alone, I decided turning back was the best option…
Not quite happy with the length of the previous trip, I decided to head on over to Rollins Pass and go up to the Needle Tunnel. The first two miles of Rollins Pass Road (stating from Moffat Tunnel) will test two things: Your shocks, and your bladder. Forgo the coffee, or make a pitstop on the way in… There are a large number of small potholes that make you wobble back-to-back and front-to-front like a carnival ride. Once you hit the first hard switchback and turn to the south, the road gets MUCH better… You could easily make this trip in a sedan if you drive carefully. After all, it is an old railroad grade.
You can drive up to just below the Needle Tunnel, at about 11,200′. At this point the road is PERMANENTLY closed due to the fact that the roof of the Needle Tunnel is starting to fall in. The tunnel is only about 100 feet long, but since it’s closed now, this is a one-way trip. You have to go back the way you came (and face those potholes again).
On Sunday, I was looking for something a little more difficult than a railroad grade road, and for someplace I’d never been before. In the book, I found reference to Kingston Peak, which is up above the top of St. Mary’s Glacier (just off Hiway 70). You can drive from the Glacier north to Rollinsville, peaking at just over 12,000 feet.
The road is pretty rocky, but not overly difficult. If I had a way to re-inflate my tires (my next purchase) I would have definitely deflated my tires quite a bit to make the drive a little more comfortable.
Some very industrious people have lugged a full-sized mailbox up to the Loch Lommond overlook, and built a stone shelter. You can sign the stones (there’s permanent markers in the mailbox) or the guest book. As you drive north, you hit one of two downhill sections that aren’t trivial, but aren’t too bad (just go slow). Then a long stretch across a high-alpine section to Kingston Peak. From the pass, you can easily spot Long’s Peak to the north, Mt. Evans, Grays and Torreys to the south. Starting down is when you’ll hit the second downhill.
If you do this drive on a weekend, prepare to meet a LOT of motorcycles and ATVs, some of who aren’t really paying attention until they meet the grill of a rather large truck on a corner they’re cheating on. I surprised more than a couple of them, and one I’m pretty sure had to go back and change his shorts shortly after he got a close up of my license plate. 🙂
As I came out of Mammoth Gulch down to Tolland, there was a train sitting on a siding, and a BUNCH of people out with cameras. Of course, I had to stop and ask why, since it looked like the daily Amtrak to me. It was actually the American Orient Express train, which to train people, is a BIG deal. They apparently have an outstanding offer of $10,000 for a photograph to use in their next marketing campaign. Some of they guys I talked to had driven down from Wyoming, and two of them actually came out from St. Louis. I’d never heard of it, but here’s a link for the “curious”: The American Orient Express.Empty gallery item. Please make sure you have upload image to it or check the short code.