As promised long ago, here is the overdue Colorado Ride Report from our (wife and I) ride in September of 2012.
DAY ONE, Part One:
Okie doakie... off on the first adventure...
First things first: You must realize that one of the things that I find interesting is old railroad history and old railroad remnants. The more mountainous and rugged the old railroad, the more interest I find in it. Thus, it should come as no surprise that often I (we) will dovetail a ride to hit two birds with one stone: A great dual sport outing AND some historic stuff as well. So, some of our Colorado riding was centered around old abandoned railroads through the Rockies.
The first railroad we both wanted to see and ride was the old Florence & Cripple Creek narrow gauge railroad from near Canyon City to Victor/Cripple Creek. The F&CC was a short lived NG RR that only survived about 15 or so years. It ran through a very rugged canyon by the name of "Phantom Canyon". Though I have read and seen the photos in my F&CC book... I had never had the pleasure of seeing the F&CC's territory firsthand... so Honey Buns and I decided to go for it this year!
We left Canyon City bright and early the first day we were in Colorado. I was backpacking the essentials we would need to spend the night in Colorado Springs. Our intention was to ride the F&CC roadbed to the Victor/Cripple Creek area, then ride the Gold Camp Road (the roadbed of the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek standard gauge RR) from Victor to Colorado Springs, spending the night at Colorado Springs, and return to Canyon City via the Gold Camp Road and Shelf Canyon Road on Monday morning.
This wouldn't work out as planned! (More on that later!)
Anyway, we saddled up and left Canyon City bright and early. It was a very nippy 4 mile ride on the hiway to reach Phantom Canyon Road. However once we turned onto Phantom Canyon Road, the speeds were lower and thus less nip in the ride. (Must point out that our riding gear choices do a great job of allowing us to comfortably ride in temps down into the low 30's.)
Oh, before you view the pics: Bear in mind that you absolutely, positively, CANNOT bring Colorado home in a camera. No way. The vista's are too grand, the canyons too steep, etc. Simply cannot. I'm not the best photographer, anyway, so I've done the best I could. That disclaimer made, here we go!
We hadn't gone far before we approached the first tunnel...
After passing through the first tunnel, the canyon narrowed, and the grade REALLY begin to steepen, 4% as I recall? (Steep for a railroad.) My photos just don't do the area justice. You can't imagine how quickly this was becoming spectacularly rugged. Here's a scene as we climbed... see the roadbed cut ahead?
Another scene as we climbed and did our things on our dual sport bikes. The smells of the trees and all were fantastic as we continued up Phantom Canyon!
Up we climb as we pass through another tunnel...
The state of Colorado has left some of the bridges in place, converted for vehicular travel. Here is what is called "Steel Bridge". My picture can't convey the tightness of this railroad curve, nor the steep grade on which the roadbed is rising. Incredible to be there!
On up into the canyon. Here we look back at what we've come through. Can you discern the tiny notch where the rails/road pass between the rocks?
The last day I worked before leaving for Colorado it was 95 degrees and high humidity. It was still very uncomfortable in Oklahoma. Up here, the leafs are already turning!
Eventually we climbed our way out of Phantom Canyon, and arrived in the high meadows of the area. We had climbed something like 5000' in 30 miles or so. That's quite a feat for a railroad! Here's Honey Buns looking over at the town of Victor, where we would eat a delicious meal at a diner that was in one of the 100-120 year old buildings. (The building used to be a bar with a bordello upstairs! Or, as the lady owner said, it was a "Gentleman's Club". ) It is SO cool how that you can find so many towns in Colorado that are literally steeped in history. It is also cool how that many of them take pride and care in preserving that history.
I'll begin to close this first segment with a closer look at Victor.
We arrived just in time at Victor. You see, with the ridiculous prices of gold nowadays, they have reopened the mines around Cripple Creek and Victor. Money wins out every time: Some of the old mining sites are being covered up with the tailings of the new mining that's taking place. The lady at the diner said that within 2-3 years, some of Victor's historical mines were going to be forever lost to the new mining that's taking place. Get up there and enjoy it while you can!
Next up: We ride a portion of the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek standard gauge railroad... and then litterally DROP down into Colorado Springs on an old stage coach road... where Mayhem awaited!