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Old 07-29-2012, 07:58 AM   #1
gregdee OP
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Location: Tijeras, NM
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To Moab for Ice Cream

We're going to Moab, in July! Most people would say we're crazy but we know from past experiences that the mountain biking in the La Sals is sublime and July is the perfect time of year to be there: cool in the evenings with snow caped peaks above and never ending views of the desert below. I love Moab! So in reality it's too freakin hot to be down in town but I imagine a quick stop in to the Moab Creamery for a double scoop can't hurt.

Let's back up a bit so I can give you a bit of history. Last fall I joined this forum and I continue to be amazed and thrilled by the stories I read. Kerry and I decided back in January that we would take time off from work following the 4th of July holiday and go on our first extended bike camping trip. Normally Moab is about a 6 hour drive from Albuquerque - taking the pavement. But we're going to get there taking as much dirt as we can. We'd like to go over some of the high passes in the San Juans and we'd like to cruise along the Dolores River valley too. Also, a ride along the Divide Road through the Uncompahgre Plataea would make for a nice addition to the trip. We plan to take the Continental Divide Trail route up into southern Colorado but from there our route is pretty much unplanned except for a stop in to see friends in Crested Butte. We've got 12 days so let's see what kind of adventures we can get into. Woohoo!

The Details
Before January of this year Kerry had never ridden a motorcycle while I had ridden street bikes and had some limited MX experience. We are avid mountain bikers and back country skiers so we are pretty comfortable in the high country in pretty much any season. I bought a 2002 KLR 650 and we picked up a DR650 for her. Over the next 6 months we took numerous day trips honing our skills and picking up new tricks with each trip out. We spent time learning to work on our bikes in case something went wrong while we were way away from anywhere. I learned to change tires and I now have this down to less than 30 minutes, including the tire balancing step. We also spent quite a sum amassing gear, luggage, tools, and farkling our bikes. In hind sight, mountain biking is a much cheaper sport but damn this is fun

Day 1
We hit the road at 7:04 a.m. The goal was to get through the first 100 miles of pavement and get up into the higher terrain before the July heat started to kick in.

We made good time up highway 14 through Madrid and Cerrillos and then took the by-pass around Santa Fe and headed up to Abique. Along the Santa Fe bypass we saw an older couple riding their bicycles at a rather slow pace. We noticed that he had a lap dog of some sort sitting on the rear pannier rack atop a big cushion. The dog was just lying there gazing out at us as we rode by. Odd.

We had considered stopping into Bode’s gas station in Abique for a breakfast burrito and a top up on gas but we took the chance that there would be food and gas available in El Rito as Abique would have been about 10 miles out of our way. We lost that bet. There ain’t much in El Rito and we passed right through what is left of the small sleepy broken down town without seeing any sort of store whatsoever.

We were soon onto dirt following the Continental Divide route up towards Hopewell Lake just below highway 64 which cuts through the high terrain between Tierra Amaria, south of Chama, and Tres Piedras near Taos. We had previously only been through this area once on the highway during a winter storm in a truck. What we had seen from the highway made us want to ride through her on the bikes. The roads were grated and in good shape. We passed by nice rock cliff bands and through open meadows with the wildflowers just starting to perk up from the recent rains. Before the week of the 4th of July the local terrain had been a dust bowl and we had been riding through several inches of silt. Now the roads were almost tacky with very little dust. Nice!

We spotted an old log cabin.

The road from here became a little rougher and we prepared for some slow going as this was our first trip with bikes fully loaded. I was nervous as to how well they’d handle and I was a bit nervous about Kerry. Alas, once we got past the hill we could see in front of us the roads were fine and we came around a corner to see the Hopewell Lake picnic ground right about lunch time. We rolled in, found a nice spot near the end of the park and took our first break. We had some tasty Mountain House dehydrated cuisine. A year or so prior we found a huge box of the stuff at Costco and just knew it would come in handy some day on backpacking trips or the like. We had about 12 packets of this stuff to get through. Not bad and it’s real practical for motorcycle camping.

After lunch we headed a few miles east on 64 and then continued north once again along the CDT route heading towards the Colorado state line. For those who know the area, we were travelling through the terrain that is west of San Antonio Mountain, that big round hump you drive by along 285 as you head up towards Antonito, CO. This is a gorgeous area definitely worth going back to.

Eventually we popped out by the Cruces Basin Wilderness. This has to be the smallest wilderness area ever as it appears to be only a few miles across.

Basically it’s a big basin. Who’da thunk? Nice area though with the classic NM rolling grassy high terrain punctuated by stands of Aspen and pine trees.

After a bit we got to the Lagunitas Lake campgrounds. We checked out the upper one first bit it was kind of muddy and had a port-o-potty as the facilities. I’d prefer to go in the woods. We then headed down to check out the lower camp and along the way we came across two pit bull pups cruising across the road. I assumed they were camped with someone nearby. Upon reaching the campground we did our usual thing of inspecting the various sites around the lake to see if there was a spot that met our standards: good morning light, flat, clean, and reasonable access to water. This camp area was pretty bumpy and it looked as though the forest service had come through and cleared a bunch of dead fall and left behind all the small stuff. Rather untidy, really. But we were tired and it was getting late so we decided to make do. We found a nice flat spot at the bottom of the lake. It was blocked off from vehicle access but we saw no reason we couldn't fit our bikes through there and unload our stuff right at the table. Sweet!
We saw a fellow camped in one of the back spots so we chatted with him a bit. He was a bit bummed because he had caught his limit in trout but couldn’t build a fire to cook them due to the fire restrictions. Then the two pit bulls came back around. He told us the Forest Service had carted them away the previous day as they were strays. They were skinny and looked hungry. We concluded someone must have dumped them at the campground. Sad. But I wasn’t too keen on having a couple of ravenous pit bulls hanging about. Fortunately they didn’t bother us after they figured out we weren’t going to feed them.
We also met a nice couple from Farmington in their late 60’s. They were out cruising around places they had been as kids reminiscing a bit. Turns out they are avid motorcyclists and had a number of great stories to tell that all started some like, “must have been 37 years ago…”. One story was quite impressive. The lady was driving up 285 north of Tres Piedras heading toward the Colorado boarder. She came up over a hill doing about 65 mph on her Triumph Trophy and hit a stretch of several inch deep gravel to which there were no warning signs. She said she managed to hold it together without crashing. Scary. Another good story was about a trip to Oregon where they spent 5 days getting there and then made it back home in two days to get back to work. Sheesh, I could barely make that drive back in two days in a car! These two must truly be Studly Adventurers.

We had another package of Mountain House stew for dinner and then it was pretty much an uneventful night with a bit of rain.

And without further ado, introducing us: Kerry Flint (Flinty).

And me, Greg Dunham (gregdee)

gregdee screwed with this post 08-07-2012 at 05:27 PM
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Old 07-29-2012, 09:25 AM   #2
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Day 2

Day 2.
We were up at the crack of dawn and I was out boiling up some of that tasty green lake water for our coffee and oatmeal. Here's a shot of our first campsite. It was pretty heavily treed and was still quite damp.

I took a morning walk around the area and shot a few photos. I noticed all the Aspens in the area had been munched by some little caterpillars that had infested all the trees.

The wild flowers were really blooming alongside the lake below us.

We struggled some to get things packed like they had been when we left home - stuff just didn't seem to want to go back where it had been. Guess we'll figure it out. We were on the road again by about 8:30. We decided that we’d rather back track a bit and head down to Antonito and cut up through the hills from the east rather than head straight up the CTD route through Platoro. We’d been up over Cumbres and La Manga passes numerous times and thought it best to try something new. We also had a bit of a concern about gas as we had neglected to gas up in Abique and we had done close to 200 miles the first day. We weren't certain we'd find gas along the CDT route until we got to Del Norte so we played it conservatively and headed down towards Antonito. We rode back past the Cruces Basin Wilderness and in the morning light the high country was amazing.

At the signboard we took a left down to the Rio de las Pinos. The ride down was relaxing as it is just nice to be out in the high country early in the day. We found a great sunny camp spot just along the rio where the road crosses it. We hung out there for a bit, dumped out that funky tasting green lake water and filtered some fresh clear river water. The nice camp spot can be seen on the opposite side of the river. Next time.

From there the road followed the rio almost all the way out to 285. It started getting hot as we dropped back down to 7000-ish feet, especially once we left the river bank and got out from the shade of the trees. I came around a big sweeping curve and nearly ran over a giant rattler sunning himself in the middle of the road. I stopped 100 yards up to make sure Kerry got by it OK. When I saw her come around the corner she was riding real slow and sort of weaving a bit and then she just stopped. I rode back and asked her WTF she was doing. She pointed out that her front tire was a bit square on the bottom. Shit! You couldn’t get a flat in a nice cool shady spot back along the river?

So I guess it's time to fix our first road side flat. The road have a rather substantial gradient on it to allow for good drainage. This meant we had to part the bike closer to the center of the road than we would have liked. We got it up on the center stand in a stable position using a rock to prop up one side.

I noticed her bike smelled a bit funny. Is that cow poop on your center stand?

Our pile of tools:

The large C-clamp I’d been carry around for weeks came in real handy allowing me to break the tire bead almost instantly. We got the tube out and pumped it up a bit to find the leak. It appeared to be holding air as I couldn’t find a leak anywhere. After several minutes with the tube still appearing to hold air I decided the valve core must have just leaked too much since we had neglected to check tire pressure that morning. We go the tube stuffed back in and I managed to reset the bead fairly well. I was hot and ready to roll. So we got going again.

Soon the road turned to asphalt as were neared town. We went down a short hill and then started heading north through farm land just outside of Antonito. Once on the straight shot I watched in my mirrors to make sure Kerry was coming along. Nope, tires flat again. Lesson: when a tire goes flat there’s a reason. Repeat process of changing tube but put new tube in this time. Now I was really hot and very much ready for lunch.

We rolled into an eatery in Antonito called Dos Hermanos (not much to chose from in this town) and got a table outside so we could keep an eye on all the gear hanging off our bikes. Lunch was edible but the Mountain House cuisine was better. Anyhoo… heading north once again.

On the way up towards Stunner Pass along FS 255 and the Alamosa River.

We were prepared for rain but we really didn't have the best rain gear with us. Heck, it's only the first week of Monsoon season, how bad can it be?

The roads were getting a little tackier through here. I opted to put away the camera as I could sense the wet weather coming. Not two minutes after this we came across a bunch of real life cowboys and cowgirls driving at least 100 head of cattle up to the high country. Would have made a great shot - oh well.

We stopped in the little town of Jasper. Seems like a nice place to have a summer home. Many of the homes had solar panels so I am guessing this place is pretty much off the grid. It's amazing where you can live these days.

We ride on a little further and then it starts to dump. We threw on our trusty old Marmot rain coats. I had decided to re-water proof these using Scotch Guard and this actually worked pretty well, for a bit. Now we both have full Gortex water proof outfits at home but we opted not to bring them and travel in our mesh jackets instead because it had been so darn hot for the past couple of months. Still not sure if I regret this move but having only a jacket doesn't really help with the rain since water likes to flow right down onto your legs and into your boots. Live and learn.
We spent the next couple of hours riding up over Stunner Pass and down onto Park Creek Rd completely cloaked in thick cloud and heavy rain. Awesome adventure! At 11,500 feet is was quite chilly and at this point we were pretty much ready to camp at the first spot we found. After a couple of attempts we happened onto a sweet spot along Park Creek. It was still drizzling so we got the tent set up under a nice big pine tree and then parked the bikes under two other trees. We got out of our wet clothes just as the rain stopped and we settled in to get some soup and hot coffee going. Here's a shot of our second nights camp:

Unfortunately a state wide fire ban prevented us from warming up by a fire. We went to bed early that night and awoke to a bright beautiful sunshinny morning.

gregdee screwed with this post 07-29-2012 at 10:03 AM
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Old 07-29-2012, 10:41 AM   #3
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Day 3

Day 3

We awoke to sunshine which was a good thing since all our gear was still damp. Using the straps from our Wolfman Luggage we strung up a clothesline between our bikes. We put our boots out to dry too.

In determining our route for the day we realized we had taken a wrong turn up on top somewhere while we had been riding through the clouds. We were now down close to South Fork just up the road a bit from where the Pass Creek yurt is that we have visited many times for a New Years backcountry ski trip. We really wanted to drop into Del Norte so once again we decide to back track. This was a good choice because the mountain top was really quite scenic and we had missed all the views the previous day.

And we're headed to Summitville!

Oh wait, not so beautiful. Guess this is what mountain top mining is all about. Cut down a big chunk of mountain so you can extract the rocks. (Guess I've got too many friends in the gas/oil/mining businesses so I best shut up already.)

But it's still pretty darn nice up here.

We encounter a bit of rain again but it only lasts for a few minutes. Soon we're headed down into warmer sunnier conditions. Here's a shot of me just above the valley through which the Pinos Creek flows. Somewhere in the distance is Del Norte.

We soon hit pavement and cruised out to town through some nice ranch land along the Pinos Creek.

As we tee'd into highway 160 directly across the street we spot our lunch spot: Peace of Art Cafe. The place was pretty crunchy (as in granola) but the food was good. We took a much needed break on the patio and enjoyed the warm sunshine. We took a moment to call our friends in Crested Butte to let them know we wouldn't be there for at least another day.
Around 1:00ish we started out heading north on 285 but we were looking to get off that busy straight fast bit of highway as quickly as possible. GPS to the rescue: Turn here and you can cut over there and hit the road you are trying to get on. So we head west and out towards the Conejos river. We soon find ourselves driving along a very straight gravel road, but hey, it’s better than the pavement. We take the next left, then right, and over a short bridge. Continue north and then run into some guys property that looks like an old junk yard. GPS says just go straight through and a mile or so over there is where you want to be. I don’t think so. We turn around and head back out towards the highway again. Just before the bridge a car with an crusty old dude in it rolls to a stops. He asks what we are doing. I try to explain we were headed up the CDT route towards Storm King but he just argues there was no way to do that, and he seemed quit disturbed that we were on his street. I asked if he lived around here and he said, “I own all of this” while waving his hand about the dried up flat wasted farm land junk pile of a place. I suppose that in making this factual statement about his land ownership he was now relieved that we knew what was what. He instantly became helpful and changes his story. Turns out we if we take the next left off of the highway it would put us onto a road that would take us up to the Storm King camp ground.

We got on CR-41a and followed along Carnero Creek heading up towards Storm King. We had set the campground as our destination for the afternoon. Along the way we did take a side trip to check out an arch (Lagarita Arch I thinkn) but it was pretty unexciting (and hot) so we headed on. Around 3:00 p.m. we reached the Storm King campground. It was nice enough but the weather was great and decided to roll on to see what lay ahead.

Once again, GPS to the rescue. It told me there was another campground, Stone Creek, only 13 miles away. We trustingly followed the GPS heading off the nice grated dirt road onto what soon became a full blown ATV track. Greg: this is sweet. Kerry: I really don't want to do this. We discuss this plan for a minute and agree that if it gets too hairy we'll turn around. Kerry motors on managing the tough climbs like a pro. She has no problem getting up stuff. Then we get to a tight sweeping downhill switchback. She get's off and I take t he bike down through the turn for her. We then contemplate our options. Judging by the GPS we should hit a better road again in less than a mile. So we press on and get to the good road without too much trouble.

We cruise the good road for 7 or 8 miles and then that darn GPS unit tells me I missed a turn. We back track but don't see any possible routes so we continue on. GPS recalculates route. We forge on and then miss another turn which appears to be blocked by a low wood fence obviously put there to keep out vehicles and protect the environment. According to the GPS it looks like we should be able to continue along our current road and get to Stone Creek CG as it is just over the ridge in front of us. We press on climbing up another 1000 vertical feet or so and the road just dead ends. It's getting later and colder and the skies are threatening to rain once again. Great, guess we should have stopped back at Storm King CG. (But there's no adventure in that, eh?)

Greg: We can't camp here, there isn't any water. Kerry: Lets look at the map. Greg: Let's back track a bit and try that other route we saw. Kerry: Sure we shouldn't look at the map?. Greg: No, it's getting late and we have to find a camp and water. Well, that "other" route was definitely closer to a jeep trail than a road passable by n00b's riding 400 lb bikes. After a mile or so of increasingly more difficult terrain we got to the sign on a fence directly at the bottom of a steep nasty loose rocky hill that said "High Clearance 4WD". Kerry managed to dump her bike here as there was no where for her to go except into the fence. As I was now all the way in the back of the dog house "we" decided to back track once again. Eventually we found a passable hunters camp along a hill side but there was no water around. After setting up camp I rode back over to the nearest creek and loaded up about a 8 liters of water in our Platypus's and Camelbak bladders. We had a tasty dinner courtesy of Mountain House and enjoyed a cool drizzly evening without a fire once again. We were camped at just over 10k feet so it was cool but quite pleasant.
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Old 07-29-2012, 03:16 PM   #4
Brent T
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Great report!

Looking forward to the next installment...
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Old 07-29-2012, 05:41 PM   #5
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Day 4

We awoke to a nice day with a light fog in the hills around us. After the previous couple of days early starts we both were feeling a bit lazy so we took some time to take in the view, shoot some photos, and just enjoy being out there. We knew we only needed to get to Crested Butte today and we knew we didn't have all that far to go.

Here's the obligatory shot of our campsite. Coffee all around. We even had a couple of nice cut logs to use a tables.

Here is a tone mapped High Dynamic Range image of the view to the west from our camp site. I really enjoy playing with HDR images – more to come.

I also took a few Macro shots. Here’s one of a couple of little yellow flowers. I liked the way the dew drops came through in this image.

Finally, another tone mapped shot of our tracks coming into camp from the night before.

When I was out getting water the night before I noticed another camp site that sat up on a ridge, just off the main dirt road we had come in on. It had a splendid view to the west. I could see camping here next time I’m up this way.

Feeling a bit more at ease and less stressed than we do at the end of the day we decided to try one of the not-so-good roads to get us out to Hwy 114 near Cochetopa Pass. The route had one tricky bit – a series of schwoopty* switchbacks up the side of a hill – but was otherwise pretty cool to ride. I believe Kerry even enjoyed this one. Sorry, no pics enroute. (*The term schwoopty is usually reserved to describe tele turns in fresh powder or bermed out single track such as the Ring Tail trail south of Denver or Doctor Park just outside of Almont.)

We made it out to 114 pretty quickly, rode about 300 yards to the west on pavement and then picked up NN14 which basically paralleled the highway up and over Cochetopa Pass and dumped us out back onto 114 just above the super fun twisty section along the river as the road drops down towards 50 just east of Gunnison. We had a bit of rain along NN14 but nothing like what we rode into on the highway. We ended up pulling into one of the picnic shelters by the river and waited out the worst of the rain for about an hour.

When we finally reached Gunnison we went straight to Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods store as they were having a side walk sale and we needed better rain gear. We found some motorcycle specific outfits called Frog Togs on sale for half price. At $38 per set we were a bit skeptical that these would work but they had to be better than our now soaked Marmot stuff. We left the Marmot stuff in the trash can and put on our Frog Togs for the ride up the valley to Crested Butte. We experienced a bit more rain and these suits kept us comfy and dry, though they look silly ‘cause they are like wearing giant garbage bags. We ended up getting out money's worth out of these things as we experienced a fair bit more rain throughout the rest of our trip.

Anyway, we found our friends place up on the hill in Mount Crested Butte. When we arrived they had a fresh batch of nachos coming out of the oven and brownies in the mixing bowl for dessert later that evening. We took our first showers in a few days (though I really don’t mind using the river) and settled in for an evening of catching up and hanging out. Through our stories I think we may have managed to convince one other visiting friend that perhaps motorcycle touring is just a bit more fun that bicycle touring. We'll see.
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:17 PM   #6
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Day 5

We stayed with some great friends and awesome hosts in CB! They had been renting a condo, from which you could see the chair lifts, for the past year or so trying to decide if they would stay and make CB their home. While sussing out the place, they determined that buying property up at the ski area wasn't a good investment as the area was flooded with rental properties. In fact, one can rent a sweet condo like this 3 story with two car garage for pretty cheap, especially during the holidays as apparently no one goes to CB over the holidays. They have decided to buy land and build down in town as the ability to rent the place when they are away seems to be much greater. Anyway, a shot of the place (sort of):

Clearly the neighbors have poor taste in cars but they were just renting for the weekend so I didn't get to know them well enough to see if they'd let me take it for a test drive.

The big accomplishment today was to be getting over Kebler Pass. We had toyed with the idea of going up through Gothic and over Schofield Pass but it was decided that the route was too hairy and not appropriate for our skill level. I don’t know, never been there.

I had assumed since Kebler Pass was a “pass” that it would be somewhat exciting. Not! Most of the route was paved. Just getting through the town of Crested Butte to get onto the highway heading up to Kebler Pass was more of an adventure than actually riding over that one. Nonetheless, it was fun and the sights were good.

A little bit of well-groomed dirt followed by pavement. A nice way to start off the day.

Actually, once over the pass riding through the stands of old growth Aspens was quite the treat. I really love seeing the old huge Aspen trees.

We rolled on through to Paonia and stopped for lunch. We tried to catch lunch at a place I think was called Homestead Market with a theme of from farm to plate. (Hey we’re foodies alright.) Not sure of the name but it was at the far end of the main street in town. Alas, being Sunday they weren’t open for lunch. We ended up hitting the Burger Bomber where we ran into another couple of fellas on bikes with ADV stickers. They were discussing heading up over Schofield Pass and we shared our experience of getting over Kebler Pass. The burgers were actually pretty good but I’m certain the staff were completely baked and it took at least half an hour to get our burgers. I’m not that old but the tunes blaring from the kitchen could have been turned down a notch or three.

While at lunch Kerry stated that we should hit one of the road side stands and pick up some fruit. We were riding through the orchard belt of Colorado after all. Most all of the stands we passed were closed, likely due to it being Sunday and all. While heading west on highway 50 we passed a sign for a recreation area along the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. We turned around and went to investigate.

A few years back we had done a strictly road tour on our Triumph Sprint ST, two-up, through Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Montrose, Gunnison, Lake City, Creed, etc. While riding along Hwy 50 between Montrose and Gunnison we headed into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and had a good scenic tour from the pavement. (It’s difficult to get out and see much while confined to motorcycling gear.) Anyway, we were excited to see this park from the northern end. We drove down to the recreation area but found no way across. Upon checking the map we saw we’d need to travel much further west and back track to get to the other side of the river. So we headed back out to highway 50 but took a slight detour up to an overlook to get a shot.

The destination for the day was to be somewhere up on the Grand Mesa. Looking at the maps the mesa appeared to be doted with many lakes and campgrounds. We cruised along 50 until we hit 65 and then headed north and up into the higher, cooler terrain. Just before leaving the highway we found an open fruit stand, or shall I say Fruit Ranch. We pulled in to the quaint shop and parked. We walked up the steps to enter the store and noticed a sleeping post-octogenarian snoozing heavily in her rocking chair on the porch. Inside we found an assortment of fresh peaches (by the box load), apricots, cherries, jams, and other goodies. We settled for a pound of cherries and about half a dozen fresh apricots as that’s about all we had room for. As we left I noticed the sleeping lady hadn't moved at all. I wondered if she might actually have been dead?

We cruised on up the road into the Grand Mesa National Forest to find ourselves a camp spot for the evening. It had obviously been wet up top and the roads were muddy and slick in spots. Ummmm, just what Kerry loves at the end of the day. We headed to one camp site that was about 3 or 4 miles off the main road. It was small and all the sites were dark and damp, and probably quite buggy. (We're from NM, we don't have bugs.) Pretty much all of the sites were full with 5th wheel trailers and the like, and there were two more trailers lined up at the fee station. We opted to press on.

Once back to the main dirt road we rode over to the next camp site on the map – Big Creek. Not sure if the weather changed suddenly or if we had magically rolled over a weather divide but this place was nice and sunny. We took our usual cruise around the camp site and found a nice and somewhat isolated spot at the far end. This one had lake side spots with grass and everything. We settled in for the evening.

While I unpacked our gear Kerry headed back over to the pay station to pay our dues of a whopping $6, the cheapest camp site ever. (Well, other than the free spots in the forest we usually are drawn to anyway.) She came back stating there were no envelopes so she couldn’t pay. She had been by the camp hosts site and they weren’t in either. We finished setting up camp and then I took a walk over but came back with the same result. We resolved that if the camp host wanted their money then they would probably roll by in the morning to get it. We spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the glorious sunshine eating cherries and perusing the maps laying out the route options for the remaining days ahead of us.

Eating cherries. Yum.

Examining the GPS unit and looking at maps - whilst sitting by the lake.

While Kerry whipped up some tasty dinner (boxed Pad Tai with canned chicken) I worked on some more HDR images.

I believe this was one of our better camp spots. We were even offered several already cleaned trout by the fishermen heading back to camp after dusk. Alas, we had already eaten and had no way to keep a fish until breakfast
so we had to pass them up.
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:02 PM   #7
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Day 6

We awoke to a glorious morning with picture perfect blue skies as far as the eye could see. We had a quick breakfast of coffee and oatmeal and hit the road.

The plan was to ride out northwest from camp to find some smaller dirt roads that looked like they’d connect us back up to highway 65. The goal for the day was to get over to Land’s End. It sounded like a cool place.

We soon ran into issues with the GPS. It was telling us to head down a road that looked much like a goat track. We re-routed ourselves and tried to get around finding what seemed to be a passable route but then this turned into another tight twisty rooted mess. We turned around again and found yet another route. All of these routes appeared to be good passable NF routes on the GPS which should take us back out to the highway. Finally consulting our Benchmark map book (guys don't ask for directions, right?) we saw these were actually hiking trails and the like. After dumping the bikes too many times for it being this early in the day we decided to back track and take a much easier route out to the north heading to the small town of Colbran. From there we could ride pavement back up towards our destination for the day. Not exactly what I had hopped for but I know when to cut my losses, especially since Kerry was brave enough to join me on this super cool adventure.

Once off the dirt the road took a steep dive off the face of a cliff dropping us several thousand feet to the valley below. This picture doesn’t really do it justice. This wasn't quite like riding an old roller coaster at Magic Mountain but it was close.

In Colbran we stopped at the Twisted Sister for lunch. Seems like this place catered to laborer's for their breakfast and lunch. The menu was small and consisted of a few basic items like a burger, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a breakfast burrito. The special was a pasta salad with drink and desert for $7. We had the special and it was really good even though it was served up in a plastic take-away box with plastic utensils and a napkin. I had some sort of blueberry cream cheese square for desert. Good stuff. Sorry, I only managed to get a picture of the outside of the place. Great deserts; odd name for a place like this. I keep thinking of the 80's rock band of the same name but the lady working the place sure seemed to be rather small-townish and super nice.

From Colbran we headed down highway 330 to where it intersected 65 and then headed south and up, back up to the top of Grand Mesa. En route we passed by the Powder Horn ski area. Looked OK but I doubt I’d travel all the way out here to ski it.

A view of the highway on the way back up to the high country.

Once on top we found the Land’s End road. We were hoping for some great scenery and we were rewarded. The road itself was a very wide well grated gravel road. In fact many parts of it were paved. This was kind of odd to ride on actually. You’d go along for a mile or so and then you’d hit some pavement. Go another half mile and you’d be back on dirt. This went on most of the way out to the end with the last several miles being all paved. Here's a not-so-great picture of the sign board. There appears to be plenty of mountain biking out here. Hmmmm, might have to come back this way some day....

Along the way we stopped to check out the old buildings remaining from the Raber Cow Camp. This area had been inhabited during the early 1900’s. I bet the winters were long and cold but what a place to have lived!

The view out off the mesa from the upper cabin.

We stopped along the way to check out the view from the mesa top. Wow, what a cool place. I'm really glad we chose this spot, and we only did because I saw on the map that there was this crazy "schwoopty" bit of road heading down off the mesa that looked like it would be fun to ride. Here's a few shots I took along the way.

We also stopped at the Lands End Observatory right out at the end of the point.

You can see down to Grand Junction from cliffs around the observatory. The observatory was hand-built during the great depression and stands atop Colorado’s highest mesa at 10,500 feet above sea level. The walls and terrace were built from basalt stones collected from the surrounding area. The roof shingles were hand sawn. Unemployed Veterans were put to work building the road that leads up to this point. They were paid $1 per days work. The sign states that the upper section of the road from the Wild Rose picnic ground up to the rim was built over two summers, “ built the whole road, said the Project Engineer, blasting and all, without injuries”. Even back then I suppose safety in the work place was an issue.

We continued to circle the mesa top looking for a place to camp. There's actually a great spot just a little ways past the observatory but alas we had very little water with us so we had to continue on. We ended up circling all the way back around to near the start of the Lands End road and then dropped down to Carson Lake, a nice local fishing spot with decent camping and ready access to water from the stream exiting the lake. This lake is actually part of the water source for the town of Grand Junction and the surrounding area. We enjoyed a leisurely walk along the lake shore that evening. I saw my first real live beaver swimming along the shore. Sorry, no pic.
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:19 AM   #8
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Day 7

This is the big day – we’re riding in to Moab. Yeehaa!

We packed up camp and got rolling before 8:00 a.m. we knew this was going to be a hot one. Our ride started out retracing our path from yesterday afternoon heading back out to Lands End. We stopped to take in the view once more. Here’s a shot of the road we’re about to descend.

The road was completely non-technical but it sure had a bunch of switchbacks. I suppose the hardest thing was watching out for traffic headed the other way around all those blind turns. After a short while we made it down to highway 50 just west of Grand Junction.

Consulting the map we saw we had just a few miles to ride along 50 before we would turn south onto the road to Gateway, highway 141. We’d driven this road a couple of winters earlier and thought it was quite scenic. I was excited to be back on it. Now, I would have rather been on my Triumph Sprint ST for this section but hey the KLR is a do-everything go-anywhere bike so it’s hard to complain about that side of things.
Here’s a shot along the road to Gateway.

And a not-so-informative shot of the big resort in Gateway.

What’s the deal with this place anyway? For those who haven’t been there this place is a a huge lavish-looking resort in the middle of nowhere. We took a spin around the “compound” and thought momentarily about grabbing lunch there but it looked darn expensive and it was way too early to be getting lunch anyway. So we pressed on and soon found the road out John Brown Canyon.

John Brown Canyon was a non-technical dirt road that crosses over from western Colorado into eastern Utah, coming in behind the La Sals. From what I had read it was to be a fairly straightforward ride. It was. Here’s a couple of shots en route.

And a sign (sort of) marking the border.

We stopped at a pull-out a few hundred yards above the trail head to Fisher Mesa and cooked up some tasty lunch – those just-add-water noodle bowl things. Yea, lunch pretty much sucked on those 140 calories didn’t last long. The view from our lunch spot was sweet, looking down into Fisher valley and out towards Polar Mesa. While sitting there it hit me – let’s ride down Fisher Valley and Onion Creek! I’d been bugging some of my fellow mtb buddies about doing this ride for a few years with no takers but since the opportunity was presenting itself I convinced Kerry it would be fine, “it’s just an easy dirt road”.

So we back tracked a mile or so back to the turn off that would take us down to Fisher Valley. I noticed a more direct route that appeared to drop you right into the very top of the valley but we opted not to take this route, saving that for the 30 lb bikes some other time.

Instead we rolled around Polar Mesa taking in the scenery. The road started out to be fairly solid but in good Moab tradition it got softer and sandier as we progressed.

Some of the turns were quite loose and soft.

We both laid our bikes down several times for some apparently much needed dirt naps. Guess the bikes were tired and hot. By now Kerry had become an expert in lifting her bike back up. I had not had much experience with this. In one particular case my bike was lying with the wheels slightly uphill which meant it was going to be extra tough to get it back up. I tried for a bit but couldn’t quite get it up. Kerry finally convinced me to unload all my gear and try again. It’s amazing how much easier it is to pick your bike up if it isn’t laden with an extra 50 lbs of gear. Sorry, no pics – camera was packed away inside one of Kerry’s Givi boxes at this point. Not sure why.

Anyhoo, we persevered and finally made it down into the Fisher Valley.

And into Onion Creek…

It really didn’t smell all that bad.

We took a quick break when we got out to the highway but it was now mid-afternoon and must have been close to 100 degrees. With no shade around we opted to keep moving – it was to be all highway along the Colorado River from here to Moab. Woohoo!

After about 2 miles we pull up behind a bunch of stopped traffic just sitting there baking away in the desert. The road was closed temporarily due to a movie being filmed. We must have sat there for half an hour. When we did get to go by, judging from the props we saw, I’d say there were filming some sort of Western with a big old fashioned steam locomotive (mounted on the back of a flatbed trailer).

Soon we were cruising into Moab. This place is pretty much void of tourists this time of year, except for the French who must really love the heat. We saw loads of jacked up 4wd diesel trucks with huge tail pipes spewing clouds of soot. (Oh, wait, I have one of those) Gotta love this place. We pulled into the Moab Cremery and bellied up to the ice cream counter. Two scoops on a waffle cone please.

The ice cream didn’t last long in this heat. We did step outside to get these shots but then quickly retreated indoors to finish off our treats before the dripped all over the side walk.

Since we had heard the waters of Onion Creek can be quit corrosive (too much salt?) we headed to the nearest car wash and cleaned our bikes off. They needed a bath anyway since we had now been on the road for a week.

We headed south out of town, rode out through the Spanish Valley and headed up towards Geyser Pass. We headed to a spot that in the past had good water and a potential camping spot. No water, no snow on the peaks, no nothing. We pressed on and got water from a creek just below Geyser Pass. While stopped there filtering water we came across two fellas riding the TAT. The first guy was on a KTM 690 Enduro. Looks like a fun bike. We chatted for a bit and I think I had convinced them not to head down to town but up to the Oowah Lake Campground instead, just off the La Sal Loop Rd. Much cooler up here I told them.

We found a nice camp spot just over the pass but as we began to unload our gear we noticed another tent hidden a bit further back in the trees. Not wanting to invade someone's spot we pressed on, and on, and on. We headed down the western side of the La Sals and rode for what seemed like another hour, and by now it was getting close to being dark and we were freakin tired. The 140 calorie lunch followed by ice cream in this heat wasn’t a great combo. Eventually we headed up some small road and ended up just camping at the dead end. Hey, it was flat and we were done.
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Old 08-16-2012, 04:05 PM   #9
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:46 PM   #10
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Nice. That just makes me want to get out that much more. Looks like it was a fun adventure.
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Old 09-12-2012, 05:54 PM   #11
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Indeed, it was an awesome adventure! I've done a lot of cool things in my life but this trip was really liberating. It was so nice to not have any real plan and to just travel along, camping where ever we ended up each day. It was work and a lot of effort but so very worth it. We ended up scratching out another 4 night trip over Labor Day weekend too.
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Old 09-12-2012, 06:25 PM   #12
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Day 8

As I said in yesterday’s ride post, we camped at the end of the road, literally. Here’s a shot:

The rest of the day was filled with great riding through some superb landscapes. We headed south and east down the back side of the La Sals heading toward the town of La Sal. We stopped and took in the views of the backside of the La Sals.

There’s good riding up in them thar hills. Actually, there was a section of single track directly behind where we had camped. There is a large section of state trust land up there. Here's a link: Don’t get fooled by all the (hot) stuff down around Moab, the locals gotta ride somewhere in the summer months, no?

We came down onto highway 46 and headed east towards the state line and the town of Bedrock in the Paradox Valley. Highway 46 was a freakin blast! That road was so much fun to ride I almost turned around to do it again. Once into Colorado the road straightened but it was still a very cool place to be riding a motorcycle. Didn’t get any photos through here.

We rolled in Naturita at lunch time. As there ain't much to choose from in Naturita we ended up grabbing some sandwiches and a salad from the deli in the back of the grocery store. The lady at the checkout told us to head down to the river as there was a nice park down there. Indeed, we found a nice bench under the shade of a tree and took ourselves a nice long lunch break.There was also one table right next to the Dolores River but it was already taken and the local kids were swimming in the river.

After lunch we continued south and east rolling by the Miramonte Reservoir and then through the Lone Cone State Wildlife area. This was pleasant riding along gravel roads in a remote area but not all that exciting. I experimented with the camera getting some motion blur of the road as it went by. Really mom, I wasn't doing 100 mph.

Here’s a shot of what I think was Lone Cone, the same peak that can be seen in the distance in the above image.

And then onto the Groundhog Reservoir. Now we were starting to get back into the cool peaks of the San Juans. The route through here was super scenic but all the roads had been freshly graveled so we had to keep our wits about us.

We came across a cool spot for a break. We thought we'd stop and make a cup of coffee and take in the view....

But it didn't quit work out that way. Early in the day I unintentionally left Kerry behind near the Miramonte Reservoir. Her bike wouldn't start for several minutes and I had already ridden off and had neglected to check to see that she was following behind me. I got an earful for that one. Her bike magically fixed itself and she was able to start it so she came along after about 10 minutes. While stopped here at this great spot the bike did it again. We started taking off the seat and side panels to investigate but then it just started. WTF? We ignored the issue to rolled on.

Here's a couple of more shots along FS533.

You can make out the fresh gravel in these two shots.

We begain looking for a camp spot as it was getting to be late afternoon by now and it would have been spectacular to have camped amongst these peaks. We rolled on towards the Dunton Rd. but found nowhere good to camp (good as in near water and flat). We ended up going up to the Burro Bridge Campground but it was not to our liking and, if I recall correctly, there was no water. I also recall there being a rather deep fresh patch of gravel that nearly took both of us out. Nothing like stressing while riding at the end of the day. We turned around and headed down 535 looking for a spot along the Dolores River. Turns out this area is filled with private land so there wasn't much to choose from since all the obvious spots had trailers or the like (no people) parked in them, holding spots for the weekend I guess. I really despise this practice. I finally noticed a faint track crossing a meadow so I went down to investigate. Score! I found a great grassy spot right on the river and completely out of view from the road. We set up camp.
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Old 09-12-2012, 08:13 PM   #13
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I like this report and I like the way you ride it. Good spots you hit there mister.
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:09 AM   #14
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Day 9

We slept to the sounds of a babbling brook and awoke to a gorgeously sunny morning smack dab in the middle of the San Juans. It was a awesome day to be alive. Here’s a shot of our camp.

I’ll tell you exactly how to get there if you agree to support me on a one year bike trip.

We did some laundry and hung it out to dry.

Then Kerry set off to work on her Macro photography skills.

I think the second one is fantastic, no?

The laundry took a while to dry so we hung out and explored the other side of the river. We finally got packed up and started rolling sometime after 10:00 a.m.

Rather than re-live the experience of riding through the several inch deep gravel up near the Burro Bridge campground we chose to ride down along the Dolores River to highway 145 and then head north from there. Yea, the gravel was really that freakin scary. We had explored Bear Creek, the Sharkstooths, Priest Gulch, the Colorado Trail, Bolam Pass, and so on by mountain bike the previous summer so we were familiar with that area. We chose to head north through Rico and then up and over Lizard Head Pass as we hadn’t been there yet.

We stopped for lunch in Rico at Herk’s Café.

The food was reasonably good. We then headed up to the pass...

... and I pulled off to get some pictures. Kerry’s bike started acting up again – not starting. We had decided it must be some relay that was over heating for some reason, as waiting a few minutes seem to cure the issue and then the bike would start again. We rolled on enjoy the schwoopty turns down towards Telluride.

Just past an unmarked dirt road to the south I pulled over to a gravel shoulder and we discussed whether or not to head up and over Ophir Pass. I new the route wasn’t marked as supposedly the residents of Ophir like it that way. Since we had been into the Opus Hut and skied several days up around Ophir Pass this past March we decided it would be fun to see the area without snow. Right about now it starts raining so we get our Frog Togs out and put on our rain gear - hadn't needed that in a few days. Then we... uh, I started up my bike to go but Kerry's wouldn't start. We'd been sitting a while, long enough for our let it cool off and then it will start theory to be blown. We pull the seat and start investigating. Great - I am working on electrical stuff in the rain. I pulled the bar that locks the battery in place to get to the leads so I could check them. Huh - look at that - the positive battery terminal is really loose. We tightened that back up - problem solved - and we're on our way. About 1/2 a mile up the road towards Ophir it stops raining so we pull off our rain gear and stuff it back into our luggage. Gotta love the adventure.
Here’s a shot coming into Ophir. Sorry, it's a bit out of focus....

The town is actually much nicer than what I had expected. Most of the houses were not shacks and everything was well kept. I could do without their annoying signs, speed bumps, and speed dips though. Seriously, do they have punks on crotch rockets blasting through her doing wheelies at 2 a.m. or something?

Anyway…. On up to the pass. The north side of this pass is quick rocky and lose, and the road is benched so the drop off to the right side should be given plenty of respect.

As slip in the wrong direction could send you for the last ride of your life. I am certain such thoughts were buzzing through Kerry’s head. As far as I could tell she pretty much pinned it in 2nd gear and just hung on for dear life all the way to the top.

Touch down.

Our first “real” pass. It felt pretty good. But frankly, slogging up here on skis with four day’s worth of food and wine, crossing multiple avalanche paths seemed much safer.

Let me digress....

Some chillin on the sunny deck at the hut...

And on the last day it dumps something like 20" over night. We got powder turns in March.... sweet as.

And now back to the regularly scheduled program.....

After a brief rest we started down the south side which was much gentler.

We came around a corner and all of a sudden we were back in New Zealand herding sheep by motorcycle. WTF?

We made it down safely and without any further excitement. The south side has a much nicer road. We stopped in Silverton to gas up and restock our box of wine. Thanks to our friends in Crested Butte we realized that camping without wine was really not an option. I have fully embraced the wine in a box concept.

We headed up towards Animas Forks looking for a place to camp. We ended up here:

Another HDR image – but the place really was this surreal.

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Old 09-13-2012, 03:58 PM   #15
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Nice report, thanks
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