Pass Bagger 50 - 2008
I never get tired of riding the mountain passes in Colorado with their beautiful scenery and curvey roads. Here are some of the
details of my rides in 2008 for the
BMW Motorcycle Club of Colorado's
Pass Bagger 50.
For maps and more pass photos, check the passbagger.org site.
July 25, 2008 – #113-121 - Tenderfoot Pass, Hoosier Pass, Victor Pass, Twin Creek Pass, Twelvemile Pass, Copper Gulch Divide, Promontory Divide, Mosca Pass, Pass Creek Pass.
Early in the year I was busy helping to plan the Concours Owners Group’s National Rally and putting on the 2008 version of the Two-Bits Rally, but in July I finally put a ride plan together and set off with my KLR650 for points south. I cut across the mountains from Sedalia to the Platte River and Deckers, then travelled through the pretty pine forests to Woodland Park on my way to the Cripple Creek area where four minor passes awaited. First up was Tenderfoot Pass, one that is listed in Helmuth’s book as being on CO-67 not far from Cripple Creek. I had the coordinates and a fairly close idea of where the pass is located, but there wasn’t an obvious summit so I stopped as close as possible to the location and took some photos.
On a good gravel road not far to the south was Hoosier Pass, not the same Hoosier that is between Breckenridge and Fairplay. At the flat summit, near several old mines, is an interesting collection of mining equipment and signs telling about the Hoosier Pass area. The sky was big and blue and there was almost no traffic, making for a quiet, relaxing stop. One of the benefits of bagging passes on non-paved roads in Colorado.
Following the road to the south several miles I came to Victor Pass where there is a stone monument and a story board telling about the Victor mining district. To the east is the back side of Pikes Peak. Across the road is a scenic, old passenger rail car. And just to the south is the picturesque town of Victor, unspoiled by the gambling business that has changed nearby Cripple Creek so much. After wandering around on the main streets lined with old buildings, and within view of several idle head frames at the mines, I got some good photos of an old rusty tow truck. (A car guy ailment. Others would have come home with photos of the old structures.)
I left Victor via the curvy road that passes by a fairly new, huge, active gold mine. No more picks and shovels down in small, dark and damp tunnels. But it sure isn’t photogenic like the remains of many other old mines on the way to Cripple Creek where I quickly toured the town and took some photos of the steam locomotives that were powering up for the day’s tourist business. (A train guy ailment, complimented by an aircraft guy ailment that led me to take pictures of the Huey helicopter on display at the west edge of town too.)
From Cripple Creek I headed west and north and followed the winding road towards Florissant. Right near the southern boundary of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument I stopped for photos at Twin Creek Pass, a fairly flat, but obvious summit. (When you know what you’re looking for, knowing that you’ve been alongside Twin Creek for a few miles, and are watching the GPS coordinates counting toward the known location). There weren’t any signs marking the spot, but the trusty black felt marker soon took care of that problem. A few photos later I was on my way south.
Earlier in the summer I had seen pictures of lots of old cars at Guffey, so I traveled through the high altitude ranch and forest land to another little town I hadn’t visited before. When I got there I stood in the middle of the vacant street and snapped photos of old, faded, and rusty Fords, a Chrysler, a Buick, and a Chevy panel van. Quite a bit different than the shiny hot rods and muscle cars at some car shows in Denver a few weeks earlier. But to a car guy, both kinds are both pretty cool.
I headed south from Guffey riding on CO-9, one of those roads less travelled, as it winds and drops in altitude toward the Arkansas River. I came to the stop sign at US-50 and realized I had crossed Twelvemile Pass without noticing. I turned around and closely watched the GPS until I reached a hill top whose coordinates matched what I was expecting. After some photos of another minor, unmarked pass I turned around and headed south again.
At Parkdale, at the northwestern end of Royal Gorge, my route took me south through Copper Gulch, a winding paved road with hills and cliffs along on either side. The road eventually reaches an unmarked, but obvious summit, called Copper Gulch Divide. The land to the south falls away to a horizon many miles distant in the Wet Mountain Valley. After riding about 12 miles of gravel roads toward that horizon I reached pavement near Westcliffe, a good spot to fuel the bike and to take a Clif Bar “lunch” at a city park.
Back on the road again, with lots of big sky ahead of me, and the mighty Sangre de Cristo mountain range to my right, I eventually came to Promontory Divide. Out in the middle of nowhere and not much to see, marked only by the signs for Custer and Huerfano Counties. Looking closely, it is now also marked on a small telephone company box by the fence line as “Promontory Divide, 8979’, 270850”. Every dual sport rider knows to carry a black marker pen along with tools, patch kit, …
Continuing south on CO-69 I passed the turn off for Medano Pass. According to reports I had read, the road gets fairly rough toward the top, something I wanted to avoid while riding solo. But not far away was the road west to Mosca Pass which travels along the edge of a green valley, passes some old adobe building, then turns to gravel before starting the climb to the summit. It was in pretty good shape, so good that there was a Volvo station wagon parked just over the summit at the hiking entrance to the National Park. All the way to the top I was watching the dark clouds and hoping it wouldn’t start raining. Two road graders were busy and the fresh dirt spread around could have become very messy, something which causes the Avon Gripster tires to become Slipters.
I made it up and back down just fine, then turned south on gravel roads to Pass Creek Pass, which is not far off US-160, just west of La Veta Pass. After a stop for photos, I rode on over to Old La Veta Pass to photograph my GPS (to document the location from a previous Pass Bagger ride) and the old 1929-vintage historical marker stone (the bronze plaque is long gone). Then back to the paved highway and up to new La Veta Pass for another GPS photo.
By then the skies to the south and east were looking ominous. I pressed on and soon ran into heavy rain, which wasn’t a problem since I was wearing good riding gear (ATGATT), but some cruiser riders coming the other way looked really cold and wet with light jackets and no helmets. Near La Veta I pulled over to think about my plans to ride on south to Cordova Pass. The skies in that direction were so black and full of rain that I couldn’t even see the upper three fourths of the Spanish Peaks, which normally stand out because they are on the edge of the prairie by themselves. Sometimes it’s smarter to ride another day, so I decided to just head on home.
Riding I-25 on a KLR650 isn’t a whole lot of fun, but it got me home after a 14-hour, 450-mile day that included nine more passes for the Pass Bagger, an 81,109 foot (the sum of their altitudes) ride. Throw in Ute Pass, Old La Veta Pass, La Veta Pass, and Monument Divide, along the day’s route and it becomes a 116,421 foot ride. Living and motorcycling in Colorado never gets old!
September 20, 2008 – #122-123 – Fawn Creek Pass, Rifle Sight Notch.
Back in 2005 Rollins Pass was the destination for my first Pass Bagging ride on my new-to-me KLR650. It certainly was a fun day on a motorcycle! Later on Carl Thomte (who has bagged 130+ passes so far) told me about other minor passes near Rollins. So it was back to the books and other references to map some more routes.
With the planning done, on a partly cloudy Saturday I rode west on I-70 to US-40 and the town of Empire where I carefully avoided a citation in the notorious speed trap. Right by the Hard Rock Café (an original mining town place, not the big, fancy chain) I turned west on Main Street which crossed a bridge and turned into Bard Creek Road. About 1 ¼ miles later I reached the base of Empire Pass, an old route to Georgetown that pre-dates nearby I-70 by about 100 years. To me, the last 25 yards to the summit looked a little steep and rocky to attempt while riding by myself, especially with the exposure on the smoother side. I walked up and down the hill two or three times scouting a good path and deliberating. I eventually decided to skip it and press on. You’ll probably look at it and zoom right on up.
Back on I-40 I had the normal good time on the sweepers and tight curves leading to Berthoud Pass, where I stopped for photos of the newly relocated sign. I then continued on to the Winter Park ski area and turned east onto the forest road that goes to Rollins Pass. Since it wasn’t summertime any more, I had the narrow road almost to myself and enjoyed the fall colors and the views toward Winter Park, views that weren’t there before the Forest Service started cutting a lot of the trees killed by the pine beetles. After a little searching for Fawn Creek Pass I found the conjunction of the coordinates and a cross road. It appears that the old pass road crossed a summit, while the current road travels along the wide part of the saddle. The spot is now marked by a “Moffat Road Hill Route, #22” sign, once the location of the railroad’s Ranch Creek Wye and Morgan Spur.
Cruising and bouncing on up the road I soon came to Rifle Sight Notch. At one time a tunnel went under the notch, but that has caved in. But the old railroad trestle over the notch is still there. The site provides some good material for interesting photos.
At that point I could have minded the skies better and headed home, but I continued toward Rollins Pass. Along the way was a side road to Boulder Pass, but my books said the forest service had closed it off because 4WDs were tearing it up too much. It is a rough route, but Carl got his KLR up there a while back. The parking lot at Rollins Pass is usually full during July and August while folks walk down the old rail bed to two more trestles (traffic isn’t allowed past the parking lot), but the lot was empty except for me and two guys on ATVs. I took a few quick photos, and then headed back down, hoping to beat the rain and/or snow that seemed ready to fall at any minute. The road to myself, a good suspension, standing on the pegs, making good time, grinning in my helmet.
It didn’t take long to get back to US-40, cross Berthoud Pass again, and then to detour onto the Henderson Mine road to get an idea of what the route to Jones Pass was like. After a couple of miles it started getting rough, the temperatures were dropping, and I was running short on time, so I turned around and buzzed home. Another great day ride in the Rockies.
October 4, 2008 – #124-126 – Greenhill Divide, Wixson Divide, Hardscrabble Pass.
My Pass Bagging ride in July was originally intended to be a two-day ride with the first day ending somewhere around the Spanish Peaks, then the second day coming home via the scenic and winding CO-165 west of Colorado City. But it was raining so hard south of La Veta that I bypassed that road and the Shelf Road out of Canon City.
To make up for that, my neighbor Dave and I took off on a cool but sunny day with our road bikes, a Kawasaki Concours and a Honda ST1300 to bag the paved passes and to enjoy the changing fall colors. First up was an Iron Butt paced ride on I-25 from the south Denver area, through Colorado Springs and Pueblo, to Colorado City. There we got off onto the more agreeable two-lane and stopped at Greenhorn park for photos of another vintage 1932 bronze historical plaque, this one telling the story of Cuerno Verde.
We continued northwest through the small town of Rye, then began climbing into the Wet Mountains on the twisty road. Before long we ended up behind a couple of slow cars, so we just relaxed and cruised along enjoying the golden aspens and the views back down to the prairie. We made a quick stop at Greenhill Divide for photos and then stopped at Bishop’s Castle not far away. The castle, complete with a fire-breathing dragon on the front, is a very impressive place, but I didn’t quite have the nerve to climb the winding stairs all the way to the top. And the wrought iron walkways around near the top can make one feel just a little uneasy. Meanwhile Jim Bishop was on fine form loudly commentating on current political topics.
We finally jumped back on the bikes and rode to Bigelow Divide, another pass I bagged in 2005, then stopped for photos at Wixson Divide. I crossed it in 2005, but didn’t take any pictures because there wasn’t a sign. Since then I’ve read the rules more closely and realized that photos of the distinctive landscape in the area is sufficient documentation. The landscape that day included lots of yellow aspen trees.
At CO-96 we turned west and climbed toward Hardscrabble Pass. The temperature dropped by 10 or 15 degrees by the time we got there and found the summit on a fairly flat bit of ranch land. There isn’t a “Hardscrabble” sign, but there was a sign reading “Watch your curves. Eat more beef”. After the necessary photos, we returned downhill toward Wetmore, came around a corner in the canyon, and braked heavily for a big black bear wandering across the highway. Very cool. Too bad we didn’t have our cameras handy. North of Wetmore we paused at a historical marker that told the story of the Hardscrabble mining area, passed by the maximum security prison, and stopped on main street Florence for lunch at a café.
After the relaxing stop, we rode to Colorado Springs via CO-115, up and down hill, through a pretty canyon, and past Fort Carson, home of the U.S. Army folks that are sacrificing greatly to defend our nation. North of the Springs we went past the U.S. Air Force Academy where our future USAF leaders were taking a well-earned break to compete in a college football game.
It was another fun and interesting Pass Bagging day ride, this one bringing my total up to 126 passes, each of them reached by riding some of the best and most scenic roads in Colorado. Now it is time to start mapping rides for next summer.
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