Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Southwest Colorado Trip - Day 6 Part 1: The Alpine Loop

A long day of riding today, so many pictures and grand views that I am having to split this posting into two parts!

The day started pretty early as the family and I rose before dawn to ready ourselves for a journey to Silverton and a family event: the touring of the Old Hundred Gold mine near Silverton. We were on the road by 0715 or so and I was riding along with my wife and kids following somewhere behind me in the minivan.

Here's a view of the ridgeline formations one sees to the west of the San Juan Skyway just north of Durango:

Looking north on Hwy 550, a few miles north of Durango, near Needleton

Last time I cruised the eastern half of the San Juan Skyway loop, it was in the afternoon. Today, I hit the same scenic points in the morning and as you can see, the light conditions today were very nice:

The Grand Turk and Sultan Mountains

Twilight Peak

As I continued on, I spotted this Harley Davidson parked off the side of the road with the rider obviously working on it. I pulled over and offered assistance. Turns out he had a flat tire. Not only a flat tire but one with three tire plugs in it. He had been headed, with his wife, to Durango to get the tire changed out. We worked on it a bit trying to find the new hole, turns out one of the old tire plugs had come out and let the air out! He replugged it with the sticky strings method kit and a short while later he was on the road and so was I.

I arrived at Silverton shortly after 10:30 AM and rendezvoused with my wife and sons. We got to the mine just before the 11:00 AM tour.

The tour is quite good, lots of historical facts about mining operations and work itself. Even my sons seemed interested at points, which is unusual. Hard work, mining, glad I don't have to do it for a living.

Once the tour was over, my family went into Silverton to look around. I spent some time taking pictures of the gorgeous views surrounding the mine area and enroute to the Alpine Loop's entry point:

The view from the mine's parking lot

Along CR 4, near Silverton

I got on the Alpine Loop road and started heading up into the hills that it is laid out against. The first mile or so is similar to the start of the "Oh My God" road so not too bad but it does get progressively rougher. Its rated as a four wheel drive road for high clearance vehicles and they mean it.

Still, I took it slow and did fine enough that I did not have any incidents. Lots of times I had to stand on the pegs to negotiate the rockier portions but it was all fine. Here are some of the views along the portion of the loop that I rode on:

An apparently still functional mining operation along the Alpine Loop Road

Views along the Alpine Loop

Not sure which, one of the several mountain peaks surrounding Silverton

I ran out of exploring time around 1:15 PM as I had a business call to make at 2:00 PM. So I turned around where I was on the loop and headed back towards Silverton where my cellphone could get a signal. I made it in about seven miles, some day I'll do the whole loop!

On the way down, the experience I'd gained with the really rocky terrain of the loop road evidenced itself in how easy I found the rest of the dirt trails back to town! I must have barely gone over 20 mph on the way up the loop, on the way back I was reaching 30 mph with no trepidations or issues.

One obstacle I did hit on the way to town though. Sheep. Lots of them. Apparently I'd picked the one day when the sheep herders truck their sheep down from the mountains for feeding around Silverton:

I parked here since the herd was blocking the road

Lucky I stopped, the herder decided shortly afterwards to push them up the road towards me!

I wonder what the sheep thought of Brigitta as they went past?

After the sheep left, I continued on into town and my teleconference. An interesting road that Alpine Loop, turns out it dumps you out on the San Juan Skyway.

Finally, a couple of panoramic shots of the area leading to the Alpine Loop:

Next: Riding the remainder of the San Juan Skyway.

EOD Mileage 77,320


Laura said...

Your pictures are breathtaking. You've done a wonderful job of capturing both the beauty and the majesty of the mountains. I admit, I am extremely green with envy. Thanks for sharing them with those of us stuck out here in the flats amongst the big lakes!

Charlie6 said...

Thanks Laura, wait till you see the next posting...

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo):

While all of these pictures offered great things in terms of color, scale, and composition, I liked the very first one these best. Also, you have ridden on more gravel roads than I would have expected to traverse in an eternity of hell. My hat's off to you.

Fondest regards,
Jack "reep" Toad
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

Jack, yeah everything came out pretty good on that first one eh? Thanks for your ever kind words.