Saturday, August 08, 2009

The sights along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway

Today's ride was to rack up a couple more passes under my belt near the town of Leadville, CO. The town's claim to fame these days being the highest incorporated town in the USA in terms of elevation. The area has quite the colorful historical events, some of these may be the subject of future rides: Leadville History

I got a late start, leaving sometime around 09:30 AM. To make up for such a late start, I used the I-225/25 superslabs to get to I-70 which I took westbound into the mountains. I reached Frisco shortly before Noon and tanked up. Speaking of tanking up, I am happy to report US6 over Loveland Pass is once again open after a fuel tanker overturned on it earlier this week!

I got back on I-70 westbound for a short sprint to Copper Mountain where I exited onto CO 91 southbound heading for Leadville. I've ridden this road before but I must say it's really a nice road to ride. Majestic mountains lay in the distance while you cruise along nice smooth pavement with thick pine forests on both sides.

On CO 91 looking East, where Clinton Creek has been dammed I think. That is Wheeler Mountain in the distance.

Further along on CO 91, near Climax, CO

Historical Marker, the nation's highest Masonic Lodge's location

I turned northwards onto US 24 just as I entered the town limits of Leadville. Not too long afterwards, I cruised by a sign that said "East Tennessee Pass". Since one of the passes I wanted to ride was Tennessee Pass, I thought that might be it. I turned around and got on the road. It was mostly paved with stretches of gravel and dirt. Not too bad, I passed several campsites but the road stopped just before some railroad tracks. I could see the road continuing beyond the tracks but no way I was going to go across those rails!

Where the road ended for me on East Tennessee Pass Road

I turned back towards US 24, picking up a little speed on the dirt road since I was more familiar with it now. Once more I headed north on US 24 and soon enough came upon Tennessee Pass proper.

Enroute to Tennessee Pass

Turns out, the 10th Mountain Division Memorial site is at Tennessee Pass.

I walked over to gaze at all the names of fallen soldiers who'd fought with the 10th Mountain Division.

I rendered hand salutes and got back on Brigitta, now seeking to find the site of Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain formed and trained during WWII.

The site was just a few more miles north on US24. You really can't miss it as its situated in a narrow valley with Mount Powell to the west and Pearl Peak on the East. I turned off at the entrance and got these pictures.

The camp structures are all gone with the exception of the concrete structures above which must have formed the supports for one of the larger buildings on post.

Here's a nice slideshow of life at Camp Hale, back in "the day": LINK

A nice shot of Camp Hale and its structures: LINK

The "streets" of the camp were now packed dirt, perhaps they had always been packed dirt. I could almost picture formations of marching men, singing cadence and making their way to training. Kind of spooky, actually.

I motored on down to the east end of the valley and turned south along East Fork Eagle road to see what I could see. I went down quite a ways, the road was not too bad; you just had to watch where you were going and slow down where appropriate. Lots of quad ATVs roaming about but we gave each other room.

Sheep Mountain, I believe

Right after taking this picture, the road turned a bit more "GS worthy" shall we say. Still doable by Brigitta, just more dodging of rock outcroppings, holes and what not.

I ended up turning around after a few miles when the trail started looking like it was going up the mountain. No time for that today, some other day when I've a GS. Looking at a map, I would have eventually run into Chalk Mountain Reservoir.

Here's a couple of pics of the rock climbing training area used by the 10th Mountain's soldiers:

In the background, there's a shot of what the camp looked like when active

I believe the picture of the soldier traversing that line was shot through the cleft in the rocks just above and to the left of where Brigitta is located.

I got back on US 24 northbound and soon came upon this view of the red-colored cliff near the small town of Red Cliff. I ate my lunch while gazing at this cliff.

click here for a look at the same cliff, back in 1920

After a quick snack, I rode across the bridge over Eagle River and turned right on the road to Red Cliff. It's a very small town with some "quaint" structures. Lots of slow moving cagers gawking about.

Click here for a look at this church back in 1933

The "town hall" has seen better days.

I left the town and turned right at a sign that said: "Shrine Pass". How could I resist?

The road turned almost immediately into packed dirt with gravel, not bad at all really after the stuff at Camp Hale's southern end of the valley. I cruised along at perhaps 15-20 mph.

At one point I saw a GS coming up fast behind me, I slowed and pulled over to the right. He rode past, gave a wave and soon left me looking at his dust trail. He was moving!

Not much to report about Shrine Pass, never saw a sign for it so no pictures. I lost count of the miles but I soon came upon this sign:

I parked Brigitta at the trailhead to the overlook. It was only a 1/4 mile walk and a nice wheelchair accessible trail. Yes, I was thinking I could have ridden Brigitta down the trail but I didn't. See I do have some self-control.

There's a wooden observation platform at the overlook but its center portion had collapsed. There was "caution" tape preventing one from walking onto it and possibly getting hurt.

Still, you could see Mount Holy Cross in the far distance. It was very hazy today though and this view is the best I could get:

So what made this mountain so famous? Back in 1892 William Henry Jackson captured this picture of snow on the mountain, in the form of a crucifix: LINK

I walked back to Brigitta and resumed my riding on Shrine Pass Road. The road, by the way, apparently goes by Shrine Mountain, hence the name.

Soon after the overlook, I came upon the trailhead for Shrine Ridge. There were a gaggle of hikers there and a small parking lot. I stopped here to pose Brigitta for these shots:

Back on the road again, I soon came upon Vail Pass. This was where Shrine Pass Road ended up at I-70 at exit 190. I turned east on I-70 and found that it put me just a few miles further west of where I had turned south onto CO 91 early in the day!

It was after 4 PM by now and I had to be home to watch the boys since it was "girls night out" for my wife and her friends. The rest of the ride was uneventful superslab riding in medium to heavy traffic.

The temperatures which had ranged from the high 50s to low 60s all day in the mountains steadily climbed as I rode closer to Denver. By the time I got to the C-470 slab, the temperature was in the mid 80s!

My route today

I got home just before 6 PM. Dinner was ready and my wife was actually taking the boys over to play for a while at a friends house! So I had the house to myself for a bit anyways. 307 miles covered today, perhaps 8 hours in the saddle. Plenty of dirt roads, superslabs and two lane mountain roads. A good day of riding.


Canajun said...

Great ride, incredible views. Thanks for sharing.

KEN PHENIX said...

Sweet ride! I am soooo ready to come back there!

Good News: My older girl is tying the knot January 16th. My virtual son-in-law graduates Texas A&M this year with a computer science degree and in interviewing favorably with a company in DENVER! I may get to drive the U-Haul up there and ride the bike home. Here's hoping. :)

Steve Williams said...

Every time I view the landscapes you ride in and read your stories I experience a bit of envy. The diversity of the places available to you must be amazing. I could have a great time in that big space!

Thanks for sharing such a great piece.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo);

Three hundred plus miles of mountains, great views, monuments, and sites of religious significance. It doesn't get much better than this! Your endurance amazes me. I'm planning a ride for the bveginning of this month and it may take me two days to cover the same distance.

I like the idea of ridinbg to sall of the passes in one state. I'm trying to trhink of something I can ride to in Pennsylvania that hasn't been done before. Then again, these sites have to be something worth seeing too!

Great post and pics, Dom.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Unknown said...


as others have said, you are lucky indeed to live in an area so accessible to such great scenery, and your GS capable roads do not really require a GS. I really like the OLD and NEW shots. I also like history and places past. Sometimes it's just hard to believe that real people used to live there "back when"

bobskoot: wet coast scootin