Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Uraling near Rollins Pass and nearby canyon roads

Today's sunny weather and temperatures in the 40s led me to go further into the mountains to get a view of the snow clad peaks of the front range.

I crossed the Denver metro area using US285 as usual, taking Wadsworth Blvd north to CO8 aka Morrison Rd which got me to the town of Morrison. I took CO93 north out of Morrison, making my way to US6 and soon after to the town of Golden. Once there, I headed west into the foothills on Golden Gate Canyon Rd aka CO70.

I took this twisty canyon road until it junctioned with Crawford Gulch Rd onto which I turned. The sights along this road were unremarkable but the road was nicely twisting in some parts. All the roads today had lots of sand and gravel on them by the way. I seem to recall that the road becomes a dirt road a few miles in so watch for that as well. The dirt roads I encountered today were mostly clear, with some patches of snow packed dirt to make things interesting. As I was riding Natasha, my '96 Ural Sidecar Rig, this was not an issue as it would be for someone on two wheels.

Crawford Gulch leads you to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The park is just a series of picnic sites and trail heads, not much in terms of scenic views as the canyon walls and thick pine forest pretty much take up one's view as you cruise along the park.

A rock formation within the Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Once I went through the state park, I was back on Golden Gate Canyon Rd which I took westward until it eventually junctions with CO119. From that junction, you can head south towards the gambling town of Blackhawk or north towards the town of Nederland.

I first headed south to get this view of the mountains, just south of the road junction:

A view of distant peaks from the junction of CO119 and CO70

I then headed back north on CO119 to see what I could see.

Looking north, behind Natasha, at distant peaks on CO119

Panoramic shot near the Kelly Dahl Campground on CO119

I went past the town of Rollinsville, where the road to Rollins Pass begins. I kept going when I saw the sign that said the pass was closed 19 miles further down the road.

I then got to the junction of CO119 and CO72, again I stopped and this time broke out my map book to get my bearings. It was then that I realized that Rollins Pass led to the eastern end of the historic Moffat Tunnel which goes under the Rockies and comes out near Winter Park, CO. It was the first tunnel to cross the Continental Divide and gave Denver access to the western part of Colorado by train. It's also something I'd been wanting to see for a long time!

I turned around and went the two miles back to Rollinsville. I turned onto the Rollins Pass Rd aka the Hill Route. I kept my eye on the rail line as I rode along this dirt road. Pretty soon, there was a nice small peek at the upcoming mountain peaks that the tunnel crosses under:

My first peek at the peaks, enroute to Moffat Tunnel's Eastern Entrance

A closer view of the mountains near the Moffat Tunnel

Getting closer....

I came upon the remnants of the settlement of Tolland, and took Natasha's picture in front of what remains of their train station. Back in the day, I am sure this was a busy place, now not so much.

The Tolland Station sign, the actual station is apparently long gone.
You can see old pictures of it by clicking here and selecting historical images, and searching for call numbers: X-13839 and MCC-2286

The few houses that do remain in Tolland however, enjoy the following view of the mountains:

Continuing on, I was perhaps 10 miles from Rollinsville when just after passing the turn to go up the hill route towards Rollins Pass; I found the eastern end of the Moffat Tunnel! Now all I have to do is find the western end of the tunnel near Winter Park and I can check it off the list of things to explore for....

The Moffat Tunnel, Eastern Portal
You can see old pictures of the tunnel entrance by clicking here and selecting historical images, and searching for call numbers: OP-11254 and GB-6647

More information on the Moffat Tunnel here at Wikipedia

I left the tunnel site and headed back towards Rollinsville, making good time on the snow packed dirt road that had very little traffic. Even spotted a train stopped on the tracks, I guess they were having lunch before going through the tunnel.

Rollinsville, coming back on the road that leads to the Moffat Tunnel
You can see an old picture of the town by clicking here and selecting historical images, and searching for call number L-406:

Once back on CO119, I resumed my way north until I got to the junction with CO72. I took CO72 and started making my way back to Denver. CO72 is also known as Coal Creek Canyon Road and is nicely twisty along several portions. There is also several opportunities for some shots of the distant peaks, rock formations and several hairpin turns to get your attention!

My favorite hairpin turn on CO72

Another view of distant peaks, this time on CO72

The final major rock formation before one reaches CO93 and "flat lands"

Eventually, all twisting canyon roads come to an end, and so it was with CO72. I got to the junction with CO93 and took it south back towards Golden and Denver.

But before I got to the metro area, there was one more large rocky ridge with cool rock formations to delight the eye of the rider:

Panorama of the rocky ridge line one sees on the way down to Golden

The rest of my ride was plain riding on highways, retracing my route through metro Denver and back to my home neighborhoods. Got home around 4:30 PM, about 8 hours in the saddle and 255 Km ridden. (153 miles)

TLS note: Started the ride at around 11.5 volts, and ran down the deep cycle battery to 8.0 volts as I got ready to get on the I-12 slab to go to the I-225 exchange. Natasha started running badly at 8 volts and I could not get her speed above 45 mph! I took the Tamarac Street exit, found a safe spot to park and hooked up my backup battery to the main battery. She fired right up with the kick start and I made the remaining 9 miles home with no issues. One is totally dependent on kick start, by the way, when the volts dropped to 10.5 and below. So it's a good thing Urals come with them!


SonjaM said...

Since I am currently stuck in Winnipeg (work related...), I really appreciate your riding report. Let me tell you that I very much enjoyed the virtual ride and the panoramic pictures.

Richard Machida said...

Since I'm stuck in the middle of a cold spell, I appreciate your ride report as well. Great pictures really make me want to spend time exploring Colorado.

Thank you

motoroz said...

Love the report. I have been in that area in the summer and I love it. I really like Nederland and that road.

irondad said...

That does it. CO72 is going onto my "must ride" list!

Funny how 40 degrees makes us want to go out and ride while certain people on the right coast are grumpy about it, isn't it?

Of course, now that Jack has his Gerbing..... well, you can imagine.

Charlie6 said...

Sonja, thanks for visiting and writing your kind comments.

Richard, thank you as well for your kind words....come and visit, there's room here.

motoroz, yeah, the roads leading to/from Nederland are cool riding roads. Some day, I have to find where they've stashed the frozen dead guy.

Irondad, I knew you'd like that hairpin turn, if anyone can do it justice, I know you would.