Monday, October 10, 2011

The Switzerland Trail and Fall Colors on the Peak to Peak Highway

Earlier this week, fellow Uralista John S has suggested we take a ride on Switzerland Trail.  It used to be the roadbed for a narrow gauge railroad line, which went through several owners before "progress" made it obsolete.  Please follow the link for more information: LINK

Image Source: LINK
Original photo: WH Jackson

I left the house by 9:00 AM and by 10:30 I was cruising slowly through the historic town of Gold Hill, near the city of Boulder.  You get to the town by way of Four Mile Canyon and turn off on Gold Hill Road to access this old but yet populated town.

A nice view of cloud-topped Sugar Loaf Mountain and
the Flat Irons near Boulder

I rode out of town, heading west looking for the turnoff to the Switzerland Trail.  The fall colors, though not as amazing as the stuff I saw when riding Independence Pass, still showed itself in spots:

Just west of the town of Gold Hill, on Gold Hill Road

After a few miles, I was at the turnoff for the Switzerland Trail.  It looked a bit ominous with snow covering its surface but I saw tire tracks on it so figured if a car could go across, so could my rig!

Less than 1 mile into the trail, the car tracks stopped at this 
muddy clearing. 

I will admit, once I saw the car tracks dissapear, there was some "trepidation" on my part as to continuing onwards without a Uralista or two going along for "backup".  I decided to chance it and motored on.

 There were some iffy moments but traversing the snow-covered
portions of the trail proved quite doable so long as one didn't "gun" 
the engine too much or lose forward momentum.

There were several views such as the one above that almost made up
for the fish-tailing moments on snow when the rear tire on
the tug would break loose and swing left.

I had thought, at the start of this trail, that it would junction with CO72, the Peak to Peak Highway and not force me to backtrack.  Well, this was not to be as you can see in the video.  I hit a dead-end and the only other path was up a very steep hill with an outlet in doubt even if I got up to the top.

So, I ended up backtracking the way I came.  Made it through with no incident as you can see in the video and I continued on Gold Hill Road.  I detoured onto Sawmill Road hoping to see Forest Road 461 junction with it, proving to me there'd been a way through on Switzerland Trail  No such luck, but the road did deliver me to Left Hand Canyon Road:

Sawmill Road, overlooking the paved Left Hand Canyon Road

I rode northwards on Left Hand Canyon Road until it delivered me into the small mountain town of Ward and its junction with CO Highway 72, aka the Peak to Peak Highway.

I rode north from Ward on CO Highway 72, heading towards Raymond hoping for a shot of distant snow-covered mountain peaks.  Heavy overcast skies and low hanging clouds would preclude such desired shots, and this was as close as I got to one:

 Heading north on CO72, somewhere between Ward and Raymond

I rode until I got to the hairpin turn area near Peaceful Valley, turning around at the large rock formation just north of the Peaceful Valley Ranch.  A quick consult of the map led me to turn Yoshie around and head instead south towards the town of Nederland.

Rock formation near Peaceful Valley Ranch

On the way south towards Nederland, I spied a nice photo op location for Yoshie, and got her turned around and posed:

 The large S turn near Peaceful Valley Ranch

My favorite shot of the day, my camera does not do justice
to the Fall Colors in the trees down in the valley.  I
also liked the "threatening" look in the clouds above.

I continued riding on CO72 towards Nederland, every once in a while spotting a small clump of Fall Color among the dense green pine tree growth on both sides of the highway:

Fall Colors along the Peak to Peak Highway

The rest of the ride was pretty unremarkable, not too chilly but I was ready to head back down into the warmer Front Range area.  I must have seen a handful of motorcyclists enjoying the views with me in the mountains.  There were more riders in the metro area of course, out enjoying a warmish day before the next snow storm I guess.

I got home around 3:30 PM, and happy once more to report Yoshie and her drive chain did just fine.  Highway speeds, dirt roads, canyon twists and turns, and it was all good.


Canajun said...

It's probably a good thing I don't get to ride in that country - I'd spend all my time looking at the scenery, until I became part of it myself. Nice ride, and nice pics.

RichardM said...

Nice video of the trail. How was the traction in the snow? Are you considering anything to help in the snow and ice. Maybe if the snow gets deeper?


Couldn't post a comment on the Examiner site as I don't use any of the authentication sources listed...

Charlie6 said...

Canajun, thanks for the kind words.....

Richard, traction was fine except when I gave it too much throttle, then the back end would break loose for a considering car tire chains once I put a car tire in back as the pusher...

WhereThe HellisMurph said...

Nice ride and write up there Dom.
In all fairness to you "favorite shot of the day" pic with yoshie,even a pro photg would of had his work cut out for them given the light you had to work with,or rather lack thereof.Dull cloudy skies are hard to get anything out of,especially colors.

SonjaM said...

Wow, my favourites are definitely 3 and 4. They look almost surreal. You seem to be testing Yoshie's capabilities to the max, and so far she's taken it all.

Charlie6 said...

Murph, thanks for the kind words and yesh, I had to "play" with the color temp and saturation to get the fall colors to "pop".

Sonja: the surreal look is my attempting to get the colors to "pop" through manipulation as my camera failed miserably to capture what my eyes saw.....glad you liked them though. Thanks for visiting.

Brady said...

You make me a bit nervous there, Dom. How's that tug do on those roads, by the way, not sliding precariously toward the gorges, are you? Do you run different tires for an excursion like this?

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Charlie6 said...

Brady, I am the soul of caution....most of the time. The only slides were when I applied too much throttle and luckily I was away from the edge when it happened as it broke the rear wheel to the left.