Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Independence Day Ride

A warm Fourth of July Holiday here in the Denver area.  There was smoke in the air after mid-morning from the fires in Wyoming apparently, made everything looked like it was socked in with fog/smog.

As I had "the duty", being oncall for work, I chose to ride near the western edge of the Denver Metro area....Bailey, CO was as far west that I went as I wanted to explore a new dirt road detailed in Steve Farson's great book: The Complete Guide to Motorcycling Colorado.  For those of you who have the book, and I strongly recommend getting it if you ride Colorado, it was ride # 49 Matukat.

I took US285 out of the metro area and took it easy all the way to Bailey where I gassed up for the rest of the day's riding.  I took Wellington Lake Road south out of Bailey and enjoyed the pretty smooth dirt road surface.  The riding was easy and both sides of the road were thickly forested with pine trees and would remain so till I got to the outskirts of the Haman Fire area.

While I rode along Wellington Lake Road, I spotted a trailhead parking area with a date-significant piece of information:

Valencia at the Colorado Trail's #1776 Marker

Motoring onwards, I started seeing a large rock formation/mountain starting to peek through the trees as the road wound its way south.  Soon, Valencia and I came to a wide opening in the trees and there stood what would end up being the mountain formation next to Wellington Lake:  The Castle.

 You know, it does kind of look like a castle now that
I think about it.

Wellington Lake, CO

Steve Farson's description of this ride mentions the stony condition leading up to Stoney Pass.  I must have still been inured by the rocky terrain of the Switzerland Trail for I never noticed any undue stony conditions.  So I either missed Stony Pass or it wasn't much in the way of stony.  In time Valencia and I arrived at the end of what was now Forest Road 550 as it junctioned onto CO 126.  

Approaching Deckers, one can see the land is still trying
to recover from the devastation of the Haman Fire.

We took this nicely paved highway all the way to Deckers where we turned north on CO Highway 67 towards the South Platte River area.  The river was full of either anglers trying to catch fish or folks trying to escape momentarily from the heat by riding inner tubes and floats down the river.  I wonder how annoyed the fly fishermen would get when a group of gabby people floated by, interfering with their fishing?  :)

CO Hwy 67 goes through the small town of Ox Yoke and this time I took the time and stopped by a rusty old gas pump that I'd seen many times before while motoring on this grand motorcycling road.

 In the town of Ox Yoke

 A fuel pump from "back in the day"

Continuing on CO Hwy 67, I passed many more folks on inner tubes placidly floating past rocks with the somewhat swiftly moving current.  There were many people along the banks of the river as well, enjoying the cool waters.  Pretty soon I was riding my usual haunts along the South Platte River road and was a bit offput by the number of people there.  Oh well, they've as much right to be there as I did.  

 My favorite rock formations along the South Platte River 

 Massive boulders constrict a bend along the South Platte River
It didn't seem to stop the folks on their inner tubes however....

 I like to pose my motorcycles next to what remains of the South 
Platte Hotel.  It apparently was a key part of a settlement along the river
back when the South Platte was used to move cargo around the area.

The South Platte Hotel and buildings
Between 1899 and 1937

 Further along the South Platte River Road, once comes upon 
Dome Rock.  What folks often miss, while gazing up at the massive 
rock formations, is a stone memorial tucked away in the bushes
closer to the river:

 More details about this memorial to 
Billy Westall are here

As you can see, someone's taken the time to fix
up the memorial.

I took South Foxton Road back towards the town of Conifer.  Sidecar riders should beware the sharp turn one takes from Platte River Rd onto Foxton Road, I wasn't going very fast but the camber and curve combined to lift my sidecar!  No harm done but it was a bit surprising.

Once I was in the vicinity of Conifer, and since there were no voicemails on my work phone, I elected to ride up Kennedy Gulch Road in search of Conifer Mountain Road.  This is a twisty ride listed in Steve Farson's book as well, and it definitely had its share of sharp curves and big changes in elevations!  Valencia and I rode sedately to the top where we found some good views and a fire station of all things.

 Originally, I thought the smoke I was seeing was from either the
High Park Fire near Fort Collins or the Waldo Canyon Fire near
Colorado Springs.  

 As I mentioned before, turned out the smoke was coming to us from
fires in Wyoming!

Kind of looks like fog doesn't it?
There really was no smoky smell in the air though....

We descended from the top of Conifer Mountain with no issues though we did get turned around and ended up a couple of miles west of where we junctioned before with US285.  Taking this highway east towards the metro area, I left it soon after the town of Conifer.  I took the exit for Pleasant Park Road/High Grade Road which I knew would dump me onto Deer Creek Canyon Road eventually.

 Stopped along Pleasant Park Road, or possibly High Grade Road
Some pretty sharp curves here....

Once I reached Deer Creek Canyon road I turned west towards North Turkey Creek Road.  I wanted to see if I could find the lights that form the giant cross on the hillside where the Mount Lindo cemetery is located.

Once you cross the gated entrance to the Mount Lindo Memorial Park, you've got 1.2 miles of steeply climbing dirt road (very smooth for the most part) which takes you up to the top of what I assume is Mount Lindo (Lindo is Pretty in Spanish).  I must say, on a clear day, the views provided by the location of this cemetery must be pretty spectacular.

I parked Valencia in the shade, downed a bottle of water as the day had gotten into the high 90s by now and I was beginning to feel it.  I walked about a bit and stumbled upon the topmost set of lights belonging to the giant cross one sees in the evening from US285.

 The topmost three lights which comprise part of the large cross
of lights one can see at night from Denver.
That's the Denver Metro Area through the hazy smoke, in the distance

As I walked back towards Valencia, I noticed a plethora of stone angels and such placed at different gravesites.  I hope you don't find it morbid, but I found them quite picture-worthy.

I'd mentioned the smoky/hazy conditions before?  Well, the heat wasn't helping things any, I think we were under a temperature inversion condition, which kept the smoke hanging low among the hills and nearby mountain tops.
 A view of US 285 from Mount Lindo Memorial Park

After I descended from Mount Lindo, it was just hot riding back into the Denver Metro area on US285, enduring the heat and spraying myself down whenever I stopped to alleviate some of the heat.  I made it home sometime after 4:00PM with no issues.  Valencia once again had performed marvelously in the heat and riding conditions I put her through.

Here's hoping you got a ride in during our country's birthday!  I hope you had a great Fourth of July.


SonjaM said...

Dom, what a marvelous set of pictures. Although it the fires are tragic, it is part of nature at work, and your smoky mountains shot is breathtaking.
I don't get tired of the orange bike posing in front of any of your pictures. Certainly an eye catcher. And I wonder whether my next bike should be orange...

Keith - Circle Blue said...

I, for one, appreciate the little snippets of history you interject into your posts. Good stuff the then and now.

And, the photos are always great. Didn't make it out for a ride, but we did hike.

Be safe,
Circle Blue