Sunday, September 02, 2012

Uraling the Mountain Trails near the Ghost Town of Apex, Colorado

I rode out towards Rollinsville, CO to meet up with Dan K, a fellow Uralisti to do some mountain riding today.  I crossed the Denver Metro area using the I-225/I-25/US6 Freeways in moderate traffic.  Once I reached Golden and went past the Colorado School of Mines, it was a short distance to the turnoff for Golden Gate Canyon Road.

Golden Gate Canyon Road is a nicely curving and twisting two lane road that takes one to the Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  Valencia and I twisted our way through sharp curves, sweeping turns and tight hairpin turns.  Note: Be wary of the western side of Guy Hill, the curves are quite tight, don't go in too hot.

 An interesting building I cruised by and had to go back for a closer look.
Not sure why the clock and thermometer but it is eye-catching.

Yep, a bit chilly at this time in the morning in the mountains.
You could feel the cold seeping into your bones in the shady areas of the canyon road.

I got to the meeting point a bit early so I studied the maps of the surrounding area, finding an interesting looking route that would take one to the old ghost mining town of Apex, Colorado.

Dan was a no show, turned out to be an email issue apparently.  I waited a bit and decided to head down towards Black Hawk, CO on CO119 aka the Peak to Peak Highway,  to its junction with the Apex Valley Road.  This road is smoothly packed dirt with a few rocks here and there poking out of the ground.

Soon enough, I was at the remnants of the old mining town of Apex.  I saw the junction sign with Elk Park Road or Road 4-N but did I take that towards Tolland  You see, I was missing the company of Dan K who lives in the area and he would have known that going past Apex and onto Road 4-S was not a good idea.  : )

So, blissfully unaware that I was now heading upwards in the wrong direction (oh sure, I could have looked at the map but where's the fun in that?), Valencia and I started steadily climbing a not too roughly covered with rocks trail, a couple of hairpins or so and we were at a small flat area where a shelter building stood, with a nice view of what I believe is Mount Evans in the distance:

 Near the highest point of Road 4-S.
I think that's Mount Evans in the distance.

I wonder what that cool looking promontory off in
the distance is called?

We started heading down the trail below and at first it wasn't too bad....sure, rocks all over the place, rutted areas and loose gravel areas.  Then, things got steeper, the rocks got bigger, the ruts got wider and deeper and then things got "interesting".

 A couple of pictures before the terrain got "interesting"

A closer view of that Promontory.

I was slowly working my way down some really long stretches of steep trail, covered in boulders and loose rocks, thinking perhaps I wasn't on the right trail.  Of course, did I check the map at the top of the ridge?  Nope.

Then I hit what turned out to be somewhat of a trap for myself and Valencia.

 This picture of the "trap" was taken later.  I somehow never spotted the trail
that went straight (I have no idea) and instead went down the very steep 
trail on the left side, ending up at the bottom of the V above.

 Here's the left side of the V that I just came down, managed to 
high-center the rig on a big rock but a bit of reverse and gunning the engine
got me free fortunately.

This is a view of the right side of the V.  Very steep, lots of loose gravel
and deeply rutted on the right side of the trail.

After Valencia's clutch cooled down for a bit, I attempted a run up the right side of the V.  I had, by now, consulted the map and I thought the road would lead me back to civilization.  I also didn't want to go back and retrace my steps on the left side of the V, that was rough stuff.

I made it almost to the stop but then the front wheel caught a big rock, and the front end of the Ural was pushed to the right.  I came to a sudden stop with the rig almost perpendicular to the damn trail, with the nose of the rig pointing slightly upwards.  Not good.

A couple of deep breaths, some reversing, turning the wheel downhill, managed to get the rig turned around and it started careening slightly out of control back down the way I'd just come.  I finally regained control almost at the bottom of the V, it was definitely a bit of a fast ride downwards, shall we say.

Another cool down period.  After some slight panic, I tried my phone and I found a spot where I got 1 bar of signal!  So glad I switched to Verizon!  I got hold of Dan K, gave him my GPS coordinates to give him an idea of where I was.  He confirmed that I really was on the wrong road, duh.  I asked him to give me about an hour, and if I didn't check back in, he'd come and see about effecting a rescue.

The next 30 minutes or so was a series of headlong power charges up the hilly slopes that I'd just come down.  I managed to "loosen" my left side mirror by getting too close to a small tree; and for the first time in my Ural-riding career, popped a wheelie while trying to maintain forward momentum on the trail!  That was kind of scary, didn't realize the Ural had that kind of torque.  One more cool down period while on a sloping portion, and it was more hard charging up the slope!

Suddenly, the sound of the engine/exhaust got very loud.  I looked down and damn if I'd apparently managed to hit a boulder hard enough to knock the left muffler out of the catalytic converter pipe!  Damn.  Found a flat-ish spot and stopped to make repairs.

 The spot I stopped at for the muffler repairs.

Big dent on the muffler, not pictured, but you can see how the 
impact pushed the muffler rearward and away from its connection
point with the tube that contains the catalytic converter material.

I got my tools out, even got to use the gloves that come with the toolkit to handle the still hot muffler.  Loosened the clamps and pounded the muffler back into place.  Easy Peasy.  By this time, the clutch had had a chance to cool down once more and off we went towards the second to last hairpin before the top of the road.  We had to stop here as I lost momentum making the turn, so it was time to cool the clutch once again.

 The last cool down spot for the clutch.
It is from here that I got that shot of the V Trap section of the trail

movie here

The movie shows the last few hundred meters of running up the rocky and steep trail to the top of the road.  Man, I was so glad to make it up there, and with a still working clutch!

I returned to Apex, put the GoPro camera away, and headed back towards the end of Apex Valley Road, soon ending up in a parking lot in nearby Black Hawk, CO.  I called up Dan K and checked in.  We made plans to meet at the Last Shot Cafe located south of Rollinsville, about 13 miles away for me for a late lunch.

Lunch took about two hours as we chatted about work, my recent misadventure and escape, motorcycles and stuff we were planning to do on our respective rigs.  It was a bit after 3:00 PM, after a short rain storm, that we exited the cafe and said our goodbyes.  Dan, pictured below, was having trouble with his rig's electric start so he just showed off by using one small kick to crank the engine!

I used Golden Gate Canyon Road again to return back to the Denver Metro Area.  Traffic remained light, the road was still delightfully twisty but this time I found a spot to take a picture:

A spot on Golden Gate Canyon Road

Temperatures, which had started nice and cool up near Rollinsville, climbed progressively as I descended down into the Denver Metro Area.  It was quite warm as I retraced my route along the freeways, traffic was as crazy as ever but at least it was moving.  I was home by 5:00 PM, no fuss, no muss.  A bit over 130 miles or so of riding and surviving a "bugger" of a goat trail, a good day of riding don't you think?


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

You certainly don't believe in getting too much of a good thing, do you? Man! I can't imagine heading down a rocky trail like a coal chute, only to discover you've got to scramble back up.

Do you think the clutch made t through the ride unscathed? Aren't you glad I wasn't in the side car? Great adventure and great pictures.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Bluekat said...

A very good riding day indeed!

Quite an adventure you had there. Good thing you come well prepared. I'd be afraid of getting stuck out there somewhere and having to walk back to civilization! Nice ride report!

Canajun said...

There's an expression that goes something like "Remember, it's not a real adventure until things stop going as planned". By that definition you really did have an adventure.

SonjaM said...

You really get in touch with adventure these days. Are you preparing for the Road of Bones? Man, I was sitting on the edge of my seat when you described your ride.
Glad everything turned out well, and you had the necessary tools, skills and chuzpah to get through.