Sunday, December 09, 2012

Looking for Snow near the Peak to Peak Highway

The weather guessers had predicted about two inches of snow accumulation for today, with the snow starting on Saturday night.  We woke instead to what looked like just of dusting of snow in my neighborhood which is located SE of the Denver Metro Area.  Quite a disappointing showing I must say.

Still, it was Sunday and while the temperatures weren't expected to get above freezing, it was time to get out and seek out some now.  The cameras at had shown promising pictures of snow covered roadways to the NW of the Denver Metro Area and that's where I headed aboard Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig.  I also had the snow chains onboard in her trunk, I wanted to try them out if I found some good enough snow to provide iffy traction.

I crossed the metro area using US285 and reached the town of Morrison with no issue, the temperature when I got to the Red Rocks Park was in the high teens but it didn't feel cold with my heated grips on high and several layers of clothing on me!

The snow levels at Red Rocks Park proved dissapointing as well, perhaps an inch, tops.  Still, there were but a handful of cagers there so it was like having the park to myself as I rode about posing Valencia.

I did not tarry long at Red Rocks Park, Valentia and I were soon motoring northwards on CO93, heading towards Golden.  Not much to report on road conditions, there were quite dry as one approached the city limits of Golden in fact.  We stayed on CO93 past Golden, wondering where all the snow was, and soon were turning West onto CO72 and the Coal Creek Canyon Road towards the town of Wondervu.

The road stayed dry until I approached Wondervu, then it started getting ice packed and snow packed in spots and long stretches.  This slowed my speed some but no matter as I wasn't going that fast to start with; neither were the cagers that either passed me going East or the ones that caught up with me and I let pass.

I passed by the diner on the side of the road in Wondervu and watched this toddler jumping up and down by the window pointing at me excitedly.  I waved back at her and continued on past the remaining buildings in this smalltown.  Negotiating the tight hairpin turns that followed, I spotted a nice point to pose Valencia and u-turned onto it.

The most snow-capped peaks I saw all day.

I made my way down from Wondervu slowly, and soon crossed through the small town of Pinecliffe where one crosses some railroad tracks; tracks that I believe lead towards to the Moffat Tunnel that pierces the Continent Divide.

Soon I was at the junction with the Peak to Peak Highway and turned South towards Rollinsville.  After a short while, I made a stop at the border of Gilpin County, and took the usual picture of the lake.  It's now frozen over of course but still quite scenic.

Temperatures at this point where in the low teens to single digits at times.  Quite brisk, you might say.  I continued onwards to Rollinsville and upon reaching that settlement turned West onto Tolland Road.  This road leads one towards the eastern end of the Moffat Railroad Tunnel and also to the turnoff for Rollins Pass Road.  Tolland Road was snow covered and packed down, though it wasn't much snow at points, it did make for a scenic ride towards the Continental Divide.  

It was overcast and spitting snow as I rode towards the tunnel so didn't stop for pictures.  You cross over the railroad tracks about three times I seem to recall and the snow accumulations at these crossing made for some fun riding.  As I approached the tunnel, the tight turns and larger amounts of loose snow caused me to engage the 2WD on Valencia.  There was still a bit of fishtailing in points but for the most part 2WD gave me the traction I wanted.  I made it to the parking lot near the tunnel entrance with no further issues.

At this point, it was time to install eight snow chains onto Valencia's pusher tire to see how they held up and worked.  It took about fifteen minutes of work, so not too long a time to be without gloves or helmet.  I got back onboard Valencia and slowly started eastward away from the tunnel entrance.

At the junction with Rollins Pass Road

I stopped a couple of times to check the fit and tightness of the chains and all was well!  I passed a couple of alpine skiers on the snow-covered road and we waved at each other in amusement.  I kept the chains on all the way to the first railroad crossing after leaving the tunnel area.

The tail end of one of the four trains I saw today

I set up a tripod and the Panasonic camera in video mode to record me crossing over this railroad crossing where the snow had gotten mounded up pretty well and was quite loose.  I'd felt the pusher tire try and slide out from under me when I crossed it beforehand so it would be a good test of the tire chains.

I picked this crossing as I had a clear and long view of the tracks and could ascertain no train was approaching with time to spare.  Sunday must be the time for trains as I saw four separate trains within the space of one hour!

Once I was done filming, I retrieved and stored all the gear and headed on back towards Rollinsville, enjoying a sedate pace on the snow-packed road.  I was between snow clouds apparently so I stopped for a bit in a sunlit portion of the road to enjoy the relative warmth.

Soon though it was time to dive into the snow fog that had enveloped the settlement of Tolland.  The skies got overcast once again and the sun was but a vague glow overhead.

Just before I entered the snow fog

It "felt" colder in the snow fog, the temperatures were in the single digits.  I think it was at this stretch of road that I saw the coldest reading of the day: a brisk 3.3°F.

As I approached the settlement of Rollinsville, I stopped by this small bridge to try and capture a view of the mostly frozen over river.

Continuing on, I spied my last train with its lengthy line of cars as I crested a small hill.  I guess it was waiting its turn to go through the Moffat Tunnel.

Once I arrived at Rollinsville, I turned South on the Peak to Peak Highway and reached the town of Blackhawk after a few miles.  Not much foot traffic in town, and I didn't see a lot of cars either.  The traffic though, picked up once I exited Blackhawk heading towards Golden.

For most of the way, the riding was nice and slow as there were some nervous cagers taking it easy on the tight curves that form CO119 and later US6 on the way to Golden.  Once the roads dried up though, the pace picked up and Valencia and I kept up mostly.  I can honestly say we met the speed limit at least and were not proving a delaying factor.  Whoever was in the cage behind me, keeping a nice and safe following distance the whole way to Golden, my thanks!

The rest of the ride was basically reversing the route I'd taken out of the metro area.  Temperatures soared into the teens as I left the mountains behind and entered the city.  I got home after almost six hours in below freezing temperatures no worse for wear.  Ironically, the only time I had the shivers was AFTER I'd taken off my riding gear and entered the house!  Weird huh?

So, not much snow, but enough to test out the chains.  Cold temperatures, some issues with my snow helmet which I must address but otherwise some great riding.


RichardM said...

Nice photos and videos. I especially like the green sky in the first photo but cool video.

redlegsrides said...

Glad you liked them Richard, we make do with what we got in terms of snow.

SonjaM said...

These are the pics that we were waiting for. Valencia dancing in the snow. Beautiful pics, as usual. Now, let the winter fun begin.

Unknown said...


I used to love the snow when I had our Jeep YJ, with the all terrain tires. I'd also go looking for snow as we don't get much, so I sold it.

Your snow is much drier, unlike our mushy slush which is hard to gain traction.

Your snow photos look very nice, esp with Valencia posing. Orange against white is very pleasing

Riding the Wet Coast
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Unknown said...

Definitely not a fair weather rider. Great post and pictures.

redlegsrides said...

Ivan, thanks for the compliment....I do tend to find fair weather riding a bit "boring".