Monday, December 17, 2012

Uraling on Guanella Pass Road

Yesterday was a mild day here in the Denver Metro Area with temperatures forecasted to reach a high in the upper 40s.  I left shortly after 9:30AM and left the metro area behind me using US285, heading towards the small town of Grant, CO.

Grant, is the southern end of the Guanella Pass Road, the northern end being anchored by the larger town of Georgetown on the I-70 Super Slab.

The idea today was to do a route reconnaissance of Guanella Pass Road and see how far I could get now that snow plowing has stopped for winter.  This is the same road that fellow Uralisti and other assorted snow riding maniacs try and ride during the annual Elephant Ride.  Here's a link to this past February's Elephant Ride:  LINK.

The ride out from Denver was very smooth, with very little traffic along US285.  Temperatures dropped into the 20s once I was past the foothills and past the town of Conifer.  Turning onto Guanella Pass Road once I reached the town of Grant, the first five kilometers or so were just bare dirt road.  Though I could see signs of snow in the forest to the sides of me, none on the road itself.

Soon enough though, I saw traces of snow on the dirt road and then it became hard packed snow covering the road as I gained altitude on Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig.  I kept the speeds down as I wasn't in a hurry to end up in a ditch.  I was able to maintain good speed, using mostly first and second gear. First gear on the inclines and second on the flat stretches.

There were spots where the snow was a bit deeper than the inch or so that covered most of the road, and I could feel the rear tire trying to slide out from under me.  Still, I eventually made it all the way to the closed metal gate that bars progress about a mile+ from the summit of Guanella Pass.  The last few hundred feet, I had to engage 2WD as there was a stretch of deeper snow that just using the pusher tire couldn't get the rig through.

 Valencia, at the furthest possible point of progress on the
southern half of Guanella Pass Road

The coldest it got up in the gate area was 12.5°F, so not too cold or unbearable.  Thought, I'll admit, I found myself wishing I'd worn the thermal underwear!

 Above is the point where we usually find a huge snow drift,
and is where most folks need a push to get their motorcycle through.

 Coming back down from the top gate, to the 
parking area where folks stage out of for a run at the summit

Leaving the hairpin parking area, continuing on 
down towards Grant, CO

There's a large flat valley through which a stream courses just south of the junction of Bruno Gulch Road and Guanella Pass Road.  Before I got back to this valley though, I turned west onto Bruno Gulch Road to see what I could see.

I didn't go more than a mile I think, and the road started to get a bit snowier and narrower.  I turned around at what looked like a National Forest campsite as I'd neglected to bring along with snow chains and didn't want to get stuck.

The view along Bruno Gulch Road, heading back to
the junction with Guanella Pass Road.

Once back on Guanella Pass Road and alongside the big valley I'd mentioned, I took the time to shoot the short video below.  It gives you a little taste of what my sidecar rig looks like while riding on a snow covered road:

I rode back down towards Grant, CO without any incident or issue.  As Mr Gravity was now my friend, I was able to keep the rig in second gear most of the way down.

Getting back onto US285 at Grant, I headed back towards Denver.  Temperatures had soared into the high 20s once I got back on the highway and it felt positively balmy when compared to temperatures at the top.

I made only one quick stop, at the Santa Maria Camp location.  I was able to walk in enough to take a picture of the statue one can see from US285.  Given the name of the site, I had always thought it was a statue of Santa Maria.....not quite.

20X Magnification

Looking more like what Santa Maria should look like, 
here's Valencia by the shrine near the entrance to the camp.

Continuing eastwards on US285, traffic was not very heavy all the way back to the Denver Metro Area.  I retraced my route and was home around 3:00 PM or so.  Valencia continues to run great, she really seems to like the colder weather.  (Kind of makes sense since cold air is denser, more oxygen for the engine) 

I saw two other motorcycle riders today, one near Conifer and the other near Windy Point, both on US285 so I wasn't the old cold weather rider out there.

Such a mild winter so far, hope you got a chance to ride.


RichardM said...

Beautiful scenery! You are still one of the best promotors of Colorado tourism. They should be a sponsor...

redlegsrides said...

Thanks Richard....I suppose the state tourism board could draw from all the money they think they're going to get from legalizing pot.

SonjaM said...

Valencia looks just smashing in the snow. Like the drive-by video.