Saturday, August 16, 2014

Uraling to Jones Pass, almost.

Welcome to post #1366, a calendar reminder popped up this week, seems I started blogging on the 13th of August 2006.  It's been quite the ride and the steeds have come and gone, but whether on two wheels or three, it's been quite the adventure at times.

Today I rode out of the neighborhood shortly after 8:00 AM, the sun was shining, temperatures were in the high 60's but it was forecasted to be a hot day today.  All the more reason for today's destination, the nearby mountain trails near the small town of Empire, Colorado.

I slabbed it through the Denver metro area, and took the I-70 Super Slab westbound all the way to the exit for the small village of Dumont where I tanked up.  Then it was a short stint on frontage roads until I reached the junction of US40 and I-70.  I took US40 northwards, through the small town of Empire and turned south off its main street to see the start point for Empire Pass.

The first time I took a sidecar rig onto the gnarly start point for Empire Pass, it was my '96 Ural Sportsman: Natasha.  Her alternator gear would shear off the next day, but that day, she did fine.

Empire Pass, 2009

I show you the above picture because the pictures I took today of Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol, somehow didn't make it into the SD card.  Weird.  

The ascent, on the rock strewn and rutted steep trail to the right went fine, though I thought I was going to get stuck a couple of times.  The EFI powered the rig on through though and after some major bouncing by both rider and rig, we made it to the top.

At the top, there's a small clearing past the rock gate, and no further evidence of a road that follows the side of the mountain.  There is a small rocky trail heading towards the west and upwards but I'd been on that trail before and to call it a goat trail would be too kind.  I did happen upon the entrance to a cave however, almost tall enough to stand in but I didn't go in, maybe next time when I've a fellow rider along.

Dark looking cave located past the start point of Empire Pass,
near the clearing past the stone gate.  

Turning Scarlett around, it was time for a few pictures from the lofty heights of Empire Pass.

 Looking east, you can see I-70 far below

 The Rock Gate

 Looking west, I-70 once more show below, Georgetown Lake 
in the distance.

Zoomed in view of Georgetown and its lake

image courtesy DPL: WHJ-593
circa 1882-1900

I retraced my route back to the town of Empire and took US40 out of town and towards Berthoud Pass.  I chose not to go all the way to the summit, no challenge as there was no snow of course.  I stopped near the summit for:

On US40, the road to Berthoud Pass, looking towards the west.

I descended back down US40 a couple of miles and took the exit for the Henderson Molybdenum Mine and Jones Pass Road.  Soon I was making steady progress up Jones Pass Road, slewing the rig around on the hairpin turns and keeping up the momentum.

 The scenery and views as one motors up Jones Pass Road

On a URAL Sidecar, with its dry clutch and lack of low gearing, one must keep momentum or one risks over-heating the clutch.  I would end up making it all the way to the motorable top with only one stop to cool the clutch plates; and that was because this tourist in a pickup truck was going too slow and I caught up to him with no flat spot to rest the rig.

I did mention making it all the way to where it was rideable right?  Turns out, even in mid-August, there was still a band of snow blocking the way to the very summit of Jones Pass.  Drat.  But, no big deal, it was a short climb up some steps previous visitors had hacked into the snow and there was the view from Jones Pass:

 Looking west, if you look close you can see the faraway peaks 
of some of the mountains visible from Jones Pass' summit
Altitude a bit over 12,000 feet.

 This band of snow blocked the road to the summit, you can
see where cars are parked on the other side of the snow bank

It was pretty slick walking on the snow bank blocking the road.
I ended up sliding on my butt down to the road!

After carefully turning Scarlett around on the narrow shelf of a road, we made our way slowly back down the mountain.

A view of the Henderson Mine Complex, that straight line cut
near the peak is man-made it seems.  Take a look via the satellite
view of Red Mountain (search for Henderson Mine, Colorado on

This is a screen capture from google earth, showing Jones Pass
summit (red arrow) from the straight line cut near the peak of Red Mountain
in the previous shot.

I took US40 back towards I-70 and rode via frontage roads all the way back to Idaho Springs.  From there it was the I-70 Super Slab all the way back down to the metro area.  Boy, I sure am glad I rode up when I did this morning, it was a slow moving parking lot on the westbound lanes on I-70, for miles!

Made it to the metro area with no issues though I did notice the temperatures rapidly climbed from the enjoyable 60s in the mountains to the high 80s and low 90s in the city!  Still, as I was staying on the slabs, the wind kind of made the heat bearable.

That is, until I spotted this FJ Cruiser with unique stickers and a couple of red gas tanks mounted on top.  It was none other than Scott M. out for ride.  He's a fellow Uralista and he was enroute to Pikes Peak for an afternoon drive.  We spotted each other at about the same time and through hand signals we took the next exit and parked on the side of the road to chat.

Scott M and his FJ Cruiser, quite the off-road beast it is too.
It performed rescue duties for two rigs during this year's trip to Moab.

We chatted about this and that and he agreed to post something soon for a group ride, perhaps to California Pass or perhaps I think to Rollins Pass via the west side which starts in Winter Park.  We shall see.

I was quite sweaty just standing around talking to Scott so it was quite the blissful cool down when I started moving again.  Still, I couldn't get home fast enough to get out of the heat!  Made it home with no issues, a great day of riding with Scarlett.


SonjaM said...

Awesome panos, Dom.

With your knack for adventure including off-roading with your hack, I was wondering if you'd like to do this eventually:

Charlie6 said...

thanks for the info on the transam trail SonjaM! The North-South route was done by a fellow Uralista I think....he really enjoyed it.

Richard M said...

Congrats on eight years of posts! Did you think that blogging would continue for this long? I haven't really explored many of the dirt roads around here. I think that I'm still trying to see how durable the Ural is.

Arizona Harley Dude said...

The pictures are stunning! Eight years blogging is impressive. Keep up the great work!

Buy Cycles Online said...

Wow.. Awesome wonderful Place to going outing. Great places Thanks for sharing..

Charlie6 said...

Thanks RichardM, your Ural will take a lot if long as you keep regular checks such as spokes being tight, fasteners, fluids and of course carry the toolkit. If the dirt trails are dusty, a spare air filter. I look forward to pics of your rig in Deadhorse though I wonder if that stuff they spray on the roads will harm that paint job.

Charlie6 said...

You're welcome BCO....

Trobairitz said...

It looks like you and Scarlett had quite the adventure. And you managed a hike while setting up the GoPro too.

I bet you get winded quickly at that altitude, or are you pretty used to it from living mile high anyway?

Congrats on 8 years and that many posts. A record for sure.

Charlie6 said...

Thanks Trobairitz, I am used to being a mile closer to the sun than most of you flatlanders but still get winded since I am out of shape and lazy. ;)

Charlie6 said...

Thanks AZ HD, doesn't feel like eight years....