Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Uraling to catch Sunset at the Garden of the Gods

Rode Valencia, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig down to Colorado Springs to try and catch the sunset's lighting on the famous rock formations at the Garden of the Gods.

Instead of motoring down the I-25 expressway though, I rode to the start of Rampart Range Road just a few miles west of the small town of Sedalia, CO.

The road is packed dirt, two lanes wide (barely at times) with lots of sections which are bone-jarringly washboarded.  The sides of this road are bordered by the occasional campsite and thick growths of pine trees.  You can see, dirt bike trails on the western side of the road, as you have to have state license tags to use Rampart Range road itself.

The road also has the designation of Forest Road 300, and these were the signs I followed along the 30+ miles of dirt riding that it took to finally find the end of the road in the town of Woodland Park.  The road changes names about a block shy of the intersection of it and US24.  Look for Baldwin Street (there's a McDonald's at this intersection)

I had originally planned to camp so I could also catch the sunrise at the Garden of the Gods (GOTG).  Finding myself over 18 miles from the site, I motored on US24 eastbound till I got to the GOTG exit just past Manitou Springs (Home of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway).

It was still way early for sunset pictures when I arrived at the GOTG so I motored onto Forest Road 300 near Balanced Rock (I later, after looking at Google Maps, saw that FR300 splits off and exists in two very different paths, sigh).  FR 300 takes you out of the park on a climbing and twisty dirt road with some great views of Colorado Springs and the nearby mountain peaks of Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain (home of NORAD).

The big mountain in the distance is Cheyenne Mountain

About 23 kilometers of dirt road later, I had ridden through the area devastated by the great Waldo Fire of a couple of years ago.  The area is starting to recover, somewhat, but gone are all the pine tree forests that were there before.  The national forest is closed in these parts due to the fire so no camping here as I had planned!

After reaching the junction with paved road 306 which takes you to Rampart Range Reservoir, I retraced my steps back towards GOTG.

Approaching the GOTG

I thought it was still too early to go sunset picture shooting so since there was no camping in the National Forest near the GOTG park, I motored on back towards Woodland Park to check out some sites I'd seen on FR 300.

Above is the site I had spied on the way down towards Woodland Park.  Big open area with a great view of Pikes Peak as you can see.  However, it was an area where the local liked to come and shoot.  There was evidence of shotgun shell casings, spent pistol and rifle casings as well so not a great spot to camp.

I checked out two other nearby sites but one was already occupied and the other had this old decrepit looking mobile home/trailer alongside the trail leading into the camping areas.  I could hear banjo music playing in my mind so I turned around and bagged the idea of camping.

I killed some time eating dinner at the McDonald's and rode on towards GOTG thinking I had plenty of time for sunset pictures as it was only 7:30 PM or so.  Wrong!  Due to the nearby mountains, sunset at the GOTG happened right about then it turned out.

There were many tourists and a slow moving traffic jam through the park's roads so I didn't make it to the desired spot till at the end of the sunset lighting.  No spot to place Valencia to include her in the pics either due to cars.  Oh well.

I parked Valencia near the spot I'd originally planned on and walked to a spot where I could see the below rocks clearly.

Here's a very shaky time-lapse video.  I didn't have my tripod with me, left it on the rig, so I propped the camera on top of a fence post and held the angle with my hands only.  Not optimal, but should give you an idea of conditions.

I was back at my rig, packing up to ride home when I noticed a rock climber on top of the peak of the tallest rock in the above video:

I swapped lenses on the Sony Camera and got this full zoom with digital enhancement shot for demo purposes:

I finished packing up and rode on home in under two hours.  I rode back towards Denver staying on the I-25 expressway.  Even going at about 60 mph, I still managed to pass a couple of trucks along the way so I wasn't the slowest vehicle on the road that night!


VStar Lady said...

Awesome photo of the sunlight on the slope ... When you're camping, you've gotta learn to listen for those banjos in your head. When you hear them, wise to not stop.

RichardM said...

Nice photos and I'm impressed that you were able to spot the rock climber! I avoid banjo music at all cost...

redlegsrides said...

VStar Lady, thanks for the kind words and commentary....the decrepit camper really did exude a "don't come near me" feel.

RichardM, thanks, though as he was silhouetted against the evening sky, not that hard to spot.

Campgrounds may be boring but at least, one doesn't worry about one's surroundings.

CCjon said...

Finally had a chance to catch up on your travels. Five countries on a URAL, way to go!

Very nice sunset shot. Very nice indeed.

redlegsrides said...

Thanks CCJon, easy to rack up several countries in Europe

ToadMama said...

Some people hear voices in their head, others hear banjoes. LOL.

Gorgeous pics. Looks like you had quite a lovely day.

redlegsrides said...

thanks, Kathy K, it was a good few hours of riding.