Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Guanella Pass Recce

Recce: A shortened version of the word reconnaissance.  To go look and ascertain conditions.

This past Sunday, Scarlett and I rode out via US 285 to the small settlement of Grant, CO to do a recce of Guanella Pass Road from its southern end.  The northern end of the road is in Georgetown, CO but I didn't want to be on I-70 on a Sunday afternoon, Superbowl game or not, as traffic on a Sunday is usually rather hectic, and during ski season, swarming with impatient imbeciles that like to ski.

I wanted to check snow conditions on Guanella Pass Road since next weekend is the usual weekend wherein riders try and reach the gates near the summit of the pass, while negotiating the snow covered road since the county does not do winter road clearing past the Burning Bear Campground area, several miles short of the summit.

My brother and his family are visiting next weekend you see, and so I would not be able to join whatever riders did show up to make this annual event's attempt to get as near as possible to the usual locked gates.

The ride on US285 was without incident on roads that were 95% clear and dry.  Shadowy areas sheltered some ice/snow but nothing major to report.  Temperatures ranged from the low 40s to the mid to high 30s near Grant, so not too cold and the sun was out in force.  The winds though, wow.  They got especially strong west of Pine Junction, forcing me to use third gear even on the flat spots just to maintain 45 mph!

Bottom line, this year's Elephant Ride riders are going to be blocked even further down the mountain than in previous years.  There's now a new metal gate installed near where the road for Duck Creek Picnic and campground splits off from the main road up the mountain.

The road up to the new gate was mostly dry, but had some large patches of snow-packed ice which caused Scarlett to feel a bit squirrely at times.  Not too bad but I wouldn't have wanted to be on two wheels shall we say.

Here's pictures of the new gate, barring vehicular access further up the mountain.  It's less than one mile from the Burning Bear campground site.

 5 miles or so from Grant, it was about 28ºF (-2ºC) here.

 Probably too deep to go around the barrier on the right side

 Dirt bike riders will no doubt slid their smaller bikes under the barrier
or go around it on the left side.  There's about a four foot gap between 
the trees, and it's not exactly flat ground, but probably doable
for the smaller bikes.

View from the other side of the barrier

The barrier obviously will stop a URAL sidecar rig like Scarlett, so after taking the above pictures, we went for a ride down towards Duck Creek campground:

 Forest Road 119, leads to Duck Creek Campground

The snow on the road to the campground was about 5 inches high, packed in spots and rutted in others.  I found myself hanging off to the right to offset the sidecar wheel being higher than the tug's wheels due to the ruts.  2WD proved necessary almost immediately and throughout.  I went perhaps a half mile, to a point just beyond the sign below and turned around.  I was alone you see, no sense asking for trouble.

Once I got back on Guanella Pass Road, it was just a short hop to another road leading off to the west.  I remembered a large field on a previous outing so I thought I'd give it a try.  I didn't get far, Scarlett got stuck on a low spot right by the large trees pictured below along the trail.  Took me a few minutes to back her out of there but 2WD proved its worth once again, saving me from having to dig her out.

Not much more to do, Scarlett and I rode down back towards Grant, stopping here and there for pictures:

 The river valley one rides by on the way up and down Guanella Pass Road.

 Further south, near the Burning Bear Campground site.

 Descending along curvy roads with just enough ice to keep one
from not paying attention.

This large motorcycle art was positioned near the junction
of Guanella Pass Road and US 285 in Grant.

As I had time on my hands, I elected to motor further south towards Kenosha Pass and to try and get some views of the Continental Divide mountains visible from near Jefferson, CO.  The winds continued to batter at us as we made our way to Kenosha Pass and then descended down to the vicinity of the Lazy Bull Ranch.

The strong winds were blowing up so much loose snow in the mountain peaks that they looked covered in fog.

Wandering a bit closer to Jefferson, the winds blew the snow across the road in such quantities that at times one couldn't see the road!  Good times.  I turned onto Lost Park Road to try and record a short video snippet to give an inkling of conditions.

Lost Park Road, it might be something worth exploring on some other ride.

Now it was time to turn back and head back up to the summit of Kenosha Pass to get a look at the views from the scenic overlook located there.

 About two thirds of the way up to the summit of Kenosha Pass
coming from the direction of Jefferson, CO

At the Kenosha Pass Scenic Overlook.
Check out the view of the mountains forming part of the 
Continental Divide

Here's one last shot, a majestic view of snow-clad mountains visible to folks heading north on US 285 soon after they've gone past Kenosha Pass.  I actually had to turn around to get this shot, the view is usually not that pretty, but the snow made it worth the time.

Refueling at Bailey, CO, it was then just a matter of retracing our route on US 285 back towards the metro Denver area and the home neighborhoods.  Traffic was not heavy, but not as light as I'd hope given the big game but then again, I got home at 1:30PM so the game hadn't started yet.

5.5 hours in the saddle, 255 km or almost 159 miles round trip.  Great day for riding here in Colorado, beats sitting in front of a TV screen any day.


Bluekat said...

Pretty scenes as always, but that wind sounds terrible. Wind always scared me on the bike. It looks like a lot of folks hike in beyond the gates to ski/etc. Too bad they don't leave a space for Urals with sidecars to get around.

redlegsrides said...

Thanks Bluekat but the trucks weren't stopping the URAL....just no room without causing damage to trees which of course is a no-no.

I think dirt bikes will bypass the gate just fine, its just that the Elephant Ride is a non-starter for sidecarists.