28 October 2015

Stardate 2015.822

Boreas Pass II

Hi folks, snow finally arrived in the high country this past Thursday. Thus, Snowcatcher and I made a Saturday foray back to Breckenridge and Boreas Pass to polish off some unfinished two-wheeled business. Most of the trail riding in this area probably is done for the season. The lower elevations of Boreas Pass road were wet and muddy but almost melted-off, whereas the pass proper was blanketed with 7 or 8 inches. Closer to the pass, there had been enough auto traffic to pack down the snow into ice; this made for a very slippery decent. I may have descended the upper mile slower than I ascended it.

Boreas Pass sits at 11,482 feet above sea level. It's seen life as a mining, wagon, railroad and auto track. During the warm season, it's an easy drive for most high-clearance vehicles. However, once the snow starts to fall, the road is gated shut, and cross-country skiers take over. Two drafty late 1800s cabins sit at the top of the pass. During the winter, the cabins are rented out to travelers donning skies and snowshoes. Here are some pics from our two-wheeled day.

Snow highlights the midsection of the Tenmile Range.

13,684 foot Bald Mountain (state rank #156) towers above Boreas Pass Road.

Point 12,331 is a weathered bump on Hoosier Ridge (12,331 is the elevation of the bump).

The Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge railroad crossed Boreas Pass. Trains filled up with water at Bakers Tank, several miles below the pass on the north side.

Bakers Tank signage

Approaching treeline, the road surface went from wet, muddy muck, to icier slush and snow-packed conditions.

At the 11,482-foot pass, Section House was built in 1882 and refurbished in 1996. The cabin holds 12 guests. Its original function was to house a resident family who took care of a section of the rail line. Rail workers and other guests would seek shelter here as well.

Ken's Cabin sits at the 11,482-foot level of the pass as well. This quaint, one-room, minimalist cabin was built in the 1860s and refurbished in 1996. Ken's Cabin only holds 2-3 people and is not reserved for multiple groups. It costs $75 (for 2 to 3 people) per night. Sorry, Valentine's Day has already been booked. Section House and most other backcountry cabins rent out per head and are a bit too communal for my liking. On a side note, ghosts also are claimed to reside here.

The Black Pearl likes to ham it up a bit.

The packed snow/slush made for a very slippery descent for a mile or so.

Here's another angle of Bald Mountain basking in the sun.

Look, it's one of those Snowcatcher types.

As we descended, late afternoon shade began to dominate the valley.

Not too terrible for as mucky as it was.

That's it for now. I'm not sure what's on the docket yet...


21 October 2015

Stardate 2015.805

Where's the Snow

The weather forecast was for sunny skies in the high country. Mountain snows have been minimal this autumn. Snowcatcher and I took advantage of the dry by taking the mountain bikes out for jaunt up, and possible summit of, 11,481-foot Boreas Pass (pronounced Bore-ays) from the Breckenridge side. Weather quickly changed as we started up the 133-year-old rail grade. Nonetheless, we got a little ride in before the wet hit.

In the 1860s, Boreas Pass was used by gold prospectors to travel from South Park to the Blue River area of Breckenridge. Around 1866, the road was widened to accommodate wagons and stagecoaches. The Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad began laying rail in 1882, and all that hard work was abandoned in 1937. The US Army Corps of Engineers designed the rail grade for auto traffic post World War II. Boreas Pass was named after Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind. I hope you enjoy the pics. I used the iPhone as a camera again.

Clouds were quickly brewing above Breckenridge and the northern Tenmile Range.

13,684-foot Bald Mountain (state elevation rank #156)

There were still some patches of color here and there.

The road cuts had some color too.

Next year's soil vitamin supply

14,265-foot Quandary Peak (rank #14) rises at the far left.

From Victorian-era mining to 21st-century mega-ski resort, Breckenridge can share some history.

We didn't get any snow, but we got some cooler temps and rain. I must admit, even though we need the snow to start piling up, I like being able to ride my bikes this far into the autumn.

Stay tuned...


16 October 2015

Stardate 2015.792

On Borrowed Time

Autumn greetings! I managed to play hooky several days ago to savor the beautiful fall weather that had settled in. The Black Pearl and I decided to go to Frisco, Colorado, to visit a difficult portion of the Colorado Trail (CT) that we have not been on. The aspen leaves in Frisco are at peak color and leaves of most of the aspen groves at higher elevations are gone. Nonetheless, a few holdouts may be found.

Segment 7 of the CT is only 12.8 miles in length. However, the route is rocky and loose and tops out in the clouds at 12,500 feet. In a nutshell, Segment 7 of the CT shares real estate with Gold Hill, Miners Creek and Wheeler trails.

From Frisco, my goal was to ride up the Peaks Trail to the Gold Hill Trail. Then I planned to continue up Gold Hill (I'm on the CT now) to an old, isolated, Miners Creek trailhead where I planned to ascend Miners Creek to high alpine riding along the ridgecrest of the northern Tenmile Range. After several miles of tundra riding, a westerly descent down the Wheeler Trail would deposit me at the Copper Mountain Ski Station, and I'd return to my car via the Tenmile Range bike path. Confused? So am I. Following are a handful of pics.

The ride up the Peaks Trail was not difficult, albeit loose in places. Views of 12,933-foot Tenmile Peak (left) and 12,805-foot Peak 1 seized my attention at every clearing. Yes, there are a lot of dead trees. This particular region has been hammered by beetle kill. I'll leave beetle kill alone for now, as I'm a bit opinionated on this infestation.

I only made about 4 of the 6.5 miles to the Wheeler Trail. The rumor mill had ground out information that this horrible (for bikes) portion of the CT was extremely steep, rocky and loose and not too enjoyable. QUITE CORRECT! Although, in hindsight, I enjoyed the day. This also may have been the most difficult day I've had on a mountain bike. I'm confident I pushed the Black Pearl as much as I rode, literally. Coming down was difficult as well, but somewhat ridable. The trail ascends the fall line – straight up! Oh well, it means I get to go back. However, I'll likely start in Copper Mountain when I do.

Entering the subalpine ecosystem of spruce forest

Nights are getting cool

Treeline and the east shoulder of 12,866-foot Peak 4

Note the small trees on Peak 3's eastern ramparts; they're small because they're trying to make a living in an avalanche run-out zone.

I had to be back in the Denver metro area by 6:00. Once I figured how slow the riding would be, I picked 2:00 as my turn around time. I missed my overall goal by about an hour. Although the trail was becoming more ridable, the altitude would begin take a toll on climbing. My altitude at turn-around was about 11,500 feet, 1,000 feet lower than my planned high point. An uneventful drive home put me back in town on time.

That's it for now. Thanks for perusing...


13 October 2015

Stardate 2015.784

iFall 2

Snowcatcher and I awoke to 30 Fahrenheits prancing around outside. Fall was definitely in the air. A predawn ride put us in position to catch first light on the Elk Range. Sadly, this was our last day. Here are a few picks from Day Two of our adventure. The following pics are again from my iPhone.

First light bathes the higher realms of the Elk Mountains.

First light hits Teocalli Mountain (13,208 ft, rank 478) along with Castle Peak (14,265 ft, rank 12) rising just behind (head in the clouds). Ubiquitous bovine still were grazing in the tall grass all over the place.

Gothic Road – a route into paradise.

A meandering East River greets first light. The two-tone vegetation split at the fence-line is correct. I'm not sure what the difference in vegetation is. It would be interesting to find out.

The northern ramparts of 12,625-foot Gothic Mountain patiently wait for some warmth on a sunny 30-degree morning.

The East River makes its way to its confluence with the Taylor River. At that point, they become the Gunnison River.

The mouth of Spring Creek Canyon is somewhat wild, woolly and you guessed it – scenic.

The deciduous in this area were almost glowing in yellow.

Sun spot lighting is my parting shot for this trip.

I'm not sure what's on the docket next. Check back...


08 October 2015

Stardate 2015.770


Hi folks. Autumn in the high country is winding down. With each fall storm, a bit more snow makes an appearance. To catch the end of the leaf season, Snowcatcher and I recently visited Crested Butte, Colorado, again. (We ought to just move there.) Although we missed peak colors, plenty of radiant fall vegetation caught our attention.

As for my photos, my little point and shoot is getting tired. It has survived rough landings on rock, dirt and pavement over the last 10 years. Twice, it's fallen out of a jersey pocket and hit the road at 20 mph. I hate to think of how much sweat it's had to endure as well. So I gave it a weekend off. Instead, I put the iPhone to work. I had okay results. I dislike everything being in wide-angle. But it did a decent job – for a catch-all electronics device. I hope you enjoy Day One of the tail end of CB's leaf season.

The scenic approach to Ohio Pass fills the senses with warm earthiness on a bright autumn afternoon. In the distance rise the Castles. Behind the Castles, West Elk Peak, the highest peak in the West Elk Range, touches the clouds at 13,035 feet. It's the 617th highest peak in Colorado. Lacking the crowds that are drawn to the higher peaks, the West Elk Range is still a wild and rustic place into which one may disappear.

The east end of the east-to-west Anthracite Range allows southerly access to Ohio Pass, Kebler Pass and the Ruby Mountain Range. The latter is actually a sub-range extension of the Elk Range proper; it also embraces the isolated and striking Raggeds Wilderness area.

Fall is a special time to visit this region. It's kind of like stepping back in time. Real cowboys are putting in long hours on horseback to herd their product down off of high mountain pastures. With all the livestock herding, the road can be an elixir of dust and bovine byproduct. You get a bit mangier with each passing vehicle. You feel like a kid again, rolling in the dirt. It's a hoot! Kids do still play in the dirt, don't they?

Future forest soil nutrients


A Populus tremuloides (Aspen) grove filters afternoon sun along Ohio Pass.

I like drying ferns; they look prehistoric and straight out of the Jurassic Period.

The stored nutrients of decomposing leaf litter patiently journeys its way back into the catacombs of the forest soil.

Colorful Ruby Peak rises to 12,644 feet, as seen from the west side of Kebler Pass.

The eye-catching fluted ridge lines of 11,348-foot Marcellina Mountain provide a pleated late afternoon backdrop from Horse Ranch Park.

That's it for now. Check back for Day Two...

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