A tour through Central and SW Colorado


2008 Expedition Trophy Champion
With all our energy pointing ahead of us, we took off on a week-long journey toward central and southern Colorado. I had an idea of where I wanted to go; a place that I’d been to several times before, and many places that I had not. As is common to some of us that travel with our families, I had a couple of goals in mind: quench my adventure thirst by piecing together a fun and exciting route, and choose my roads and destinations wisely so that my wife and kids are happy and don’t hate me by the end of the week.

It started out many months back as a planned trip into western Wyoming, but slowly graduated into an adventure within my own great state of Colorado. No complaints at all about that decision, although I’ll need to get back up to Wyoming soon.

So off we went to escape the heat and drought of Front Range Colorado for the cooler, greener, cleaner surroundings of the Rockies.

One thing both my wife and I enjoy is choosing meal destinations that would fall under the general category of “local fare.” On this day we found Punky’s in downtown Buena Vista and it did not disappoint. The smoked pulled pork was quite tasty, as were the burgers.

Came across this old Willy’s in the lot across from our lunch spot. Someone will have to school me on the details, but it certainly had “cool” written all over it.

After a short stop at the Mt Princeton Hot Springs to soak along the white, chalky cliffs of the Collegiate Peaks, we headed west and found a suitable camp just outside the ghost town of St. Elmo.

Mmmmm – no rain and no bears on day 1 – so far, so good….


2008 Expedition Trophy Champion
Cheers to Day 2!

We packed up, and continued west over the just-opened Tincup Pass. The forest service had reported it completely passable 4 days prior, after the sun (and ATV’s) finally chiseled away the last bit of snow on the east side of the pass. Lucky for me.

The locals allowed us time to hang out, have a snack, and consider the descent.

At the bottom of the western side of Tincup Pass is the town of Tincup. Although called a ghost town by most, it sure seemed to be bustling with people and development all around the 1880’s relics. It is still a beautiful place to stop and take in the scenery.

We continued along to the north and west, following the road into the Taylor Park area. Seemingly a Mecca for recreational enjoyment of all kinds, it is a place worth returning to just to explore the trails in the area.

But alas, I had my sites set on getting some fishing in that afternoon, so we continued forward, following the Taylor River down the canyon toward Almont, and ultimately Crested Butte. We camped just west of Crested Butte near the top of Kebler Pass and Lake Irwin. By chance we scored a perfect camp spot perched atop a rock outcropping with views in 3 directions: east to Lake Irwin, north to Robinson Basin and the 12,500 ft peaks, and southern views of Ohio Pass.

Perfect might be a slight overstatement…..

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2008 Expedition Trophy Champion
“The sun came out the other day
Through those dusty clouds
And in my mind I was a child
And it felt good!”

I try to not take for granted the beauty I have available to me in this great state, and this trip was no exception. Photographs don’t do justice to the colors, the elevation, the sounds and the beauty of the Crested Butte area. There are surely other, more beautiful places in this world, but for this day I was not convinced.

It is not always pretty though. I found this rig just past a sign that read “No Trespassing. Violators will be shot.”

But this night would not end well. Bears are out there; I know they are. But up until now, I had never had a close encounter with one. Some time after dark, my wife and I were laying in the tent reading, with the kids snoring comfortably between us. It went something like this:

Wife: “Did you hear that?”
Me: “Uh Huh.”
Wife: “What should we do?”
Me: “.”
Kids: “Zzzzzzz”

And outside the tent, I hear that muffled breathing sound, followed by a loud tear coming from near my truck. So I get up, and with headlamp illuminated, I crawl over to the tent door, and slowly unzip the door to get a peak. At this point, with my truck 30-40 feet away, I can see the silhouette of a bear, standing on his hind legs, front legs up against my truck.

My heart was pounding, and adrenaline was rushing through my body. With nothing useful in my possession for noise (or defense), I made a quick decision to get out of the tent, stand up tall, and yell and clap my hands – making as much noise as I possibly could. The bear turned, looked at me, and with all the urgency of a turtle out for a stroll, he dropped down on all fours and began to move. There was a point and time there (which seemed like minutes) where my weak halogen headlamp couldn’t find the bear in our camp. As I continued to scan the area, he looked over at me and I picked up his eyes. Fortunately, he was moving away from me and the truck and out toward the road.

Once he was far enough away, I grabbed my flashlight and watched him walk away and out of sight. Even though I know the bear was after our food, and not us, I felt like it was a close call. And I will confess that although we packed all our food bags and boxes in the cab of my truck, we left a cooler in the truck bed that was almost surely what the bear was after. Lesson learned – you can never be lazy about your food in bear country.

It was a long and sleepless night for us, as each little breeze, rain patter, or critter shuffle had me lying in bed on full alert. Fortunately for us, he never returned to our camp.

The aftermath of bear versus soft top.

We packed up the next morning, heading south and west.


well it looks like you are having a blast...except for the bear scare that is...glad to hear everyone is safe and sorry to hear about the soft top...but at least you can replace that...but keep posting the pics, looks like a good time!


2008 Expedition Trophy Champion
With the long night behind us, I think we were all kind of glad to be moving on. After repacking the truck, we headed south back through Crested Butte and Gunnison. At the Blue Mesa Reservoir (Colorado’s largest body of water), we turned south to explore a quiet highway that connected the Gunnison area to Lake City. We stopped for a picnic in Lake City, which was a beautiful old mining town seemingly inundated with Texans. Not that there’s anything wrong with that….

Just out of town, we turned due west and skirted along side Colorado’s largest natural body of water, Lake San Cristobal, and onward toward Cinnamon Pass. Simply said, a beautiful drive!

After reaching the top of Cinnamon, things started turning sour. The predictable thunder, lightning and rain came onto us as we descended into Animas Forks, a well-developed ghost town in the midst of mining ruins.

Although the easy road out of the gulch was to the south, we needed to head northwest to reach the road to Ouray. This, I believe, is where I violated one of the core goals of the journey – that is to keep the passengers safe and happy. As we proceeded up the narrow, steep switchbacks of California Pass, Hurricane Pass and into the Red Mountains, the torrential rains started to take their toll. With all of the roads above tree line, lightning flashing in all directions, and a car sick passenger, the driving became more of a chore and stopping was not really an option.

After one final climb over a rain soaked saddle, we finally descended down into Corkscrew Gulch and out to the pavement.

As a treat for my road-weary crew, I put everyone up in a “cabin” for the night.

It was a long driving day after a long, sleepness night, so we called it a night early to catch up on some much needed sleep.


ExPo Original
:Wow1: :Wow1: :Wow1: :Wow1: :Wow1:

That corner of your truck takes more abuse than the rest of it combined.....

Keep going........ :lurk: :lurk: :lurk:


2008 Expedition Trophy Champion
Another Ouray trip....yawn....

Ahhh….Ouray. Is there a more beautiful town in Colorado? Did I already say that about Crested Butte? Hard to say, but it’s up there near the top for sure. Many of you/us have been to Ouray countless times before, but for me it never gets old…..except when it is cloudy and rainy every day for 4 straight days and you’re camping without any shelter other than the tent….doh.

After all the drama that preceded us, our stay in Ouray was relatively uneventful. We hiked, we soaked in the Hot Springs, we wandered through town, rode horses and explored the dirt roads. We read, played cards, ate by the fire (in our raincoats), and relaxed. It rained every day, evening, and night. We usually got a reprieve in the morning, but it never lasted long. Those cloudless Colorado blue skies were not to be found this time around.

We still found more time to explore the mining ruins, run through most of Poughkeepsie Gulch, and gaze at the myriad of waterfalls.

And occasionally the clouds would break and the sun would make it feel a bit like Vietnam (read: humid and hot).

A rainy day in Ouray still beats any day back at the office though.:snorkel:


2008 Expedition Trophy Champion
My wife thinks it’s odd that I take pictures of other folks’ cars…..

Classic 40

Nice Powerwagon!

Rescue rig of unknown make.

And who’s 110 is this? Colorado plates, 4 Mile Fire Protection plate up front. Seems like someone that would spend time on the ExPo?

And then there’s Jim, the failed attempt to make a brown bear into a pet. He got a bit aggressive, and ended up getting stuffed and is now in the museum.

But the funniest rig of all I don't have a photo of - it was the guy in the Prius barreling down Cinnamon Pass. I went nose to nose with him on a narrow (but passable for two cars side by side) shelf road, and I'll be damned if that guy didn't drive right down the middle of the road, making no effort to scoot over. He gave me that dirty look as he passed, something like "You should be embarrassed to drive that thing up here when I can run it in my Prius...."

Oh well - he's probably right.


Expedition Leader
Nice pics and story line! I have been all over the same area on 4x4 and mountain bikes albeit quite some time ago. I really like the little (or at least it was some 15-years ago when I was last there) town of Buena Vista.

There used to be a phenomenal bakery in Lake City that was owned/run by a mother & daughter. Their orange cinnamon rolls provided the fuel to get our loaded mountain bikes to the top of Engineer's Pass ;-).

What a great place to travel off-road! We are in the beginning stages of planning a CO trip for about 1-year from now. You've just made it that much more difficult for me to be patient :hehe: .



2008 Expedition Trophy Champion

The question often arises from the moms and dads out there about how to travel with kids, keep them entertained, and make the pleasure of driving the open roads something even the youngin's can enjoy. Well I've got a new form of entertainment to add to the list, and its fairly cheap.

We called it "see how many grapes you can stuff in your mouth"

Word of caution - there is a slight risk of choking or asphyxiation.


Can't wait to get out again!

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just read this. I was in the same area just couple weeks before you, also CB, Gunnison and Ouray. Also had a bear in camp up on Owl Creek Pass, I have a soft topper and I debated on wether or not to put my cooler in cab, glad I did now after seeing your damage. Yikes


ExPo Original
spressomon said:
There used to be a phenomenal bakery in Lake City that was owned/run by a mother & daughter. Their orange cinnamon rolls provided the fuel to get our loaded mountain bikes to the top of Engineer's Pass ;-).
Yup, it's still there on the north side of town on Hwy 149, the Lake City Bakery. It was purchased about 15 years ago by Steve and Stacey Mikeska. Steve worked for the PO for a few years, learned the trade and bought it. He also has or had a bakery in Mt. Crested Butte, right at the base of the slopes.

Still making great stuff. I was always partial to grabbing a bag of Cinammon sticks and taking the Jeep up to Engineer. A great way to start the day.


jacket -that D110 in Silverton has been posted at least twice on ExPo, by myself and BajaTaco. No idea who it belongs to, but it's a stud ride for sure. Looks like he's put new wheels on it since I last saw it in August of '06. ;)