Colorado in the Colorado July 2009

We decided to head out to Colorado for our big summer camping trip this year. The main focus of the trip would be exploring the history in the area along with some fun off pavement drives. After dropping our dog off in downstate Michigan (wife's parent's house) we set our sights on Mesa Verde in the southwest corner of Colorado. This would be a long 1648 mile drive from our current location. Traffic wasn't too bad and we made it to Mesa Verde in two and half days of power driving.
We had time for two of the cliff dwelling tours.

Balcony house


Cliff Palace


We also had time to do some short hikes on the trails in the park.
Lizard on the trail


The next day I was all set for the off pavement driving part of the trip. My intention was to drive as many scenic passes as I had time for. I researched all of the trails thoroughly before the trip. I didn't want to get too far over my head with a truck camper. I used two sources for my research. The book Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails by Charles A. Wells and I also used the website traildamage.com to cross reference all of the ratings. Both sources were very valuable however traildamage.com didn't have write-ups for a couple of the routes I ended up choosing.
My plan was to work our way northeast from Mesa Verde in the direction of Denver and then head home from there.

Our first trail
Imogene Pass
Rating = moderate
18 miles long, 4 to 5 hours to complete
This is the second highest pass in Colorado. We started the trail from Telluride and worked our way up.
Near the beginning of the trail. This was my best picture of the entire trip.


A little farther up it started to get interesting.

It was my wife's first day with her new camera. She had a few bugs to work out.


Wouldn't you know it; the very first person we see on the trail was a fellow ExPo member. Notice the stylish Overland Journal hat. (forgive me for forgetting your name the altitude was obviously getting to me by this point)


Almost all the way to the top. Still snow on July 20th.


At the top. Elevation = 13,114 feet


For some reason I was the only one up there with a Chevy Colorado and a truck camper. I was surrounded by adventure bikes, jeeps and 4-wheelers.
On the way down the other side. The northside of the trail was much wider.
 
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One of many small snowmelt water crossings


Near the end of the trail


At this point is where I noticed my check engine light was on and I remembered the one thing that I forgot to bring. I have a scanguage II but I forgot to print out a list of what each code indicated. The start of the next trail was near the town of Ouray and with the help of my Garmin we found the local library which offered internet access. I looked up the code online and found that the problem was a low idle. Knowing that this was a non critical issue I chose to ignore it. Knowing what the problem was set me at ease.
Ouray is a really nice small town. We decided to eat lunch at a hotel restaurant and relax for a bit.

Next up was Mineral Creek
Rating = Difficult
7.2 miles long (from U.S. 550 to where it connects with Engineer Pass), 1.5 to 2 hours
This was by far the most technically challenging trail of the trip. My new BFG KM2s stuck like glue. Unfortunately the technical areas were just not conducive for taking picture. The proximity of the start of the trail near Ouray made this the highest traffic trail of the trip. About two miles into the trail we met a group of four vehicles heading in the opposite direction. They obviously had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. I pulled over on a wide switchback to let them by and got out to talk to the person driving the third vehicle in line while the second vehicle, a full size Dodge pickup with a very long wheelbase, made a five point turn bottoming out every time he backed up. The guy asked me how much farther the trail was and where it came out. We assured each other that we were both about to drive through the toughest part. After they had all made it by me I made my way up to the next switchback to look down and see the lead vehicle (a stock Jeep liberty) with its front driver’s side tire being eaten by a large crevasse and the back passenger side tire about a foot off the ground. The lady in the passenger seat, with a look of terror in her eyes, was sticking her head out the window yelling something to the driver of the second vehicle in line. The fifth vehicle in line (not part of the group) was a well equipped fj Cruiser and I figured that if they got themselves into any real trouble that this person would help. I had a feeling that they were all going to have a good stiff drink when they finally made it to Ouray.
One of the blind corners


View from the top


On the way down the other side the trail hooks up with a trail that leads to Engineer pass.
Rating = moderate
21 miles, 3 hours

On the way down we spotted something that we have never seen before. An open range herd of sheep complete with a shepherd and two sheep dogs.


There are many old mines and other points of interest along this road.

 
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We rustic camped along the Henson Creek that night( I accidently deleted my only camping picture)
The next morning on the way out



Next on the list was Tomichi Pass
Rated = Difficult
11.9 miles, 2 hours
At the start of the trail


Tomichi cemetery also near the beginning


The lower sections of this area reminded me of some of the places we have around the U.P. of Michigan.



At the top. We didn’t see a single other vehicle on this road.


Heading down the other side. This is the area that gives this trail a difficult rating.


View from my window. Somebody had a really bad day. It looked like it might have been a jeep.
 
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S

Scenic WonderRunner

Guest
Awesome!.....:victory:


I'm very glad for you.....that you got to experience this!


Thanks for Sharing!.....:sombrero::costumed-smiley-007:ylsmoke:


Keep Going!:sombrero:



.
 
We then took a side trek to the Alpine Tunnel. The road in followed the old railroad grade and was very narrow in places. This road also had a lot of traffic.
Refurbished hut along with some railroad tracks. This was the only section with tracks and vehicles were not allowed in this area.


Unfortunately the tunnel was purposely collapsed a few years back and there wasn’t much to see.


From the Alpine tunnel it was just a short backtrack and then up to the top of Hancock Pass.
Rating = moderate
9.5 miles, 2 hours
 
The next morning we drove to the start of Mosquito Pass. Mosquito Pass is the highest pass road open to travel in Colorado.
Rating = moderate
13.6 miles, 2 to 3 hours

We followed the road in from Leadville. The road starts out fairly flat but then leads to some switchbacks. There are an incredible variety of wildflowers along this route.




A little higher up.


The view out my window after a couple of switchbacks. One wrong move would mean certain death.


There was one spot near here that we had to get out to level the road a bit. The road had a large hump on the uphill side and water had eroded the downhill side to a degree that would have tilted my truck way beyond my comfort level. We spent about 15 minutes filling in the low side of the road with rocks. Fortunately there wasn’t anybody else on the trail at this time.
At the top


We hiked up further to get an even better view. See my truck in the distance?


One more critter on the trail.


This was on the way down the other side (east side). The road was bumpy in places but much wider.


Video in this area. Nothing to extreme.
 
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bmh

Adventurer
It's funny, I've lived here my whole life and never been up there. Great pictures and looks like a fun trip!
 
Still on the way down Mosquito Pass

I'm not sure what the story was behind this truck. I was expecting to see someone hitchhiking on the way out.


One of the many structures along the road.


A few more to go...must take break.
 
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FortyMileDesert

Adventurer
Great write-up and photos!

Suggestion: Save the photos to about 50% before linking them here - It's tough to look at the photos for those of us who only have 17 inch monitors. :sombrero:
 

texas taco

Adventurer
Great pictures. Looks like you all had a great time. I am going to take my family up there next summer.. Oh by the way they are perfect on my Mac:wings:
 

maximumrob

Adventurer
You mentioned how bumpy some of the trails were, but it doesn't appear that you aired down at all for a smoother ride. Does the weight of the camper make you uneasy about airing down?

AWESOME truck, by the way. I think I could almost make that work for my small family of four and a dog. The dog wouldn't be too thrilled with riding in the bed, though.
 

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Great write-up and photos!

Suggestion: Save the photos to about 50% before linking them here - It's tough to look at the photos for those of us who only have 17 inch monitors. :sombrero:
I loaded all of the pictures on my inlaws computer that has a huge monitor. I didn't realize how big they were till I got home and looked at them with my laptop. I will resize and load the rest asap. thanks
 
You mentioned how bumpy some of the trails were, but it doesn't appear that you aired down at all for a smoother ride. Does the weight of the camper make you uneasy about airing down?

AWESOME truck, by the way. I think I could almost make that work for my small family of four and a dog. The dog wouldn't be too thrilled with riding in the bed, though.
I had 42 psi front and back on the way out there and on the drive back home. When I got to the first trail I aired down to 25 in the front and 30 in the back. My tires only spun one time on some very loose gravel on a steep, uneven incline. Some of these trails would have been bumpy no matter how low my air pressure was. They were just plain bumpy. I have aired down to 20 in the front and 25 in the back for short distances on really deep sand. I don't usually like to go that low because of the weight.
 
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