My Solo Wanderings of the West

kennyj

Explorer
Thanks for the feedback Kenny. Great Updates. I hope to share the road with you next spring and am trying to decide on a bike for myself to bring along.
Another great update! :smiley_drive:
Kenny, Once again you inspire us with your travels, great pics and excellent narrative. You are truley living the dream. Carry on!
Looks like an amazing adventure. I want to visit many of the place you have stopped myself
Awesome pics , thanks for sharing , I would love to check out some of these places one day
Thank you all! It's really nice to get such good feedback. :)
 

kennyj

Explorer
Just west of Salida is the little town of Poncha Springs and rising in the west is the Sawatch Range and a bunch of 14ers. A county road just outside Poncha leads to a big BLM area and then San Isabel NF and all along are more dispersed camping areas than I've ever seen. There are several spur roads leading into the mountains; this road leads to the Mt Shavano trailhead, then continues deeper, and rougher, into the mountains.
Mount Shavano is seen here in the distance.




I chose one of the dozens of turnouts along the road for a campsite.




My site had an amazing view of the valley and Poncha Springs below and the mountains to the south.




I took a lot of rides on the different roads in the area.




The road crosses a high meadow; the altitude was over 8,000 feet. I spent a number of days up at that site before moving along.



 

kennyj

Explorer
Next on the route was crossing the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass at over 11,000 feet. This would be the first of a number of high crossings on my upcoming route.




I headed down into a broad valley and reaching Gunnison continued west to the Curacanti Recreation Area and the eastern end of the Blue Mesa Reservoir. The big lake stretches west for miles where it begins as the Gunnison River flows out of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.




Enjoying a twilight sky over the lake.

 

kennyj

Explorer
I hadn’t really thought about heading up to the Crested Butte area, but after visiting the ranger station in Gunnison I had decided to spend a few days on a side trip. I had never been to Crested Butte before; driving north from Gunnison was more of the same valley with the mountains growing higher as I got further north. The town lies in a little alpine valley and was the typical quaint tourist town, although much smaller than I expected.




Driving through the downtown area.




A few miles further is Mount Crested Butte which really surprised me with the number of big ski hotels and lodges built way up the mountainsides. This place must be insane in ski season!




Just north of Mount Crested Butte the pavement ends as the road climbs higher in altitude up the valley.




Arriving in the tiny mountain town of Gothic.




The scenery changes as I continue up the road.




About 10 miles past Gothic I got a campsite just ahead in a forested area.




To be continued…
 

jerryg

New member
Thank you Kenny for all your posts and pictures I check every day for new post, along with many other following you.

Thank you Jerry
 

unkamonkey

Explorer
Looks like you were on Kebler Pass. Lots of places to turn out and be on your own around there. You never would been able to get your van over Schofield Pass but you could do it on the bike.
Thanks for the report. It's a good part of this state to have been in.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Thank you Kenny for all your posts and pictures I check every day for new post, along with many other following you.

Thank you Jerry
Looks like you were on Kebler Pass. Lots of places to turn out and be on your own around there. You never would been able to get your van over Schofield Pass but you could do it on the bike.
Thanks for the report. It's a good part of this state to have been in.
Thanks you guys!

To Unkamonkey; Kebler Pass is county road 12 which heads west from Crested Butte. My plan was to go that route next but with construction it was only open to drive a few hours each day, and even then with long delays so I skipped that part.

This route I’m writing about is county road 317 or Gothic Road which does lead to Schofield Pass. I have been to Redstone and Marble and up to Crystal 3 or 4 times, including in 2014 in this report, but never on to the Devil’s Punchbowl and Schofield Pass. I have looked many times at maps of the roads north from Crested Butte to that area, always assuming they would involve rugged backroad travel. It was when I visited the Gunnison ranger station that I learned that Gothic Road is actually pretty tame for quite a ways and I decided to go visit the area, and maybe even connect the dots to make it to Crystal.
 

kennyj

Explorer
It was already mid-afternoon when I made camp so I just took the bike out on a scouting run of the area.




The next day I packed up for a long ride exploring the area.




I headed north toward Schofield Pass. So far Gothic Road had been quite passable with the ruts and potholes and rocks typical of any forest road. The road was mostly packed dirt and clay and I could see that a heavy rain might make the road difficult. Like many similar roads it became more rugged as more miles passed.




I passed the lovely Emerald Lake, and rode around its shores on the lower road.




Not too far past Emerald Lake is Schofield Pass, at 10,700 feet. Somewhere under the stickers is the sign!




Continuing from Schofield Pass I reached the area of Schofield Park, a beautiful broad valley with a number of private cabins and cottages.




At Schofield Park there was a trailhead and dispersed camping area with a number of cars, including the proverbial Honda Civic at the end of the rugged backroad.



 

Recommended books for Overlanding

Overlanding the Americas: La Lucha
by Mr Graeme Robert Bell
From $20
The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-A...
by Eric Rutkow
From $13.96

kennyj

Explorer
Just after Schofield Park is the beginning of the final stretch of road to Crystal by way of the Devil’s Punchbowl, by some accounts one of the most dangerous passes in Colorado.




From there on the road was loose rock among large rock steps, and at an uncomfortably steep grade. Braking the bike was pretty useless in the loose rock and trying to power down the grade I felt like I could go over the bars on some of the big rock drop-offs. I only rode a few hundred yards before I decided the road was too much for a solo ride on a bike not set up for such extreme terrain.




I decided to continue on foot wanting to at least reach the Devil’s Punchbowl. I soon reached a water-crossing that I believe would have been a stopper for the bike, with a big vertical step out of the water’s edge.

The stream was the South Fork of the Crystal River and from that crossing was this view of a nearby waterfall. Looking down the road continuing its steep descent into the forest I decided not to go any further. My topo map showed a descent of nearly 1700 vertical feet over the roughly 1 1/2 miles to the town of Crystal; that sounded like about 20% grade all the way down and not even something I felt like hiking on foot.




I headed back up the steep hill, somewhat disappointed in my lack of progress. Later, remembering that my brother as a teenager in the 60s had made the trip all the way from Crested Butte to Redstone in a Jeep, he recalled that it had been a pretty frightening trip.




Riding up to an area above the falls I found this view of another upper falls.


 

kennyj

Explorer
Back near Schofield Pass is a fork in the road, I turned and rode for a while in Paradise Basin. I was told the road is an alternate route back to the Crested Butte area.




Back on Gothic Road I headed back to camp, here descending on the shelf road alongside Emerald Lake.
I found the area a really beautiful part of Colorado and I was really glad i had decided to make the detour north to visit.




As I mentioned above, my plan was to continue west on Kebler Pass to the area around Lake Irwin, then returning to Gunnison by way of the Ohio Pass Road. Unfortunately with the construction going on I just headed back down toward Gunnison, stopping to camp for a night along the Gunnison River near Almont to plan my next direction.




Coming next, the Silver Thread Byway and the Alpine Loop.
 

old_man

Adventurer
Just a note: Scofield pass is rated because there were something like 9 deaths on the road. It was all one accident. A suburban fully loaded with teenagers went of a cliff and killed them all. I live an wheel in Colorado. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, I would rate this as a 3 maybe 4. A good driver should be able to get a van over it as long as it doesn't have the stretched body with the large overhang in the back. Not to say it isn't bumpy, but with a bit of common sense and tire placement, you should be able to do it.
 

zb39

Adventurer
Awesome pics, I really really like the mountain shots with the sky and clouds. All the trees and lakes, very very pretty. Thank you for taking the time to post all these pics and the commentary.
It's nice to ride along for a little bit, really helps me thru the day.
 

skfitz

New member
I think if you had turned at the fork near Schoffield on the way back, you'd have gone thru a high valley of colorful rock and scree ending at a beautiful and remote Alpine pond/small lake before descending back to CV. Worth a side trip!
 
Top