Toronto - Colorado - and back


After my Labour Day long weekend shakeout mini expedition, the trip I have been looking forward to for over a year now can finally start.

Again, Canadian Tire as the starting point on Sunday, Sep 9.

The new addition is the Surco roof rack that holds my 2nd spare, 2 Adventure Trailer fuel can holders (no cans yet), and a dry duffle bag.

The slight modification of the Surco and the preparation of all equipment took much longer than I anticipated. Always something to be learned for the next one.

Off to Dayton Ohio, its going to be a late night.

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Day 2 - Monday Sept 10

The Trailblazer is working well, I just have to get used to the feeling of the extra weight on the roof. Today takes me from Dayton Ohio to Topeka Kansas. It is the longest day of driving on this trip. I really don't like to travel along the Interstates but with the loss of a day and my late departure, I will have to live with it for the 3 days out to CO.

A nice shot of the Trailblazer at a rest stop in Indiana.

Not too much time for stopping and taking in the sights, but some interesting things along the way nevertheless.

Huge cross outside of Effingham Illinois

Mississippi river

Just outside of Kansas City. I wish I was here earlier, it would have been a great dinner.

Another late night arrival. Hopefully tomorrow I will catch up some time and be in Pueblo Colorado earlier.



MaoriExpeditions said:
Hey, nice Blazer.

What part of Colorado are you headed to?


I am in Pueblo right now, heading out to the Great Sand Dunes as soon as I shut off this computer. I am going to try to camp in the backcountry after Modano Pass.

Then off to Durango and some trails around Silverton. Actually, I am still working on my itinerary kind of on the fly.

The drive back starts on the 17th.



Day 3 - Sunday Sept 11

** EDIT **
Oops, wrong day

Day 3 - Tuesday Sept 11

I haven't been this far west by car since a great 5 week journey with my dad many, many, years ago - Toronto, Vancouver, LA, Chicago, Toronto.

I had forgotten how far one can see in the great plains

Lots of cattle herds. Its been quite warm here as I travel, into the 80s. But cold at night, under 60.

Being passed by a Jeep as we both pass Jeep Road in Kansas.

Huge grain elevators along I75. You can see them one after another far into the horizon.

Finally in Colorado and a nice sunset.

Today I stock up some supplies and head to the Great Sand Dunes over Modano Pass and hopefully some backcountry camping along the road. My next report should be in a couple of days from Durango.

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Jeff H

Wow.. That trip looks like a lot of fun!

btw, very nice TBZ.. I work for a Chevy dealership and really like driving them.. I never knew there was so much that could be done to them!


CJC99TJ said:
Wow.. That trip looks like a lot of fun!

btw, very nice TBZ.. I work for a Chevy dealership and really like driving them.. I never knew there was so much that could be done to them!
Thanks! Its a 2006 I6. About half the stuff is custom, or at least custom adaptations of parts for other vehicles. I have a great team at National 4WD in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

They are experts at solving interesting problems.



Day 4 - Monday Sept 12

** EDIT **
What am I thinking?

Day 4 - Wednesday Sept 12

Today was an interesting day as I spent half of it just getting prepared. Long story short is that my Trailblazer was missing the factory (plastic) underbody shield that covers the gas tank for some reason. I purchased one before I left but did not have time to install it. So I lugged it with me all the way to Colorado!

Obviously being plastic its not a "real" skid plate, but it does gime me extra piece of mind that the gas tank is not directly exposed to any under-body nasties I run into.

I found a shop in Pueblo West early in the morning to install it. Problem was I didn't have the hardware so they helped out by getting me in contact with a GM dealership. Thanks for the help All Around Automitve.

The plan today is to head out to Modano Pass, find a backcountry camping spot for the night, and then pass through the Great Sand Dunes. The complete trail is rated 4 out 10 by guide books I am using - Colorado Trails by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson.

Leaving Pueblo and passing through the Wet Mountains on CO 96.

Heading towards the Sangre De Cristo Range, the Sand Dunes are on the other side.

On the east side of the mountains is the San Isabel National Forest. Some very tight, steep, and rutted switch-backs on the way to Medano Pass (too busy keeping my eye on the track to take any radical pictures, these are the more tame areas) but the Trailblazer handled it well. I think I head the locker kick in at least twice.

Finally at Medano Pass which is just over 3000 meters. The track then heads into Great Sand Dunes National Preserve.

It was getting late so I was reserved to not being too picky about finding a camp site. As luck would have it the first one into the Preserve was great. This was one of the views from the site at sunset.

And finally my camp set up after a long day of preparation and travel. I was quite please with the vehicle's performance so far. This is afterall my first high altitude foray. One thing is that I can really feel the engine struggle when heading up those highway inclines. With the thinner air (compared to where I live) and the extra weight on the vehicle, it was really chugging along. I have to make sure to use premium gas from now on, or at least throw in some octane boost.

Tomorrow its off to the Dunes!

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if my understanding is correct, you don't have to use premium gas at higher altitude, with thinner air you can use lower octane. I understand you want the performance back but I don't think the higher oct gas will do it. Maybe someone can verify this.

BTW very nice pics, please keep them coming.!
Higher OCtane = harder to burn

Don't use it in the mountains. The computer will adjust. Also you have to remember that the long climbs require a lot more work for the engine. It is never going to feel like it did on flat ground.

Nice pics and trip report by the way. Thanks!


Day 5 - Thursday Sept 13 - Part 1

My first night of camping since December 1999, in Australia of all places. Took me a bit of time to get into the groove again ... sleeping on the ground, the dirt, the solitude, the cold. Great to get away from the hectic pace of the city though.

Pre-dawn photo by starlight. No moon on this night.

I loved this backcountry camp site, here are some views in the morning.

I used the morning to mount my hi-lift jack to the Surco roof rack as I didn't have time to do this before I left. The mount kit is easy to put together although I have to take many breaks as I am still getting used to the altitude.

After a hearty breakfast I packed up the site, made sure nothing was left behind and that the anti-bear cage was clean (no bears by the way), and proceeded on the Medano pass trail.



Day 5 - Thursday Sept 13 - Part 2

The Peter Massey Colorado Trails book says that the Medano Pass trail passes through creeks at least 8 times. Even with the dry weather of late, more than half of the crossings are running, they are quite low however so no real problem with crossing them.

Much of the trail is quite rocky but generally flat so I just have to watch out for any sharp ones, don't want to get a flat out here. The great campsites continue all the way along the trail, some of them under the shadow of some cliffs, others are right up against the creek, overall you can't go wrong with choosing any one of them.

As I was driving up to the second to last crossing, I see a flash of movement in front of me so I step on the brakes and shut off the engine. A family of deer have come to the clearing to graze and drink!

I remember to not get out of the vehicle as my photographer friend Mike pointed out to me once. It seems they cannot make sense of a car, but if they saw me out of it, they would bolt immediately.



Day 5 - Thursday Sept 13 - Part 3

A bit after the last creek crossing, the trail enters the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The trail starts to become sandy so this is where the guidebook recommends lowering the tire pressure to 25 psi so I took out the mil-spec tire deflators I purchased from Sierra Expeditions. They sure do deflate the tires in a hurry!

As the trail got closer to the dunes I took some shots of where I came from and where I was headed. The dunes look massive even from this distance.

The closer you get to the dunes the more you can't believe just how massive they are. Pictures don't do them justice. This is from a rest/picnic site along the trail.