Jul 21, 2015

The Galloping Goose goes home... (Part III)

The good news is that by morning... her answer hadn't changed. So far so good!

We headed into Crested Butte to "buy" coffee. It's fun to buy something on a camping trip because you get used to making everything. Plus, it's a fun excuse to leave the vehicle behind and meet some locals.
Crested Butte is beautiful, but not for me. The town was packed to the gills. Everyone was "on" if you know what I mean. Very expensive restored classic 4x4's, Escalades etc. This was not a working town. Everyone was nice, but it seemed like even the people running or biking around had spent some time to look cool before they dared step outside. I like a more relaxed feel. Oh well, the coffee was good, but a bit watered down.

On the way out of town we saw a Bear Dog. That's what I'm going with anyway. He was huge. He also liked to stand precariously up there and he'd lean into each turn as they drove up the canyon. Scary, but I can tell the dog must do this often because he was in a state of pure happiness and concentration.
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After a few dirt roads down the mountain and some miles of pavement we finally hit dirt again.  photo DSC01695.jpg

This area was beautiful. No other people around oncoming or going our direction. That sort of peace and quiet starts to put you into an extreme relaxation mode. Just some ranches here and there, but everything was spread out and the overcast skies made for perfect weather to open up the windows and sunroof. I was happy!

Eventually we made it around Lake City again and onto the lower (southern) section of the Alpine Loop. There is a turn worth taking onto road to the Carson Ghost Town. I've been there several times, but this time we eventually came around the corner to a mud pit. It was several feet deep, on an incline and covered the entire trail. There were 4 UTV's slinging the mud and trying to get through it... After watching for a while we decided to turn around. That made for some nice and muddy work just backing to a safe spot to turn around! Yum!

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Sorry Goose.  photo DSC01700.jpg

Funny how one hill on a pass can be filled with flowers and the other still covered in snow!  photo DSC01702.jpg  photo DSC01705.jpg

Just amazing. Each pass and each valley is different. Sure, they are all mountains, but never the same. This valley is devoid of any trees in stark contrast to most of these areas.  photo DSC01706.jpg  photo DSC01707.jpg

One valley, gulch or whatever you want to call it over:  photo DSC01709.jpg  photo DSC01710.jpg  photo DSC01712.jpg

Don't drive off the edge. I repeat, don't drive off the edge. Also, don't drive into the upslope side of the hill. It can be done and you'll still end up over the edge like this guy. If you've ever driven Black Bear pass you know that there is no way to roll it here, or you'd think. Two vehicles could fit side by side on this section of trail, but the driver must have not been paying attention. Who knows. Don't be this guy!


It can get a bit steep around here.
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Toyota Commercial.  photo DSC01715.jpg  photo DSC01713.jpg

So, after all of this exploring around we decided to go to Clear Lake. It's a nice set of switchbacks to reach it and since the Holiday weekend was ending it should be quiet up there. You climb some tight switchbacks for 45 minutes or more and are treated to this view.  photo DSC01717.jpg

If, like us, you go too early in summer you'll also be treated to a hike! :-) Several of the final switchbacks were still blocked with snow. So, we parked and headed up.  photo DSC01718.jpg

To say that it's a nice hike is underestimating it. I'm glad we had to hike. It made what was to come even more special.  photo DSC01719.jpg

This is not Clear Lake. This is a puddle just downhill from it. Come on Colorado, this is insane. How can a puddle be this pretty. You're just toying with us now!  photo DSC01720.jpg

Clear Lake... was a bit icy.  photo DSC01721.jpg

Still, it was amazing. The blue color was showing through and it always looks fake to me. I love it.  photo DSC01735.jpg

When the clouds start cascading down the hillsides around you... it's time to go! We could see the clouds moving in and knew it wouldn't be long before it was pouring rain and low visibility.  photo DSC01737.jpg

Then as you are hiking back to pause at the most beautiful stratigraphy you've ever seen, knowing full well it won't translate to a photo with the same gravitas it hit you with.  photo DSC01740.jpg

This photo is from our campsite up in the valley looking back to the switch backs we were just on. Clear Lake is right at the top of that mountain. Mind blown.  photo DSC01745.jpg

Ohh, flowers!  photo DSC01746.jpg

We found a great campsite and enjoyed the rain. We sat in the truck with the back and side windows open. We laid there listening to the rain and a Louis L'Amour book where the characters were having an adventure not far from the part of country we were currently in. It was perfect. There is no where else on earth I'd rather be. I slept like a log too.

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The next morning I was excited to know out the beautiful, but crowded trails of Black Bear Pass and Imogene.

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The drive up to Black Bear Pass itself is easy. Steep, but easy. To the top two way traffic is fine.  photo DSC01756.jpg

The only problem was the snow field in front of us on the way down... I had the pleasure of backing up a steep shelf road in reverse for a bit, but at this point it was all second nature I had done so much of it over the last few days. The view was amazing. At the far end of this valley you can almost see where two slopes come together. That's the sketchy bit of Black Bear pass you see pictured everywhere. Oh well, I'll scare her another time!
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Well, it looks we'll be headed down and over to Imogene Pass!! You could tell that the dozers had just carved a path on Imogene. This wouldn't have been passable with that help!
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Made it!  photo DSC01766.jpg

The top of Imogene was crowded and it seems there are less people every day that know basic offroad etiquette. I was tired of being stuck behind slow drivers who refused to use turnouts so we took a couple quick pics and saw our chance to get ahead of some slow pokes! (You can see the Eastern part of Telluride in this shot)  photo DSC01768.jpg

Tomboy was a big mine to the point of being it's own town. The reason Telluride is there is because of Tomboy as these surrounding mines. It's sad to see it has deteriorated more than most of the others since my first visit up here.  photo DSC01769.jpg

Coming down Imogene you do get a great look at the Black Bear Pass switchbacks. The top switch back you can see is the one where the driver in the video above rolled it. As you can tell, it could have been a LOT worse.  photo DSC01771.jpg

Simple pleasures. Driving through a tunnel no matter how small. You MUST take a photo, you MUST.  photo DSC01773.jpg

Both ways? Isn't that excessive. Nope.  photo DSC01776.jpg

As it started to rain we took a quick look at Bridal Veil falls and the power house. Read more about this amazing building here. It's mind boggling. Look for a picture of the little bucket the people who live there have to ride in to reach the home in winter. Woof!  photo DSC01781.jpg

Telluride... busy, expensive, beautiful, fun, friendly, busy, expensive. That sums it up as far as how things repeat in my head when I'm there. We kept on truckin to the Telluride Brewery and grabbed a bite to eat.

After that it was time to select our campsite for the FINAL NIGHT. :-(

 This one had a muddy pool of water with more mosquitoes flying out of it to attack us than I'd ever seen. There were literally running into the window they wanted a bite so badly! I almost wanted to stay anyway. Just look at it! We hadn't seen anyone on the road to this 11,000 foot location either. It sat right on the Colorado Trail so the most we might see if a mountain biker or hiker cruising by.  photo DSC01783.jpg

Further down the road, (how far can a mosquito fly?) this fella told us we should camp here. Okay then, I can't argue with that.  photo DSC01785.jpg

Okay, works for me.  photo DSC01792.jpg

Making a fire in a drizzling rain is interesting, but it can be done. (No, I didn't cheat and pour fuel on it, this time...)  photo DSC01797.jpg

Even Colorado mud is artist. Come on, really Colorado? That's just too much.  photo DSC01788.jpg

It was pretty though.  photo DSC01789.jpg

We had a simple dinner and just soaked in the final night on the road. It was too short, it was always too short. Remember that when you plan your next trip. If you don't feel a panicked feeling that you've made the trip TOO LONG and asked for too much time off, you didn't ask for enough!  photo DSC01799.jpg

This is DeGoose. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My Cruiser, without me, is useless. Without my Cruiser, I am useless. I must drive my cruiser true. I must drive straighter than my enemy (mud) who is trying to kill me.

 Too much?  photo DSC01801.jpg

As I was driving through Dolores, I saw it. A Galloping Goose. #5 to be exact. These ramshackle, nearly homemade trains captured my imagination when I first read about them. One used to be located on main street in Telluride, but sadly, had been moved. I was glad to catch sight of one and show K where the name for Goose game from. Read more about them here.

After this stop we made tracks, very slow, poor MPG... tracks back to AZ...
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With that, I bid you farewell as does K and Goose. Some day, we won't let the trip end and it will become life, but until then, see you next time.
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Jul 20, 2015

The Galloping Goose goes home... (Part II)

Happy 4th of July! As the holiday weekend took hold we realized it was best to head for a lessor known part of these mountains. I had something special in mind for tonight so I wanted to make sure we found a great spot without RV's, crowds, generators or generally anyone nearby.

 The Alpine Loop is a must do if you're every in the area. A Harley could almost do the road (I wouldn't try it though). A Subaru would be perfect if the road is in decent condition. (We saw 6 people packed into a Legacy making the entire road and even an optional trip up California Pass. With no low range, I feel bad for that transmission and what it went through)

So, off we headed for Lake City, CO. The ingenuity of people never ceases to amaze me. I've seen this before, but I found myself wrapped up in it again as I explained to K how this dam worked. "They actually dammed up this river, then when the water got to the level of that large tube it would carry the water to the level of the city over there and BAM they had water and water pressure for the town, mining whatever! It's amazing! See there, they even have an overflow opening just in case the water got too high."  photo DSC01598.jpg

The town the water line fed.  photo DSC01596.jpg  photo DSC01599.jpg

We kept trucking and trying to get off of these roads before the hoards of tourists hit them in suburbans and honda's traveling the inevitable 8MPH along the smooth dirt. Lake City was hopping! The entire town was out in force along main street. Red, White and Blue everywhere! The street was lined with folding chairs for the coming parade. Floats were being finished up on side streets. Part of us wanted to pull over and grab a chair, but the rest of us knew that if we did that, we might be stuck in Lake City until the afternoon. So, we kept on truckin. After a quick run down some pavement, we hit dirt again. Nothing here is ugly, nothing.  photo DSC01601.jpg

More ugly.  photo DSC01603.jpg

Everything is so alive. It's in such contrast to what this time of year brings to Arizona.  photo DSC01610.jpg  photo DSC01606.jpg  photo DSC01611.jpg

Like I said, if you don't find at least a few dead ends, you're not trying enough unknown roads. We headed up one that showed a faint line leading to where we were heading, but we really had no idea if it went through. It didn't. It went to a nice little lake/reservoir though.  photo DSC01613.jpg

We decided that it was too early to stop for the day so we kept trundling along. "Oh look, a side trail. Let's see where it goes!" Sometimes it would go to an old abandoned cabin with mining equipment scattered about. Others went to a nice lookout with a fire pit. All were noted in my mind for future stops some day.  photo DSC01616.jpg  photo DSC01614.jpg

Photography is just easy in Colorado. Even a cattle guard can have beauty.  photo DSC01608.jpg

Yep, it just got uglier.  photo DSC01621.jpg

It was a heck of a loop and we decided to go ahead and do a little pavement up to the town of Marble. The town isn't much, but it's nestled into a nice little valley at the road that enters public lands. If you've heard of the much photographed Crystal Mill, then you know where we're headed. After some surprisingly hard trail (given how popular this location is, but a stock truck and careful driver could make it) we arrived at the mill. Here are my favorites of this amazing site. You can read more about the mill here.  photo DSC01624.jpg  photo DSC01625.jpg  photo DSC01628.jpg

We headed onward to do "Devil's Punch-bowl". This trail would connect with Crested Butte and might lead us to a good place to camp for the 4th. Not too far past the mill we saw an FJ Cruiser heading our way. The guy said "There is a boulder in the way, no way to get through." That sounded more like a challenge than a warning to my ears so we kept heading up. We got to the boulder and careful drove over it. Only lightly scraping the skid plates on the catalytic converters. The issue wasn't the rock now, it was the wall of snow around the next corner. What luck! On a road with no where to turn around blocked by snow. Damn. I parked the truck to walk ahead and check it out.  photo DSC01631.jpg

It was blocked. There was so much snow that some guys in a truck from the other side of the snow were sledding and screwing around on it. They had come from Crested Butte. So close and yet so far. Stopped by about 60 feet of 10 foot deep snow on a steep incline. Time to head back! Backing over the boulder was a bit sketchy, but after a few hundred yards of careful backing up we found a spot to turn around.  photo DSC01634.jpg

More amazing scenery.  photo DSC01643.jpg  photo DSC01636.jpg  photo DSC01637.jpg  photo DSC01639.jpg

I have to admit. This latest dead end was not expected and we were beat! I just wanted to stop. I wanted to park anywhere, but part of me wanted to get onto a road that in the morning would take us into Crested Butte. So, we decided to go for it. Time to suck it up and gather some concentration for some more trail and a bit of pavement driving. We headed off.

 We got back onto dirt finally. It's funny, I think I can feel my heart rate and blood pressure drop when I'm on dirt. It doesn't really matter if I'm backpacking, mountain biking, driving my truck or riding a motorcycle. Dirt is where happiness is for me. After all, it's the earth. Everywhere else is just a slurry of pavement or asphalt that we've coated over it with. It makes cities feel sterile of life and clinical to me. Not that I can't enjoy a big city for a weekend though. I like to revel in humanity's accomplishments as much as the next guy, but it wears on me. It makes me want to get away after a few days.

 As we cruised along the dirt road the elevation was ever increasing. We saw some larger formal campgrounds and just kept looking for the perfect disused side trail. It couldn't be mediocre tonight. Any other night I would be fine with a mediocre camp site, but not tonight. We found a couple with someone already camping at them. A couple others dead ended just a few short feet from the road.

One caught my eye just off to the right. It looked tight, like it was meant for UTV's, but I had to check it out. We drove up this side trail which was sunken into the ground. The trail was a foot lower than the surrounding ground and the ruts were another foot or so deep. It felt like we were in a chute surrounded by flowers that came up to our side mirrors. This was it. This was the spot. I'd know the right spot when I saw it, I told myself.  photo DSC01644.jpg

We were surrounded by Aspen trees.  photo DSC01646.jpg  photo DSC01649.jpg  photo DSC01650.jpg

It was staggering the amount of variety of flowers, trees and views at this camp. Not to mention the deer standing about 15 feet away eating leaves and paying us no attention.  photo DSC01685.jpg  photo DSC01686.jpg

Someone had even left a nice supply of wood and cut some "end tables" for us.  photo DSC01692.jpg  photo DSC01690.jpg

So, this was it. I set up the tripod so we could take a proper picture of us. With that done, I tested the timer and saw that I'd have to run to get into the photo in time. Testing 1, 2. Camera 1... camera 2...  photo DSC01667.jpg

That seemed to work. Hey, let's get one more over here. It's pretty.. Yah, over here. This will work. (Heart rate was peaking, but at the same time I was oddly calm and relaxed. I think I was frightened at how relaxed I was.) So, it worked. Nothing to worry about. Happy 4th of July indeed. :-)

That was a lot for one day, but it was the best ending to a day I can think of. photo DSC01663.jpg