The map above shows me taking I-70 for part of the days ride, it is not accurate. When I drew the map Google didn't think I should ride over Independence Pass.
After Day 5 I wasn't about to rush into anything so I took my time getting ready. I had the free breakfast at the motel (better than most free breakfast, but worth more space) and was on U.S. 50 heading west just before 9A.M.
Not far from Gunnison I notice a large bird of prey (not sure is it was an eagle or hawk, sorry I'm not an Ornithologist) that looked like it was going to auger in nose first, and it did. Just as I approach the crash site the bird takes flight. It appeared the bird picked up an unwitting passenger. Today's in-flight meal will be chipmunk sashimi.
I take CO 92 and follow it along the Black Canyon of Gunnison, stopping to apply my rain gloves when the clouds let loose. Day six would be no different from the rest, rain on and off through out the day, sometimes very hard, others just a few drops. Not long after putting on my rain gloves I stopped to remove them at the overlook where Gunnison Creek meets the Gunnison River. With different gear (hiking boots) I might have hiked the trail to the bottom of the canyon, next time.
On to Hotchkiss and north on CO 133 through Paonia, home of "Top O the Rockies" BMW Rally, I was early by a few weeks. Over McClure Pass a meager 8755 feet. Just down the east of McClure Pass I stopped to shoot some photos of Hays Creek Falls and the Crystal River.
Next I followed CO 82 a 4 lane highway into Aspen. Aspen is packed with people and cars, I can only imagine what it must be like in Ski season. None to fast I'm east of Aspen heading for Independence Pass. Halfway between Aspen & Independence Pass I spot what turns out to be the abandoned Independence mine. I took a great deal of care parking the bike on its side stand just off the road on the beginnings of a jeep trail, all to no avail. Before hiking around the mine works I broke out the trail mix for a little energy boost, with a mouth full I got quite the surprise as the bike tried to take me out. Luckily as it fell the seat gave me a push out of the way. I said a few choice words as I picked it up. I didn't think to document the moment on film until the bike was up-right and in a more stable spot. I've had the bike for 13 years and until yesterday it had never been off its wheels, now twice in 2 days. Photos of the mine taken and on the road again I come to the mining camp not even a half mile down the road. There is a nice level parking lot (with lots of cars and people), but I don't stop. Cars and People don't fit into my ghost town photos.
At the summit of Independence Pass (12,065 feet) there is a over look at the end of a short hike, but again the parking lot is full, so I snap a shot of the Pass marker and skip the rest. When I reach U.S. 24 I decide to save the side trip to Leadville for my next trip west, It was getting late and I had a long way to my motel. I headed south to Buena Vista, fuel-up and follow County Rd 209 to Cottonwood Pass. Cottonwood Pass will shave 20-30 miles off my trip back to Gunnison but will require 16 miles of grave road going down the other side. At the summit (12,126 feet) I take a rest and a few photos. It's the highest point on my trip so far and the highest on two wheels for me. Cottonwood Pass is more to my liking, only a few people around when I get there and before I leave I'm the only one there. It's not that I don't like people, I just enjoy the quite solitude. The 16 miles of gravel wasn't bad, hard packed Dirt with just little loose stuff on top.
Even with the short cut it was still after 8 P.M. when I arrived back at the motel. By the time I decided I was to tired to walk to the Cowboy bistro and should order pizza the pizza joint had closed already. Luckily Mario's Pizzeria & Ristorante was open late and delivered. So I got another pizza and salad from there. I think the pizza was actually better this time. After dinner I made sure everything was organized and ready to go onto the bike in the morning, as I would be moving to an as yet unknown location in the morning.
See you on the road.
|Road Trip 2009 Highlights|