Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snowshoeing Michigan Ditch Trail at Cameron Pass

I drove up to Fort Collins to hang out with my friends tonight. I wanted to take full advantage of being up north so CJ and I decided to do some snowshoeing during the day. The Michigan Ditch Trail was one I haven’t been on yet and it’s one of the most popular trails in the Cameron Pass area.

This trail crosses in to Colorado State Park land, so there is a day use fee

Having fun with huge icicles

The Michigan Ditch Trail is wide and level, perfect for cross country skiing

Even though the trail starts at 10,280 feet and climbs to 11,480 feet in elevation, it’s a pretty easy trail since the climb is so gradual that the trail feels almost level. Even though we were snowshoeing today, pretty much everyone we saw on this trail was cross-country skiing and I can see how that would be more fun with the trail being wide and level.

Some deep snow in places

Amazing scenery, Colorado is beautiful - especially in winter

We parked across the road from the trail on highway 14 and started to snowshoe, there was plenty of snow here and in some places it was pretty deep. The trail starts in the Routt National Forest but shortly crosses into Colorado State Forest State Park, so you need to pay a day fee unless you have a state park pass, which I do.

Stopping for lunch

Best enjoyed outside, yes it is!

I had to check out all the cabins

Some of the cabins were not very much intact

We stopped at the cabins, which were unoccupied, to have lunch. We didn’t snowshoe very far today. Michigan Lakes are 6 miles from the trailhead, which would make it a 12 miles round trip. I’d like to do that on my cross-county skis next time, that’s a bit too far to go on snowshoes.

With the sun setting, it was time to get back to the car

Beginning Elevation: 10,280 feet
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
Ending Elevation: 11,480 feet
Length: 6 miles to Michigan Lakes

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Elephant Ride - Guanella Pass or bust

At 7AM it was only 7 degrees. After a quick breakfast of muffins and Red Bull we walked two or was it three buildings over from the motel to the staging area for the “Elephant Ride”. So by now you’re must be wondering what this “Elephant Ride” is? The rumor is, this ride started about 30 years ago when a group of BMW riders challenged a group of Harley riders to ride over the Guanella Pass (11,669 feet in elevation) in February and meet in Georgetown. The rumor also continues that the BMW riders made it over the pass but the Harley’s didn’t. So since then, on the second weekend of every February the challenge to get up and over Guanella Pass and to Georgetown continues. I also read that the Guanella Pass road used to get plowed in the winter time, but it no longer is at the higher elevations. So in the last few years the challenge is who can make it the furthest up the road, or to the pass itself.

Snow covered bikes

It had snowed over night and it was snowing right now. I brushed the snow off my bike, and tried to start it but it wouldn't start. Shortly after the battery was completely dead. With some help in about 15-20 minutes the bike was running again, by then most of the riders have already left. It wasn‘t a big deal since I was planning on riding by myself anyway.

Elephant Ride staging area

Riders getting ready to take off

Getting the XT started

A jump start was necessary

My XT and CJ's KDX ready to go

CJ taking off on the Guanella Pass road

At the beginning of the Guanella Pass road, I brought my avalanche shovel with in case and my snowshoes.. I figured at some point when the snow got too deep I could ditch the bike and snowshoe up to the pass

As I headed up Guanella Pass road I saw a bunch of Ural’s and other bikes pull in to the staging area across the street. I guess people were still rolling in, and some didn't start the ride til later in the day. So why was I out here this early in the morning? I had as many layers on underneath my jacket, as could possibly fit. But with no accessory plug for my Gerbing headed liner and no heated grips, this would be a very cold ride. The coldest ride I’ve ever been on! I had on my warm and waterproof rain gloves, but in less then ¼ mile I had to pull over and take them off and put on my regular motorcycle gloves with only the thin silk glove liners underneath. That made my hands so much colder, but I had to do it. I just couldn't feel the throttle and couldn’t accelerate gently enough with the bulky gloves on and a few times my back tire slid out on me and I figured that I needed to feel the throttle more.

So I continued slowly. Pretty soon I pulled over for a picture and I was passed by the Ural’s. Then I pulled over for another picture and I was passed by some more bikes. I kept stopping a lot and trying to warm my hands. The fact is, my hands are usually cold anyway, and I use my heated grips on my street bikes all year long. I sure wished I had some on the XT.

After riding about two miles I stopped. My hands were now numb from the cold. It was still snowing and I figured I’d better turn around now while I still had some feeling in them. Funny, I’ve never ridden on snow before this and I thought that would be the most difficult part of the ride. But for me the most difficult part was keeping my hands warm.

I took my time riding the two miles back, stopping a few times to warm my hands next to the motor. In the last half mile of my ride the snow stopped falling and the sun started to come out. It was still cold, but no longer in the single digits. I guess two things would have helped today, #1 - heated grips, #2 - starting the ride in the afternoon when the temps were at their warmest.

I hung out in the staging area watching people still roll in and start the ride while some were already coming back form the ride. From what I heard, possibly three people made it to the top of Guanella Pass today.

CJ pulling in to the staging area back from the ride, he didn't make it to the pass but got pretty close thanks to the chains on his tires

The "after ride" celebration

The Ural's coming back from the ride

A Rokon being towed by a BMW

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Pre-Elephant Ride Shenanigans

So it’s the middle of February. I haven’t ridden any bikes since November, mostly because until just a few weeks ago, the bikes were still in Loveland and I was already living in Lakewood. But besides that, I've been busy working and we've been getting snow since October and there just wasn’t too many opportunities to ride. Today was actually a nice day with no snow and as I made my way over to the garage, the temperature was in the mid to upper 50’s and the sun was shining.

The KDX and XT getting a ride to Grant

In the early afternoon CJ arrived in Lakewood to pick me and my bike up. I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t start but the XT started with no effort what‘s so ever even though it’s been sitting for a few months and wasn’t plugged in to a trickle charger.

Starting to snow a few miles out of Grant

After strapping down the XT next to the KDX and loading some of my stuff in to the back of the pickup truck, we were on our way toward highway 285 and Grant, Colorado. The weather was nice and sunny but as we got closer to Grant and higher elevation, the snow started to fall.

Grant wasn’t that high up in the mountains either, it sits at only 8,606 feet. A lot of the people that were doing the ride tomorrow were camping tonight, but with temperatures dropping in to the low single digits CJ and I opted out for the Grant Motel. It was going to be plenty cold riding tomorrow, we wanted to be sleep in a warm bed, instead of a cold tent tonight.

Winter wonderland behind the Grant motel

The Grant motel on highway 285

This doesn't look like motorcycle riding weather

After checking in the motel and unpacking, we went to unload the bikes

See that sign for Guanella Pass? That's where we are heading on our bikes tomorrow

The staging area for tomorrow's Elephant Ride

Some hard core guys setting up their tents

The KDX and XT unloaded

CJ testing the traction with tire chains

A three-wheeler

The temperature dropping quickly as night approaches

Some weird pictures in front of the fire pit