Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall Colors Uraling, Last Day

Monday, 28SEP15

I woke to somewhat "brisk" temperatures in the Gunnison, CO area.  The temperature on Scarlett said 34°F(1°C), and it was a motivator to get moving fast to get everything packed on and hitting the road with fleece jacket and liner under my riding jacket!

Sunrise at the Blue Mesa Reservoir

The "supermoon" hanging above the reservoir at dawn

I had breakfast 20 miles away in Gunnison at a McDonald's restaurant where although their wifi Internet access was working, it seemed "throttled" for picture uploads which is why I am writing this posting a day later.

A brief stop to look west while on US50 heading for the summit
of Monarch Pass.

Shortly after the above picture, I came to one of the usual stopping points for pictures.  There's a rock ledge of sorts that protrudes quite a way out into emptiness with a long drop down to the valley below.

I set up the tripod and using the remote control app for my Sony A5000 and my iphone app, I positioned myself sitting on the ledge for a picture:

Doesn't look too bad right?  Here's what the ledge looks like from a wider angle where the tripod was set up:

It's a long way down to those pine trees below....

I don't have a fear of heights, but I do have a healthy respect for heights.  Here's a view of the ledge as one is walking out onto it.  I am not ashamed to admit that I only walked out part of the way before "caution" stopped me.  It was all I could do, to slowly sit down with my feet hanging in space, to pose for the picture.

Let's just say I didn't spend a long time sitting on the ledge afterwards.

The Ledge

Scarlett and I continued upwards to the summit of Monarch Pass and she posed with the distant mountain peaks:

Near the summit of Monarch Pass

We rode down to Salida on US50 with no incidents until we were twisting and turning along the curvy road that borders the river between Salida and Cañon City.  There was construction at one point and traffic had come to a stop as the two lane highway became a one lane road.

I'd been watching this 40ft RV in my rear view mirror thinking he was going pretty fast even though he was far enough behind me.  Sure enough, I had come to a stop after a curve (there had been signs saying: Construction! Prepare to Stop and so on before the point I had stopped behind a line of cars).

I was watching my rear view mirrors and as I feared, saw this monster RV whip around the curve that was hiding me and the line of cars in front of me.  He slams on the brakes and starts veering to his left to avoid collision, and I had already started moving the rig with "elan" onto the shoulder!  The idiot stopped less than ten feet from where Scarlett and I had been sitting while on the road.  Always, leave yourself room to maneuver around the car in front of you when possible.

I looked at this idiot, he didn't even have the grace to look ashamed.  Once traffic started moving again, I made sure to stop and let him get far ahead of me while I took a picture of this huge bronze Buffalo I saw next to a sign advertising taxidermy services:

Later on, I caught up with the idiot from Montana in his 40 foot Phaeton RV in Cañon City.  I pulled up next to him at a stop light and he would steadfastly refuse to look in my direction.

Note: Skyline Drive was closed due to maintenance so no pics from that scenic bit of road.

The rest of the ride home was via CO 115 to Colorado Springs and from there used the I-25 Superslab to get home by 2:30 PM.  Started the 25,000 Kilometer maintenance services on Scarlett right then and there by changing out all her fluids to include the oil filter.  There rest of the services will be done this week between work stuff.

The temperature soared to the mid-80s by the end of the ride, a temperature change of over 50 degrees Farenheit!

Scarlett, I'm happy to report, performed marvelously during this four day trip.  1574 Kilometers or almost 945 miles covered in the four day's worth of riding both pavement and dirt trails.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fall Colors Uraling, Day 3

What a great day of riding today, a lot of it was off-road on trails ranging from easy gravel to gnarly rocks and small boulders.

I packed up the rig and was riding into Durango just past 8AM and by good luck I happened to catch the Silverton - Durango Train as it was also leaving town headed north!

I motored ahead of it and positioned myself near one of many railroad crossings along US550 and got this video:

After the train passed, I got back on Scarlett and actually passed the train as we moved at URAL speed north on US550.  This time, I positioned myself to catch the train at another railroad crossing:

Train chasing done with, Scarlett and I headed north and captured a few pictures along the way.

 This time, without the lens bloom that it had when I took this shot yesterday.

 Engineer Mountain

Shortly after the small town of Hermosa, I took the exit for the Lime Creek Trail also known as Forest Road 591.  It turned out to be ten miles of hilly/rocky/gravelly forest road with technical spots and terrain to keep one quite entertained and somewhat fearful at times.  The scenery along the way was as beautiful in terms of Fall Colors as the stuff one saw on the highway.

Emerging from FR591 back onto Hwy 550 and I cruised north a short distance before spotting the sign for "Ophir Pass".  I went past, but shortly afterwards made a u-turn and decided "what the hell" and go for it.  After all, two other Uralisti couples had made it up to the summit of the pass, surely Scarlett and I could do it as well.

The road from the eastern end of Ophir Pass road begins pretty easily though with its steep parts.  It got worse as I gained altitude but still it wasn't as bad as the rocky sections on FR591.  Still, once I got near the summit, there came a set of switchbacks with steep inclines which overheated my clutch.

 First spot where I backed down from the slope on the right to
let the clutch cool down a bit.

 After waiting ten minutes (should have waited longer), I
made it up to the spot below.  You can see how steep things
were for Scarlett and I in the pic above.

 You can almost see the summit from here!

 This time, I resolved to wait almost 20 minutes for the
clutch to cool down.  I amused myself by building the stack
of rocks pictured above.

The 20 minute wait did the trick, and I gunned Scarlett's engine and we shot up to the top of the pass.  In less than a mile, we were at the summit sign.

 A view to the west from the summit of Ophir Pass

 Scarlett at the summit of Ophir Pass, the sign is on the rock pile.

It must have been a good 15 minutes of taking pictures up on top before I decided to start headed back down the way we'd come up.  I didn't go down towards the west side of the pass road as I would have ended up somewhere south of Telluride and stuck with riding the long way round on the San Juan Skyway back to Durango.

Here's some of the sights as Scarlett and I descended back down towards US 550.

Back on US550, I headed north with the eventual thought to overnight in Gunnison, CO.  Along the way, Scarlett and I got a few more Fall Color shots:

Passing once more through Ouray and tanking up at the gas station to the north of town; I made my way to Ridgway thinking at the time to go to where US50 junctions with US550.  Instead I zoomed past the sign for Owl Creek Pass.  Once again, I made a quick U-Turn and saw this:

 What a gorgeous set of mountains right?  It made the decision for me to ride Owl Creek Pass road to get to US50 instead of boringly paved highway.

 A view back towards the mountains of Ouray and Silverton

 The centerpiece of this mountain range is called Courthouse Mountain
I would end up really close to the leftmost rock formation that looks
like a watch tower.

 Owl Creek Pass road was smooth gravel with several roughly
wash-boarded sections that threaten to shake things loose
on Scarlett and me.

 Getting closer, a view of the peaks from "Vista Point"

 A closeup view of the watch tower just before Scarlett and I
reached the summit of Owl Creek Pass

 The requisite picture of the pass sign.  I let Scarlett cool
down here for a good 20 minutes or so as she was
smelling "hot"

Nearby the summit sign, I found the below small stream coursing slowly by.  I cooled off a bit with some of the cool water and then spent a few minutes playing with the camera's shutter priority mode to "blur" the water stream.  What do you think of the result?

Everyone cooled off, we motored on down Owl Creek Pass road towards the valley below, here's some sights:

 There were perhaps ten people, with large lenses attached to
expensive looking camera gear; all looking at the shot above, waiting
for sunset I think.  I just shot it and kept riding.

It would be at least ten more miles of gravel road before I finally got to US50 only to find myself over fifteen miles west of the campground (Elk Creek) where I had decided to stay.  I passed by the one suggested by fellow Uralista Jay B as there was no cell signal there whereas I knew there was at the Elk Creek Campground by the Blue Mesa reservoir.

The sun lower and lower as I motored eastward on US50, I finally got to the campground as the last rays of the setting sun were painting the sky:

Picked out a site (there were plenty of spots), got registered and once back at the site I started setting up camp.  The super moon/blood moon combination started up right then and I spent a hurried bit of time setting up camp, trying to get shots of the moon as the eclipse happened, cook dinner and also check in with Martha.
At the beginning of the eclipse, after a while I gave up.

Dinner was freeze-dried Chili Mac as darkness enveloped the campground and temperatures dropped.

I was a tired puppy today, lots of riding on rough trails and that always jostles things around enough that one is happy to lie down for the night.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fall Colors Uraling, Day 2

What a day!

Here I had been a bit worried that I was too late in the Fall Color season, and that I had arrived past the peak of the Aspens and other deciduous trees turning the marvelous yellows, gold and sometimes reds.  Turns out, I was right on time.

The day started a bit later than planned, I was asked by a couple next to my campsite if I could help load the man's Vulcan 1700 cc Cruiser onto the back of a U-Haul trailer.  Apparently, the man had hurt his left foot in the camp ground and couldn't ride it.

After waiting for some more help, three of us managed to roll the motorcycle to the wooden ramp that had been placed at the edge of the door.  After some discussion, the owner rode it up, bad foot and all and it was swiftly tied down.  All is well there, they're going home to AZ today.

So that ate up an hour and I didn't leave the camp ground till close to 8AM.  I skipped breakfast and worse of all, Coffee, in my rush to get north of Durango and see what there was to see.

Bottom Line Up Front: BLUF:  Wow, it was incredible the amount of color on the hillsides and mountainsides all along my route today.  There were times when my forward progress was measure in tenths of miles as I would come up to yet another grand viewing of Fall Colors!

To give you an idea, the ride to Silverton usually takes less than two hours.  Today it took me four.  After I while, I went into beauty overload and stopped much less frequently.  Still wound up taking 330 photographs which I whittled down to 48.  There were a lot of dupes as I was shooting each scene four times: one in auto mode, then with 0.3 underexposure, 0.7 and 1.0 or a full F-Stop.  Depending on the light, it wasn't always the same setting that worked out best.

Here's a link to the last time I was on this route, shooting Fall Scenery: LINK

 Near the Durango Ski Resort

 First set of trees I found with some reds in the foliage

I think this is Twilight Peak above

 Near Molas Pass


 Approaching Ouray

There were a lot more cagers and leaf peepers around today than I seem to recall from last year.  Also, a lot of construction causing delays as traffic was funneled down one lane while the other direction waited their turn.  It was really bad at the spot in the below picture, we sat parked for almost thirty minutes, with no traffic moving in either direction.  

This is usually one of my favorite portions of this road, but no way to stop today for pictures.  

 Most recognized portion of the Million Dollar Highway


I did not dally in Ouray, electing to skip lunch in order to do the San Juan Skyway route by heading towards Ridgway and then to Telluride and points south.

 Peaks visible as one heads towards Telluride from Ridgway

 The start of CO145, from near Telluride

 Fall Colors at Telluride

 Telluride is surrounded by mountain peaks, I think it sits in a 
bowl in the center of the mountains above

 Nearing and then viewing the Uncompahgre Mountains

 Trout Lake, near Lizard Head Pass

Rock formation for which Lizard Head Pass is named

The upper half of the San Juan Skyway was also as dazzlingly colorful and almost as beautiful in terms of Fall coloring as the Million Dollar Highway.  It's gently twisting roads following several rivers as they course along.

I was over-saturated by all the Fall Color beauty I'd seen previously and didn't stop at all until I reached Cortez, CO.  This is where I picked up US160 again and took it east past the Mesa Verde National Park, Mancos where I gassed up again and from there to Durango.

Slightly over 300 kilometers, and almost twelve hours in the saddle.  I am one tired puppy tonight.

I hope you enjoy the photos.