January 23rd, 1999 - West of Central City, Colorado
This mid-winter trailride was scheduled with the hope that the weather would not get TOO bad for us to enjoy the trip. We got lucky! The snow from a couple of nights before had subsided, and partly melted.
The morning of the 23rd was cool, in the 20's, but the forecast for the day was for sunshine and temperatures in the 40's. Great weather to play in the snow.
The snowfall in the lower mountains where we were heading has been low this year. The sun-exposed roads at lower elevations were actually dry. There is still a lot of snow (up to a foot or so) on the untraveled trails on the northern sides of the hills so we will undoubtedly be challenged.
We gathered in stages. The southern members got together in Golden at the usual meeting place on the west side of town. We discovered that the Hwy 6, Hwy 93, Hwy 58 intersection was so busy that there were a couple of policemen/women directing traffic. We had an "opportunity" to explain to one of them why we were parking along the busy highway in those funny looking trucks. All was well, and they let us stay there until the group gathered.
After a late departure, near 10 AM, we headed up Hwy's 6 and 119 to Blackhawk, then into Central City. At this point we had the following attendees: (I hope I have everyone listed correctly!)
Per Eliason & son
Kyle Ruhter & son (riding with Per)
Jason Hanford (riding with Gene)
Matt Hemmingway (riding with Greg)
404.1 Unimog Radio Truck
Frank Smith, possible future Unimog owner,
who stopped to say hi, then
later joined us above Central City!
The Unimog was the slowest, so we led the way up the mountain road. We finally got to the second meeting point on the west side of Central City at 1100, right on time.
In Central City we were joined by:
Ron "late again" DePugh, who joined us later with Frank "they went that-a-way" Smith as a guide :-)
404.1 Unimog VLF
We were finally ready to hit the trails! The first trail we took was the Columbine Campground trail to the northwest. The road was good until we hit the trees, then the road got snowpacked. One stream crossing, which had been completely frozen over until the Unimog hit it, now has one tank- trap hole which the Unimog broke into, but bounced right back out of. That hole really shook us up. The tire dropped at least a foot before climbing back out. Sure glad no more wheels dropped through!
After we passed the campground (closed for the season) the road turned to a real trail and got steeper and narrower.
Traction was good until we came to an area where a water flow had been freezing across the trail. The road was completely covered for up to 50 ft with solid ice, at a rather steep angle, and with a 2 foot ledge at the bottom. We all succeeded to get our front wheels up on the iceflow, but then the front tires would completely lose traction and we could not climb the ledge with the rear wheels.
We had decided to meet at 11am at the Cemetary west of Central City, but unfortunately, due to an on-call problem at work, I arrived about 45 minutes late. The 60mph headwinds coming off the front range didn't help me either. When I arrived at the meeting place, the rest of the trucks had already left, but Frank was kind enough to have followed me back from Central City to help me rendezvous with the rest of the group. I offered him a ride, and we went off in search of the group. We met up at the icy section of steep road.
Ron on one of his attempts on the icy steep
section of road. He didn't make it, either.
Several of us in the lower powered Mogs and Pinz's realized that chains would be the only option. Greg, in his Bronco, decided that a little inertia would get him past the ice ledge and on up the hill. His Bronco has the power, and a rear locker, to make that happen! Greg has a really fine running early (small-sized) Bronco with a swapped in fuel injected Mustang V-8. It sounds great and runs great, too. With excellent driving technique, Greg was able to get up enough speed to get off the side of part of the ice flow and get over it. He also cleared another iceflow further up the trail and found a flatter stopping spot up further.
He was the only one to make it over the hump without chains.
Gene decided it was worth the effort to chain up his Pinzgauer, and he made it over the ice dam quite easily, too. He developed a problem when the chains somehow got to the right rear brake line and severed it! The line was crimped enough to allow him to make it back to civilization, with 3 brakes.
The rest of us were too lazy to put on chains. We knew the trail only continued for a few hundred more feet before it was gated by the Forest Service.
After everyone had played to their heart's content, a quick lunch was gobbled, and we headed back down the trail to try another road.
After lunch, we went back down to the Cemetary, and regrouped. Frank needed to leave, and Gene limped home with 3-wheel brakes. The rest of us decided to go in search of another road to explore. We headed south-west, and found some mine tailings to play in. We climbed a few of them, and tested out the articulation a bit.
Bob Wanderbeek does a bit of 3-wheeling.
Ron tackles some
mine tailings in his VLF.
Greg plays in the tailings with the Bronco.
Bob R and Per stand by to watch.
This time Greg was in the lead and found a very promising trail with good fresh snow that headed out into the forest. After a mile of continuously degrading conditions, the trees along the trail were closing in, the trail got narrower than the two Unimogs, and started down a northern face (with a foot of snow) at a steep rate into unknown territory. A check of the maps showed us that there could be another couple of miles of north facing roads that were probably too narrow for the 'mogs, and that we possibly could not drive back up.
After a trailside meeting of the participants, we decided it wasn't worth the risk of being caught in the dark on this trail when there were other places to explore. We had to back up the trail for a couple of hundred yards, alternately backing a few feet, fold in the mirrors to clear the trees, then back a little more. We all finally made it to a turnaround spot.
When we got back to the top of York Gulch, Jeff decided to take the short way home, up the Peak-to-Peak, so he went back towards Central City.
We then headed down York Gulch, labelled on the map as "unpassable in Winter", only to discover that it was practically a superhighway. It had even been snowplowed! #*%&^#%$@'ed civilization.
York Gulch road turned out to be icy in spots. I had a bit of a thrill when the rear wheels tried to pass the front ones, but I got it under control. We lost one more participant at the bottom of the road, when Greg decided to head for home.
Not quite ready to head back down the mountain yet, several of us decided to drive up Fall River Road to St. Mary's Glacier, a year-around..well, er, glacier.
The road was good, but as we gained altitude the weather closed in and we came out in the town of Alice in a winter wonderland. It sure was pretty up there! We tried a few small roads on the west side of town but decided the hike to the glacier was out of the question with it getting late.
On the way back down, we came across a Chevy truck that had lost traction on the road up to Alice and had slid backwards into the ditch. The road at this point was really slick. It took the weight of the HamMog, and Per's towrope, to get the Chevy moving. Every time he thought he could make it on his own, he'd discover he still could not proceed up the road, and could not turn around, so we had to pull him to a turnaround spot.
We followed him back down the mountain just to be sure he did not get stuck again.
By then it was dark, so we all headed for home. I70 was the usual parking lot on the way back to Denver, and it was a new experience for us. The Unimogs had to wait for traffic, rather than the other way around!
It was a fine trip! It's rather unusual to go where we did today in the middle of a Colorado winter, so we were lucky.
Looking forward to the next time!
Thanks again to Per for the photos!
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