Cassidy and I decided to take an off-road tour of Colorado.
We started out on August 15th, 1999, with a visit to Gramma's house near Carbondale. I have made it somewhat of a tradition to take my mom white water rafting for her birthday each year, and this year was no exception. Even at 78, she had been wanting to go down the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon, so I rounded up some other boaters, and we put in at the Shoshone Power plant. A couple of the other boaters were pretty new to the river, and did a bit of swimming through the rapids. No one was injured, and all in all, everyone had fun. We boated almost as far as New Castle, and had a great day.
On August 16th, Cassidy and I started our off-road trip by driving up the face of Aspen Mountain. It is a steep long haul, from the town of Aspen at about 7900 feet of altitude, up to the top of the mountain at over 11,000 feet. I had a couple of instances of vapor lock, but managed to overcome them by spraying a mist of water on the carburetor to cool it down. We followed the trail back behind Aspen Mountain, along the ridge, and over Richmond Hill all the way to Taylor Pass. The south side of that pass has gotten much rougher over the years. We ended up at Dougherty campground for the night. It started raining, and I cooked dinner under the cover of the rear door. We had a small campfire in the rain, with umbrella's (Cassidy's idea).
August 17th, we slept in. After breakfast, we took a hike around the campground area. Cass didn't want to leave at first, but then I used the magic words "hot springs". So, we loaded up and drove down to Taylor Park and the Taylor Reservoir, and took a left up Cottonwood pass. That road appears to be an old railroad bed, with a constant slope, and gentle curves, but it is dirt until you get to the top. We stopped at the top for some photo's, and headed down the hill to Buena Vista for some lunch. We picked up some supplies, and drove south to the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. It was closed due to lightning in the area, but it opened a bit later. We spent the afternoon in the hot pools, and then went in search of a campground. The first one was full, the next one was closed, and the third one was full. Our last chance was Iron Mountain campground up near St. Elmo. On the way there, we surprised a large brown bear on the road. I think he was more frightened of the Unimog, and he ran off into the woods. Iron
Mountain still had a space available for the night, so we settled in for the night. That was a clear night, and we spent some time looking at all the stars with binoculars.
On August 18th, we had breakfast sitting on a rock at the side of a creek, and then packed up and went into St. Elmo. The general store there sells bags of sunflower seeds to feed to the many squirrels and chipmunks. Cassidy fed them a bag of sunflower seeds. They are so tame, they will sit on your lap and take seeds from you. We looked at the tons of antiques for sale at the general store, had some lunch, fed the chipmunks another bag of seeds, and headed on up the road over Hancock Pass. We took a side road up to Mary Michael Mine. Most of the buildings are still there. It was quite an operation, with a cable-car system to haul the ore down to the railroad in the main valley. We continued on up the main valley to the old Hancock town site, and up to the top of Hancock Pass. Near the top, I noticed an open mine tunnel. So we hiked over to it, and took a look inside. It was a hard rock tunnel, with no wood bracing. It only went in about 100 feet, and looked like it had not been a sucessful mine. Back in
the Unimog, we continued over the top of the pass. The view from the top is magnificent. You can see Tomichi pass across the valley, and it looks pretty amazing. It makes you wonder why someone built such a road. The west side of Hancock pass gets a little narrow and tippy in places, but we made it through without mishap. The road crosses a stream a few times, and Cassidy insisted in dipping her toes in the ice-cold water. She loved it, and, as at the hot springs, I had a hard time prying her away from the water. We took the turn up to the Alpine Tunnel, and explored the area around there. Some group is restoring some of the railroad stuff up there, and they have started reconstructing the railroad turntable. We drove back down from the tunnel, and Cassidy was a bit more nervous, since she now had the view over the edge of the road, instead of the mountain side as she had on the way up. There are a couple of places where the retaining wall that holds the road up drops off for hundreds of feet, straight
down. It is a bit scarey, since there aren't any guard rails along there. After a long drive down the road, we found the campground near Pitkin, and stopped for the night. Once again, it was a rainy night. We gathered a bit of wood for a fire, and scouted out the beaver pond next to our camp site. We sat around the fire with our umbrella's again, in the rain.
August 19th, we got up and had campstove-toasted bagels for breakfast (or maybe it was campstove-burnt bagels...). We saddled up and headed on down the road to Gunnison. After a long delay for a paving project on Highway 50, we finally got to town. In Gunnison there is a Pioneer Museum. It has grown a lot the past few years, and has quite a collection of old cars, wagons, buildings, including one of the first schools in the area, railroad equipment, and antiques. We spent a few hours exploring, until we got too hungry. After lunch, we drove to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We stopped at all the overlooks, and took a couple of the hikes. By late afternoon, it clouded up and started raining again. We decided we had had enough of camping in the rain, and drove out to Montrose. After a huge buffet at a restaurant, we found a motel in Montrose that had an indoor swimming pool. Cassidy spent as much time as possible in the pool, until they closed the pool at 10pm.
The next day, we drove north through Paonia, past the Paonia Reservoir, over McClure Pass, and back to Carbondale. And that was the end of our Mogabout...