Tag Archives: colorado

Taking the 6 to New Heights: 14,000 ft+ in Colorado Part II

Welcome to Part II of the Colorado Drive. Let’s begin:

The next day we made our way to Pikes Peak, just 30 miles west of Colorado Springs. First stop along the way was Garden of the Gods. This public park just west of Colorado Springs offers nice views with hiking and Segway tour accommodations. Since we wanted to be mindful of the time, we chose to just drive through.

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Wait. Did we stumble upon another planet? More amazing views.

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Cheesy photo by “balanced rock” in the park.

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Pikes Peak:

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Now let’s get to the good stuff. Making our way to Pikes Peak highway was an easy drive. Upon arrival at the tollgate, a rather lengthy line of cars were awaiting their turn to pay the entry fee to continue onward. It wasn’t the cheapest at $30 ($15 per person), but trust me…all was worth it. Pikes Peak is regarded as the most visited mountain in North America, and only second in the world next to Japan’s Mt. Fuji. At 14,115 ft above sea level, this is the 31st highest peak out of the 54 in Colorado. The Pikes Peak Highway from the base to the summit climbs 7,400 ft over just over 12 miles!

Four major events take place on this mountain each year, Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak Challenge and the AdAmAn Club New Year’s Fireworks display. Best part for me is simply enjoying the views and crossing off another bucket list item.

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Making our way up to the summit. We are now beginning the 7,400 ft climb. THIS GETS STEEP!

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…and steeper (at timberline here)

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…and steeper! (now at alpine level) It’s certainly an odd feeling being nearly eye-level with the clouds.

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Nah, you don’t need no stinkin’ guardrails here. Some areas you would fall to certain death if you got a little careless with driving.

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Some views midway.

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The views were quite intoxicating, and most curves were perfectly banked for some decent fun.

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Mostly though, we just took our time at a steady pace. After a little under an hour which included many photo stops, we made it!

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We checked out The Summit House which was the only facility at the summit. Stuffed full of endless souvenirs and a small cafe, you could get lost in there for quite some time. A small burger and milk shake sure hit the spot and I did manage to buy a few items.

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Outside the Summit House, you’re free to walk around with no barriers, fencing or other obstructions and take in the scenery.

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When it was time to start the descend, I was surprised that 1 – 2nd gear and 4,000 rpms were all I could use to comfortably control the speed. Rain started to come down which made me even more cautious.

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Midway down the mountain, there was a mandatory brake check where a nice lady actually checked each vehicle’s rotors and pads with a temperature gauge. If your brakes were too toasty, you have to pull aside to let them cool before proceeding. This was serious stuff here. Luckily, we sailed on by with no issue.

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That covers it! Apologies I couldn’t offer up some more excitement in the mix. Saying “Two dudes drive an old Mazda up two mountains without incident” doesn’t exactly make for an exciting read. However, if you stuck around long enough to read this, I thank you for joining the ride. Until next time…

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Taking the 6 to New Heights: 14,000 ft+ in Colorado Part I

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Sometimes past drives are so memorable that I just need to get back for another go. I’ve had this goal for many places I’ve visited, but one that tops the list was Mt. Evans in Colorado…the highest paved road in North America.

I actually didn’t plan this much in advance. It was more of a last minute trip idea, and not going to be a blog post until I decided to throw in one more stop, Pikes Peak! This trip happened in early August of this year, so the weather was just right…cool temps with light spots of rain. My buddy, James Zamora, and I decided that a four-day weekend was in order to escape the humid heat of the desert in search of those cooler temps.

You may remember my first drive to Mt. Evans in 2013 with James and Tyson from drivetofive. I drove my 2004 Honda Accord Coupe V6 6spd then and never forgot the experience. We planned to visit Pikes Peak as well, but it was closed for a bike event. Mercifully, it was open this time so I couldn’t pass it up. Now, let’s give my Mazda 6 that same Mt. Evans experience and see how the 230,000 mile motor handles 14,000+ ft above sea level…twice! While Mt. Evans soars to 14,211 ft, Pikes Peak isn’t that far behind at 14,112 ft. More importantly, how would I handle those heights since I’ve not been in the best shape lately. Let’s find out!

Total drive time: 22hrs
Total miles: 1,451

Starting day: Picked up James Z. from Socorro, NM and we headed out on I-25. With multiple clouds multiplying in the sky, it was sure to be a beautiful day. We planned it by spending the night in Denver, attack Mt. Evans Saturday and Pikes Peak the following day near Colorado Springs. Let’s get going…

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Getting into Colorado with a gentle mist in the air. Note this was the time I was trying out those chrome alloys!

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Oh, what’s this? A national park along the way? It’s the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and we both had never been. Time to rectify that.

 

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Checkout those menacing clouds!

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A rather underrated National Park, the Grand Sand Dunes lives in southern Colorado and is known for being the tallest sand dunes in North America. Being at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, it offers some of the most majestic scenery around Southern Colorado. I highly recommend a stop to just let your feet sink into the sand.

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We continued onward to Denver for the night. Hotel of choice was the Hyatt Business center which had the best rates on the south end of town.

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The following day gave us bright and sunny weather for the drive to Mt. Evans. I was thrilled to be once again driving this highest paved road in North America. Lots of switchbacks with no shoulders or no guardrails await!

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Didn’t take long to get up into alpine country.

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Stop at Summit Lake, just 5.5 miles from the top of Mt. Evans.

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Thanks to James for helping out with the photography. This selfie mirror shot is starting to become a tradition.

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Made it to the top! Parking was a little tricky since there were quite a few tourists at this time of year. The little 6 charged up the mountain without incident.

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Summit sign.

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Views for days!

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And it wouldn’t be a 14,000 ft+ experience without spotting the occasional big horned sheep and mountain goat!

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Heading back down. Luckily, we didn’t suffer any ill effects of the altitude aside from a very slight headache I felt coming on. This could also have been my lack of water intake that day, though.

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We wrapped up the day with an easy drive to Colorado Springs for the night. Stay tuned for Part II of Pikes Peak!

 

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Drive to the Switzterland of America — Part II

Let’s begin our travels back home! We did things a little different and took photos of the welcome sign as we departed. Couldn’t when we first entered Ouray as it was too dark.

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Then back down the Million Dollar Highway. This sign just reminds motorists of the dangers (and fun) that they are about in counter.

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Here’s one of my favorite shots of the highway Jouhl managed to capture out the windshield.

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That tunnel there is slanted like to keep avalanches from taking out the road. According to my Dad who does a heck of a lot more research into things than I do, the Million Dollar Highway is one of America’s most expensive roads to maintain.

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The prior night, I was googling a bit and found the ghost town of Ironton to be only a short distance from Ouray. It was a stop we just had to take and much to my surprise, this was a true ghost town where there was no supervision nor was it commercialized in any way. Just some old buildings hidden off the beaten path. This town has an interesting history per Wiki:

“Ironton (aka Copper Glen) was built on flatter ground than surrounding towns. Settled in 1883, within three weeks three hundred buildings were being built. It was a staging area for supplies coming from Ouray. Ironton was a major transportation junction between Red Mountain Town and Ouray in addition to having some of its own mines. Ironton had a peak population of over 1000 and had two trains arriving daily from Silverton. There were many chain stores from the nearby cities of Ouray and Silverton. The town lived into the first part of the 20th century but slowly faded as mining operations declined. The final resident of the town, Milton Larson, died in the mid-1960s. The town site is still occasionally visited by tourists.

Access to Ironton was simple. A narrow road covered in leaves off Hwy 550 takes you to the site. The weather was cold and misty…just the perfect atmosphere for some exploring.

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Here we are.

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Believe it or not, I’ve seen worse bathrooms.

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Most of us split and explored our own buildings. Here’s Jennifer coming down from one of the second floors.

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Alec and I braved the darkness of the second story of this rickety old house.

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Jouhl decided to wait for us at the entrance.

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Nearly all the buildings were structurally sound enough to walk through. Some were quite creepy!

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As usual, wandering around randomly ended up following the Red Mountain Creek for short distance.

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After our toes and fingers couldn’t take the cold any more, we hopped back in the TL and started for home. Last stop before hitting the Interstate, we stopped by Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness just south of Farmington, NM.  This 45,000-acre area is a desolate area of steeply eroded bad lands managed by BLM. “Bisti” comes from the word “Bistahí, which means “among the adobe formations.”

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A 10 mile road layered with corse gravel and bumpy turns made for a rather exhausting ride. I felt for the TL’s shocks. Rumor has it that the Navajo Tribe has gone to great lengths to keep the Bisti and nearby Chaco Canyon remote and not terribly easy to access. This is to minimize the amount of people entering and disturbing the land.

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I didn’t exactly take a defined path to this view point. The AWD system handled the sand just fine though.

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This sure felt like a different planet.

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Despite the wind gusts of 50mph, we set out for some photos and exploring. IMG_6966

Then it was time to run!

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Alec was going crazy taking pictures in every angle he could.

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The Bisti was once a riverine delta that was west of the shore of an ancient sea. This sea covered much of New Mexico 70 million years ago. The waters of this sea washed a lot of sediment upon the shore and then swamps and the occasional pond bordering the stream left behind these large buildups of organic material and odd formations. Amazing!

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There’s only so much wind you can take. We soon hustled back to the TL and began our journey home. That’s a wrap for this trip…thank you all for joining us for this grand adventure. More in store for you very soon!

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Drive to The Switzerland of America — Ouray, Colorado Part I

Nothing beats a nice weekend getaway. Especially when you’re growing bored of the sunny, dry climate of southern New Mexico and want to see some cool fall colors. So, friends Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec all climbed into the TL and joined me in one of my bucket-list destinations: Ouray, Colorado. Let the miles pile on!

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Nestled in the San Juan mountains north of Durango, Ouray was once a silver and gold mining town. Population isn’t much…just about 1,000 according to the 2010 census. It was named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe and it’s best known for the extensive scenery that’s gorgeous in all seasons.

Total miles: ~1,200

Our round trip was as follows:

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Got the TL all washed up and ready to roll.

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From left to right: Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec. Jennifer and Alec had never been to Colorado so this was going to be quite a treat for them.

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Gas stop in Los Lunas before going through Albuquerque.

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First official stop was in Aztec, NM where we’d check out the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Contrary to the name, these were built and inhabited by the Pueblo Indians. The dwellings date back to 11th century and most are in their original, unrestored state.

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Always have to prep the cameras!

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One of the coolest parts is we actually get to explore within the ruins. Here’s Jouhl crouching down to enter the small doorway.

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Here’s an overview of the ruins. Looks like a video game.

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No time to waste. Back on the road towards Colorado. Clouds formed and threw a few rain drops our way. Just enough to get the TL nice and spotty.

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Stateline!

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Almost immediately, we started to see the fall colors. Man, I miss seeing this!

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The long, winding US 550 took us past the small mining town of Silverton, CO. And when I say small, I mean it as there are a total of 530 residents here. (2010 census) It was raining pretty good by now, so we opted to just take a short drive through instead of getting out and walking around. (Well, I did have to sneak out for a quick photo of the TL.

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Now, one of the best parts of the trip is about to begin. We now were on the “Million Dollar Highway.” Many refer to this as one of America’s greatest driving roads for its scenery and smooth twisty nature. In fact, it was so twisty that I didn’t have many opportunities to pull off for photos.

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This is one of the money shots of the trip. The temperature was dropping pretty quickly to the low 40s, so jackets were in order. The rain kept coming down, but in moderation. It was such a grand experience.

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As we ascended in elevation, we could see the rain was turning into snow at the surrounding peaks. Here’s a cool “selfie” Jouhl took of us.

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Darkness was approaching and this was the last photo of the drive today.

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We got into Ouray fairly late around 8pm and we wasted no time to grab some dinner. Our place of choice, The Outlaws.

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Folks were friendly, restaurant very hospitable, and atmosphere inviting. Food however, was disappointing. Regardless, we had fun.

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The next day was going to be full of outdoor fun. Here’s a shot of the hotel where we stayed. We caught the end of the tourism season, and the hotel was actually going to shut down for winter the following day. Yup, we were a few of the last guests of 2014.

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View from the front door.

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After a quick breakfast in the lobby, I wanted to drive around and see what we couldn’t the night before. Here’s downtown Ouray.

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Most of my “short-drive-around-town” moments end up taking half the day and in some of the most remote and interesting places. Today was no exception and luckily the gang loved it.

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I found this cool looking road leading into the forest.

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I just kept going and going. The fall colors were so beautiful.

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The road came to an end (well at least for us in the low slung TL). A higher vehicle could easily cross the creek and keep on going.

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We got out and just randomly walked around exploring the area. No joke here: this is where I was meant to be.

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Yup, that’s one happy Jason.

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We found a hiking trail, and ran with that for a while. The moss covered rocks caught my attention.

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After a few hours, it was time to head back to town. “BACK TO THA CHOPPA!”

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This is another of my favorite shots.

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Wait, did I make a wrong turn? How did I drive to Switzerland?

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The road back down the mountain had an awesome view of the town.

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Next on my list was Box Canyon Falls.

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The canyon was formed by the vicious rushing waters of Canyon Creek. Over time, they formed a deep and narrow box canyon.

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Here we are walking to the falls.

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The falls were actually somewhat hidden, but they sure made a lot of noise and mist.

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Next we checked out the Perimeter Trail which leads to some more breathtaking views of the town. This is scariest and most dangerous part that has taken lives. You hike along a narrow trail carved into the side of the cliff with only a cable to hang on to.

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The views…

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Now on to browsing the shops!

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Ouray locals claim they are the Jeep capital of the world. Not sure how accurate that is, but there were indeed a lot of Jeeps around. Many locals will even rent out their Jeeps. Never seen that before.

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Then we settled down in the Irish Pub for dinner. Our bodies were sore, tired and hungry. The food really hit the spot. My burger had bacon mixed in the patty and to make an already great burger better, Jennifer order some Guinness based BBQ sauce. Oh man, meat lovers rejoice!

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More to come! Stay tuned for Part II…

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