Date: August 10, 2015
Start Location: Colorado Springs, CO
End Location: Reudi Reservoir, east of Basalt CO
Miles Travelled: ~198mi
High Temperature: 83F
Low Temperature: 51F
So, This is our third attempt at the Colorado and Utah Backcountry Trail. If you followed us in 2013, Ed ended the trip with a broken ankle that required the installation of a plate and a dozen screws. Then in 2014, Keith’s clutch failed and was not repairable even after visiting several BMW dealers. We are determined to finish this trip, at least the Colorado Trail. The distance we cover will depend on many factors; weather, trail conditions, level of difficulty, etc. In fact, when Keith took Ed’s bike in for a new front suspension a few days ago, there was a rider that brought his bike into the dealership. As the story goes, he and his buddy were at about 12000 ft, he lost control and had to bail out. His bike went end over end down the cliff side. The bike had to be lifted out by helicopter. I gotta figure the helicopter costs were more than what the bike is worth now after rolling down a mountainside. It was a new BMW GS1200 and this guys first adventure ride of his life. I’m sure he’ll never forget this trip. Anyway, this happened at Engineer Pass and is the same route we’re taking, so wish us luck.
Some new equipment this year:
- Ed’s bike has new front and rear suspension by HyperPro.
- Keith has new electronics that he invented and built so he can manage maps, screens on the fly. He also monitors vital stats of his bike. It’s an amazing piece of technology
- Thermarest luxury cots
- A 2000 lumen LED flashlight.
This year we decided to lighten up our loads, so we eliminated some things that were considered “just in case” items. We both ended up with just one dry bag on top of the rear rack, previously we had two. That should help us with controlling the bikes in rough terrain.
We left Colorado Springs at about 2:00pm, after having birthday cake with Amy, Sandy, Lincoln and Ryken. Today was Sandy’s birthday (can’t disclose her age). We also had to wait for a severe thunderstorm to pass through the area. Hail stones the size of dimes fell for about 30 minutes and then rain. Flash flood sirens blew it rained so hard. But by the time we left the sun was out. As we traveled to Basalt, we were right on the edge of thunder clouds and rain. Got a little rained on but nothing too significant. Aspen was a reminder of our 2013 trip, where Ed had his ankle surgery. Along the way we stopped at Independence Pass on the Continental Divide elevation 12,110 ft. The scenery was amazing so we captured some pics along the way. We got to Basalt a little after 7:00pm. There ,we gassed up and got groceries.
We arrived at the Little Maud Campsite on the Reudi Reservoir just east of Basalt at about 8:30pm, just as it was starting to get dark. We scurried around to find some firewood and set up the tent before it got too dark. Camp all set up, we proceeded to start cooking. Tonights menu was ribeye steaks, baked potato, cheese and radishes. Everything was good. Finished eating at about 11:00pm. Then we set up our new cots and went to bed about midnight. Later.
Date: August 11, 2015
Start Location: Reudi Reservoir, east of Basalt CO
End Location: Bueno Vista, CO
Miles Travelled: ~90mi
High Temperature: 76F
Low Temperature: 50F
Got up this morning at about 8:00am. Had some coffee and oatmeal. We were greeted by the campsite ranger collecting site money. He must have thought we were going to rip him off. He told us it would be raining all day, he says “it’s monsoon season”. We packed everything except the tent, since it had started raining. We thought we’d wait it out for awhile. A deer walked through our campsite. Stopped raining, so we took down the tent and left the campsite at about 9:45am. We travelled the highway for awhile and then off onto dirt trails. Saw a coyote just standing along side the road. The Hagerman’s Pass was the first trail we encountered. This was the by far the most difficult trail riding we have done to date. We had to travel over rocks and boulders on a trail that had steep cliffs on at least one side. Tight turns and washed out downward trails. The difficulty factor was high and the consequences of an error were extreme. If you fall off the trail (and survived), the only way to get a bike out is truly by helicopter. At one very difficult section of the pass, (downhill, washed out, tight turn), Keith lost his bike and down it went. Big dent in his right pannier and minor damage to his hand shield. We took off all the weight (panniers, dry bag, etc.) and righted his bike. Keith’s second attempt had similar results after gaining only 50 ft or so. So he now has a matching dent on his left pannier. Safety being our first concern, we walked the bikes through this difficult section (still not easy) and proceeded toward Leadville. Next on the agenda was Weston Pass where we encountered more difficult trails. Once again, Keith lost control and ended up along the bank. Ed made it through without incident, although not easy. Ed walked back to help Keith. We righted the bike and Keith was able to maneuver to somewhat level ground. We continued on to the highest point of Weston Pass at an elevation of 11,921ft. Took some photos for posterity and continued on. Then came the rain. At ~50F the rain was very cold and damp. At times it was a downpour, but we managed to get through to our next turn, highway 432. We took a look and debated about it being passible, but In the end we proceeded and soon found out that this road was totally impassible and it would be suicide to continue. Six inches of mud and rocks. We turned around to get on the main road. And then, more heavy rains came, so we decided to call it a day and travel into Bueno Vista, CO. In BV we found a KOA to spend the night. Even here, the access road had washed out as well as much of the camp ground. While we checked in, five or so bikers pulled in. They were from Massachusetts (could tell by their very strong accents) and told us about their journey down the same trails. They too called it quits on the mud laden 432. While we tried to rest and dry out our gear, we listened to backhoes and dump trucks making repair to the campground. Around 5:00pm, we travelled into Bueno Vista to get some food. Tonight we shall dine on Polish kielbasa and sauerkraut. Should be good. Showers before dinner and maybe start some laundry. We do have internet access here so we will be able to post to our blog. Make sure you check out the photos. The videos from the bike cameras will be posted after we return. Remember we can only send the blog when we have wifi, so don’t be discourage if you don’t see any updates, keep checking. Later
Date: August 12, 2015
Start Location: Bueno Vista, CO
End Location: Lake City, CO
Miles Travelled: ~150mi
High Temperature: 74F
Low Temperature: 46F
We got up this morning around 7:00am. Looks like a beautiful day. It really needs to be nice and sunny to dry out the dirt roads from all the rain yesterday. We talked to a guy last night at the campsite that had been trying to hike the summit of Mt. Princeton (we could see it from our camp). He said he’d been waiting four days for the rain to end. Last night the mountain was entirely covered with dark clouds and you could see the rain pouring over the mountain. This morning the sky around the mountain was crystal clear. We ate some oatmeal and drank a little coffee. We were packed and on the road by 9:00am. The boys from Massachusetts left about an hour earlier than us.
We were about to say that all the electronics have worked well, but Ed’s GoPro camera quit working, damn GoPros!! Fortunately, Keith’s is still going.
We were hoping today would be an easier ride than the next section. By the way the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBDR) is broken up into sections. We are working the trail north to south but the sections are numbered from 1 to 6 starting from the south. Yesterday we completed section 3. Previously, we had completed sections 4, 5 & 6, some of which was travelled in 2013 and 2014.
Section 3 starts out in Buena Vista, CO at an altitude of about 7000 ft. From BV, we headed to Cottonwood Pass with an elevation of 12,126ft. Roads were much easier and there was a considerable amount of ATV/UTV and motorcycle traffic. Got some photos and headed to Cumberland Pass at a little over 12,000ft also. It seemed warmer than other days when we were at 12,000ft. Felt good. We then headed through Wanitua Pass (9000ft+), Wanitua Hot Springs, Razor Dome Loop, Tin Cup, Los Pinos Pass, Slumgullion Pass and finally to Lake City (the end of section 3). In our travels of section 3, we had two water crossings. We took the time to do a thorough evaluation of the water. We didn’t want a repeat of our 2013 water crossing where Keith drowned his bike. Anyway, Ed goes first, makes it across but runs into sand on the far side only to dump his bike. Soft landing, no damage. Keith made it across fine. We righted Ed’s bike and continued on. Shortly after, another water crossing. This time everything went fine for both of us. Also on the way, as we were rounding a blind turn in the road, a logging truck was barreling down the mountain, cutting the corner. Keith was just barely able to avoid the truck but was pulled into the ditch. Fortunately, there were no jagged cliffs at this point and everything seemed fine. We righted his bike and motioned to the truck driver that all was good. Did not expect a large truck like that to be on this, basically, an ATV road. That was way too close. Ed was fine, had a little more time to react than Keith.
The section 3 roads were much nicer, but we did run into a little rain. It’s amazing how a little rain can make these roads feel like ice rinks. It rained hard just before we got to Lake City. There, we stopped to fuel up and get some groceries. Not a big selection on food, so we thought we would give frozen pizza a try. We headed back up the trail to Millcreek Camp Grounds. Picked out a good site and set up camp. Coincidently, The five Massachusetts guys showed up. You think, what are the chances of meeting them again, there are a dozen camp sites along this particular road. You think thats amazing, one of the guys stopped over to our site to shoot the breeze. We started talking road trips and low and behold these guys did the same Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia trip we did in 2011. What’s more amazing, they did it at exactly the same time, during the hurricane that came up the east coast. We probably crossed paths at some point, they travelled counter clockwise while we travelled clockwise. We shot the breeze for quite awhile. They too were going to do the Utah trail but decided against it because of the high temperatures. Good stories from both parties.
So the pizza was a bust, burnt bottom, raw top. We made an aluminum foil tent and that seemed to work good, but was too late. We may try it again now that we know how to cook the pizza. Chips and burnt pizza down, we went to bed at about 11:00pm.
And for those that worry and to Dr. Conger, Ed’s back seems to be holding out. Some discomfort at the beginning, but it seems to be getting stronger every day. Also note that Ed’s ankle is much stronger than last year, where he had difficulty shifting, this year it seems fine. Later.
Date: August 13, 2015
Start Location: Lake City, CO
End Location: Ouray, CO
Miles Travelled: ~128mi
High Temperature: 78F
Low Temperature: 46F
Today we got up at about 8:00am. Keith made coffee and oatmeal (again), while Ed started taking down camp. Ed also wrote the blog once breakfast was done and tent was packed. We will be traveling section 2 today. We were able to leave camp at about 10:15am and head to Cinnamon Pass and Hurricane Pass. This section is very short, just 64 miles, but is supposedly very difficult to maneuver. We soon found out. We travelled for about an hour and a half over treacherous trails. White knuckle all the way. Just after very dangerous, narrow passage along a cliff (which we successfully completed), we came upon a switchback (look it up) that was just bare rocks at at least a 30% incline. We stopped to contemplate our desire to keep living. We thought there was virtually no way we could make this treacherous short section without crashing. While we thought about the value of our lives, Ed flagged down a guy in a Jeep and asked him if he had ever travelled above this elevation on this trail. He said he had and that all of Cinnamon Pass was like this. He said that it can be done on big bikes (like ours), but it would be very challenging, even for expert riders. Well, that settled it, we will have to backtrack to Lake City to take the alternate route that was indicated on our maps. It’ll be much longer but much easier. So back down we went. You know the treacherous, narrow section along the cliff that I mentioned, well it was more terrifying coming down. At a switchback (look it up this time if you haven’t already) Keith dumped his bike again. A couple of Jeep guys helped us right the bike. They also commented on the Cinnamon Pass conditions.
The alternate route took us through Blue Mesa Cutoff, High Mesa and Owl Creek Pass. Very beautiful country. The ride was challenging but much easier than the shorter route. This detour took us all day. The map indicated that although the Cinnamon Pass was short, it would take an entire day to traverse. So in the end, maybe we didn’t lose any time. We stopped in Ridgway, CO since the sky was black in direction we needed to travel. Keith suggested we stop at a local diner to have a bite and look at options. We really wanted the rain to blow by. Burgers and fries with a couple of beers. Food was excellent. While we ate, we picked out our next camping spot. We really would have liked the Orvis Hot Springs campsite, but at $37 per person, we thought better. So another KOA in Ouray is the plan. We’ll just set up camp and get some rest, since we’ve already eaten. Tomorrow, we hope to finish the Colorado Trail, but we never know what we’ll be in for on these trails.
We are wondering how the Massachusetts boys made it through Cinnamon Pass. They were travelling on Suzuki 650s (much smaller bikes). Maybe we’ll meet up with them again, you never know. Later.
Date: August 14, 2015
Start Location: Ouray, CO
End Location: Four Corners (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico & Utah intersect)
Miles Travelled: ~168mi
High Temperature: 100F+
Low Temperature: 50F
We got up early today (around 6:30am) to get on the road as quickly as possible. We would really like to finish the COBDR today. We decided tho eat breakfast at the Creekside Diner in the campgrounds. We packed everything up, took showers and were ready at 7:30am when the diner opened. An hour and a half later we left the camp. To say the least, service was very slow.
First we had to finish section 2 which included Ophir Pass (elevation 11,743ft). While traveling the highway to get to the trail, we saw portions of the highway washed down the cliffside. Construction equipment was being used to make the repairs and they were operating them right on the edge of the cliff. Not a job for I would do. We got to the summit relatively easily. It was very challenging, but we made it to the highest elevation. At the top, we had a quick chat with a guy riding a BMW 800 coming from the opposite direction. He said the trail was fine down to the other side. He did mention that there was a guy following him but was having some trouble getting through. Based on the discussion, we proceeded downward. Holly s*&t, this was by far the scariest ride yet. It was a very steep, narrow trail that was entirely made up of rocks from 4 to 8 inches. It was nearly impossible for us to maintain control of the bike. The fear is that the bikes could run off the cliff (certain death) or into the cliffside. You cannot imagine how difficult this trail is. If we could turn around, we would have. Anyway, Keith loses control and drops his bike into the cliffside. Ed couldn’t even park his bike it was so rough. He ended up laying his bike down to help Keith. We got his bike righted and walked it down to the switchback. There was a guy there (apparently the one that was following the BMW 800) waiting to turn his bike around. He was on a street BMW 1200 with street tires. And listen to this, his wife was on the back, total insanity. Anyway, Ed went back to his bike, righted it and headed downward. We still had quite a ways to go, all loose large rocks. I’m telling you it was terrifying. I hope the videos come out. It took all of our skill, courage and strength to get through this pass. Did I say terrifying, no exaggeration.
When we got through, we were drenched in sweat. Glad that we lived through it and we will never be back! We finished section 2 at about noon. On to section 1. This trail took us through Telluride, Sunshine Mesa, Uncompahgre and Black Mesa to name just a few highlights. The scenery was amazing and the trails were challenging, but enjoyable. We did have a little standoff with a huge bull. Keith rides by him and the bull rears around as if to trample him. Keith continued on to leave Ed to deal with the bull. The bull stood sideways in the trail and just stared Ed down without moving. Ed didn’t know if he was going to charge or just stand there. Finally, the bull moved to the side and Ed took the opportunity to go by. It was one big bull, still no exaggeration.
The dirt trails end in Delores, CO and the rest of section 1 was highway. Apparently, most of the land is owned by the Ute Indians and offroad travel is limited. We got to Four Corners at about 5:00pm, took some photos and talked to a British guy about motorcycles. By the way, the temperature was over 100F by the time we got there. That’s a 50F swing from this morning and no rain for the first time. The Four Corners is where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico all touch. It also marks the completion of the Colorado Backwoods Discovery Route for Keith and Ed. Three years in the making, beat the odds they were giving us in Vegas, but we did it, finally.
We backtracked 38 miles to Cortez, CO to stay at another KOA. Set up camp. Shot the breeze with a few other campers. Went out to J Fargo’s Restaurant to celebrate. Back to camp to get things ready for Utah. Later.
Date: August 15, 2015
Start Location: Cortez, CO
End Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park
Miles Travelled: ~255mi
High Temperature: 88F+
Low Temperature: 59F
Keith and Ed contemplated option last night about our plans. Keith checked the weather forecasts for Utah and the temperatures for the next five days will be 100F+. The planning guide Utah Backcountry Discovery Route guide we use suggests that you should reconsider plans if the temperatures exceed 100F. After much deliberation, we decided that we would continue to explore the Colorado backcountry rather than risk going out into the desert under extreme conditions. We think it is the smart thing to do. There are numerous mountain dirt trails that we still have not seen.
This morning we got up at about 6:30am, showered and ate oatmeal (again). We took our time packing up the tent and gear while we talked about where we would like to go next. So we travelled northeast to Treasure Falls. We hiked up the mountain to the base of the falls. We did so in Gaerne hiking boots (really motorcycle boots) and full protective pants. Just a little warm! Beautiful view of the falls. Hiked back down to find out Ed left his key on, dead battery. Fortunately, we planned on screw-ups like this and had a set of mini jumper cables. Problem solved!
Just as we left the falls it started poring rain. It has rained every day but one so far. It was a bit cool at 12,100ft especially when you’re wet. We picked up a dirt trail in South Fork, CO and followed that for at least 60mi (seemed much longer). Good trail, much more enjoyable than some of the others we’ve been on. That got us to about 10mi south of Monte Vista, CO. The sky was pitch black in the west. You could see heavy rains and lightning, so we had a snack in Monte Vista as the severe storm blew over. Then off to the Great Sand Dune National Park to get a campsite. No VACANCY, so off the the next campsite down the road. We set up camp and did the usual camp stuff. Tomorrow we will spend some time at the sand dunes, maybe a little sand boarding. Can’t figure out why there are these gigantic mountains of sand in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure we’ll find out tomorrow. That’s it for now. Six days, we’re both still alive and well. Later.
Date: August 16, 2015
Start Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park
End Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park
Miles Travelled: ~10mi
High Temperature: 89F
Low Temperature: 63F
We got up today around 7:00am, had coffee and oatmeal, again. We immediately went down to the office to rent sand dune boards and got a lesson in how to wax and use them. So off we go to the sand dunes. These dunes are massive at an elevation of 8700ft. We hiked to the tallest peak and hung out there for awhile. We noticed that most people were wearing sneakers or just socks. We were in our bare feet to travel lightly and we didn’t think we needed any water. Towards the top the sand started getting a little hot, but it was bearable. We sat at the summit for awhile, nice breeze and just a few people. Most people can’t make it to the top. One guy that made it to the top said that it was over 4000 steps, which means it’s well over a mile. When we decided to leave the sand was sooooo hot. We had to take ten steps then stand on the board to cool our feet. We were told that the sand can get up to 160F. It felt like it. We did board down the dunes. That was fun and dangerous. You can’t help but crash, it’s like falling on sandpaper. After boarding, we still had a long ways to go in the scorching sand. I can’t explain how hot it was. Ed tried to travel through some vegetation, thinking that might be cooler, it wasn’t. We both agreed that this was probably one of the dumbest things we’ve done, going barefoot. You would think they would tell you or have signs out warning about the temperature of the sand. Then again, maybe they think people are smart enough to know. When we finally got back to the bikes, the bottoms of our feet were bright red and felt raw. It’ll be a miracle if we don’t get blisters. It was soooooo hot. Back to camp to grab a shower, tend our wounds and have a little lunch. Keith had a Navaho taco and Ed had red chili.
Back at the campsite and the rain rolled in again. We had to relax in the tent for a couple three hours until the rain subsided. The tally for rain is 6 out of 7 days. The temperature was nice in the tent until the rain stopped and the sun came out, then it was like a sauna. Since we had a late lunch, we went down to the diner again for some desert and to get out of the sun. Banana cream pie and milk, mmmmmm.
When the sun fell over the San Juan mountains, we went back to camp. A nice campfire and conversation until about 10:30pm, then it was time for bed. Later.
Date: August 17, 2015
Start Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park
End Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Miles Travelled: ~212mi
High Temperature: 87F
Low Temperature: 60F
Up and at’em at about 7:00am. It seems our feet have healed somewhat, just a little discomfort, no blisters. Packed up everything except the tent. We had run out of oatmeal (hurray) so we went down to the diner for breakfast. Went back to the campsite to finish packing. We could see to the northwest black clouds and rain (imagine that), which is where we are headed, Buena Vista, CO. Our plan would be to catch the section of trail that was impassible on Day 2. The storm was heading easterly, so we thought we could miss it. We finally arrived at the trail and followed it for a short period until again the washouts from previous storms made the trail impassible (at least for us). Back to the highway to Colorado Springs, which took about another two hours. Back at Keith’s we cleaned up and all of went out to dinner at 2 Lucho’s to celebrate Lincoln’s first day of school.
Our plan for the rest of the trip is to seek out off-road opportunities from Keith’s house and just do some day trips as the weather permits. We will continue to make entries in the journal and post pictures. Keith will also be reviewing/editing the GoPro videos so they can be posted. This needs to be done to cut out the hours of monotonous riding and only post some amazing scenery and/or action. So keep watching the website, we’ll let you know when we’re done adding new stuff. Later.
Day: 9 & 10
Date: August 18 & 19, 2015
Start Location: Colorado Springs, CO
End Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Miles Travelled: ~103mi
High Temperature: 86F
Low Temperature: 75F
On Tuesday and Thursday we travelled dirt roads that went around the base of Pike’s Peak. More beautiful scenery. The roads were in good condition and allowed for a relaxing ride on our bikes. The combined trips took about three hours. Nothing much else to report on that.
Speaking of Pike’s Peak, just prior to us beginning the COBDR, we did ride the bikes to the summit of Pike’s Peak at an elevation of 14,000ft+. The views were amazing, since it was such a clear day. At the summit, it was very cold (somewhere around 48F). I am amazed that they actually have a Pike’s Peak race every year. Seems it would be pretty dangerous, in fact, there was one fatality last year which happened to be a guy on a motorcycle. The race is comprised of all kinds of vehicles. This is not a race I would ever do!!!!!
So, that’s it for the 2015 The Conger’s Adventure ride. Hope you enjoy the journal and especially the pictures of some amazing views. Keith will continue to post GoPro videos as he edits them, so keep looking. The videos may show some of the best action.
We finally completed the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route after two previous years of failed attempts. This trip had the most amazing views of any other trip, but also was the most challenging. It took all of our skills and courage to make it through some sections of the trail, specifically Ophir and Hagerman’s Pass. These passes along with at least another (Cinnamon Pass), I would never do again on a bike of our size. In fact, I was so terrified that I would not do these trails on anything with less than four wheels. During our travels, the largest bike we saw was a naked BMW 800 (without panniers or luggage). Most of the bikes on these trails were no larger than a 450cc. Obviously, big bikes like ours can get through, but the riders would need to be expert (and have no fear). I would say that these trails would be a blast on a UTV or specially configured four wheel vehicles and be much safer.
I really enjoyed this trip. Again, Keith had it well planned. We had excellent paper and electronic GPS trail maps that kept us on track without error. There are many offshoot roads that would have gotten us lost had we not had the GPS system. Gas, food and campsites were more readily available than some of our past trips.
I think we made the right decision to not attempt the Utah trail. We had a taste of the 100F+ temperatures at the Four Corners. Wearing full safety gear like we do, that kind of heat would have been unbearable, if not extremely dangerous. Keith will be doing more research on the difficulty of the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route and the best time of year to travel. Then and only then would we consider trying it out.
Another great time with a great son.
Third time's a charm! The COBDR was amazing, it took us through beautiful and remote areas that you would never get to see if you stay on the asphalt. The size of our bikes added to the difficulty of an already difficult route. Makes me want to have a smaller bike for these types of trips.
After all the trips we have a gear fine tuned to near perfection. However it didn't stop us from pondering new ideas to reduce the amount of gear and weight. The new lightweight backpacking cots we used on this trip were amazing, I'd recommend them to anyone, worth every penny.
Can't wait to do another Backcountry Discovery Route with my dad!