Sunday, July 2
- Riders: Scott, Trev, Paul, Eric & Grady
- Distance: 229 miles
- The Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Redstone, Colorado
- Dining at the Redstone Inn
- Camping under the aspens in McClure Pass above Redstone
There are zero facilities at our campsite so there will be no showering or sprucing up and tooth brushing is done alongside one’s bike with water from a canteen. After packing up our gear, we head into Telluride and have a delicious breakfast at Maggie’s on the main street. We descend from the San Juan Mountains and ride around them to the Northeast. We make our way North to Montrose and then travel East to the entrance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park where we find a canyon so deep, over 2,000 feet straight down, that it boggles our minds. Along with riding the South Rim and stopping at every viewpoint, we spend a fair amount in the Visitor’s Center. We learn that the rock at the bottom of the canyon is some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth, Precambrian, or basement rock, and is nearly 2 billion years old. Best of all, a park ranger tells us about the little used road that descends that 2,000 feet to the river and she suspects that we’ll get a real kick out of it. Well, she’s right. Once the road plunges over the canyon rim, it becomes a very steep, single lane asphalt ribbon with wonderfully tricky hairpin turns. And as the road dead ends at the river, we have no choice but to ride it back out. Oh yeah, baby!
We depart the Park and head East to a crossing of the Gunnison River which enables us to ride the road that follows the North Rim of the Canyon. This lonely stretch of road turns out to be absolutely first rate riding as it constantly twists and turns to follow the canyon’s edge. This is the Holy Grail motorcyclists seek: working the gears, the smooth application of the throttle, listening to the engine work, feeling the tires on edge, shifting one’s weight from side to side, absorbing the landscape as it rolls past, reading the road surface, intuiting what’s around the next bend, achieving a state of harmony. This is what we came for and it’s a gift when it all comes together like this.
We decide to spend the night at a rustic campground in McClure Pass, elevation 8,763 feet, in the Rocky Mountains. It’s located in a gap at the western side of the Elk Mountains, south of the town of Redstone. As we ride North toward the pass on Highway 133, we are treated to some amazing mountain scenery in the Ruby Range and the Raggeds Wilderness.
We set up our tents in an aspen grove and then ride approximately 9 miles down an 8% grade to Redstone, a tiny, 100 year old mountain village, to seek some dinner. We are amply rewarded by discovering the Redstone Inn and we feast like kings. We return to camp and while seated around the campfire, we perform the ODMC induction ceremony for Grady. He’s looking a might anxious as if some hazing may be involved but he visibly relaxes when I merely hand him a t-shirt and patch and shake his hand after reciting my short club introduction speech. I can’t imagine where he gets the notion that we’re a bunch of crazed, sadistic bikers but then Lord knows what terrors Pablo and Uncle Bob have been hinting at since the beginning of the trip.
The campfire camaraderie is most excellent and we sleep peaceably in the aspen grove.
(Click photo to launch slideshow)
Go to Day 5: Redstone to Breckenridge