Offroad Trailblazers and Envoys

COMPLETED: Toronto - Colorado - and back - September 2007

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by AlekG » Fri Mar 26, 2021 1:08 am

- Thought I would bring this expedition over from the OS
- Never did it back in the day
- Doing it now as I am getting back into the swing - See this post


After my Labour Day long weekend shakeout mini expedition, the trip I have been looking forward to for over a year now can finally start.

Again, Canadian Tire as the starting point on Sunday, Sep 9.

Image

The new addition is the Surco roof rack that holds my 2nd spare, 2 Adventure Trailer fuel can holders (no cans yet), and a dry duffle bag.

The slight modification of the Surco and the preparation of all equipment took much longer than I anticipated. Always something to be learned for the next one.

Off to Dayton Ohio, its going to be a late night.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 9 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Fri Mar 26, 2021 2:12 am, edited 2 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
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AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Mar 26, 2021 2:08 am

Day 2 - Monday Sept 10

The Trailblazer is working well, I just have to get used to the feeling of the extra weight on the roof. Today takes me from Dayton Ohio to Topeka Kansas. It is the longest day of driving on this trip. I really don't like to travel along the Interstates but with the loss of a day and my late departure, I will have to live with it for the 3 days out to CO.

Image

Image A nice shot of the Trailblazer at a rest stop in Indiana

Not too much time for stopping and taking in the sights, but some interesting things along the way nevertheless.

Image Huge cross outside of Effingham Illinois

Image Mississippi river

Image Just outside of Kansas City

I wish I was here earlier, it would have been a great dinner. Another late night arrival. Hopefully tomorrow I will catch up some time and be in Pueblo Colorado earlier.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 10 Google Map



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AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Mar 26, 2021 3:00 am

Day 3 - Tuesday Sept 11

I haven't been this far west by car since a great 5 week journey with my dad many, many, years ago - Toronto, Vancouver, LA, Chicago, Toronto.

I had forgotten how far one can see in the great plains

Image Image

Image Lots of cattle herds. Its been quite warm here as I travel, into the 80s. But cold at night, under 60

Image Being passed by a Jeep as we both pass Jeep Road in Kansas

Image Huge grain elevators along I75. You can see them one after another far into the horizon

Image Finally in Colorado and a nice sunset

Today I stock up some supplies and head to the Great Sand Dunes over Modano Pass and hopefully some backcountry camping along the road. My next report should be in a couple of days from Durango.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 11 Google Map



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AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Mar 26, 2021 3:06 pm

Day 4 - Wednesday Sept 12

Today was an interesting day as I spent half of it just getting prepared. Long story short is that my Trailblazer was missing the factory (plastic) underbody shield that covers the gas tank for some reason. I purchased one before I left but did not have time to install it. So I lugged it with me all the way to Colorado!

Obviously being plastic its not a "real" skid plate, but it does give me extra piece of mind that the gas tank is not directly exposed to any under-body nasties I run into.

I found a shop in Pueblo West early in the morning to install it. Problem was I didn't have the hardware so they helped out by getting me in contact with a GM dealership. Thanks for the help All Around Automotve.


The plan today is to head out to Modano Pass, find a backcountry camping spot for the night, and then pass through the Great Sand Dunes. The complete trail is rated 4 out 10 by guide books I am using - Colorado Trails by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson.

Image Image Leaving Pueblo and passing through the Wet Mountains on CO 96

Image Heading towards the Sangre De Cristo Range, the Sand Dunes are on the other side

On the east side of the mountains is the San Isabel National Forest. Some very tight, steep, and rutted switch-backs on the way to Medano Pass (too busy keeping my eye on the track to take any radical pictures, these are the more tame areas) but the Trailblazer handled it well. I think I heard the locker kick in at least twice.

Image Image

Finally at Medano Pass which is just over 3000 meters. The track then heads into Great Sand Dunes National Preserve

Image Image

It was getting late so I was reserved to not being too picky about finding a camp site. As luck would have it the first one into the Preserve was great. This was one of the views from the site at sunset.

Image

And finally my camp set up after a long day of preparation and travel. I was quite pleased with the vehicle's performance so far. This is afterall my first high altitude foray. One thing is that I can really feel the engine struggle when heading up those highway inclines. With the thinner air (compared to where I live) and the extra weight on the vehicle, it was really chugging along.

Image

Tomorrow its off to the Dunes!

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 12 Google Map



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AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Mar 26, 2021 5:14 pm

Day 5 - Thursday Sept 13 - Part 1

My first night of camping since December 1999, in Australia of all places. Took me a bit of time to get into the groove again ... sleeping on the ground, the dirt, the solitude, the cold. Great to get away from the hectic pace of the city though.

Image Pre-dawn photo by starlight. No moon on this night

Image Image I loved this backcountry camp site, here are some views in the morning

Image Image

I used the morning to mount my hi-lift jack to the Surco roof rack as I didn't have time to do this before I left. The mount kit is easy to put together although I have to take many breaks as I am still getting used to the altitude.

After a hearty breakfast I packed up the site, made sure nothing was left behind and that the anti-bear cage was clean (no bears by the way), and proceeded on the Medano pass trail.

The Peter Massey Colorado Trails book says that the Medano Pass trail passes through creeks at least 8 times. Even with the dry weather of late, more than half of the crossings are running, they are quite low however so no real problem with crossing them.

Image Image Image

Much of the trail is quite rocky but generally flat so I just have to watch out for any sharp ones, don't want to get a flat out here. The great campsites continue all the way along the trail, some of them under the shadow of some cliffs, others are right up against the creek, overall you can't go wrong with choosing any one of them.

As I was driving up to the second to last crossing, I see a flash of movement in front of me so I step on the brakes and shut off the engine. A family of deer have come to the clearing to graze and drink!

Edit - it was pointed out on ExpedtionPortal that these are Bighorn Sheep, not deer. I'm not up too much on my nature :scratch: :oops: :mrgreen: )

I remember to not get out of the vehicle as my photographer friend Mike pointed out to me once. It seems they cannot make sense of a car, but if they saw me out of it, they would bolt immediately.


Image Image Image

Continued ...



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AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Mar 26, 2021 11:23 pm

Day 5 - Thursday Sept 13 - Part 2

A bit after the last creek crossing, the trail enters the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The trail starts to become sandy and this is where the guidebook recommends lowering the tire pressure to 25 psi so I took out the mil-spec tire deflators I purchased from Sierra Expeditions. They sure do deflate the tires in a hurry!

Image Image

As the trail got closer to the dunes I took some shots of where I came from and where I was headed. The dunes look massive even from this distance.

Image Image Image

The closer you get to the dunes the more you can't believe just how massive they are. Pictures don't do them justice. This is from a rest/picnic site along the trail.

Image Image

Continued ...
Last edited by AlekG on Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:25 am, edited 1 time in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:21 am

Day 5 - Thursday Sept 13 - Part 3

The closest the trail gets to the dunes is about 50 feet. There is a pull off and a short climb down the creek bank to the water. This is just the tip of the dunes and if one was inclined, they could climb up to get to the next level. There was another picnic area further on where you can clearly see various attempts to hike up the first dune. As the guide book says, this trail gets you the closest to the dunes, however, because of the sand and some inclines, a 4wd is definitely required.

Image Image Image

As you start to head away from the dunes and towards the dispersed camping area, you see the dunes from a different perspective. It seems that every angle offers something new to look at.

Image Image Image

Finally at the visitor center I got to "clean up" a little bit. The center is very nice and has excellent information (geological and historical) on the dunes. Its quite a trek out do the dunes from the visitor center, but if you don't have a 4wd and can't get any closer, its definitely worth it.

Image Image

Some final views as I prepare for the drive to Durango. Overall a great experience, I would definitely come back to actually hike up to the dunes but unfortunately on this trip, time was running short.

Image Image

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 13 Google Map



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
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User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:40 am

Day 6 - Friday Sept 14 - Part 1

Durango is a bustling town south-west of the San Juan Mountains. Lots of offroad ready vehicles around as its close to a wealth of adventures.

Its also where the R&D / fabrication headquarters is to Fab Fours which are the manufacturers of my replacement bumper. Now, they don't make a specific bumper for the Trailblazer but the one for the Toyota FJ worked out great (with a little tweaking of the mounting brackets by National 4WD). I was considering contacting them to see if they would be interested in taking a look at how their product was adapted, but again, time considerations stopped that idea.

Today I was off to a couple of trails that are only in the smaller size Colorado Trails books, that is, the ones that have the additional trails documented. The ones close to Durango that interested me were the Columbus Mine and Kennebec Pass trails. I usually prefer loop-type trails where you don't come back the same way you arrived but these looked interesting in the Southwest Region book so I decided to give them a shot.

They both start from the same access road heading into the La Plata range. The road soon turns to gravel, then becomes much rougher with medium size embedded rocks.

Image Image Image

At a certain point I took the turn off to the Columbus Mine side of the trail and started up the switch-backs which are very wide and not a problem to navigate. The trail is still rated a 4 out of 10 as the shelf road is somewhat narrow (1 vehicle only) and fairly steep.

Image Image

There is a closed gate before the end of the trail where there is an abandoned mine entrance so I parked the Trailblazer at the turn-around spot. I believe that there is too much falling rock to allow vehicles past this point. So I put on my hiking boots and slowly walked over, again, being careful of not being used to the altitude which the guide says is 11,647 feet here.

Image Image Image Image

Continued ...



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:53 am

Day 6 - Friday Sept 14 - Part 2

From the mine entrance area I could see another vehicle starting up the switch-backs to get to the mine. However, they stopped at the last one before the final climb up to the turn around area and decided to head back. Too bad, I would have liked to say HI.

Image Image

Image Image A couple of views of the mine entrance

Image Image Looking back at the turn-around area. Can you spot the Trailblazer?

Once I was back to the vehicle, I took some shots of some more mining equipment nearby. I thought of hiking up there to take a closer look but I had one more trail to go so I decided not to.

Image Image

Image Image Image Some final shots after I turned around

And finally a shot from the Trailblazer of the trail back down (to the right) and of the hiking trail to the mine entrance on the other side of Columbus Basin.

Image

The most difficult thing I had to get used to are the drop-offs from the shelf road, which in this case where quite substantial. Otherwise the Trailblazer handled the inclines and surface well as the Mickey Thompsons were solid. Oh, and I also had to get used to long stretches of driving (crawling) in 4LO - 1st gear. The Trailblazer has a 2.7:1 LO gear in the transfer case so its actually not bad at all.

The drive up to Kennebec Pass (rated 5!) next post.

Continued ...



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Mar 27, 2021 1:08 am

Day 6 - Friday Sept 14 - Part 3

The Kennebec Pass trail goes to the pass, which is an interesting notch cut into the ridge, but it doesn't continue as the other side of the trail is unpassable they say. I can probably attest to that as there is a trail going down if you can call it that. Its extremely narrow, steep, and looks unstable. I also should mention that I noticed some memorials at the pass which I would assume are there for someone's untimely demise.

The trail is rated a 5 (out of 10) in the guide book, which is the highest rating they write about - with a few exceptions such as Black Bear and Red Cone. The rating stems from 4 things - the steep and rocky trail leading up to the basin, the very narrow shelf road, the high drop-offs, and the small turnaround area at the notch.

There is a parking area just before the last shelf road to the pass. This is where there is access to the Colorado (hiking) Trail with the true Kennebec Pass about half a mile east. Two views from the parking area, one looking west and the other south along the shelf road. As there was no other vehicle up there I could proceed (as the guide book recommends as there is no way to pass here).

Image Image

Once at the notch I took in all the amazing scenery on both sides.

Image Image Looking west

Image Image Image Looking east

Now to try to turn around ...

With no spotter to help me out, turning around proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. The guide book says the notch is at 12,000 feet with a 300 foot+ drop off. So I spent about 15 minutes analysing and planning how I would turn around. In the mean time ... more pictures.

Image Image Image Image

I finally ended up doing about a 25 point turn and got the Trailblazer pointed the right way.

Image

Continued ...



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
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User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Mar 27, 2021 1:22 am

Day 6 - Friday Sept 14 - Part 4

Once back at the parking area I relaxed a bit from the white-knuckle drive I just finished.

Image Image Image Image

I stopped at the basin to talk to some hikers which had left their Ford Navigator just below the last steep and narrow part of the trail leading up to here. They commented on having watched my 25 point turn at the notch and we had a good laugh.

Image Image Image Some mining equipment and views from the basin

Here is one of the steep, narrow, loose, and rocky areas leading up to the basin.

Image

Image More wildlife spotting on the way down

Image And finally the sun setting on my way back to Durango

Overall a great day of exploration. A little more "exciting" than I was anticipating in regards to the driving but the Trailblazer ended up passing with flying colours.

Next up is the relatively short drive up to Silverton tonight and some more pass driving tomorrow.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 14 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:19 am, edited 1 time in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
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User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Mar 27, 2021 11:17 pm

Day 7 - Saturday Sept 15 - Part 1

The night drive north to Silverton was mostly uneventful. The road can be a bit deceiving though, if you are not careful the steep grade can speed up your vehicle and then you are in trouble. There were some emergency vehicles out after the pass (which my GPS told me was at 3330 meters) which were dealing with an overturned 18 wheeler that could not handle the sharp turn. I hope the driver was OK.

Driving into Silverton this late in the season and at night was somewhat of a surreal experience. It almost looked like a ghost-town except for the 2 or 3 bars open late. After I checked in to the bed and breakfast which I reserved earlier in the day, I decided to take a stroll through town. It ended up that there were some vacancies at the more rustic places along the main street, but I didn't want to take a chance of not finding any rooms so I was staying at The Inn of the Rockies at Alma House.

As I walked down a mostly deserted street I heard some great blues/jazz fusion coming from one of the bars so I popped in to take a look and grab some refreshment. The Pride of the West Restaurant and Bar was a great change of pace to all the driving I have been doing.

My plan for today was to head out of Silverton and combine a few trails that would ultimately get me back to pavement for my drive up to Delta tonight. Here is a picture of the 2nd main street, only the 1st main one is paved. This is where most of the tourists end up first after disembarking from the narrow-gauge railway that goes from Durango to Silverton.

Image

I chose the Silverton to Lake Como trail (rated 4) which takes you north out of town along Cement creek. There are various building ruins along the way.

Image Image

But once you get to the modern mine in operation, you take a left and the real trail starts up to Hurricane Pass and Lake Como. The trail you see coming out of the Red Mountain Peaks is Corkscrew Gulch Trail which leads back to the Million Dollar Hwy.

Image Image Image

As you can probably tell, the weather was not the best as the winds picked up and the clouds started to come in. I had to finally put on some track pants and a windbreaker (first time other than that cold night camping). At least the rain stayed away.

Image Here's Hurricane Pass at 12,407 feet

Just after you crest the pass, there is a short shelf road down to a 3-way intersection and a nice view of Lake Como. It was interesting that there was quite a bit of traffic going on here. While I was parked and taking pictures, 3 other vehicles stopped, 2 "tour jeeps" came out of Poughkeepsie Gulch (this is supposed to be a very tough trail, not even in my guide book), at least 4 motorcycles came through, and a party of 5 ATVs! A regular traffic jam.

Image Image Image

The trail I planned to continue with is not marked on the sign, its California Gulch Trail with California Pass at 12.930 feet a short distance up the mountain. I believe this will be the highest point I will reach on this trip. Just under 13,000 but I guess I will have to save that for next time!

A couple of tight switch-backs forced me to reverse here and there. I probably did not need to but this kind of driving is new to me so I decided to stay on the cautious side. You can see the pass up and behind the Trailblazer. I stopped here as there was really not that much room at the pass and I didn't want to block anyone. Then the trail continues down the mountain and into the basin.

Image Image Image

Continued ...



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
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User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:08 am

Day 7 - Saturday Sept 15 - Part 2

Once down into the basin, the driving is a little easier on the nerves. I stopped at a wide part in the trail and walked to the creek flowing down from the mountain. I thought about taking a drink but decided not to, still had a few hours to go and didn't want to take any chances. I sat next to that creek for about 20 minutes waiting for the clouds to clear so that I could get a shot in the sun.
Very relaxing ...

Image Image Image

Image Image More vehicles coming through and a view down the basin

California Gulch Trail ends at the well-known ghost town of Animas Forks. Its very well preserved and there is 2WD access (in good conditions) from Silverton so there were many vehicles in the parking area.

Image Image

Image Now that's a mountain cabin!

The final leg for today was going to be the Cinnamon Pass Trail

Continued ...



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:18 am

Day 7 - Saturday Sept 15 - Part 3

Cinnamon Pass Trail is part of the Alpine Loop which also includes Engineer Pass Trail. I would only be taking Cinnamon today as that would lead me out to pavement and onto my stop for the night in Delta.

The trail begins the climb right away with Animas Forks down below. Again, lots of ATVs and motorcycles out on the trails today.

Image Image

The weather cleared up a bit once I was at the pass at 12,640 feet so I stuck around taking some pictures and talking to people from a couple of other vehicles already up there. Some snow remnants even this late into the Summer.

Image Image Image Image

The drive down from Cinnamon was interesting as there was quite a bit of traffic headed up. Observing 4WD etiquette I tried to let all of those travelers by without getting too close to the edge!

There is some more excellent back country camping along the trail once you get below the tree line. Here is a nice view of Redcloud Peak I think. I relaxed here for a while and snapped a photo of a jet overhead, they sure look closer than where I come from!

Image Image

Further down close to a nice camping area, I ran through some colour-changing aspens.

Image

The trail ends in the town of Lake City, where I started my drive up to Delta. Half-way there the road passes beside and over the Blue Mesa Reservoir which I was reaching just at sunset.

Image Image

The rain started after this and the rest of the drive to Delta took longer than expected, but I got to the hotel OK. Tomorrow the plan is to drive Escalante Canyon.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 15 Google Map



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
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User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:44 am

Day 8 - Sunday Sept 16 - Part 1

Today's plan was to head west out of Delta and to explore Escalante Canyon and the Uncompahgre Plateau. I would use 2 trails and half of the third one which would leave me in the town of Montrose, ready for the drive up to Glendale Springs where I would stay tonight.

Problem was that as I started getting the Trailblazer ready at the hotel, a heavy rainstorm moved through, causing me a half hour delay while I waited it out. Even worse, there were storm clouds all over the horizon in all directions so I wasn't even sure I would head out today.

But as the weather cleared I decided to at least head out to the first trail and see how it went. These shots are from the the Escalante Rim Trail which starts on the plateau west of Delta and then drops into the Canyon. The storms were all moving from west to east with lots of wind and lightning. I waited it out a bit and finally could see clear skies up ahead to the west.

Image Image Image

Just before the shelf road that takes you down into the canyon, there is a great overlook.

Image Image

The shelf road is stable with not too many loose rocks. There are a couple of switch-back areas but I had enough room to not have to reverse. At the end of the trail, it passes through Escalante Creek which has a warning for sudden water level changes and flash floods. I was worried that the rains would make it impassable but luckily it was at a normal level.

Image

Because of the constant threat of rain, I decided to take the easier of the trails south. Escalante Canyon Road runs parallel to the harder Dry Mesa Jeep Road which has a very steep section as it goes up (or down) the Escalante Canyon wall. Escalante Canyon Road on the other hand runs mostly through the bottom of the canyon and climbs out of it later with less severity.

Image Image

Image Image Image There is plenty of interesting geology along the trail

Image More bighorn sheep, except these were in a pasture

An interesting stop is Captain Smith's Cabin which is between the road and the canyon wall.

Image Image

Continued ...



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
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User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:58 am

Day 8 - Sunday Sept 16 - Part 2

The threat of rain kept increasing as I headed south. I stopped at a very nice set of campsites that are above the potholes as they call them. I could see lightning in the distance and hear the thunder so I could not hang around too long.

The potholes are areas of Escalante Creek up to 11 feet deep where there is dangerous swirling water currents. The geology in the area allows the erosion of the softer rock to create these holes. Lots of signs warning of the dangers of swimming in the area, although it would be a nice area to take your time and climb down to.

Image

Unfortunately some careless visitors left the campsite littered with cans and a piece of wood glowing red due to the wind picking up. I decided to do my good deed for the day and doused the log with water and picked up the cans to take out of there. The campsites are great by the way.

Image Image

Further down the trail is when the rain actually started. First just a sprinkle but then it started to come down heavy enough that I had to close my windows.

At first I continued as the road is gravel and posed no problem for the Mickey Thompson's. During breaks in the rain there were some great photo ops in the canyon.

Image Image Image Image

However, soon after this creek crossing (which seemed to be getting deeper by the minute) the road enters Uncompahgre - Gunnison National Forest and turns into a dirt road and not gravel.

Image

Problem was that with the rain it was no longer dirt, but about an inch of sticky mud. At first I slogged through it but as I got to steeper parts, the Trailblazer started to slip and slide. You see, the deep tread of the Mickey Thompson's started to fill up with mud and thats when things can get tricky. A blast of the throttle will clear them out but this has to be done quite often.

So I had to make the decision to turn back as all I could see was rain in front of me and according to my guide book, I was coming up to the part of the trail that climbs up the canyon wall to the plateau. Even though it is not supposed to be that steep, I decided to play it safe as I was alone and the day was growing short.

This is what the Trailblazer looked like after only 15 or so minutes in the muddy part of the trail.

Image

The drive back north was uneventful and I made it back to Delta. First thing I did was to locate a coin-op car wash and clean that mud off. Let me tell you it was the stickiest mud I have ever seen, sometimes I had to hold the high pressure jet an inch or two away from the clump just to blast it off the body.

Now, I don't have any pictures from the Delta to Glenwood Springs drive because as soon as I got out of Delta and into the Elk Mountain Range, I hit a constant, unrelenting downpour. If you haven't driven over a high mountain pass through a lightning storm, I wouldn't suggest you do. Some of the lightning hits were so close and bright that I had to to shut my eyes for a split second, during which I could hear the thunder, so I new it was close. On top of that I had to watch out for and avoid at least 4 or 5 rock/mud slides that made their way onto the road. And to top it all off, people insisted on driving 50 or 60 mph in areas clearly marked 35 and 40 for a reason. I had to pull over 3 or 4 times just to get them off my tail.

The good news is I made it to Glenwood Springs and checked into a nice hotel. The Trailblazer sure looked clean in the parking lot.

Image

Well, tomorrow is a sad day as I start on my 3 day trip back to Toronto. Overall it was an absolute great experience in Colorado. I achieved my goal of seeing and driving through 3 distinct parts of the state. My vehicle and modifications passed with flying colours. I can't wait to start planning my next expedition.

First things first, I will report in from the trip back.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 16 Google Map



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:12 am

Day 9 - Monday Sept 17

The weather cleared up in the morning which meant the drive on I70 through Colorado was expected to be easy going. The scenery along the way was actually much nicer than I anticipated, I70 goes through some very nice mountain valleys. It pretty much follows a river all the way through.

Image Image

It goes over the Vail Pass first, then through the Eisenhower Tunnel to get to Denver. I stopped at the rest area just on the other side of the pass and got some good pictures of newly snow-dusted peaks. From my map I think they are the 14ers Quandary Peak, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Democrat, Mt. Bross, with Breckenridge on the other side.

Image Image Image Image

Image Driving down just before Denver

Image Back on the flatland for another 3 days

Image Casting long shadows at sunset in Nebraska

I stayed in Lincoln, NE this night. Unfortunately there was another major storm at night so I got in to the hotel later than expected and in the middle of a downpour.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 17 Google Map



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:18 am

Day 10 - Tuesday Sept 18

Today's drive took me from Nebraska, through Iowa, into Illinois just south of Chicago, and into Benton Harbor, Michigan where I stayed for the night.

Some real offroad vehicles in Lincoln, NE. I believe they have huge Reserve bases here.

Image

Image A little more varied topography in Iowa

Image Passing over the Mississippi

The day's driving was mostly uneventful. I tried to stay ahead of the rain that was coming from the west but it eventually caught up to me.

One interesting point about Iowa, all of their rest areas that have facilities, also have wireless internet access. You get 30 minutes for free, after that there is a charge. They have the nicest and cleanest rest areas I have ever seen.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 18 Google Map



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:23 am

Day 11 - Wednesday Sept 19

I planned it so the drive today would be shorter, just in case there were hassles at the border. The weather totally cleared up and the temperature was into the 80s all the way through Michigan.

Over the St. Clair River from Port Huron, MI to Sarnia, Ontario. The border guard did question me a little bit about the second spare, but seemed to understand after we talked a little about driving offroad in Colorado. No hassles overall.

Image

Image Driving east on the 402 towards London at sunset

Well, I'm back home with a lot of great memories from my first extended expedition. I will put some travel stats in the next post along with some brief technical notes about my Trailblazer and its modifications for those that are interested.


See you OUT THERE.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 19 Google Map



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated


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