8: The Great Colorado Expedition of 2012, pt8...Mosquito Pass and Webster Pass

Ranger Joe

Feed the Rangers, not the wildlife!
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Jan 27, 2012
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Quick links to all trip reports in this series:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

Greetings again, kiddies. Jeez, this vacation seems to be dragging on forever. (Oh, how I wish.)

Today we head off for Mosquito Pass and Webster Pass, both of them between Leadville and Breckenridge.



We left Carbondale and hit the interstate, then got off at US 24 and headed for Leadville, passing this large valley on the way. During World War Two, this was the site of Camp Hale, home of the 10th Mountain Division. Fourteen thousand men lived here at the time, training at high altitude and snow to fight in the mountains of Italy and in the Aleutian Islands. Division members returned to Colorado after the war and are responsible for the state's current ski industry.

http://www.visitleadvilleco.com/camp_hale


After lunch at the Golden Burro (not to be confused with a Golden Burrow, which is a real hole in the ground), we headed out of town in search of Mosquito Pass. We went past this building along the way...make up your own caption.




The view back towards Leadville. The Mosquito Pass Road goes between Leadville and Fairplay.


More ATVers.


We pose for pictures at the pass. In its heyday during the 1870's, 150 wagons a day went over this route, and it's currently the highest mountain pass in Colorado open to motorized vehicles at 13,186' (yes, the road up to Pike's Peak is higher, but it's one way...it's not a pass).




This snowbank is about the only snow we've seen on this trip...I decided to go out and have some fun.


I found a broken snow shovel and turned it into an impromptu sled...


...sliding down on the rotting, wet slush of a snowbank...


...eventually ditching the shovel as I was gaining speed down the slope...


...gaining not only speed, but ice cold water that soaked my entire backside.


I believe this to be the highest altitude that I've ever changed my pants. Linda stopped laughing long enough to get these shots.


Once changed, we saw this pickup camper on the way up to the pass..."This was HIS idea!" exclaimed the driver's wife. It's possible she may have had to change her pants as well. I told them that if they made it this far, they'd be fine on the way down the other side.


Looking back up towards Mosquito Pass. We didn't see any actual mosquitoes...The name 'Mosquito' comes from the town that used to between Fairplay and a nearby mine. It seems that no one could decide on a name for that town, but during a meeting someone noticed a mosquito squashed between the pages of one of the city record books, so the name stuck.


Ruins of the North London Mine.


From the mine, we eventually hit the main road and got ourselves back to Dillon, where we were spending the night. We had been on all kinds of dirt and 4x4 trails for a week and a half, with no problem, and then punctured a tire pulling into the motel parking lot.


The next day, after getting our tire plugged at a Grease Monkey shop, we headed south out of Dillon for Webster Pass and the Red Cone Road. This is looking back from somewhere along the Webster Pass Road.


We made it up to Webster Pass and posed near where the sign should have been. As per tradition on this trip, we had sammiches.


We looked up at the nearby peak of Red Cone and saw three vehicles coming down. Red Cone is a one-way route from the top down to where it intersects at Webster Pass...it's also a fairly difficult route, from what I had read.


The vehicles didn't appear to be Jeeps...in fact, the lead vehicle looked kinda like a Chevy Equinox.


They approached the steepest part of the descent...from here, with binoculars, we could see that all three vehicles were in fact Chevys.


As it turned out, two of the vehicles were brand new 2013 Trailblazers, built in Thailand for the European market. According to the drivers, they're not currently planned to be released in the US. One of the drivers kinda gave me the stinkeye for taking a picture of his "camouflaged" vehicle.


Part of the reason we wanted to do Red Cone was because of a family of mountain goats that live on the mountainside and frequently pose for photos...we did manage to see one from a distance.


Headed down the narrow switchback from Webster Pass down into Handcart Gulch.




Along the way, we noticed this memorial for someone's father.


We begin the rocky ascent of Red Cone...this was probably the roughest, rockiest trail we had been on during this trip.


We initially got high-centered on this rock, did a little terraforming and got off without damage...we rounded a corner, and then...


kaPOW! We heard a bang, saw a burst of dust coming out from the front driver side and came to a stop.


If I still had my piece of prime rib from the last night of the Jeep Jamboree, we might have been able to fix this.


This was my second tire change in as many days...we had to change the punctured tire from the night before (right rear) in order to get to the repair shop.


I had to do a bit of shoveling to make room for the spare.


This would be the first time we had ever changed a tire in the field. Since our spare tire had been damaged last year somewhere in Utah (puncture through the edge of the sidewall, through the rubber near the bead but not into the sidewall itself...it was recommended that we not wheel on it but use it only as a spare), we were a little nervous about continuing on with two damaged tires and no spare. We turned around, only half a mile up the trail. No goats today. Red Cone was the only trail we failed to conquer.

And yes, I had the Contour camera running when we blew the tire.


However, we were rewarded for our suffering with our second moose sighting in two years. This bull moose and his family were hanging out out in a stream bed near the road back to town.


A pair of mooselings peer out from behind the bushes.


We also saw this hawk (possibly a juvenile red tail) posing on a sign with his lunch.

We headed back to Dillon for the night and called a Goodyear dealer in Boulder to order a pair of new Duratracs...they would have them in the shop sometime the following afternoon. Since we were officially done offroading on this trip, we headed off for some tamer, more civilized touring through Rocky Mountain National Park.


We changed from Intrepid Liberteers into Regular Ordinary Tourists.


Lodgepole pines in Colorado are being decimated by bark beetles...whole mountainsides are covered with dead trees. The Park Service has been clearing dead trees from around visitor areas to lessen the chance that some idiot starts a forest fire with a tossed cigarette butt.


My standard photo of Sad Ranger Joe...I will wear my flat hat again some day.


Coincidentally (claims Linda), the Goodyear shop was in the same shopping plaza as her favorite spinning wheel/loom/yarn shop. I had told her that as a reward for successfully getting up the Wall in Poughkeepsie Gulch that she could get a new spinning wheel...I hadn't expected to take it home with us (we didn't...she was just trying it out.)

http://www.shuttlesspindlesandskeins.com/


Yarn shop humor. I entered sheepishly. Ewe had to.


Fitted with two new Duratracs, our Colorado adventure was officially over. We headed east from Boulder towards Nebraska.


Goodbye, Rockies...see you next year (hopefully...we might do the Arch Canyon Jeep Jamboree in May, or the new Snowmass Jamboree in August, or head back to Ouray for our fourth Jamboree there, or throw a dart at a map of the western US and see where the Libby takes us.)

Thus endeth the Great Colorado Expedition of 2012...probably. There might be an Epilogue.

Quick links to all trip reports in this series:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9
 
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