Woke up in Lake City in our little cabin, refreshed and ready to go. Rod actually slept in, so that was a plus. A little coffee, geared up and hit the trail a block from our cabin. Pretty tame ride up the point where Engineer Pass begins. Beautiful scenery in the canyons. Old mining spots, most falling down and covered partially with rock slides over years. Deep cut canyons with quite creeks running through them. The aspens and pines. Pretty incredible. Then it hits you right smack in the face as you make a steep right hand switchback up the hill. The incline is pretty breath taking and I found myself saying “there’s no way we’re getting up that”. The footing wasn’t bad and we made the first few climbs pretty easy.
As we were climbing I looked down and noticed my navigation tower that holds on my fairing, gps and all my electronics was bouncing wildly. A quick stop and look confirmed my fears. The U bolt clamp hold the entire thing to the bike had snapped from the severe shaking. We took off fairing and decided the only fix was large zip ties. We got it pretty secure and headed back up the trail. We also came across a hunter and his son from Texas. They were watching the ridgeline across the canyon through a mini telescope. We stopped and chatted a bit and they invited us to take a look. There was a HUGE elk bedded down in the trees! These guys had been tracking it since 5am and were about to go stalk it for a kill. Today was the 2nd day of bow season I guess. The guy said it took 6 YEARS to get an elk tag for this area. And I thought I was crazy! We geared up and kept pushing upward.
Then Rod’s 950 started running poorly and it got worse as we got higher altitudes. His bike is carbureted and altitude affects the fuel/air mixture. Mine is electronic fuel injection, so no issues because it adjusts automatically. As we made the next left hand switchback, Rod’s bike stalled 50ft up the incline. I was at the turn, so I could park and go help him. We ended up starting it and I pushed from behind to get him to the next flat area. Did I mention we’re at 13000 ft? Fully geared up? In motocross boots and a helmet? Let’s just say before we got to the next flat, my lungs were about burst and I was starting to pass out. Seriously, the little black tunnel started closing in and I barely got my gear off and laid down before I fainted. I’m pretty sure Rod wasn’t any better but I could tell over the loud gasps I was making trying to breath. Altitude is a BITCH!
We decided that slow wasn’t going to work, so Rod picked up the pace and we blasted up to the top. The very last ascent had snow and frost on the rocky surface making it even MORE treacherous! At that point I was excited we made it up and now were descending down the other side. Unfortunately, my excitement was quickly dashed as we discovered the back side of Engineer Pass is a level 4 difficulty (4 out of 5, 5 being the most difficult trail) with primarily rocky, rutted surfaces, HUGE stair step drops and sheer cliffs off to our left the whole way. The video and photos cannot explain how difficult this ride was, both physically and mentally. I’ve ridden bikes my entire life and nothing I’ve ridden could have prepared me for this. Seriously this pass should NEVER be attempted on anything bigger than a 450 dirt bike and we’re riding a 950 V-Twin, 600lb enduro and my 690 enduro which weighs over 500 with gear and fuel. The maps we’re using say that Engineer Pass is a “Blue” trail, meaning moderate difficulty. There are “Green” trails that are easy and “Red” trails that are super difficult and probably should be attempted on big bike like ours. Engineer Pass... Blue Trail MY ASS!!!!
The trail seemed to go on forever as we met some 4 wheelers coming up and a couple of small dirt bikes. We stopped several times to rest and rehydrate. Arms and legs were burning from being so tense and constantly fighting for control of the front end. I can’t tell you how many times I ALMOST dropped it, but didn’t. Finally, I heard Rod yell into the com “WE MADE IT! I’m at the bottom!” and as I turned the corner I saw the bottom. We hopped on the road and headed into Ouray Colorado. Right outside of town is one of the most spectacular waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Photos just don’t do it or ANY of this landscape justice. It’s simply breathtaking.
Once in Ouray, we stopped at a little café and had some awesome burgers. They were either the best ones I’ve ever had or I was really hungry. Either way, it was good. A quick check of the internet and we spotted a KOA just north of town. Full and exhausted we agreed to head there and set up camp. Just after getting the tents up, a HUGE thunderstorm rolled in over the mountains (see photo of radar). As I sit here in my tent FREEZING with the thunder, wind and rain pounding my tent, I’m questioning my decision. So why didn’t I buy a WINTER tent???? UGH!! At least I have some Kentucky bourbon still in my flask!! Till tomorrow…