Pass Hoppers Trip
by Adam Mehlberg
photos by Adam Mehlberg, Ray Comeau, Jeff Teebken
This years Pass Hoppers trip was through some areas around where we have been in the past, but have not visited. On September 2nd our group of adventurers met up at the Golden, CO. meeting place and headed up I-70 to go over Guanella Pass to start our trip. Guanella Pass is now fully paved. Heading up from Georgetown there were a lot of people in the area. As we climbed higher there were more people camped along the road in places that I don’t recall as camping sites. Past the Forest Service campgrounds there were even more camps just off the road. As we headed up to the last switchback before the pass, cars were now parked along the side of the road. The pass was crammed with vehicles from all the people hiking into the Mount Evans Wilderness on this nice sunny day. Once we passed over to the south side of the pass the volume of people and cars dropped considerably.
Our first destination was the road into Lost Park which is south of Lost Creek Wilderness. Rock Creek Trail Pass road is a maintained two lane gravel road for the most part. We stopped for lunch at one of the only empty camp spots we had seen. It was just below the long switch back before the actual pass. Once over the pass we followed the road down into Lost Park, and connected with the Wallace Gulch road. This was an old logging road that was easy. It headed up into the forest climbing toward Topaz Mountain. After looping around the head of Bonis Creek we tied in with the Topaz Mountain road and crossed the east side of the mountain before dropping down to cross Beaver Creek and then tie back into the Rock Creek Trail road.
After backtracking we jumped onto the Rock Creek Hills road and then turned off onto Weber Gulch. All along this easy road were dispersed camp sites full of camp trailers. It was a nice little valley. At the lower end, the road turned right and went up a fun little hill to head south again. At the next intersection we turned onto Ripper, a short connector, then onto Tree Digger, which heads to a fence at the private property along Rock Creek.
Before the fence we turned onto Exclosure which runs along the forest giving you views of the Rock Creek valley. After a mile Exclosure turns and climbs a nice little gulch that is a bit washed out. Once on top there are a lot of dispersed campsites along the road. We needed to find a place to camp, but everything seemed to be occupied. After some scouting we found an ok spot for our group among the travel trailers, generators, and kids riding ATVs and Side by Sides. Not one our best camp spots.
Next morning we left the crowds and drove down County Road 77 to Terryall Reservoir. We stopped to take some pictures at the cool spillway made from the natural rock, after finding a geocache.
At the Terryall Reservoir spillway
Our group at the reservoir parking lot
After the reservoir we headed south down Packer Gulch toward Farnum Peak. This was a nice road down a long gulch. Toward the end we found a most interesting geocache. It was hidden in a rusty can among some trash around an old prospect. Good find Ray.
Geocache on the right was covered by the can
We turned off of Packer Gulch onto the Schoolmarm Mountain road and found a bit more challenge along a section that climbs up into the Puma Hills. We had lunch at a spur road just before the intersection with the county road. After lunch we took County 23 down to Highway 24 and headed to Hartsel.
From Hartsel we went to Antero Junction then north a short distance to the Salt Creek road. We went up Salt Creek and over Salt Creek Pass, then down Chubb Park and across Highway 24. We drove past Castle Rock and continued south to our intersection with Castle Rock Gulch, which took us up to Bassam Pass. Bassam Pass is intersected with two roads so we crossed County 187 and tied into the Bull Gulch road. We took a spur road and went down to the Bassam Guard Station, but were stopped by a gate. Since the guard station is a Forest Service rental cabin we had to be content with finding a geocache at the gate. Paula took this time to try to debug an engine issue
From the guard station we took Bull Gulch to the Bull Gulch cutoff, then out onto private property, through some gates, and back to Herring Park where we camped across from a place that was being logged.
The next day we went over Cameron Mountain Pass on County 175 and then to Poncha Springs where we got gas. After fueling up we headed toward Poncha Pass, but turned onto the county road at Mears Junction and headed toward Marshall Pass. There were lots of campers again all along the county road and at O’Haver Lake. We worked our way up to Marshall Pass and had our lunch there.
Lunch on Marshall Pass
After lunch we followed the west side of the pass down to Sargents where we jumped on highway 50 for a short distance and then took a left on the road to Whitepine and Tomichi Pass.
Top of Tomichi Pass
The road on the south side of Tomichi seemed a bit rougher as we made our way to the top. Once over we headed down the Alpine Tunnel road where we stopped at a restored water tank for a few pictures. From here it was a quick trip down Quartz Creek toward Pitkin where we connected with the Cumberland Pass Road. It was getting late so we decided to just stay on the Cumberland Pass road and head to Tincup. A few miles out from Tincup there are no camping restrictions along the Forest Service roads, so we had to continue past Taylor Reservoir before we found a nice spot among the trees to camp.
Pieplant Mine, in the background
Next morning it was decided to head back the easy way instead of going up Taylor Pass. We headed to the Pieplant Creek road to visit the old town and mine site as an early morning trip. Afterwards most of the group took the Rocky Brook road to the Spring Creek road and then out to Almont and then Gunnison. We had lunch in the park in town and then headed home.