Pass Hoppers Trip, 2013

by Adam Mehlberg
photo by photos by Adam Mehlberg, Richard and Karla Harmon, Larry and Paulette McGimsey

This year our annual Pass Hoppers trip explored some lesser known passes around Kremmling, Wolcott, and Granby. This years team included Ray and Wanda Comeau, Larry and Paulette McGimsey, Rich and Karla Harmon. We drove out to Silverthorne and headed north on Hwy 9 to County Road 15 where we began our trip with paved Ute Pass. Just below the pass we stopped and found a geocache that had nice views of the Gore Mountain Range.

Gore Range

At the top of the pass we stopped again for a few more scenic pictures before heading down into Williams Fork Valley on the other side of the Williams Fork Range. We passed the huge mine building of the Henderson Mine before heading up the valley and around Williams Fork Reservoir. We cut back over through Kremmling and then south on Hwy 9 again for a short distance then headed west on the Trough Road. We drove over the Trough Road Pass (not much to it) and dropped over to the south side of the Gore Canyon. At an overlook of the Gore Canyon we didn't find the geocache but got some great views of the Colorado River and Gore Canyon.

Gore Canyon Overlook

Next we found the Sheephorn road and headed into Cottonwood Basin which is west of Green Mountain Reservoir on the west side of the Gore Range. The area is dominated by the Piney Peak Ranch but after a few miles we found public lands. We passed a lot of hunters and hunting camps as we followed the Sheephorn road around Slough Grass Lake, which was more grass than lake at the time. We stopped for a short lunch before heading to the Walters Lake road which got a bit rougher. We passed secluded Walters Lake before heading up the switchbacks that climbed Piney Ridge to McCord Pass. Here we found another geocache took a few pictures of the Sheephorn Valley before heading back down to the Sheephorn road.

McCord Pass geocache

Ray and Wanda left us here and headed to Steamboat Springs for a family campout. Our band of adventurers continued exploring headed to High Trail Gulch. This would be a real 4WD road. High Trail Gulch left the Cottonwood Basin road in a small clearing. We started to climb through thicker forests. To make it worse the rain began to come down and darken the day even more. Just below the saddle at the top of the ridge the road got too steep to drive in the rain. The hill climb was rocky and loose. Backing down I took a bypass which everyone else took also. Once over the ridge the forest opened up into a large meadow. We continued down the center to thinner stands of large aspen.

In the gloomy rain of the late afternoon the road went down High Trail Gulch over large black rocks sticking up through the grasses of the meadow. After weaving through the trees and over the rough sections the road climbed up a short hill and opened up to a large sloping hill of sage brush. We continued down the hill as the rains let up hoping that the map connection to County Road 6A was true. At a narrow fin the road headed down into a lower gulch as well as across a creek and up a very long hill climb. Richard and Karla took lead and checked out to see if the road made the connection. Unfortunately before they reached the county road a gate blocked their way that had a private property sign. We opted to spend the night at a small level area in the gulch knowing we would be driving back the way we came in the morning.

The next morning, Sunday, was clear and sunny for our return trip. Just before the tough section we passed two guys hunting Grouse that bagged one as we drove down the road. We took Cottonwood road out of the area passing some big hunting camps and seeing a lot of hunters on ATVs. Once out on the Trough Road again we headed to State Bridge and then south to Edwards to fill up on gas.

Muddy Pass

Coming back the way we came through Wolcott we took the road up to Muddy Pass for lunch with great views of Castle Peak to the west. After lunch it was time to cross Highway 131 and explore the area we had been admiring.

Coberly Gap was our next stop. We headed up BLM road 8500 which runs above Milk Creek at the foot of Horse Mountain. The further we went the less traveled the road become. The recent rains had left plenty of mud holes to drive through along the way. At Coberly Gap we found an old corral but nothing else.

Coberly Gap

Backtracking we got back to Highway 131 and headed north to Toponas where we connected with Highway 134 and headed west toward Lynx Pass. It was a relaxing drive up the paved road following along Toponas Creek. That's when something large and dark brown came bolting out of the brush beside the creek heading diagonally across the road. It was a full grown black bear heading full bore across the road right in front of my jeep. I now know I can lock up my back brakes. The bear was moving fast and just cleared the passenger side of my vehicle or I would have tagged him with my front bumper. It headed up the hill beside the road and into the trees. I was wide awake after that!

The joke is that Ray Comeau has never seen a bear in Colorado. Of course he had left our trip the day before, so it must be why we saw the bear. You would think it's a coincidence except for the fact that two years earlier on a Pass Hoppers Trip Ray headed home early and we saw a bear that same evening.

Lynx Pass

We drove a side road across Spruce Divide and then up to the top of Lynx Pass, which has a sign. We took a picture and headed back to Highway 134, crossed over and stopped at the old stage stop of Rock Creek. Restoration work has been done on the old building to keep it standing.

Rock Creek Stage sign


Rock Creek Stage Station

Further west on the Old Highway road we turned off on a spur and found a place to camp for the night.

Camp

Early in the dark hours of the morning a fox must have been coming up the road and been startled by our camp because he began barking and going back down the road before looping out into the meadow by camp and heading south again, barking whole time. Where is Ray when you need him to keep the wildlife away so you can get a good nights sleep?

Monday morning was bright and sunny again. We headed to Highway 40 and then north to see if we could get to Indian Pass. We found the road and a gate closing off access. It was on to Gunsight Pass.

Gunsight Pass

Gunsight Pass is on BLM land north of Kremmling. The pass is a wide broad saddle overlooking the Troublesome Creek drainage. From here we headed to another geocache near some mail boxes amongst the local farms but couldn't find it. Off again we headed to Antelope Pass.

Antelope Pass

Antelope Pass is north of Little Wolford Mountain on a wide plane of sage brush. It hardly seemed like a pass at all. Guess what we saw off in the distance when we were on Antelope Pass? An Antelope, duhhh.

We headed up onto the side of Little Wolford Mountain to find some shade for lunch before heading south past the Kremmling Rock Crawl Area and then back down to Highway 40. Heading east we backtracked some of what we had driven Saturday. Just before Parshall we turned north on a county road and headed toward the forest. We got onto Old Corral Peak road driving up along Grouse Mountain through large aspen stands. As we got higher we entered an area of forest with heavy beetle kill damage. All of the forest seemed to be dead on the flanks of Corral Peak South.

Logging

There was logging going on along the road to clear all the hazard trees. They were removing every tree for 100 feet along both sides of the road. After getting lost on the Tiger Oil road we finally made it to the top of Cabin Creek Divide.

Cabin Creek Divide

Heading down the east side we followed the Cabin Creek road, or Kenny Creek by Forest Service name, down to Highway 125. We had to head into Granby to re-fuel before following Highway 125 north toward Willow Creek Pass. Just before reaching the pass we turned off onto the Parkview Mountain 4WD road and climbed switchbacks up to timberline and into a basing below the top of Parkview Mountain. We took a few pictures and headed north onto the Haystack Mountain road. We found a deep mud hole along the way just before a gate indicating that the area would be seasonally closed the very next day.

We decided to head on out back to Highway 125 and down the north side of Willow Creek Pass. At Old Homestead we took a county road back to the east toward Teller City. Once on the public lands we started looking for a campsite for the evening. I explored a side road that ended up having someone camping at the end. Richard and Karla headed up the Illinois River road while Larry and Paulette took another side road that became very muddy. A perfect place for moose to hang out, because they saw three in the road that moved off into the forest.

Moose!

We all headed the way Richard and Karla went and hunted around until we found a great campsite along the Illinois River.

The next day was Tuesday, our last day. We went back to the road with the moose and found it was really muddy. There were a lot of small mud holes and one really long one. We finally made it out and connected with the road to Teller City. Teller City is an old ghost town with a few cabins and many old foundations. The Forest Service has the area closed because it had been logged to remove all of the hazard trees. The whole town site is now empty of trees with stumps everywhere. We headed on following the Teller Divide road to Calamity Pass.

Calamity Pass

This area too has been logged due to beetle kill trees. Heading down the other side of Calamity Pass the road is easy. We wound around through the forest until we came to a road closed barricade where some logging was taking place. Not wanting to back track and loop around through Walden we got Karla to flag down the guy driving the log hauler and asked about driving out on the road. Turns out it was a short section that was closed and he was ok with us going around the barricade. Shortly we made it out to Highway 14 at Gould. We took a short stop at the Moose Center before climbing over Cameron Pass and heading home.

Moose Center