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JULY: Elk Mountains, CO

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Old 02-01-2014, 12:10 PM   #1
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JULY: Elk Mountains, CO

It's a long shot, but I figured I'd throw this out. I'm road trippin to the Elk Mountains in Colorado July 21-26, 5 nights. The Elk Mtns are similar to the San Juan's... 11,000'+ passes surrounded by 13,000'+ peaks. Mines, ghost towns, and spectacular scenery. Pit stops on the way there/back include Colorado National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Black Canyon National Park. This is a trip not soon forgotten for expo-oriented people.

I'm planning on going solo regardless. Another Tacoma buddy is 50/50 but I wouldn't mind having a few vehicles. Must be 4x4 and in excellent mechanical condition. Lots of driving involved and must be able to live out of the vehicle for 6 days.

I'll bump this every once in a while, but I realize it's hard for people to take off work for something like this.
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Old 02-01-2014, 12:12 PM   #2
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Sounds like an awesome time. Sub'n for sure...
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Old 02-01-2014, 09:19 PM   #4
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I would be possibly down

I have a good friend of mine in Denver whom is into offroading. Was planning on doing a 14'er...put me in as a tentative.
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Old 02-01-2014, 11:04 PM   #5
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this sounds awesome.. I'm sub'd
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:26 AM   #6
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If it wasn't so close to the dates for the epic2 trip
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Old 06-23-2014, 03:30 PM   #8
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This trip is going ahead with three Tacomas so far. Leave time is early July 19th (Sat) for 5 nights, getting back the 24th (Thur) evening/night.
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Old 06-23-2014, 03:52 PM   #9
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Dang we aee so close. Im going with infra August 9 th to yhe san j uans for 9 days of living out of the trucks and running trails. Have fun and be safe
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Old 07-25-2014, 11:28 AM   #10
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After 3 previously aborted trips the Elk Mountain adventure finally launched. The trip had to be shortened to 4 nights, which made things pretty tight timewise. We stopped at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for a few hours on the way up:





Eventually we made it up to the Elk Mountains and ran Schofield Pass, which was an uncomfortably narrow rock crawling road through some horrible drop-offs. Maybe I'm loosing my nerve, but this was more than I expected. WTF must have been uttered at least 15 times. Once on the other side it turns into a graded dirt road... well deserved relief.

Starting up the pass:


Passing the Crystal Mill:


A section of the Punchbowl calm enough for me to get a picture:


Cresting the top:


Then we moved over to Pearl Pass, 12800ft. The last report on Bushducks said it was open as of a couple days earlier. Let me just say that turned out to be a load of horseshit, it was absolutely unpassable at the very top by a 5' snowbank. Still a nice drive to the top.

Plenty of narrow, rocky shelf road on this too:


Crooked, but cool:


Blocked:


I suppose it goes without saying, but the amount of water gushing from these mountains is nothing short of amazing. Creeks, rivers, cascades, waterfalls, several dozen water crossings with some hitting the hood. Wow. Next up was the easy Paradise Basin:


There is a tremendous amount of Aspen in the Elk Mountains (the town of Aspen in on the north side of the range). This, and the fact that it's often called the "wildflower capital of Colorado" make it extremely popular with photographers.


Then we did Gunsight Pass. Well, 3/4 of it because it was blocked by snow as well. Not very difficult, but dozens of tight hairpin switchbacks.





By now I was starting to get a decent squeaking/grinding sound, probably from a u-joint, but I had no extra vibration or wobble yet. We decided to run the easy Cinnamon Pass through the San Juans on our way back down to AZ.





Of course the trip came with mines, ghosttowns, moose, 10,000'+ camping with glorious campfires, funky high mountain towns, and all the other cool things that come along with 4x4 exploration.

Comparing the Elks to the San Juans... While the San Juans are harsh, massive, and majestic, the Elks more gentle contours make it a little "softer" and quite pretty. It obvious there is less 4x4 in the Elks, as the high passes tend to be a bit rougher around the edges, not snowplowed, and see less traffic. That's good and bad. I am glad to have finally reached the Elks, but they are so far, and it's hard to justify the extra distance a second time when the mighty San Juans are closer. If I ever go back, not anytime soon, it'll be in the fall to see the amazing colors the Elks are often noted for.
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:38 PM   #11
whys the rum gone
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Sweet pics. Looks like it was a fun trip!
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Old 07-25-2014, 08:17 PM   #12
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Man that looks amazing! Those roads look really narrow though, not sure if that's just the camera playing or not but I think I'd be afraid to take my truck down them if they're as narrow as they look
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Old 07-25-2014, 09:06 PM   #13
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Thanks, it was a great trip.

Most of the 4x4 trails were pretty narrow, ESPECIALLY a good section of Schofield and some of Pearl pass. What makes it scary are the incredible drop-offs of certain death, the 4-lo crawling bouncing you around, and those off camber dips that tilt you towards oblivion. "WHAT THE FUCK" was the phrase of choice every time it felt like I was 1 degree or 1 foot away from falling off, and it was repeated often. I've run Black Bear and many other shelf roads in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, but for some reason they didn't seem as bad as this. Either I'm getting weak nerves in my old age or these were some exceptionally scary sections of trail.

To be fair, this sign was at the start (along with a couple reminders after that):


Definitely case of a sign living up to its message, holy shit, minimal room for error.
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Old 07-27-2014, 08:15 PM   #14
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Very cool and nice pics. The area looks awesome, but just not a fan of those shelf roads!
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