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TR: Continental Divide Ramblings
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rfoubi
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:45 pm    Post subject: TR: Continental Divide Ramblings Reply with quote

PART ONE: BC to NM


Hey Everyone. thought i would share this with y'all. This thread is also posted on expo, but stay tuned, theres even more VW content a bit later, since this trip ended up at the Syncro Solstice in Moab. Anyway

First time posting a TR on here. So yeah, my girl and I got married in april at home in Rossland BC at the ski hill. Decided to head south afterwards for a few weeks to catch some sunshine, do some exploring, and have a chill honeymoon. Rough plan was head to the four corners region and back. After a few days, we realized we were pretty much following the continental divide, so that became kind of a theme of our trip. Anyway, a little background:

THe vehicle:

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1987 VW Vanagon
2wd
Limited Slip rear diff
3" lift, new suspension all around
225/75 R15 BFG MT KM2s
2009 2.5L subaru engine swap (170hp)
dual batteries
fridge (truckfridge TF49)
on board air
thule rack setup
400W inverter
two hidden lockboxes and fuel kill switch
custom painted (interlux brightside roller job)


THE TRIP

10200km
BC, WA, ID, MT, WY, CO, NM, UT, AZ, CA, OR


Anyway we set off from BC in mid april, stoked to get away from it all. Headed through spokane and then hit I-90 for the fourth time in four years. Needless to say we just motored east and south.

Continental divide crossing #1 Homestake Pass, MT 6368'

Our first real stop was thermopolis WY, for some much needed hot springs soaking. Theres a state run free hot springs, as well as several other commercial springs. Cool spot.

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A day or so later we followed the Wind River canyon south to Lander, WY for a bit of spring rock climbing

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After a great couple days in Lander climbing and biking we headed up to Atlantic City and South pass city. Two super cool abandoned/semi-abandoned mining towns up in near alpine, with some awesome old restored mines. Both of us being geologists, we were of course interested, and followed our trusty delorme gazetter all over the place looking at old mine sites.

The views were ok
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Got turned around due to snow, and found this cool foundation on the side of the road

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This was a highlight, i forget the name of the mine, but its near south pass city, and nicely restored.

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From there, we decided to set out through a unique geographical feature, the continental divide basin. Water within this basin flows into the centre and evaporates, as it is extremely arid. Its a high desert feature, and at least 100mi by 50mi in size or so. Also, we are suckers for any place where it says "inquire locally for current local conditions before driving on any unimproved roads shown on this map" especially when said roads take off through the desert. Now we are adventuring!

Continental Divide crossing #2 South Pass, WY 7550'

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the middle of 3-4 hours of dirt roads. Super desolate and yet beautiful.

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home on the range, where the antelope roam

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road was pretty decent, but like the map hinted, it looks like it would get dicey if it rained. Luckily skies were blue, so onwards we pressed.

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remote is the key word here

So part of the reason we were stoked on the area was the herds of antelope and wild horses that wikipedia told us we would encounter in the great divide basin. After 2-3 hours, the horses finally appeared, and they sure looked wild and beautiful

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plenty of antelope.

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judging by how skittish they were, dont think they see many cars. In our 3+ hours crossing the basin, we saw one other vehicle.

Anyway we continued south and out of the basin onto I-80 briefly. From there it was south into colorado

Continental Divide crossing #3: Unnamed pass, WY on highway 789. maybe 5500-6500'?

So, in preparation for this trip, id spent hours and hours reading old trip reports on Expo, and somewhere buried in someones trip report was a mention of Strawberry Hot Springs. Based on this, we made a trip through steamboat, CO and north to Strawberry HOt Springs, where we found a level place to park the van, and paid to enter the springs. Kim and I have been to somewhere around 35 hot springs around the world, and let me say that strawberry is top 3 for commercial springs for sure. Amazing venue, and although i hear it gets busy, we were april midweek and had the place nearly to ourselves.

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a common morning activity, caffienating and looking at maps.
From steamboat we wanted to head over to Berthoud pass to try and get some late season skiing in.

On the way, we hit the divide again

Continental Divide crossing #4: Muddy Pass, CO: 8722'

Ironically we left BC after our best winter in 10 years, to ski CO in the worst winter in years. Oh well, fun to get some sunshine at least.

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Continent

Continental Divide crossing #5: Berthoud Pass, CO: 11,315'

I think this is the highest elevation the van has ever been to! The suby just purrs away, and damn is it ever nice to be able to climb hills in 3rd gear at the speed limit, instead of 2nd gear at 30mph (lets just say the stock 90hp didnt quite cut it)

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we toured up until we hit grass (WTF) and then crushed a few beers and skiied down

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beatiful scenery
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rfoubi
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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The Rig.

over the pass and down to I-70, and westward to Frisco via the

Continental Divide Crossing #6, Eisenhower Tunnel, CO 11158'

Did some errands around town, and then found a sweet stealth campsite on the XC ski trails (aka logging roads)
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The extra height from the suspension lift definately makes small ditch crossings a lot more doable. The van is awesome as far as roll over clearance goes, but its limiting factor is definately approach/departure angle. Big tires and lift at least make it more bearable.

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next day we hit A basin and shredded some spring corn.

And of course, we had to climb up to Loveland pass to take a look, and check off another crossing.

Continental Divide Crossing #7, Loveland Pass, CO 11990'

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So, we were kind of ready to hit the desert by now, so we headed south on 91 through Climax (worlds largest Molybdenum deposit) and

Continental Divide Crossing #8, Fremont Pass, CO 11320'

We spent the night at cottonwood hot springs, near Buena Vista, CO.
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After a bit of rest and relaxation at the hot springs, we headed south and then east to the Great Sand Dunes, which had been on my list to see again ever since i had been as a kid. The weather wasnt great, but as a result we got to see the Medano Creek flowing, which is kinda cool

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The next morning we tried to drive up the MEdano pass primitive road, but decided to turn back after some soft sand. One of these days ill do the syncro 4x4 conversion! Great road, even the 2wd part.

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After a couple days in the dunes, we headed south again, into northern New Mexico, which had been kind of our target in the first place. The first step was to go ski touring up at Taos, and check the place out. Well, we got lucky (sort of). Rains in the evening turned to snow overnight in camp at 10000' This is what we woke to.

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A few cms of snow made for nice skiing, but with no visibility we just toured up to williams lake in the forest. We will have to come back another time to check out the scenery and ski the resort.

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fun snow bashing on the way out

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We were feeling a bit chilled, and luckily, 7000 feet lower, on the banks of the Rio Grande, theres a super nice hike in hotsprings
(Stagecoach/Manby)

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After some rock climbing, we headed across the John Dunn bridge, and up a windy gravel road to Tres Piedras, NM

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nice dispersed camping

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We spent a few more days in the Taos area, which is high elevation New mexico, arid forest and mountain country, and generally awesome. Unpopulated, with lots of cool roads, backcountry access, and climbing/biking everywhere. After several weeks on the road, we decided to hit civilization, and spent a night or two in a hotel. We spent a couple nights in Santa Fe, which was super cool, and generally soaked in the food/culture/architechture.

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After spending way too much money on art, beer, and cool new mexican/mexican goods for our house, we were on the road again. We headed up to the hills again to check out Los Alamos (where the manhattan project/nuclear research went on in ww2) Super cool museum. We then checked out Bandelier NM, which had some cool cliff dwellings.

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We spent a couple days in the Jemez Valley area, full of cool volcanic formations, rock climbing, hot springs, etc. From here, we dodged west to the highway, and then on highway 96 and then 112 headed north towards Tierra Amarilla.

Continental Divide Crossing #9, Unnamed pass near Regina, NM 6000+/-?
disclaimer: this was a shameless couple mile side trip out and back just to touch the divide

The dirt roads through the santa fe national forest in northern new mexico were some of the most deserted and scenic roads we had driven so far, and we both thought it was a spot worth coming back to with more time on another trip.

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From here, it was back north into colorado. Stay tuned for part II of the trip report. Thanks for checking it out!
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rfoubi
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Part 2: Back to Colorado

So, we just couldnt get enough of colorado, and we promptly headed up to wolf creek pass.

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another free camp spot just below the switchbacks on the pass. Ironically, we would often try and hit a forest service/BLM/whatever campground, fully intending to pay to camp,only to find them all gated and closed. Usually this lead to some fun exploring and better sites, but it blows my mind that even in new mexico/southern co, campsites wont open until memorial day!

Anyway, we hit the resort at wolf creek, which had much more snow than we'd seen in CO yet. We just skinned up the runs and enjoyed some sunny corn snow back down the runs.
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Continental Divide Crossing #10, Wolf Creek Pass, CO 10550'

We turned back west and hit Pagosa Springs for a soak, and then onwards to friends of friends place in Durango. FYI, Zia's Taqueria is highly recommended! Also lady falconburghs has $2 pint thursdays! Anyway, i digress. Mtn biking:

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We were on a mission to hit Silverton the next day. We had amazing light up over coalbank pass

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We spent the night in silverton (anyone ever been to Dawson City, YK? This feels very similar) and had a great time drinking with the locals at the legion. The next morning dawned clear, and we happened to be there for the arrival of the first train of the year, which is apparently kind of a big deal.

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dont mess with this dude

So one of my main goals was getting up onto some of the trails heading to the alpine out of silverton. We decided to go check out Animas Forks, a cool ghost town. Luckily for us, the shitty snowpack meant that the road was driveable all the way past Animas Forks. Incidentally, we saw a bulldozer clearing roads in the alpine also. Not sure if this was mining related? or does someone pay to open these 4x4 roads up asap in the spring? So yeah, spectacular drive up the river from silverton

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we had to make a side trip up the valley to check this bad boy out. Id always been jealous of all of the mining relics in colorado that are either restored, or just not demolished. Although we have an amazing mining history back home, almost everything gets bulldozed and demolished for liability, which is a shame. Anyway We collected a few cool chunks of ore near the towers where it would have bounced out piece by piece over the years as the tram rumbled over the tower supports. Some super cool roads as well

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Further up the valley were numerous old mine sites

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For the most part, the road was pretty easy, a few rocky/rough spots, but nothing that came close to actually needing 4wd. (good since we didnt have it) clearance is usually all that was needed. Finally we reached the destination, Animas Forks:

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So, we made it to 11000 feet ish, what to do now? Well, continue higher obviously. We checked out california gulch (i think it was called) and found some more cool stuff

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This was the end of the road for us. Although i could have spent days exploring all this stuff, and the skiing looked super good as well, we had reservations at orvis hot springs, and had to get on the move.

On the way out, we spotted this gem

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This is kinda what most of the road was like. A bit rough, but usually wide enough to pick a good line.

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rfoubi
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After a night at Orvis (another cool hot springs worth checking out. Kinda nudist-y but nice pools and atmosphere) we headed up to Telluride to hike the via ferrata. Parked up the valley from town

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Pretty spectacular/crazy. As climbers i figured it would be a breeze, but god damn, the exposure just sneaks up on you, and all of a sudden you are on a sheer cliff face, gripping metal rungs 400' off the deck. Good times. Anyway thats about it for now, stay tuned for part 3
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part 3 The Desert

So, we finally left the mountains for the desert, which was kind of the original destination of the trip. It was about time to get warm, sunny, sandy, and scenic. We both love the desert SW, and i know you guys do to, so here goes:

We left telluride and drove through the evening to Mesa Verde NP.
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I hadnt heard too much hype about this place, but it was way cooler than i imagined, and the $3 ranger led tours of the cliff dwellings were super cool. Maybe its just growing up in canada, but i had no idea the scope of things down here, and the timeframe (1000 years ago) pretty amazing spot.

From there we went down to the four corners, via shiprock, NM and then Kayenta, AZ and finally up to monument valley. We'd driven by several times in the past, but never stopped, so this time we did the whole driving tour. PRetty funny how rough and unmaintained the road is, and how many tourists are driving aroundin low rental cars and getting stuck in the sand (more on that later)

So the weather and views were ok:

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Then we came upon a brand new camaro with street slicks, driven by some euro tourists, stuck axle deep in the sand. We aired down and thought about trying to pull them out, but keep in mind we are in deep sand in a 2wd. Anyway i got out a shovel and tow strap, and lucky for them, a truck came by to pull them out. Im sure they wont forget their trip to the desert, especially when the sand was blowing like this the whole time:

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At sunset, we headed north

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and camped on the rim of the Goosenecks state park. Cool free camping in the parking lot, complete with fire rings, bathrooms, and picnic tables. Oh yeah, and this view in the morning

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From the goosenecks, we headed on the gravel loop road through valley of the gods. Also very scenic, and lots of nice places to camp here as well (for future reference). The sandstone towers were pretty spectacular, and we finally managed to catch up with the desert in bloom.

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From here, it was up the moki dugway, a cool switchback road that climbs over 1000 ft up what from a distance looks like a cliff face.

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we also headed out to Muley Point (above) which is another spectacular overlook on a dirt spur, with tons of great dispersed campsites.

We cut back to the pavement and checked out Natural Bridges NM, which was cool
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Also, Canyonlands, south access via Indian Creek

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TRIP OF A LIFETIME. It was really nice meeting the 2 of you at Syncro Solstice. Look us up if you find yourselves back on the Western Slope of Colorado. Looking forward to the rest of the trip report.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part 4: Syncro Solstice in Moab

So in April i looked at the details for syncro solstice, and said, damn, id love to go to that sometime, but it just wont work out. Luckily for us, we ended up on the road for longer than originally planned, and managed to hit this amazing event. I was a bit worried at first, having never been to a VW event, i was nervous it would be a bunch of shiny flawless stock vans, that get covered with tarps when they park and never leave pavement. However as you all know, it turned out perfectly. Most people had lifts, big tires, engine swaps, and all sorts of cool mods, and were just keen on driving their vans on cool roads for fun, and to get out and climb/bike/boat/camp/whatever.

Anyway here are some of my shots:

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vans everywhere

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as a sweet coincidence, even the commercial shuttle vehicle was a van. Or rather two vans, welded together, and powered by the stock <100hp engine. Somehow it still managed to pull 15 people and bikes up hill.

One of the drives we did was down mineral bottom road, which is just a smooth dirt road, but with amazing switchbacks and views of the green river.

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Once at the bottom some of the guys continued into canyonlands park, and the rest of us turned back and swam in the river, and then we hit long canyon on the way down to Moab. Its doable in a 2wd with decent clearance going down ONLY. I would not want to try and get up that in 2wd though. Luckily you can do it one way.

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Also thanks to posts on Expo and samba, i had forever wanted to get this shot: The famous rock: And damn, like everyone said, it doesnt feel like you will fit under it, but its a lot higher than it looks.

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Ended the moab trip with a shuttle on the whole enchilada (from hazard down). Fun ride, i think its almost 25-30 miles, and drops over 5000'

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Definately will try to check out solstice again sometime. Thanks everyone for the great event!


Last part to come
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll keep this short and sweet:

This is absolutely the most superb trip report and photos I've ever read, anywhere.

-CJ
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come up to Yellowstone via Jackson and cross C 3 more times between Jackson and Old Faithful, then stop in to say hey. Was that Shaeffer Trail? We just came from Tucson to Yellowstone via many of your stops. Mesa Verde was great! We were there before the Rangers start doing the tour, all self guided.

Looks like a great trip!
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

climberjohn wrote:
I'll keep this short and sweet:

This is absolutely the most superb trip report and photos I've ever read, anywhere.

-CJ


x2
Thanks for posting this. The Trip Report bar has been raised. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, great trip report! Sure wish I knew you were coming through my next of the woods, as you drove right by my house in Keystone. Very good friends of mine use to own Berthoud Pass Ski Area thats unfortunately no longer there. Every spring and fall, I spend a week at the same spot you camped at at the base of Wolf Creek Pass. Did you find the wild hot springs up the valley? IIRC, its called Rainbow Hot Springs. Bit of a hike to get to them, but worth it. Doesn't Muley Point have a great view? Thats another favorite sport. Heck, most places you went through I've spent time exploring myself. Guess what I'm getting at is that your trip report triggered many wonderful memories of my time explore the endless wonder known as Colorado. Any hue, I would've loved to buy you two a beer or three. Next time.........

Thanks for sharing.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rfoubi wrote:
...and camped on the rim of the Goosenecks state park. Cool free camping in the parking lot, complete with fire rings, bathrooms, and picnic tables. Oh yeah, and this view in the morning...


Surprised So did we en route to Moab!

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Very Happy

Great photos! Heck of a trip! And now I see what I missed by not continuing up that Animas River road several years ago (turned around a couple miles past the big mine).
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Rhinoculips
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Joined: August 08, 2005
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Location: Keystone, Colorado
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2012 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kamzcab86 wrote:
rfoubi wrote:
...and camped on the rim of the Goosenecks state park. Cool free camping in the parking lot, complete with fire rings, bathrooms, and picnic tables. Oh yeah, and this view in the morning...


Surprised So did we en route to Moab!

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Very Happy

Great photos! Heck of a trip! And now I see what I missed by not continuing up that Animas River road several years ago (turned around a couple miles past the big mine).


Yup! Great spot.

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crazyvwvanman
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2012 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

After Syncro Solstice we headed for the high country too, zigzagging accross the divide and several 12,000 foot passes. Our favorite was this one that we used to get from Silverton to Telluride. Ophir Pass was open early in the season due to low snowfall this year. Good thing we did it early in the morning since much of it was too narrow and treacherous for vehicles to pass each other and someone would have had a heck of a time backing up. It had rained and lightly snowed during the night so the still shaded west side was icy going down.

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Mark
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rfoubi
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part 5: the rest

We headed north from Moab and onto I-80 for a bit, then up north to maple canyon. After a quick climbing session we did a little exploring up some rough roads with head sized cobbles that were a bit unnerving on off camber sections. From there it was west past the little sahara sand dunes, and out into the middle of nowhere on some dirt roads northwest of delta

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got to the destination, hot springs. Old abandoned concrete pools in the desert. Once we figured out the mixing of 150 and 70 degree water, we got some soaking in

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After a soak we hit up some friends in salt lake city for a night of sleeping in a real bed, laundry, wifi, etc. Then it was north into idaho and then across

Continental Divide crossing #11: Targhee Pass MT, 7072'

and into yellowstone. The wildlife and geysers did not dissapoint, and we checked out almost all of the main attractions in the park

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Continental Divide Crossing #11 Unnamed pass south of West Thumb, WY 8000+/-'?

THe weather got shitty, so we headed south to Jackson for dinner, and then across to idaho falls and then craters of the moon.

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We decided to try and hit some remote hot springs in the Sawtooth National Forest north of faifield, ID. The drive was super scenic gravel up and over a 6000' pass

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and down past indian head rock

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Beautiful country, and we hit a couple different hot springs along the way. THe loop down through featherville was also super nice. Anyway spent a night in Boise at a friend's place and then went and camped the next night near the top of bogus basin ski hill road.

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So we had originally planned on heading home at this point, but since the solar eclipse was happening we decided to drive 7hrs each way down to the nevada desert and check it out. Ended up right on the line of the totality, and werent sure if we would be the only ones there. As we found out, hundreds of people also had the same idea and pulled off in the desert to check it out. Most of them had fancy telescopes and whatnot, but we just made some pinhole cameras and projected the image onto a backdrop with binoculars to watch it that way. Still looked super cool,

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what it looked like in shadow.

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camera shot

and the effects that shadows had was amazing. Everywhere the light went through a narrow spot, for example on our bikes, it would project an image of the eclipsed sun. Mind blowing. you can see all the crazy crescent shapes in this photo of the bikes on the ground

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And with that, it was time to head back to reality, driving north again, 300km that night, 1200 the next day, and we were back home, tired and satisfied after another succesful road trip. Hope you enjoyed it, and make sure to make time to get out there yourself.
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dubbified
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2012 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unbeleivable.

The lady and I both just quit our jobs last month of 10/14 yrs, and are in final stages of preparation to embark on a trip like you guys.

www.wanderlustnow.wordpress.com if you wish to check in on us.

Tommorrow we exit our condo, and a friend has graciously allowed us to stay in their second bed for another couple weeks so we can finish the interior restore.

We too have a 2wd and are rigged to go way out like you folks..

Good times! cant wait to see your updates!

Al/Sony
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joetiger Premium Member
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What an amazing trip. Thanks for sharing and it was great to meet you at Solstice.
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an86carrera
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome, thanks for taking the time to show us all what the van should be doing.
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lloydy
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic Applause
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chimivee
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent. Thanks for sharing!
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