Shane, Ty and I (along with some spouses) made a trip to Silverton for the weekend to explore some trails. We chose to take 285 / 50 for some fall color viewing on the drive down Thursday. At Blue Mesa reservoir, 50 was closed entirely for construction and we were routed along 92 as a detour. Apparently 92 is a designated scenic route and well worth the trip even if you are not forced to take it. We were treated to some fantastic views of the canyon area west of the reservoir and west / north of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park. At the western end of the detour near Crawford State Park I noted a dirt road that was marked as an entrance to the Black Canyon national park. This must be the access for the north rim of the canyon, which I plan to return to some day. The remainder of Thursday was uneventful as we continued from 92 along 50 south to 550 through Ouray and on to our lodging in Silverton.
Friday morning we opted to try Black Bear Pass and Imogene pass, hoping for lighter crowds on a week day late in the season. The morning was cool with light snow visible above ~11,500 ft on the high peaks nearby, but the trail was virtually empty. We encountered a couple of side by sides running out and back from the trail head to the one way section, but no other full size rigs until we got to the switchbacks. The fall colors were made for some spectacular views as we descended into Telluride. After a rather long stop of some BBQ lunch in Telluride we began up Imogene Pass only to be immediately turned away. Just before we started on the trail a rig had rolled a little ways up Imogene, closing the trail for the afternoon. I am now 0 for 2 on attempts to run Imogene due to closures, so it was personally pretty frustrating to fail to run this trail for the second straight year. We regrouped and ran Last Dollar Rd which treated us to some remarkable tree-covered sections with carpets of golden aspen leaves. This easy trail was not a disappointment and was a nice end to our slow paced day of wheeling.
Friday night brought rain all night long in Silverton and snow to the peaks above. Our plan Saturday was to run the Alpine Loop, starting with Cinnamon Pass near Animas Forks, loop through Lake City to Engineer Pass, then back via Mineral Creek. With the snow, we had concerns about the viability of the pass but our persistence was rewarded as we made first tracks up Cinnamon and easily made it over. Engineer pass had seen much more traffic for the day and held considerably more snow along the highest points. Near the top, Engineer had ~3-4 ft drifts beside the well-worn tire tracks, but most of the trail was clear and dry. Mineral creek was dry and provided some opportunities to play on some large rocks before we ended the day.
Our late season trip yielded some remarkable views of the fall to winter transition. This may be the most spectacular scenery of my life.
Top of Engineer Pass, but not the deepest snow section