Corkscrew, Hurricane, California Passes + Mineral Creek

Earlier this summer, my friend Molly asked if I would pilot her Jeep up Yankee Boy basin while her mom was visiting. Molly drives a JK with a pretty good size lift but wasn’t really comfortable driving it off-road herself. A girl needs to know how to drive her own Jeep so we decided to take a little adventure so she could get that experience.

Cruising around the San Juans is always such a delight:

#damselNOTindistress: XJ Alternator

School got out Friday afternoon and I could hardly wait to hit the road for Arizona. My plan was to camp somewhere near the trailhead for Mount Baldy (if not at the trailhead). Sprocket and I made good time down through Cortez, on to Shiprock, and then to Gallup. Before we knew it we were passing through St. John, Arizona. Somewhere just south of St. John, the battery light signal came on.

With just 30 miles to go to Springerville, I figured I should be just fine. I turned off the radio, didn’t use my brights and continued on. (This is where I should point out that #thehelpfulex suggested ages ago that I find a set of non-dummy gauges for RuthXJ and I said I didn’t need them…I would have noticed the issue way sooner if I could have seen the voltage drop rather than relying on the light to come on.) As the headlights started to dim, I was pretty sure the alternator was the problem. Then the clock went out and I was even more sure. Fortunately, this is a totally parking lot fixable problem for a #damselNOTindistress so I stayed nice and calm.

Google maps showed a couple of auto parts stores in Springerville that were open on Saturday so I had a destination: I was going to make it to Carquest to be there when they opened at 8am.

At the junction of US 60 and US 191, I felt the first sputter. I was less than 4 miles from town and really hoped that I could make it. Another mile and a half down the road, however, the fuel pump stopped getting enough voltage to work. I coasted into a ranch driveway with room alongside to camp just off the highway and crawled in the back.

XJ repairs

In the morning, I flagged down the first car I saw which happened to be a Eagar Police animal control officer. He hung out with me for ten minutes charging up the battery so that I could drive into town and followed me to make sure that I got there.

Smarter not stronger

Carquest had the alternator in stock and charged my battery while I swapped out the alternator. First I had to loosen up the power steering pump to remove the belt (it was a lot more cramped than my experience with the FSJ one!)I made it harder than it needed to be by trying to take it out without loosening the bracket but eventually I got it all sorted out by being smarter not stronger. I even changed out my belt since I had it loosened up although I certainly paid a premium for it.

While it sucked to be delayed a bit, it felt really good to know that I was capable of handling the problem on my own (including telling the men who passed by me on the way into the store that I really did have everything under control).

Beth and Sprocket on the road

Colorado 13er: Brown Mountain

Saturday morning, after lesurely enjoying some coffee, I headed up Brown Mountain jeep road once again. (I kinda love that road: it’s not too difficult to drive and gets you up to the high country pretty quickly!) This time, I had my sights set on the highpoint of the long Brown Mountain Ridge. Located at the southern end of the ridge (Mt. Abrams is at the north end), it tops out at 13,339′. Since I was going up the western side of the ridge, I spent most of my drive and then the climb up to the ridge in shadow watching the sun make its way ever so slowly down the eastern slopes across the valley from me.

Looking west from Brown Mountain

The steep climb up the gully from the end of the jeep road always kicks my butt. It’s only a half mile but it is steep. I also knew that once I hit the ridge the sun would help warm my chilly bones (I was greeted with ice coating puddles and ponds along the way up… fall is in full swing in the mountains!)

Selfie on Brown Mountain

Once I got to the ridge, I started ambling along not worrying much about making good time. Looking north, I could see the route I took back in July to the summit of Mt. Abrams:

North towards Mt. Abrams

Looking south, I realized that the ridge was a lot longer than I was picturing it being. The highpoint is visible on the far right of this photo. I decided to traverse below some of the subpeaks in between to minimize elevation gain and loss–that turned out to be a mistake, going over the summits on the return was a lot easier than traversing the steep and slippery scree on the eastern slopes!

 

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I further realized that ascending this peak from the Alaska Basin spur road off of Hurricane Pass would be way shorter. I didn’t particularly mind the extra length but the Brown Mountain road is not the shortest or least elevation gain route by far!

Alaska Basin

At the highpoint I found the summit log next to the Duco benchmark and just soaked in the sights for a bit. Somehow, I’d forgotten how absolutely magical fall is in the mountains. #Summtsummer is a beautiful thing but honestly, fall summits are even better. They’re lonelier, the weather is better (until that moment the snow falls and it’s terrible), the colors are beautiful, and the air has a crisp fresh smell that is totally indescribable.

Benchmark and register

Panorama

I am so glad that I had a chance to ramble in the high mountain air alone and drink it all in.

Summit Selfie

Brown Mountain views

Mount Ellen: Henry Mountains High Point

When I realized that I had the whole Labor Day Weekend to go out exploring with Sprocket, I decided it was high time to go check out Utah’s Henry Mountains. I’d been past them before but since it was early spring, the roads up into the mountains themselves were too muddy down low with snow gracing the higher peaks. The Henrys are rarely explored despite the fact that the highpoint, Mount Ellen, stands 11,522′ high giving it more than 5,000′ of prominence. The summit is also the high point of Utah’s Garfield County.

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Camp

As is usual, I had a hard time gauging just how rough the road to Bull Creek Pass actually was going to be. It can be difficult to tell just what people expect road conditions to be. As it turned out, it was rough but nothing that ever required me to use 4-wheel drive. On the way down, I did avail myself of low range since it was pretty steep.

Wikiup Pass

Bull Creek Pass

From the saddle at Bull Creek Pass, we made our way up through the wind pretty quickly. It looked as if a fairly major rainstorm might be approaching from the west but it wasn’t moving very fast and seemed to only be rain (no thunder or lightning).

View to Mount Ellen Peak from Mount Ellen Summit

Our views were way more expansive than my iPhone camera can show you. We could see all of the myriad canyons around us plus the Abajos and the La Sals in the distance. I was a bit disappointed that it was slightly hazy; I would have loved to glimpse my home San Juans from this distance!

Ellen Ridge

The trail petered out when we reached the ridge and made for kind of slow going through the large rocks. Sprocket hates this sort of hiking. We lingered on the peak for just a few minutes before heading back down to the Jeep. The clouds continued to appear to not be moving quickly but the wind was still whipping across the ridge from the west.

Typical Summit shot

Almost back at the Jeep, I was shocked at how powerful the gusts were! There as a bit of rain in the wind and it stung my cheeks and the wind pushed me continually off trail as we jogged back to Ruth as fast as was prudent.

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As I stood on the summit, I felt a weird feeling: I just wanted to go explore the canyons at my feet instead of climbing more peaks in the range. Perhaps it was the vagabond traveler in me but I felt the call of exploring pulling me back out of their remote clutches and back on the move.

On The Page: Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle

I finally go smart this summer and made a box specifically of “books I haven’t read” since I’m on a strict “you can’t buy any more books until you finish the ones you already have” budget. One of those books was Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle by P. David Smith. I bought this book back in 2013 when I first moved to Ridgway and it just never seemed to be accessible when I needed a book. I definitely missed out due to my procrastination!

Exploring the Historic San Juan Triangle

Smith’s history of the San Juan Triangle, the area roughly bounded by Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton, is an excellent crash course in the history of settlement and mining in the region. The first chapters of the book describe the histories of the main towns in the region: Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, and Telluride. (My beloved Ridgway sits just outside the triangle and has some definite ranching vs mining roots.) Just a few pages into the history, as Smith described how miners started to drift into the San Juans while they were still officially Ute lands, I realized I know nothing really about this area. Since the book is written partially as history and partially as a travel guide there was some emphasis on the locations (past and present) of key buildings but I really enjoyed that since I could picture each of the towns.

After the histories of individual towns, there is a series of chapters that give a fairly exhaustive explanation of mines and ghost towns that existed along Jeep routes in the area. I can picture many of the places he mentions but I’m just itching to get back out and check out the rest of them! In addition to covering the “classic” routes (Imogene, Black Bear, Cinnamon, Engineer, etc.) Smith talks about spur roads and lesser known routes as well.

Beaumont Hotel Ouray,CO

As I mentioned, the book is written as a guide to travel so sometimes the narration is a bit clunky. Dividing the history up into specific locations is helpful when you’re driving or visiting one of the towns but sometimes that also makes for a bit of repetitiveness to the history. That being said, however, if you like history and context for your exploring and you plan on visiting the San Juans (or if you need some inspiration to come check out my gorgeous mountains), Exploring The San Juan Triangle is an excellent place to start diving in!

Vehicle Living: What Route Is Right For You?

The internet loves #vanlife. #westielife, #RVliving, and so on and so forth are popular too. Maybe you’re starting to contemplate some time on the road yourself but there are so many choices: a Sprinter? A basic delivery van? A camper? Another RV?

Beth Lakin cooking in the Scamp

I’ve done a fair amount of living and and traveling in a vehicle and there are pros and cons to pretty much anything you choose. The most important suggestion I can make is to not get too attached to any particular form of conveyance. Until you figure out your travel style and what is important to you, you won’t really know what the most practical choice is for you. Keeping your investment minimal can allow you to switch vehicle forms as you sort all that out. (But although totally impractical, if anyone wants to buy me a Pendleton Airstream, $120k, I wouldn’t be opposed).

Without any more ado, I present to you…

3Up Adventures Vehicle Living Comparison

| SPRINTER | CARGO VAN | TRUCK CAMPER |

|LARGE TRAILER | SMALL TRAILER |CAR/TRUCK|

Sprinter Van:

I traveled in a Sprinter van with my ex from November 2013 until late January of 2014. We had purchased the Sprinter with an eye to traveling to Alaska the following summer, a trip covering a huge number of miles and making the fuel mileage of the Sprinter a real boon.

Pros: Fuel mileage. Our 2002 Sprinter would regularly get about 26-28 mpg as long as we were driving about 55mph. I’m a firm believer that for the budget conscious adventure traveler driving a bit slower to maximize your fuel dollar is totally worth it.

Head room. Being able to stand up is a really amazing thing in your travel vehicle. Although by no means a requirement, over the long haul putting your clothes on or cooking dinner without being stooped over is a really nice option.

Comfortable driving arrangement. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more comfortable long haul road trip vehicle. When we purchased the Sprinter, we drove it from Florida to Idaho in just three days with a little time set aside to visit friends and I have no complaints about long hours in the drivers and passenger seats.

Impressive ground clearance. For a 2wd van, the Sprinter has pretty impressive ground clearance. Our Sprinter made a jaunt up Baby Lion’s Back in Moab just to prove that it could. Although too top heavy and lacking 4wd capabilities, with tall skinny tires we found that we weren’t very limited at all.

Durability. Early Sprinter (T1N) motors were known for their durability, many running to 500,000 miles. Transmissions are generally expected to last 250,000 miles.

Cons: Expense. Sprinters are expensive. Although they get pretty solid fuel mileage, you pay for that savings up front. It takes a significant number of miles driven to make up the extra cost of the vehicle. Sprinters do retain much of their value and you might recoup a significant portion of that extra capital cost when you sell the vehicle it can be an uncertain proposition depending on how long you keep the vehicle and what condition it is in. If you’re looking to someone else to do your conversion work for you, you can add to an already significant capital expenditure

Maintenance. This point is largely addressed in my post “Is A Sprinter For You?” but it is worth mentioning that a mechanical breakdown can be an expensive proposition if you aren’t able to handle the repair yourself. Even if you are a competent mechanic, parts for a Sprinter are more expensive than for a delivery van and a hefty repair bill can put a damper on adventures in a hurry. Since Sprinters have become very common I’d imagine that finding a mechanic familiar with them isn’t as hard as it once might have been but still might pose a problem.

Creature comforts. For my ex-partner, the lack of bathroom meant forgoing a luxury they really appreciated. This is a sticking point for some people and not for others. I found that for me this wasn’t ever a really major issue. I didn’t spend much of my van time in areas where this actually was a problem. (#backpacking experience FTW) I did, miss a comfortable place to sit and read or type that wasn’t in bed, an option I experienced in other configurations. We did have swivel seats which helped a bit and I probably could have come up with a good table option to fix this issue. We did purchase a Mr. Buddy Heater for use in the Sprinter but never got a chance to test out how effective it was at heating the space.

Note: A Roadteck or Winnebago type Class B conversion might have a bathroom and feel really fancy but they’re really heavy and gas mileage will take a significant hit. Although their mid-teens fuel mileage certainly beats a full size RV, it comes no where close to a lighter DIY conversion. Additionally, that extra weight puts more strain on the drive train (specifically the transmission) and can lead to earlier failures of parts.

Sprinter sunset

Chevy Van (or Ford or Dodge):

Pros: Inexpensive. A gas powered Chevy van can be a really affordable option to hit the road. If you’re okay with simplicity, these plentiful vehicles can be converted quickly and you can hit the road with gas money in your pocket.

Fuel mileage. But wait? Didn’t I claim fuel mileage to be a Sprinter advantage? If gas is cheaper than diesel, getting 18-22mpg in a gas powered vehicle might be a better deal than 22-27mpg in a diesel Sprinter.

Parts & maintenance. Due to their ubiquity, parts for Chevy/GMC vans (a GMC Savanah and a Chevy Express are the same thing mechanically), are fairly inexpensive. You may be able to do the maintenance yourself or finding a mechanic should be a cinch.

ConsHeadroom. Being hunched over in your vehicle gets old. While you’re hopefully spending a lot of time outside adventuring, sometimes you’re stuck inside working, sheltering from the weather, or cooking and being stooped is less than fun.

Creature comforts. See Sprinter cons.

Van on Brown Mountain Jeep Road

Truck Camper:

Pros: Comfortable. The camper had a refrigerator, a table, a bathroom, a cooktop (many even have an oven), and a heater. Our bed was always made and was out of the way.

4-wheel drive possiblities. I’d been really insistent that we find a 4wd truck for this project because I felt that we were getting our 2wd vans into situations where it would be really nice to have that extra bit of security. It was nice a few times but mostly the camper was too big for us to get where it was really helpful (see cons).

Not too big. For the relative creature comfort of the camper, we didn’t take on too much of a hit on size (there were some, see cons). There was a lot of storage (and in our flatbed configuration there was a lot).

Fuel mileage. Depending on the size of the camper, they can get really heavy. The Lance 825 that I traveled in was really lightweight and small compared to many other options so it didn’t impact our fuel mileage too terribly but most full size trucks don’t get amazing mileage so this can start to add up.

Cons: It’s pretty tall. The downside of our flatbed configuration was that it put the camper up really high. This made going down some Forest Service roads sort of hard as we tried to avoid damaging the camper.

Fuel mileage. There are pros and cons (see pros).

The dog is underfoot. I’m mostly kidding here but because the amount of floor space in the camper is tiny the dog was even more under foot than usual.

Camper on the Colorado River

Travel Trailer (large):

Pros: I actually don’t have much that is positive to say about the toy hauler. We carried our toys with us which was nice but a small trailer behind the truck and camper was a much nicer option that accomplished about the same thing.

It had an oven, although again, many campers have that as well. Same thing goes for the bathroom (the large storage closet in the bathroom though was kind of cool: we rocked a gear closet in our mobile living space).

Cons: It was too big to heat efficiently and because of all the empty space around the bikes and the quad it just felt empty and kind of sad most of the time. (It was kind of cool to drop the back open on warm days though.)

Fuel mileage was dismal and it was just too damn big. We’d hoped to just move sometimes and mostly use the truck and our toys to explore but the simple fact is that I like wandering around too much for that. It cost us an arm and a leg to move plus we couldn’t get it into the good spots.

Beers on the "porch"

Travel Trailer (Scamp or other fiberglass):

Pros: ADORABLE. I seriously loved the Scamp so much. It wasn’t really meeting our needs at the time but I think SP and I would rock one with the XJ right now really well.

Compact. At only 13′ the Scamp was small and maneuverable yet it still had all the necessities inside. It had the dinette that I really liked in the camper, TONS of light (best in class with this!), the ability to stand up, a refrigerator and a really respectable amount of storage for its size.

Fuel mileage. We didn’t tow it like normal people for any long distances with the TJ so I don’t have a really good estimate on how it affected fuel mileage (we did, however, tow it across Arizona rather unconventionally) but I imagine that it probably wouldn’t be too big of a problem since they are SO LIGHT. Ours only weighed about 1200 pounds because it was so simple; newer ones with AC units and awnings (which I wouldn’t recommend) weigh about 1500. I would love to do a fuel mileage test with Ruth the XJ!

Cons: No bathroom. If this is really a con for you, current Scamp floor plan options have versions with a bathroom. This would reduce the “open” feeling that I loved so much but the loss of under bench storage would probably be made up for by the gain of an extra closet if a bathroom is really a big deal to you.

Trailer. It is a trailer and that does sort of reduce mobility. We also discovered that the frames are pretty lightweight for frequent off road use, however, the Jeep + Scamp size combination is only beat out by a van for off road maneuverability. They are much shorter than a full size travel trailer or the camper plus their lightweight nature makes them really easy to hookup and unhook leaving you with a Jeep (or a Subaru or a Toyota or whatever else floats your boat).

Scamp after axle with motorcycle

Straight up vehicle living (Cherokee, pickup, 4-Runner, Land Cruiser, etc.):

Pros: You’re in your vehicle, no encumbrances, no extra fluff. If you’re 4wd equipped you can just go (and often find yourself waking up to amazing views).

Fuel mileage: Okay fine, this pro is relative but I’ll happily take the fuel mileage of my XJ (18-25mpg) especially when I consider that I have full 4wd capabilities at my disposal all of the time.

It might already be sitting in your driveway. For all the glamour of being able to use the hashtag #vanlife on your custom build, I see way too many vans be built but then the builder either doesn’t use them or has spent way more on the conversion than they planned and can’t travel. You probably already know the maintenance concerns of your vehicle and they can be cheaper to fix (although not always) than a truck or van you purchase for a specific use. The lack of specific investment can also make it an excellent choice for seasonal or temporary mobile living.

Cons: Space. It’s a lot more like organized long term camping. You don’t have a nice table to sit at or a refrigerator or a bed you can sit up in and so on. This can kind of suck on a rainy day, although you have the flexibility to just drive to a coffee shop.

Bathroom/kitchen. Similarly to the space issue you’re going to have to do all of this outside your vehicle but if you’re only out for a couple of weeks at a time or maybe one big special trip, it might be cost effective to use the vehicle you already have.

 Sunrise

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XJ Cherokee: Sleeping Platform

Last summer while we were traveling around in Francis I never bothered to make a sleeping platform. The FSJ has a really ample cargo area once the seat is removed so it never really became a high priority for me (also, my living situation last year never really was conducive to building one). When I brought Ruth home, I knew that I would need to build a platform in order to have well organized road trips. The platform didn’t get built before my Thanksgiving trip to Arizona but that mostly just proved that a platform would be key to being happy—packages of bagels rolling around on the passenger floorboards and weird lumpy unlevel futons are cool for a couple of days but SP and I sleep in the Jeep often enough to justify something better.

Sunrise XJ mountaintop

The first iteration of XJ platform I used was on my first big US road trip in 2010. F and I made it out of 3/4″ sanded plywood. We didn’t want it to sag or be unstable but we later realized that we’d way over built it. F passed along to me some measurements for a more streamlined platform out of 5/8″ OSB. His new version had made some cool improvements that increased access underneath the forward part of the platform and I decided to mostly copy his plan.

Lowes I picked up a sheet of 1/2″ OSB and had it cut to length in the store (Lowes and Home Depot will both do this for you) as well as twelve 1 1/2″ L-brackets (they came in packages of 4). Back at home, I cut the remainder into supports: three lengthwise supports and a cross-brace for the front. I rough fit everything together inside the jeep to confirm placement before screwing things together. I decided to trim the back corners to 45-degrees for ease of reaching things that might fall to the sides of the platform and to nestle the platform as far back against the tailgate as possible. (I’ve got long legs and drive with the seat just one click forward from all the way back.)

Test fitting
Fitting the main piece
Redneck sawhorses
Cutting the remainder for supports

I decided to leave the plastic trim at the bottom of the tailgate opening on, although in the original and F’s recent version, it was removed for ease of removing plastic storage containers. (I can always decide to remove mine later if I decide.) My outer supports rest right against the base of the wheel wells and the middle support is aligned with the tailgate latch. The front cross member is centered and rests on the narrow lip that the front of the back seat bottom rests on.

Supports

Everything was assembled with the L-brackets and put back into the Jeep to check for fit. Once I confirmed everything was in the right spot, I took the platform out one more time and used my angle grinder to remove the points of the screws that were protruding. Coats and sleeping bags don’t play very well with sharp pointy things so it’s time well spent.

Sprocket ready to load up to the platform

The platform only took me a couple of hours to build and really affordable:

◊ 1 sheet 1/2″ OSB: ~$10

◊ 4 packages of 4ct. 2 1/2″ L-brackets (the Stanley ones I got included screws): $13.27

Platform total: <$25!

(I also bought four plastic totes from Home Depot to organize my storage for another $20)

Depending on your desires you could purchase thicker OSB or even plywood if you desire a smoother surface. I’m going to test this out for the summer and see how it goes, the rough surface might wind up collecting more Sprocket dirt than I want but if I change my mind, I can disassemble this and reuse my brackets so it’ll be a good experiment.

XJ Sleeping Platform

Sprocket says "Thank you, Mom."
Sprocket says “Thank you, Mom.”

Fall Color: Leadville to Aspen

After getting the Jeep running midday on Saturday, I loaded up Sprocket and we hit the road. We stopped briefly in Glenwood Springs to stretch a bit before pushing on to Minturn and the trailhead.

Glenwood Springs

My vague plan was to hike Holy Cross but when the alarm went off at the trailhead on Sunday morning, I really just wasn’t feeling it. The weather was gorgeous, the leaves were amazing but I had no motivation to push myself at all.

What was in order was a day of epic leaf peeping.

Half Moon Pass Trail

I still wanted to be sure I got a hike or two in so since we were camped at a trail, we hiked it! The hike up to Half Moon Pass was a super enjoyable way to spend the first part of our morning in a super non-hurried fashion. I stopped at the top of the pass to enjoy the views and soak in the sunshine.

Half Moon Pass

Half Moon Pass

Selfie

Half Moon Pass

Holy Cross

The drive back down to the highway was astoundingly beautiful. I’d gotten glimpses of aspens above I-70 on the drive east but after dinner at the Minturn Saloon, it was dark before I drove to the trailhead so I had missed the brilliant colors on the way up.

Tigiwan Road

Tigiwan Road

FSJ Tigiwan Road

Since we had all day to explore, I turned south towards Leadville instead of going home via I-70. I stopped to check out the site of Camp Hale, the home of the 10th Mountain Division. I knew a little bit about the 10th Mountain Division but reading some of the signs at the historic site and at the memorial located at the top of Tennessee Pass reminded me of some things I’d learned watching Ken Burns’ “The War” several years ago. My grandfather loved history, especially World War II history, and to travel—I couldn’t help but think of him and how much he would have loved this interesting piece of history!

Camp Hale

FSJ at 10th Mountain Division Memorial

We poked around Leadville for a bit, checking out antique stores and enjoying a hot apple cider from City on A Hill Coffee. (Yes, Sprocket walks around antique stores with me.) After a bit, we continued on over Independence Pass. It looked a little different from when we were there in June!

Independence Pass

The weekend felt really short because I was so embroiled in getting the Jeep running again but I’m so glad that Sprocket and I got out to enjoy the fall weather! You never know this time of year when the snow will start to fly!

James Peak: Gilpin County Highpoint

I had hoped to head up Mount of the Holy Cross on Saturday, but after I had kind of a tough day on Elbert, I changed my plans and headed for James Peak. I’d hoped to climb this back in July but when the power steering pump on my FSJ died, I skipped it in favor of playing mechanic at Aleya‘s place. Plus, it didn’t hurt that I’d learned about the existence of the Kingston Peak Jeep Trail in the meantime which cut way down on the elevation gain and hike distance.

Kingston Peak Road

Kingston Mountain Road

James Peak

I got a little nervous heading down a loose hill from the “stone house” since I’d have to reascend it to get out but I figured if it was really a problem, I could go out to the north. Just a few minutes later, we were at the start of our hiking route to James Peak. The “trail” is a former jeep road and the hiking went really fast as we approached the peak.

James Peak

This angle of James Peak is really pretty but we wrapped around the peak to the south (left in the above photo) and ascended up the much gentler south side.

James Peak hike

As we reached the south side, views of Loch Lomond, Ice Lake, and several other smaller lakes.

James Peak hike

Loch Lomond

From here, the ascent went quickly as we gained the ridge and then the summit.

James Peak

There were a few people on the summit but I still really enjoyed taking in the views from the peak.

North from James Peak

SW from James Peak

Beth & Sprocket

South from James Peak

James Peak

We made quick time back to the Jeep and started our slow drive down the mountain. James Peak is my 26th Colorado County Highpoint; I’m steadily approaching my goal of being at 32 by the end of 2015!

Full size Cherokee

Jeeping: Mt. Blanca Road to Lake Como

Labor Day Weekend I called in a favor and asked a friend with a more built up Jeep to drive me up to Lake Como. My FSJ is pretty capable but she’s not going to make it up that road, nor does the old lady need that kind of abuse. We headed up the road under uncertain skies and with a forecast that wasn’t looking particularly promising for a big day or two above treeline but since we’d made the long haul down to south central Colorado, we decided to go for it anyway.

Mount Blanca Road

Mount Blanca Road

Stay on Trail or Stay Home

White TJ Mt. Blanca Rd

Sprocket started out pretty excited about the ride but after several miles of rough road he was a lot less excited.

Sprocket

Lake Como Road (or Mt. Blanca Road, it seems to be known equally by both names) is better called a Jeep trail than a Jeep road. At many points, it was a lot more rockcrawling than jeeping. While the whole road is really rough and without a very modified Jeep or a buggy it takes some careful maneuvering throughout. The “signature obstacles” on this trail are called Jaws 1, Jaws 2, Jaws 2 1/2, and Jaws 3. They’re really creative with their names.

The photo below wasn’t even from one of the “Jaws”:

Lake Como Road

As we hung out at the lake in the evening, the skies got more and more cloudy. Since we’d hoped for a big day above treeline to do the Little Bear-Blanca traverse (one of Colorado’s four “Grand Traverses”) things were not looking promising.

Lake Como

Lake Como

As it got later and later, the wind kicked up, it spit rain and was generally pretty miserable. I was hopeful that everything would blow out by morning but we awoke to clouds hovering just above the lake. With the prospect of no views, wet rock, and wind on high ridges nothing about climbing one of the 14ers above the lake sounded like fun and we called it good with a pretty successful jeeping adventure.

Essentially, this wound up being a preview for me of the Lake Como road that I’m almost certain to be hiking next summer in a bid to bag all three of the 14ers gracing the basin.

Lake Como

Lake Como