Texas to Colorado 2021

BDinTX

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This is a follow up to a similar trip we made last year. On that trip we had to skip Medano pass leading into the Great Sand Dunes National Park from the East (due to time), Poughkeepsie Gulch (had to turn back), and Black Bear Pass (was chicken).

Mon 9/13 - 529 miles (~8.5 hrs) Texas to Black Mesa, Oklahoma
Not too much for the first day, it just takes forever to get out of Texas to get somewhere worth seeing. We stayed at Black Mesa BnB last time too and they're great hosts.
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BDinTX

BDinTX

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Tue 9/14 - 206 miles (~4 hrs) Black Mesa, OK to Westcliffe, CO
I didn't want to try to go all the way across Medano pass today so that left us with a relatively short day. Westcliffe positioned us nicely to do the pass in the morning and gave us time to check things out along the way which resulted in Bishop Castle:
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The BnB we stayed at in Westcliffe was really cute and my wife liked that they had goats. I think I heard them in the middle of the night and dreamt of a woman screaming.
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BDinTX

BDinTX

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Wed 9/15 - 165 miles (~6 hours) Westcliffe, CO to Lake City, CO
We started the day off on the wrong foot. I thought we could jump on a trail and follow it a ways down to the pass but didn't think to check the MVUM and make sure it was legal for vehicles. So we aired down and headed out.
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Then we got to the trail head and I saw it was a no-go for jeeps. Headed back to the road, aired back up, then finally got to the beginning of Medano Pass. I was surprised how many water crossings there were, probably 5 or 6 total given that we were going into what I thought was basically a mini desert. The water wasn't deep anywhere this time.
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More goats but the wilder variety:
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And then you can start seeing the Great Sand Dune peeking up in the distance.
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Lake City, CO is a neat little town with an interesting history. Apparently they had a cannibal there. We found one of the plaques marking the location of one of his victims.
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Also supposedly has good trout fishing.
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BDinTX

BDinTX

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Thur 9/16 - 38 miles (~5 hours) Lake City, CO to Silverton, CO
The leaves were starting to turn this trip (mid Sept), here we are just starting out on Engineer pass.
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Top of Engineer pass
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Heading down the other side
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Where will we ever find one of those?
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Some people warned me on the San Juan Mountains Trail Group that the last mile or two of Mineral Creek "was tippy". We did it a year ago and I didn't recall anything nerve racking so kind of dismissed it. There wasn't any problems but obviously my memory is terrible. It's definitely tippy in places!
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On that same Facebook page we had arranged to meet another out of state jeeper at the head of Poughkeepsie gulch. We waited there for about an hour and then a different jeep came along with a father and son there for the Jeep Jamboree. We talked them into running PK even though there were scheduled to do it the next day with the group. They were good sports!
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This is the section of trail we cut a sidewall on last year. So I did what any sensible person would do. I got out and acted as ground guide so my wife could try. : )
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I had spent lots of time watching videos of people tacking the wall. I figured I'd go up the right side but... plans... The guys we had been following just drove up the middle section and made it look easy. They led us over a couple of things that had I been out there by myself I would have probably avoided. Safety in numbers and all that.




The first couple we were supposed to meet up with caught up with us at the wall. He had a two door sport manual so there were a couple spots we needed to stack rocks to assist as we continued along the trail up to lake Como.
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And then ultimately to the old historic Eureka Lodge outside of Silverton with their very own mine/wine cellar!
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BDinTX

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Fri 9/17 - 58 miles (~6 hours) Silverton, CO to Rico, CO
Like Westcliffe, Silverton was the setup stop for Black Bear Pass. This trail had a few surprises for me. First, most all of the discussion talks about the descent into Telluride, I rarely saw anything talking about the first 5-6 miles. Then there were several near pin-stripy sections with brush, a couple of tight off camber switchbacks, and the sign that says one way traffic in 5 miles didn't have an accompanying sign where that one way traffic began. It wasn't hard, but it was more than I expected from the lead in to the descent.

Anyway, we were already on the first step of the descent before I realized it. I had the front wheels down it and I say "oh hey, we're on the ledge!" I kept in it 4 low to use the engine for braking and we just crawled our way down.
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Telluride visible in the distance now
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Start of "the descent"
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I've seen where this slab can be slick and can cause you to slide a few inches towards the edge.
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At the first switchback we came up behind a group of overlanders with a full sized Suburban running tail end charlie.
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Which we did a three point turnabout on
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From there we scooted on through Telluride on down to Rico and stayed at the Rico Mineshaft Inn. Another historic building that has been updated nicely and served an excellent breakfast the next morning.
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Spent the evening at the Enterprise Bar and Grill who can make a mean pizza along with the margaritas.
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BDinTX

BDinTX

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Sat 9/18 - 112 miles (~3 hrs) Rico, CO to Cortez, CO (2 nights)
Most of the places we passed through we would look at and say... I could live here. Cortez... not terrible but it just doesn't have the same charm as many of the other towns in Colorado. We stopped here because there was another location we had to skip the previous year - Canyon of the Ancients. We ended up skipping that again because we'd heard that Mesa Verde was basically the same, but better. So we went to check out the dwellings of some of the old indigenous people.
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The next day we went over to Durango and rode the narrow gauge railroad halfway up to Silverton with amazing views along the way. At the halfway point we had an opportunity to talk to the Fire man (sort of like an Assistant Engineer). They need to get 1000 hours acting as Engineer before they can become one officially. The Engine was made something along the lines of 100 years ago and has been converted to oil burning. He said they get a lot of oil from Cummins.
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This is what they call a "high ball" which means all good, safe to continue.
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BDinTX

BDinTX

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Mon 9/20 - 436 miles (~7 hrs) Cortez, CO to Lincoln, NM (7 Hrs)
Had a long day with pretty monotonous roads. Every now and then they would break up the boredom by reducing the speed limit and calling it a safety awareness zone or something... Silly me, I was trying to be safe the whole way.
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Finally made it to Lincoln, NM the small town that made Billy the Kid famous. We got there around 4 so only had about an hour before the museum and courthouse closed up (where he escaped by killing two deputies).
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Sorry no pictures of the buildings.
 
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BDinTX

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Tue 9/21 - 330 miles (~5.5 hrs) Lincoln, NM to Marathon, TX (2 nights)
This was another redo - we had done Black Gap road last year with a friend and BJ (Before Jeep). So we had to go down and check-in so we could pick up that BoH badge also. We got to Marathon around 5 but didn't want to try driving through Big Bend National Park, or Black Gap road, in the dark. So we looked around the town, which mostly rolled up the sidewalks by the time we were there. The historic Gage hotel was open, we checked out the plaque on the front. Cattle baron Mr Gage owned a whole lot of land. 600 "sections" which, if I remember correctly, is 640 acres/1 square mile. So the dude has 600 square miles and wanted to put a hotel on it. Who wouldn't?

So the next morning we headed off for Big Bend. There is the Gage hotel on the left.
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It took about an hour to get down to the park. The border patrol checkpoint that we had to go through was shut down. I'm guessing all their folks were redeployed to Del Rio.
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Big Bend is definitely beautiful, not the same way that Colorado is but it is something else.
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I think this may be the only place in the park with water
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Here is the "obstacle" on Black Gap Road, rocks stacked, and paved so the occasional rains don't wash it out.
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Finally decided to get creative with the GoPro
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And back to mother nature handling the artwork
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Another pickup item was to visit the abandoned mine that we didn't look at the previous trip.
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Then on the way back things took a turn for the exciting. We came around a corner and saw three illegals sitting under a large bush about 50 feet from the road. One of them got up and started towards us and I just shook my head, waved my hand, and kept going. Then we crossed paths with the second of all the vehicles we would see out there that day. I wasn't sure if they were going to pick them up or not but I waved them down. They were in a rented Gladiator and I could see the back seat was empty, and the bed had only a cooler. I told them about the people we had seen and warned them that they had just seen us and had approached the road. They may rush their Gladiator and just jump in. They thanked us and continued on their way.

This was a moral dilemma for me because I firmly believe illegal border crossing should not be rewarded. On the other hand they were 85 miles across desert nothingness to the nearest town. Odds were good that if we did nothing they could die. To add to the equation, if they had rushed the gladiator those people may need help.

We came up with a plan - we'd turn back, I would have my pistol in my hand down low so as not to escalate a situation if they had weapons of their own. We would toss them water and Gatorade, then head directly to the park station to notify the rangers.

We pulled up, they had indeed gone towards the road, only one was still sitting by the bush, the second was walking back to the bush, the third was still by the road. We pulled up, I motioned with my hand and called out for him to stop. My wife tossed out drinks and I tossed them to the man nearest the road. We struggled at communicating but hey wanted us to call for help. There is no service out there for miles. They wanted to know which direction to the nearest town but neither way was good. Eventually one gestured for a phone and called out La Migra which I believe means Border Patrol.
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I assured them we would contact La Migra and asked them to stay put until they arrive. It still took us an hour to get to the ranger station going faster than I probably should have. We showed them on the map and gave GPS coordinates. They passed along the information to the Border Patrol and then we left. It was 1:30 when we had first seen the men. We were almost back to Marathon when we finally saw a Border Patrol vehicle heading South. I estimated it would be close to 7pm by the time they got down to them. Luckily they had gotten a cold front because the high that day was only around 85 instead of the 100+ that is the norm.
 
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BDinTX

BDinTX

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Thur 9/23 - 463 miles (~7.5 hrs) Marathon, TX to Home
This really isn't a Thursday entry, more of a Wednesday late at night entry...
Since the Big Bend area is one of only a handful of dark sky regions, I wanted to go out and see if we could capture the Milky Way. So we drove about 15 minutes South of Marathon down some dark roads and found a great spot where the hills to our left blocked the moonlight for about an hour after the sun had fully gone down.
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The drive home the next day was uneventful, trip fuel economy average was 17.2mpg. That included all the 75mph freeways, the crawling in 4low, and everything in between. Can't say I'm disappointed one bit with that.

Side note: Gasoline prices in Colorado were sometimes up as high as $4.50/gal. It made me thankful to be back in Texas were I've decided I can splurge a little bit and put premium in the tank for a dollar less than up in Colorado.
 
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What a cool trip! Looks like you had a great time w/ some great photos and videos. Got Black Bear on our list to run first day next trip out there as that's the only badge we have left to get in the San Juans.
Looks like some really cool bed & breakfast spots too, have to look into some of those for sure. That one small section on westbound Mineral Creek was our only "iffy" spot, got through it without trouble, but had a spotter that said "there's been a lot of trouble here lately", so I'm glad he was there, lol.

Was there any spots during your trip that gave you much trouble?
 


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BDinTX

BDinTX

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What a cool trip! Looks like you had a great time w/ some great photos and videos. Got Black Bear on our list to run first day next trip out there as that's the only badge we have left to get in the San Juans.
Looks like some really cool bed & breakfast spots too, have to look into some of those for sure. That one small section on westbound Mineral Creek was our only "iffy" spot, got through it without trouble, but had a spotter that said "there's been a lot of trouble here lately", so I'm glad he was there, lol.

Was there any spots during your trip that gave you much trouble?
Hey thanks! Ya it was great. Our first time to the area was Aug 2020 and we tent camped the entire time. That was a neat experience too but the tear-down / setup makes traveling through less enjoyable. I think it would be excellent for a base camp and explore the area type trip.

Prior to covid we had never stayed in a BnB. Since though, it’s all we’ve used and I prefer them to hotels.

Maybe I just have really poor memory but I don’t remember Mineral creek being like that. Or maybe I was just too ignorant for it to register….lol

The toughest parts were definitely on Poughkeepsie. The wall of course, right before it, and then a couple spots after it. They look daunting but with the right line your Jeep will just go over it.

With that one under your belt Black Bear shouldn’t be an issue - Just take your time. I’m a fan of using 4low to take some of the load off the brakes. Definitely think this one warrants it.
 

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Great write up!! I was just up there for Jamboree, and have been to all the places up in CO so it just brought it all back! Thanks for putting it all together. still haven’t made it to Big Bend. I’ve been hesitant with all the border stuff going on. Thanks for taking us on your trip!
 

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With the exception of the first half of Ophir we used 4Lo on most of the trails and hill descent on a few occasions. Want to give the wall a shot next trip, if I didn't have open diffs I would have already been there lol.

Definitely looking forward to black bear, and from all I've seen that section just prior to the steps seems like there's a couple spots where you have to careful w/ your line(s), but that applies to most of the trails up there :)
 

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Nice 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍

Your comment on Cortez Colorado. Made me laugh. Yea Cortez really isn't anything special. :facepalm:

Great trip report.

Sam

 

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