Symtec Grip Heaters – Nov 2014

I have previously installed grip heaters on four of our family bikes.  I bought them from Enduro Engineering, but I think they are identical to the Tusk heaters and they may also be labeled under other brands.  They are made in Taiwan, but their quality is lacking.

Cheap grip heaters

All four sets broke within the first year – some of them broke on the first day.  There are two primary problems with these heaters:

  1. The plastic toggle switch breaks internally due to vibration.
  2. The heater wires are very brittle and break easily – especially the throttle side.

If you choose to use these heaters, save your self some grief and replace the heater wires with a good grade automotive wire and replace the switch with a quality on-off-on switch available from Home Depot or Radio Shack.

It is also helpful to insulate the bar on the clutch side with heat shrink tubing or electrical tape.

Symtec Heat Demon Grip Heaters

For my two new KTMs I wanted a higher quality grip heater, so I decided to try the Symtec heaters.  So far I am very impressed.  Their quality is far superior to the previous heaters I have used.

Symtec Heat Demon heaters

Here are some of the things I like about these heaters:

  • Good quality toggle switch with a mounting bracket.
  • Comes with heat shrink for the clutch side bar.
  • Good grade wire.
  • Dual element heaters eliminate the power resistor.
  • Optimized clutch and throttle side heating elements.

Installation is fairly straight forward.

Remove the clutch side grip and clean the bar

Do the same on the throttle side

Install the heat shrink tubing on the clutch side

TIP: Apply some glue to the bar to prevent the heat shrink tubing from spinning on the bar.

Stick the clutch heater element to the heat shrink with the wires exiting from the front of the bike

Install on the throttle side to the throttle tube, also with the wires to the front

Reinstall the grips

TIP: Use glue and safety wire to prevent the grips from slipping.

Secure the wires to the bars

TIP: Make sure you leave sufficient slack in the wire for the throttle to turn fully.  Also ensure that the wire does not snag on the brake mechanism when the lever is pulled in.

Mount the control switch

Find a convenient place to mount the control switch.  The included mounting bracket may prove useful.

Locate an appropriate source of 12 volts, preferably one that is only powered when the motor is running to prevent draining the battery.

Locate a convenient chassis ground or ground wire.

Hook up the switch and heater elements as per the wiring instructions included with the kit.

The end result

Fire up your engine and test to make sure both grips are heating in both the high and low settings.  I found that both grips heated very evenly.

Go out and ride and keep those fingers nice and warm!

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Cherry Creek – Nov 2014

Nov. 8, 2014

We had another gorgeous fall weekend, so we went out to Cherry Creek to enjoy some fun single track trails. Joining Jamie and I were Paul and Sarah, Scott and Peter, and a neighbor of Scotts – Bill. We covered approximately 33 miles with a good mixture of open trail and tight twisting trail through the trees.

Bill quickly learned that a KLR 650 with a bald rear tire was not the best bike choice for this type of terrain. We started off by riding a short practice loop near the car to make sure everyone could handle the type of trails we would be riding. Bill crashed on one of the loose, tight corners and smashed his foot. He was in pain and realized that he could not manage such technical trails, so he opted to ride his KLR home while we continued on our way. He later learned that he had broken his fibula and separated his ankle. I am amazed that he was able to ride home in such condition. I hope he recovers quickly.

Bill on his KLR

The only other incident we had was when Jamie somehow rode off the trail going up a gully. It was a quick, but painless crash, and she had her bike back on the trail before I could get there to help.

There are trails all over the place. You can basically just pick and trail and see where it goes. Since I have been here several times now, I have some favorite trail sections that I like to ride. So we tried to pick trails that would move us towards my favorite sections.


For the most part, this worked. But we did pick a few trails that fizzled out or dead ended at a deep gully. At one point I think we were actually riding a cow trail rather than a dirt bike trail.

Jamie on the hill climb

But we eventually found our way and discovered some new trails in the process.

Sarah hitting some whoops

My favorite trails are the ones that weave in and out of the trees or work their way up or down a narrow gully. Others prefer more open terrain with fewer turns. I think we found trails that everyone enjoyed.



Jamie riding through the dead forest

Jamie weaving through the trees

Jamie on the rocky ridge

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Center Trail – Oct 2014

Oct. 30, 2014

Center Trail (#09) is a popular dirt bike single track trail in the Diamond Fork area just west of Strawberry Ridge. It consists of five major sections, as shown on this map:

Strawberry OHV map

Bob and Ron (a former work colleague) where planning on riding Center Trail before winter set in, so I decided to take the day off work and join them. We began our ride near the Tie Fork rest stop in Spanish Fork Canyon. It was a very cold 20ºF when we pulled into the parking area. My fingers were freezing as we started our ride, but the early morning sun was quickly warming things up. It wasn’t too long until we were shedding layers.

What better way to start off a cold morning ride than do about five deep stream crossings. I was surprised how deep these crossings were this late in the year. I suspect they could be very challenging during spring runoff.

Tie Fork stream crossings

A few miles up Tie Fork the dirt road ends and the Tie Fork single track (#23) begins. This single track quickly climbs up the mountainside to the Unicorn Ridge road (#42).

Ron starts up the Tie Fork single track

The trail is fairly narrow and has some sections of steep side hill with some exposure. There are a few switchbacks and a few rocky climbs, but most of the trail is fairly easy as long as you pay attention. There are, however, a few hidden root clumps or rocks that like to snag your toes as you ride by. One in particular has snagged me all three times I have ridden this trail – regardless of which direction I ride.

The southern end of Center Trail begins at Unicorn Ridge immediately across the road from the top of Tie Fork. This first section of the trail is perhaps the easiest. This year some of the trail suffered some erosion, so it is a little more challenging than usual. You can ride at a good pace through this section, but pay attention when approaching some of the catch ponds or might miss a turn and get yourself wet. For photos and video of this section, check out my October 2014 Diamond Fork trip report.

This section ends at the intersection with road #501. You turn left and follow the road for a few hundred yards, then turn left again onto the 2nd Water Trail. This trail then splits; left goes down 2nd Water while right ascends a rocky section of trail letting you know you are now beginning the more advanced portion of Center Trail.

The first rocky climb on Center Trail

After completing the climb, the trail mellows out. Most of the trail is pretty easy as it winds through Aspen trees, Pine trees, or meadows. Being late in the year, much of the trail was covered in fallen Aspen leaves.

Fun cruising through the Aspen trees

The 3rd Water crossing is the hardest part of the trail. There is a steep and rocky descent down to the stream bottom. I remembered this section from my ride here about 15 years ago with my two oldest sons. We were coming the other way and had a difficult time making it up this hill. My younger son flipped over backwards, which he didn’t enjoy.

The rocky descent into 3rd Water

After crossing the streambed you begin a steep rocky climb out the other side. The climb has two switchback turns, so it is difficult to maintain your momentum. I got stuck twice through this section.

The rocky climb out of 3rd Water

I really enjoyed the trail from 3rd Water Ridge to 5th Water. There were a few rocky spots, but most of the trail was smooth flowing trail where you could relax and enjoy the ride.

More easy cruising

Just before reaching 5th Water you find an old aircraft fuel tank sitting just off the trail. One wonders how in the world it got there.

An old aircraft fuel tank just before reaching 5th Water

The crossing at 5th Water was quite muddy this time. The ride up and down 5th Water is pretty fun, and I have done it several times in the past.

A muddy crossing of 5th Water

To continue on Center Trail you turn left and go down 5th Water a ways. There are a couple of rocky sections with some steep side hill exposure that warrant caution.

From 5th Water (#15) to 5th Water Ridge (#14) the trail is intermediate difficulty, with a few rocky sections and some low lying logs.

5th Water Ridge is also a fun ride, but our objective for this ride was to ride Center Trail end-to-end and back. So, we turned left at the junction and began the descent down towards 6th Water. The first time I rode this section of the trail I thought it was really hard since it had a lot of exposed tree roots and ruts. But now I find it really enjoyable.

There is one section where you feel like you are riding through a tree graveyard due to all of the old fallen trees.

Riding through the tree graveyard

We came across a recent tree fall that was up in the air, making it difficult to get over. We could have bushwhacked our way around, but we elected to stay on the trail and practice crossing tall logs.

Ron getting ready to cross the fallen tree

Lots of fun riding through the Apsens

There is one really steep climb on this section, which includes one switchback turn. When I rode this section 15 years ago everyone in our group struggled to get up this section. This year all we all made it without incident.

A steep climb on the way to 6th Water

We stopped for lunch at the West Portal on 6th Water. It took us almost exactly 3 hours to ride from Tie Fork to 6th Water, covering 22 miles. (Keep in mind that we ride slower than most people.)

We wanted to continue on and ride the northernmost leg of Center Trail, but we did not have enough time. We will have to come back and try again someday.

After a brief rest we started back. We didn’t stop as often on the way back, so we made a little better time, but we did get pretty tired by the end.

We had to cross the fallen tree again. All three of us fell over attempting to cross this tree.

Ron crossing the tree on the return trip

Bob wheelies onto the log

I think this was Bob’s first bike drop of the year

As I was getting tired, I worried about the rocky sections at 3rd Water, but to my surprise, the trail was significantly easier going north-to-south. When I finished the climb I wasn’t totally sure that we had indeed made the climb that I had been worrying about.

We rode quickly back across the southern section of Center Trail and began back down Tie Fork.

Once again I snagged my toe a few times on hidden rocks or root clumps. I even snagged my toe on one of the switchback turns, which pulled me over with my leg pinned under the bike. And of course, I was riding in the back so there was no one to help. My upper body was wedged in some oak brush, so it was difficult to move. Being old and not very limber, it took me a while to wiggle free. It was actually quite comical.

We returned to Bob’s truck in less than 3 hours with no injuries except a little bit of pride. This was one of the most enjoyable rides of the year with almost 44 miles of mountain single track.

A storm moved into the area two days later and brought the first snow to the mountains. So this was likely our last mountain ride of the year. But it was a great way to end the season!

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Paiute ATV Trails – Oct 2014

Oct. 17-18, 2014

Two years ago Jamie and I went to Richfield during her fall recess to ride some of the Paiute ATV trails. Unfortunately, we got snow that week, which made it impossible to ride the higher elevation trails, and the lower elevation trails were pretty muddy. Since this has been such a gorgeous autumn, we decided to go back and try again.

Friday, Oct 17: Monroe

GPS track for day 1

Several years ago we rode from Monroe up to Manning Meadow Reservoir via Paiute Side Trail (PST) #65. Trail #65 was fairly steep and tight, but it was also pretty fun. We decided to try it again, but I worried that the trail would be severely eroded due to all of the rain we have received this fall. I suspect the trail was indeed damaged, but it had very recently been repaired and graded. It turns out that this made it really difficult on a dirt bike. The soil was very loose and consisted of small chunks of broken up shale-like rock. It was like riding in 3” of ball bearings. We were spinning and sliding all over the place. We let a little air out of our tires, which helped a little bit.

Loose and rocky terrain on trail #65

Jamie spinning out on one of the switchbacks

Once we reached trail #78 things got much easier (for a while). We took a side detour to check out Hunts Lakes and also rode up to Monroe Peak. The atmosphere was pretty hazy, so the view wasn’t as good as I had hoped.

Looking down on Hunts Lakes

Jamie on Monroe Peak

After reaching the main Paiute loop, #01, we found a nice meadow with some old logs and enjoyed our lunch break.

Siesta time

After lunch, we started on our main destination ride – trail #89. I had heard that this trail was really fun. Most of it was fun, but there were several steep and rocky sections that earn the trail its advanced rating. We also took the side spur out to Upper Box Creek Reservoir and back. This trail was also quite challenging. I would rate it as advanced even though my trail map lists it as intermediate.

An easy portion of #89

Nice bridges over wet lands

Upper Box Creek Reservoir

The southern half of 89 had the nastiest rocky section of the entire trip. This is the only section that caused Jamie to stall her bike. But it was a short climb and most of the trail was fun as it wound through the trees and meadows.

The hardest part of trail #89

We had a little extra time, so we decided to explore part of trail #53 and #54. #54 was very rocky. The first section was like riding on bowling ball sized rocks. I would definitely rate this section as advanced.

After completing #54 we worked our way back to the car via #01 and #78. These were very easy roads, but we were still very tired at the end of the day. We covered approximately 80 miles.

Manning Meadow Reservoir

After returning to our motel we enjoyed a soak in the hot tub and then a nice Strawberry Chicken Salad from Pepperbellys.

Saturday, Oct 18: Fremont Indian State Park

Our second day’s ride

After checking out of the motel, we drove over to the staging area near the Fremont Indian State Park and headed north on trail #01. This is perhaps the hardest section of the main loop. The first 4 or 5 miles are fairly steep and rocky. Neither of us had any real struggle, but we were pretty tired of rocks by the time we got past this section.

Somewhere along #01

One of many steep rocky climbs

Just as we finished the rocky section, we started seeing a lot of deer hunters since this was opening day for the hunt. We tried to ride quietly so that we wouldn’t disturb their hunt.

An easier section of #01

We continued on #01 until we came to the junction with PST #06. #01 is mostly very nice through this section, but there is one steep descent going down into Chokecherry Hollow. This hollow had some of the prettiest autumn leaves of our two-day ride.

Jamie enjoying the view

Chokecherry Hollow

Trail #06 was also pretty easy with one fairly steep and rocky downhill section just before the junction with #15. #15 is a very well maintained road and we made good time heading back south towards I-70. We thought we would stop for lunch at Three Creeks Reservoir, but the road to the reservoir had a locked gate. So, we continued south, crossed under I-70 and stopped for lunch at Fish Creek.

A great lunch stop at Fish Creek

Our view from the log

We finished #15 with time to spare, so we decided to ride up #13 past the old Kimberly mine and come down my all-time favorite Paiute trail – the Max Reid trail. This trail was rockier than I remembered, but it was still really fun. This brought us right back to our car for a total ride of just less than 60 miles.

The fun Max Reid trail

In all we covered about 140 miles of trail with a good mix of advanced ATV trail, intermediate ATV trail and road, and some really easy roads. We even rode a few miles of pavement each day.

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Wolfman Daytripper Saddle Bags – Oct 2014

For many years I have carried my dirt bike tools in Wolfman Enduro tail bags.

Wolfman Enduro Tail bags

The bags are well made, they have compression straps to keep your gear from thrashing around while riding, and the bag is removable so you can keep your tools safe while not in use.

The bag comes with a mounting plate that you bolt to your fender.  This plate uses hook & loop to attach the bag, and it has two compression straps to hold things tight.

Mounting plate

The bag measures 8″ long, 5-1/2″ wide, and up to 4″ tall.  It will hold up to 3.5 liters of gear.  It has heavy duty zippers around three sides, making it easy to access your gear.

Side view

Top view

I decided to try the Wolfman Daytripper bag for two reasons;

1) If I put all of my tools in the bag, it is so tall that I have a difficult time swinging my leg over the fender.

2) I wanted to reduce the weight of the gear I carry in my riding vest.

I like to be prepared for most emergencies when I ride.  I like to carry a fairly complete tool kit and a substantial first aid kit – including a SAM splint (which I have used).  I normally carry all of the first aid supplies and some of the tools in my Ogio Flight Vest, along with my two-way radio, lunch, water, a hat, and sometimes a jacket.  This makes the vest very heavy.

I find that on long rides my shoulders are usually the first thing to show signs of fatigue – so I want to reduce the weight that I am carrying on my body.

I have previously used the Wolfman E-12 saddle bags and found that they worked very well.  But they are larger than I want for most day rides.  So I decided to try the Daytripper bag, which mounts the same way as the E-12 bags, but at about half the thickness.

Wolfman Daytripper saddle bag

The bags hold up to 12 liters – 6 liters in each side.  The bag has several D-rings, which allow you to mount other bags, water bottles, or jackets to the bag.  They also have a compression strap on each side to keep your gear from bouncing around.

Top view

Most people run the main straps over the top of the seat, making the bags very easy to install or remove.  I decided to run the straps under the seat so the bags would sit lower and reduce the likelihood of theft.

The main straps support most of the weight while the rear straps and front straps keep the bag from bouncing around.

I was able to fit all of my tools in one side (except for a spare tube) and my first aid supplies in the other side and still have a little room to spare.

I think these bags are going to work out really well.

Update: These photos show an exhaust shield.  I found that I didn’t need it.  The bags stay in place very well, so I removed the shield.

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Diamond Fork – Oct 2014

Oct. 11, 2014

Kevin and Jamie wanted to do an easy ride before winter sets in. We decided to go to Diamond Fork and Strawberry Ridge since the weather has been pretty good. We were surprised that the leaves were still beautiful, as illustrated by Jamie’s panoramic photo above.

We did a similar ride two years ago with a larger group. We decided to do a shorter and easier variant of that ride. Our GPS track is shown below.

Our Diamond Fork GPS track – riding counter-clockwise

We parked at the Unicorn Campground, part way up Ray’s Valley Road. This small campground is right by the dirt road turnoff that goes over to Strawberry Reservoir. After unloading our bikes we rode down this gravel and wash-board road for about 5 miles. From there we turned north on the southernmost part of Center Trail (#09).

This is probably the easiest section of Center Trail, but it was a little trickier this time because of numerous ruts caused by the heavy rains we have received this year. In fact, most of the trails were more difficult than usual.

Avoiding the ruts on Center Trail (#09)

After completing the single track, we rode the Strawberry Ridge Jeep road north to the top of Horse Creek. This ride is really easy, and it has some spectacular views above Diamond Fork to the west and Strawberry Reservoir to the east.

Autumn leaves in Diamond Fork

From Horse Creek we took the ATV trail up to a small peak with a nice view. This trail was in pretty bad shape, but it had some nice sections that wove through the Aspen trees.

Jamie riding through the Aspens

It was really windy on top, so we didn’t stay too long.

Two KTMs adding a little color to the autumn view

We returned to Horse Creek and rode a short way down the Sixth Water road before turning on to trail #14. This is one of my favorite trails in the area because it isn’t too difficult. I have previously ridden up this trail many times, but this was my first time riding down. This trail is fun going either direction.

Trail #14

We ate lunch at the junction where #14 meets Center Trail (#09). After lunch we rode south on Center Trail to the junction with the Fifth Water Trail (#15). This is probably the second easiest section of Center Trail. Most of it is pretty nice, but it does have a few steep and rocky sections. I think this trail is actually easier going the other way. But it did have some spectacular clumps of colorful trees.

Kevin and Jamie weaving through the Aspen tress

We decided to take the easy way back to the car, so we turned west on Fifth Water and rode it down to Ray’s Valley Road. This trail is very nice and included some fun groves of trees and several beaver dams alongside the trail.

Kevin on Fifth Water (#15)

Beaver dams along Fifth Water (#15)

We rode about 7 miles of pavement to get back to car, loaded up our bikes, and headed for home. This was a nice and relaxing ride with spectacular scenery.

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San Juan Mountain Adventure Ride – Sept 2014

Sept. 1-6, 2014

For several years, some of my work colleagues have planned a multi-day adventure motorcycle ride each summer. Now that I have a means to carry my camping gear on my dirt bike, I decided to join them this year. This year’s trip included:

  • Ross Vellinga (trip lead) (KLR650)
  • Scott Connors (KLR650)
  • Bob Dawson (KTM 525)
  • Dee Gardiner (KTM 350)

This year’s destination was the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Our objective was to ride over as many high mountain passes as we could in six days. We considered many alternate routes, but finally settled on a plan that gave us 1.5 days of easy warmup, the hardest stuff in the middle of the week without our luggage, and an easy last day before our 7 hour drive back home.

We lucked out with weather, as there was a massive rain storm in the area the week prior to our trip, and again the week following our trip. We only had one day with rain, which is unusual this time of year. We managed to ride over all of the mountain passes in our plan, and all but one of our side spur routes. The mountain passes included:

  1. Owl Creek Pass (10,114’)
  2. Last Dollar Road (~10,600’)
  3. Ophir Pass (11,789’)
  4. Black Bear Pass (12, 840’)
  5. Red Mountain Pass (~11,100’)
  6. Imogene Pass (13,114’)
  7. Corkscrew Pass (~12,200’)
  8. Stony Pass (12,650’)
  9. Lost Trail Creek (~12,300’)
  10. Cinnamon Pass (12,640’)
  11. Engineer Pass (12,800’)
  12. Blue Creek Pass (~11,400’)

Our side spurs included:

  1. Clear Lake (~11,900’)
  2. Kendall Mountain (~12,300’)

We left home early on Labor Day and made the drive to our starting point near Montrose Reservoir.

Packed and ready to go

Our planned route circled around the San Juan Mountains in a counter-clockwise direction, as shown in the following GPS map. Each day’s journey is shown with a different color. Our camps, fuel stops, and passes are also shown.

Our GPS track

Day 1 – Monday, September 1: Cimarron Road & Silver Jack Lake

Ross found a nice staging area near Montrose Reservoir. We quickly unloaded our bikes and got ready to start our adventure. We left the staging area and headed south on a very nice dirt road (P77 Rd), which eventually tied into the Cimarron Road, which leads to Silver Jack Lake.

We made good time, stopping occasionally to take in the scenery and take a few photographs.

Our first glimpse of the San Juan Mountains

Our plan was to camp somewhere near Silver Jack Lake so Ross and Bob could do a little fishing.

Silver Jack Lake

There are three campgrounds near the lake, but we wanted to do primitive camping rather than use a full featured campground. We found a secluded spot in the trees near the inlet to the lake.

Before setting up camp we decided to ride part of the ATV trail on the west side of the lake. This was a good test to see how our bikes handled while loaded down with gear. Those on the larger KLRs found it pretty challenging, but Bob and I enjoyed the ride out to the end of the trail and back.

Our lowest camp – at 9000′

Upon returning we quickly set up camp and enjoyed a nice dinner of steak and potatoes.

Day 2 – Tuesday, September 2: Owl Creek Pass, Last Dollar Road & Ophir Pass

After breakfast we packed up camp and headed up the road to Owl Creek Pass. This road was very easy and is well suited for larger adventure bikes. It was a relaxing and scenic ride.

Chimney Rock

Owl Creek Pass

The road turns west and comes out on Hwy 550 just north of Ridgway. When we arrived back within cell phone coverage, we learned that our friend and colleague Michael Makarczyk passed away the day before. This was sad news and impacted us throughout the trip. Mike had ridden some of these same trails earlier this year and gave us suggestions that helped us finalize our plan.

After checking in with our spouses, we continued west and then turned south on Last Dollar Road – another easy but scenic ride.

Along Last Dollar Road

Nearing the end of this trail I noticed that my rear tire had gone flat. I was the one that wasn’t going to have to change a flat because I use TUbliss tire inserts and carry tire plugs. But it turns out that my TUbliss high pressure insert was faulty (which Nuetech replaced under warrantee). I had to remove the TUbliss system and borrow a tube from Scott. His tubes were a different size than I needed, but we were able to eventually make it work. We pinched the tube on our first attempt, but Ross had a repair kit with glue that had not gone dry. It took us about 2 hours to make the repair, but we finally got underway again. I had to run higher air pressure than I like since my tire did not have a rim lock in place. Thus, my rear tire was fairly squirrely for the remainder of the trip.

My first flat tire

After fixing the tire we dropped down to the highway just west of Telluride. Because we were now running behind schedule, we did not ride in to town. We gassed up and road along the South Fork of the San Miguel River (63L Rd). This brought us back to the highway right across the street from the turnoff to Ophir.

Approaching Ophir

We rode up to the small community of Ophir, and on to the pass at 11,789’. This road was much steeper and rockier than we expected. We thought it would be one of the easier passes, but it turned out to be one of the most challenging – especially with fully loaded bikes. It wasn’t too bad, but with the steep side hill and extreme exposure, it made you pay full attention.

Looking back towards Ophir from the pass

Going down the eastern side was much easier and faster. Upon reaching the bottom we buzzed down Hwy 550 to the South Fork of Mineral Creek and found a nice place to camp at Golden Horn. This would be our base camp for the next two nights.

Our camp for nights 2 and 3 (elevation 9700′)

Day 3 – Wednesday, September 3: Engineer Pass, Imogene Pass, & Corkscrew Gulch

Our base camp was at 9700’ elevation, so it got rather chilly at night. We awoke to a layer of frost on everything.

We awoke to a coating of frost

We decided to stay at this camp for two nights so we could travel light over Black Bear Pass and Imogene Pass. The following map shows our day’s travel.

A close-up of day 3

We left camp after breakfast and rode Hwy 550 north to the trailhead for Black Bear Pass. When we arrived at the trailhead we noticed a sign indicating that the one-way section of the trail going down to Telluride was closed for repairs. This threw a wrench into our planned route.

We decided to at least ride up to the pass and back. I was disappointed that we were not able to see the “steps”, the switchbacks, or Bridal Veil Falls.

Heading up to Black Bear Pass

The road up was rocky in spots, but not overly technical. It did offer some spectacular views up and down the canyon through which Hwy 550 travels.

Looking towards Ouray

Scott, Ross, Bob, and Dee at Black Bear Pass

We rode down the western side until we came to the closed portion of the trail, but then had to retrace our route back to the highway.

Above Telluride

The road down to Telluride was closed for repairs

At the base of the trail we met another group of dirt bikers and exchanged trail information. They suggested that we take a few minutes to see Yankee Girl Mine.

We rode further up the highway, over Red Mountain Pass (~11,100’), and then took the dirt road to Yankee Girl Mine.

Yankee Girl Mine

We continued up the dirt road until it rejoined Hwy 550. This enabled us to ride the fun twisty portion of Hwy 550 again.

We continued on to the town of Ouray, where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we started up towards Imogene Pass – the highest pass on our route at 13,114’.

The road up to Camp Bird is heavily traveled and is a bit wash boarded in some sections. We made good time and turned off towards the pass. We had hoped to also explore Yankee Boy Basin, but we didn’t have enough time.

The road to the pass is fairly technical with a few steep climbs. It was fun on our unloaded bikes, but it probably would have been a challenge on the KLRs if they were fully loaded. I think it could be done, but it would have been a challenge. Even unloaded the KLRs struggled in some of the loose sections due to their dual-sport tires. The KTMs did much better, being lighter and having more dirt-worthy tires.

Heading up to Imogene Pass

My fuel injected bike ran perfectly all the way to the pass, while the other bikes started to struggle above about 12,500’. They all made it okay, but they were running poorly and lacking in power. Other parties were having the same issues.

The highest pass on our trip at 13,114′

Red Mountain

On our way back down we stopped by a stream to do a few minor bike repairs, and then continued on our way.

Taking a break and doing some minor repairs

On the way back to camp we decided to ride up Corkscrew Gulch, which was highly recommended by our friend Mike. When we arrived at the trailhead we found a local school foot race was under way. The race was almost over, so we stayed and cheered on the racers as they crossed the finish line.

The finish line at the Corkscrew Gulch race

Corkscrew Gulch was really fun. It was probably my second favorite trail of the entire trip. It got steep in a few places, but it was mostly a fast paced cruise with lots of twists and turns as it climbed to the pass at about 12,200’.

The pass at the top of Corkscrew Gulch

From the pass we rode down Cement Creek to Silverton, where we bought more food, and then returned to camp.

Our ride didn’t go entirely on plan, but it was still and enjoyable day.

Day 4 – Thursday, September 4: Clear Lake, Kendall Mountain & Stony Pass

It was a cloudy morning and it looked like it would rain later in the day. Our gear was once again coated with frost. We decided to let our tents dry out while we rode up to Clear Lake. The trail to Clear Lake is a constant climb to about 11,900’ and is fairly rocky. Bob and Ross tried, without luck, to catch a few fish.

Fishing at Clear Lake

We returned to camp and packed up our gear. We then headed down to Silverton and attempted to ride up Kendall Mountain to enjoy the views above the town. The trail was much steeper and rockier than I expected, so we abandoned our plan. We figured we better move on before the storm hit.

On the way up Kendall Mountain I happened to spot a Bobcat or some form of small cat. If you look very closely in my helmet camera video you can see him scramble up the hill into the brush. I think that is the first cat I have seen in the wild.

Silverton as seen from the road up Kendall Mountain

We ate lunch in Silverton and then gassed up our bikes before heading over Stony Pass. It started to rain lightly as we started up the road, so Ross put on his rain gear. This proved especially useful for the upcoming stream crossings!

The road starts off easy but gets a little rougher as we climbed. We made good time with very few stops since we wanted to get over the pass before any lightning storms moved in. It rained pretty steadily all the way up, but at least it wasn’t a downpour.

Rain on Stony Pass

Stony Pass is on the Continental Divide. As we started down the other side we were following the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. The river steadily grew in size as we moved down the canyon. Luckily the rain let up while going down the south side.

Looking back towards the headwaters of the Rio Grande River

Most of the road was pretty easy, but there were several long, rocky downhill sections. We were hoping to not have to turn around and go back up these stretches. Other sections were very fun ATV-type trails that twisted and turned through the trees with numerous small stream crossings and rolling bumps.

While filming Ross, I spun out in one of the stream crossings and suffered my only crash of the trip. I fell fairly slowly, but I was glad to be wearing protective gear and a good helmet. I then learned that I am too weak to pick up my bike when loaded with camping gear. So, I sat down and rested until Bob came back to find me.

We found a place to camp just above Rio Grande Reservoir. It started to rain again while we were setting up our tents, so we timed it almost perfectly. It rained steadily all evening, so we all huddled under Ross’ rain tarp and cooked our dinner and discussed options for the following day. We were worried that the trails would be slippery and muddy with all of the rain. Everyone was wet and cold, so we went to bed early.

Rio Grande camp and Ross’ rain shelter (9500′)

Day 5 – Friday, September 5: Lost Trail Creek, Cinnamon Pass, & Engineer Pass

It stopped raining at about 2:00 AM and the skies cleared, making it a very cold night. But for me it was the warmest night of the trip. I think the layer of ice on my tent offered some insulation from the cold and the wind.

Everything was coated with ice

It was brisk in the morning and everything was coated with ice. We waited for the sun to rise and warm things up.

Waiting for the warmth of the sun

After breakfast we decided to split into two groups; Bob and I wanted to try our original route up Lost Trail Creek, while Ross and Scott wanted to take the easy way around on their KLRs. We agreed to meet at the base of Wager Gulch between noon and 1:00 PM.

Bob and I worried that the trail would be too muddy, but the conditions were perfect! This was a really fun trail as it moved through the trees and up multiple small valleys. There were a few steep and rocky climbs that would have been difficult on the loaded KLRs, so Ross and Scott made the right decision to go around.

Lost Trail Creek was my favorite trail of the trip. We made really good time, riding up to the Continental Divide in about 40 minutes.

Bob at the top of Lost Trail Creek

While going down Wager Gulch we stopped at the Carson ghost town. We then proceeded down to our designated meeting spot, arriving at 12:04 PM. Ross and Scott arrived about 20 minutes later.

Carson Ghost Town

From there we rode up to Cinnamon Pass (12,640’). This road was a little rougher than I expected, but it wasn’t difficult.

Cinnamon Pass – 12,640′

After taking a group photo, we headed down the western side towards Animas Forks, and then up to Engineer Pass.

Animas Forks

We talked with some folks at Cinnamon Pass which told us that Engineer Pass was much more difficult than Cinnamon Pass. That may be true in a Jeep, but it wasn’t very difficult on a dirt bike.

Just prior to reaching the actual pass we came to an overlook that had a spectacular view in almost every direction.

Dee near Engineer Pass

Engineer Pass – 12,800′

After taking a few photos we headed down the east side to our target camp location near Nellie Creek. We set up camp and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening. Scott and Dee collected firewood while Bob and Ross did some more fishing.

Enjoying our last camp (at 9200′)

Day 6 – Saturday, September 6: Blue Creek Road

Since we had a long drive ahead of us, we decided to break camp early and head in to Lake City and buy breakfast. We had a wonderful breakfast at the Tic Toc Diner.

After breakfast we had a pleasant ride north on Hwy 149 to the turnoff for the Blue Creek Road. The Blue Creek Road was a very pleasant dual-sport road. It was easy and scenic – a very relaxing ride. We were surprised that this road climbed to almost 11,400’ in elevation. In fact, it was rather chilly up there.

This brought us out on Hwy 50, which would return us to our truck. The traffic on Hwy 50 was heavier than I expected, and I don’t enjoy riding my small bike in traffic. I had a big scare just a few hundred yards from the truck when I hit a nail and got another flat on my rear tire. I was doing about 50-55 mph when the tire blew. The rear end immediately started sliding out to the side. I counter steered to try and keep the bike upright and staying in my lane since. Luckily I was able to maintain control and safely bring the bike to stop off to the side of the road.

My second flat – ~100 yards from the truck

After regaining my composure, we loaded up the truck and started our journey home.

We were able to ride most of our planned trails and even a few side spurs. We will need to go back another time and try to complete the Black Bear/Imogene loop. We concluded that next time it would be better to have a base camp near the center of this region and do day trips without heavily loaded bikes.

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