Black Bear Pass was exciting! The drive up was relatively easy, and partly through rather pretty alpine flora. Once over the pass the interesting scenery was the pretty town of Telluride in the distance and the increasingly rugged trail right in front of us. As we went further and further down, Debbie and I kept expecting to see a “One Way” sign, as the trail was getting very narrow and steep. Finally we actually did see the sign – and after that it got rather incredibly narrow, steep, and rough. On one stretch of perhaps 500 yards, just above the top of Ingram Falls, we hit various parts of the FJ's bottom on solid rock, with alarming thunks and agonizing metal scraping sounds to let us know what was happening. But the FJ handled great, despite all this, and we made it through that rough spot without any real problem. In fact, I never needed to engage the differential locks (all four wheels kept traction), and the FJ's tires stuck like glue to the rock whenever I was braking. Thankfully.
Here's another way to describe that tough part of the trail. Debbie is, at this point, a quite experienced offroader (as a passenger; she doesn't drive them). She is not easily intimidated by a rugged trail. Her first words after we safely made it over that part were “There ain't no way I'm ever going on that trail again!” My first words were “Whee! Let's do it again!”
Just after we made it through that tough spot, we K-turned around a switchback and discovered a Jeep stopped in front of us – with its two occupants a little further down the road moving good-sized rocks out of the way. I parked and hopped out to see if I could lend a hand. As I got closer to them, I saw something dismaying, and more than a little intimidating: a large pile of talus slumped right over the road, blocking it. This is on the one-way part of the trail, so we can't go back up (not that Debbie would ever have allowed that :). I joined the two already there, and they wondered aloud what we should do. I said the obvious: “There's only one thing we can do - we have to dig that pile out!” I had a shovel on the FJ, and a pair of gloves inside it. The other fellows, and the couple in the next Jeep that showed up moments later, had nothing but their bare hands. But with four adult men, one shovel, and one pair of gloves, we managed to get enough of the rock and water-saturated mud moved so that we could imagine getting our vehicles over it. One thing is for sure: if I hadn't brought a shovel along, that would have been a much more difficult situation. I'm guessing we moved a half-ton or so of rock and mud, all four of us taking turns with the one shovel. With our bare hands that would have been very challenging indeed.
Once past the slump, we drove easily down past the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls into Telluride. That town reminds me a bit of places like Carmel in California; if you know me, then you know all I want to do is leave such a place as quickly as possible. And we didn't stay long – just long enough to secure Debbie her morning “fix” of coffee, and then we started up toward Tomboy.
Tomboy was interesting for its history and the remains of the mining town, but...it was darned ugly. The trail from Tomboy up to Imogene Pass wasn't all that much better, there was a lot of traffic, and the flowers were not that exciting. About the best part of that segment was when we spotted 4 FJs coming toward us in a small caravan. These people were, I'm sure, early arrivals for the FJ Summit (which starts tomorrow in Ouray). In fact, we saw a dozen or so FJs today – more than on the rest of the trip combined.
BREAK: as I was writing the words above, a snowshoe hare hopped by the front porch of our cabin. Debbie and I got a great viewing of this beautiful little creature. Race also got to see it, with quite a different reaction :)
Also on the way up toward Imogene Pass, we passed a Jeep going the other way that stopped to talk with us. The couple in the jeep asked if we were really slightly loony (they'd read the sign on the front of our FJ). As we chatted, we mentioned that we'd come over Black Bear Pass this morning – to which the husband said “With that?” (meaning our FJ). Then Debbie told them that we'd had to dig ourselves out of the talus slump – and the wife said “You really are slightly loony!” That's us!
I sighted a hawk on near the top of Imogene Pass – the very first hawk we've seen in these mountains on this trip. This feels very weird to us, as our San Diego mountains have thousands of raptors, and generally speaking several are visible at any given moment. That is not the case here, which we're assuming means that the rodent population here is vastly smaller than ours.
All in all, today was very exciting from an offroading perspective, but not even close to the wildflower bonanza we've been experiencing on other trails. We probably will skip Imogene Pass on future trips; there are just too many other places I'd rather go. Black Bear Pass is another story – I will definitely be doing that again, though I may be doing it without Debbie :)
|Not far out of Red Mountain Pass, heading towards Black Bear Pass...|
|Getting closer to the top of Black Bear Pass...|
|Seedum in bud...|
|Seedum in bloom...|
|In the alpine meadows near the top of Black Bear Pass...|
|The pale yellow paintbrush is everywhere...|
|And a few of the paintbrushes are almost pure white...|
|Snow melt streamlet through the alpine meadows...|
|An elephant's head flower beside the snow melt stream...|
|Flowers, stream, rocks, and lush greenery in the alpine meadow...|
|The pinkest paintbrush evah?|
|Reached the pass, and all the easy trail is now behind us...|
|A riot of color partway down Black Bear Pass...|
|Telluride lit by the sun in the distance...|
|Oh, oh. Here's where the rough stuff really starts!|
|Whew! We made it past the toughest part. Now we just have narrow roads and really tight switchbacks to contend with...|
|Oh, oh. Last night part of the slope slipped onto our road – tons of rock and water-saturated mud. Oh, my...|
|Bridal Veil Falls from the trail. The arrow points to the bent hitch receiver cover...|
|Bridal Veil Falls from near its bottom...|
|Pizza shop sign in Telluride. We use “Brown Dog” as a synonym for Field Spaniel, so this caught our eye...|
|A 180° panorama from Imogene Pass to its east...|
|Another beautiful meadow, near Upper Camp Bird...|
|Three I love, playing in a mountain stream...|