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Lake City, CO to Silverton, CO

Created on: 07/12/10 03:21 AM Views: 1576 Replies: 2
Lake City, CO to Silverton, CO
Posted Sunday, July 11, 2010 10:21 PM

Once upon a time there were five grown men who rode touring size motorcycles from Dallas, TX up to Lake City, Colorado.  Upon arriving in Lake City they stopped to eat lunch at a local cafe.  As luck would have it their waitress, and her husband, were also  bike riders and recommended they take the ride from the south end of Lake City, by the lake west into the mountains.  However, she advised them to only go so far as they were comfortable as the road turned from blacktop to smooth dirt to two ribbons of dirt with a sign stating "Four wheel drive vehicles only recommended beyond this point".  Well, these stalwarts paid no heed to that sign and proceeded on.  No problem for a while, these big bikes, loaded down for camping for about ten days, were passed at one point by a dirt bike that just scooted right on by them.  The drive was beautiful but the road soon turned to two tracks with large rocks protruding at places into the track(s) and then came the switchbacks.   When they stopped to discuss the road, one stated anyplace a jeep can go my Yamaha can go.  The other four of us didn't have sense enough to say, "well, go, we'll see you when you get back to Lake City".

Now these fellers were riding bikes that weighed with rider, with fuel, with gear about 900 pounds.  They were unweildy to handle at low speed or no speed.  When we hit the switchbacks we would have to stop, walk the turns to see the path we would have to take to avoid mishaps, hopefully.  One of our riders was a typical BMW rider, an electrical engineer, wearing his black leather jacket and black leather chaps and a tank bag strapped to his fuel tank.  Well, normally on big highways big bikes are turned by just leaning  not by actually steering your front fork but on these switchbacks you steered by actually turning the handlebars.  So, our friend on the BMW learned quickly a tank bag does not allow for steering by turning the handlebars as the tank bag is where you want the handlebars to go.  So, the tank bag gets moved to the back of the bike and then that BMW can start from a dead stop, on grade, and move nicely while the rest of us on Yamahas and Hondas struggled to get 5 mph with the throttle cracked open.

Anyway, as we get almost to the top of Cinnamon Pass, or was it Cimmaron Pass, we encountered a young lady ranger who asks permission to take our picture.  We asked if it was to be used for evidence of our having violated some unknown law and she said, "no, I just want proof there were five fools up here on touring bikes!"  Well, after letting her take a picture of the fools we went on up the mountain, saw and smelled the reason the waitress had told us, "don't drink that clear, cold, inviting, flowing mountain water".  There were about 5000 sheep on top of that mountain.

We went on down the other side, visited a ghost town and rode on into Silverton, having taken about four hours to ride from Lake City.  Would not do it again on a motorcycle, would rent a jeep and do it tho.  One of those things that you say, "I wouldn't do it again, but glad I did it once!"

RE: Lake City, CO to Silverton, CO
Posted Monday, July 12, 2010 07:33 PM

Why does the 2007 movie Wild Hogs with Tim Allen come to mind?


RE: Lake City, CO to Silverton, CO
Posted Sunday, September 28, 2014 08:09 PM

September 2014 - Well, I've told Polly for a long time I wanted to take her on this road from Lake City, CO to Silverton, CO, across Cinnamon Pass where five of us had ridden our big motorcycles 30 plus years ago  It could not be done now as the BLM is not allowing the road to be maintained as well as it was back then.  We finally were able to do it.  We parked our RV at the Elkhorn RV Park in Lake City.  We talked with several folks letting them know our plans to take that road.  All advised us to go to Cinnamon Pass first, visit the ghost town of Animas Forks, ride into Silverton, eat at Handlebars, and return to Lake City via Engineer Pass.

The reason for hitting Engineer Pass on the return was because it has a 17% grade and hitting it on the return puts you going uphill on that grade and puts your spouse on the inside of the road instead of on the edge looking straight down for hundreds if not thousands of feet.  We were told if going downhill, west bound, on Engineer you have to ride the brakes all the way.  There are blind curves, switchbacks, and very narrow sections.  Originally, we had intended to rent a jeep but instead chose a Polaris RZR 800 two seater.  They are smaller and, more importantly, narrower so when you meet an oncoming vehicle there is more room to pass each other.   It was much nicer this time of year than I suspect it would be in July and August when the roads would be crowded with others.  We almost had the roads to ourselves.  The RZR has balloon tires with only 15 pounds pressure and gives a much smoother ride, remember this is 4 wheeling, than a jeep would.

We did not have time to run into Silverton as we had to have the RZR back by 5 p.m.  We drove slowly enjoying the mountain streams, the views, drove to the old townsite of Sherman, drove up American Basin, and then on up to Animas Forks before returning to Lake City.  The Forest Service has placed nice outhouses along the back roads for convenience.

Later, we decided to again rent a RZR and reverse our previous ride but while visiting with the folks in the trailer next to us, they were from West Virginia, we learned they had ridden every road up there and had their own RZR.  So, we decided to let them lead us to some places we had not seen.  Wow, they knew their way around and took us to some places we would have missed entirely and might not have even tried had we not seen them do it.  Polly loved that open RZR so much she wants to buy one.  We just might do it.  There is even a road up there that requires use of a winch and is not permitted with a rental vehicle.

We were cautioned to be sure and wear cold weather gear including hats and gloves.  Polly even carried a quilt to drape over our legs like in the old horse drawn snow sleds.  Early morning the gear was required but it really warmed up in the day.

They still have sheep on top.  This time we saw a sign cautioning about "guardian dogs", didn't read it all but it was referring to the sheep dogs, which appeared to be Great Pyrenees.  We were impressed at their staying among the flock and constantly being on the watch for any danger to the sheep.  Impressive working dogs.

The Aspen were changing color the whole time we were there, starting at the higher elevations of course.  We stayed about a week and a half before leaving to go to Durango and a ride on the Durango Silverton steam engine train in an original 1887 passenger train car.  There is a two hour layover in Silverton so we did get to eat at Handlebars, their famous Chicken Pot Pie for Polly and an Elkburger for me.  We shared a table with a couple from Rhode Island, nice folks and surprisingly, Conservatives instead of Liberals.

We would recommend this trip to all.