Lake City, CO to Telluride, CO – 53.2 miles
We had a great morning and grabbed breakfast across the street from the hotel. The place was packed with other riders, fishermen, and local families looking for a delicious start to the day. I must say the food was excellent, but took nearly an hour to get delivered to the table. We didn’t mind the wait and spent the time hyping up on coffee and pumping up our heads for the mountain climbs ahead of us.
The path to Engineer Pass was riddled with other motorcycles, side by sides, and 4×4 vehicles out for a drive. We started the rocky climb and powered our bikes through every obstacle like mountain goats clinging to the trail. The peak welcomed us with a breathtaking view and elevation.
At the top of the pass we saw lots of old silver mines with buildings falling to pieces around them and old drills, augers, and mining equipment strewn about. The shaft openings were blocked with gates and locked by the state to protect people from themselves. Most of the mines had water trickling from them that seemed to have a glowing substance oozing its way out as well. There’s silver in them thar hills!
We saw a strange animal running around many of the mines that looked like an orange beaver with a bushy tail. It was quickly dubbed “mountain beaver” and a song was created in its honor. We later found out we had not discovered a new species, but had seen our first marmot. Despite this, the ode remains.
About a third of the way down the mountain we encountered three guys we’d chatted with at other stops along the TAT. They were riding Triumphs and a BMW, all 1200cc with street tires. We had seen them this morning packing up as we were taking a stroll for food and estimate they left two hours ahead of us. They were having one hell of a time getting the bikes down the trail because they just couldn’t keep traction on the loose rocks and boulder climbs. We struck up a conversation and helped them walk, balance, and lasso their steeds down to the bottom. Every one of us laid our bike down at one point and put another notch in our fairing. We joined them for a late lunch in Ouray and then left to tackle our next pass.
We had hoped to make it to Dove Creek by the end of the day, but our time helping some friends in need put us way behind schedule. A quick and easy adjustment in plans had us crossing Imogene Pass and then staying in Telluride instead. No problem. The pass started off great with much cleaner trails than what we’d seen on Engineer. Just when we thought we were in for an easy ride, the trail gave us the middle finger and increased the pitch to 35-45 degrees at several different spots. With our throttles pegged in first gear, our bikes chugged out several times in inopportune positions making us slide back down the climbs. After several attempts with muscles near failure, we made the climb. Patches of snow were scattered around the peak and the only thing keeping us from making snow angels was the thought of having to take more dizzying steps at 13,100 feet. It was easier to pick up my bike than pick up my feet that point.
The final descent into Telluride was welcomed and the setting sun peaked between the clouds coloring the sky pink and orange. I was happy to get back down to an inhabitable altitude and found a hotel with a view of the back of my eyelids.
Today’s lesson: Beavers of all kinds deserve a song.