Yesterday I drove to the Peach Valley parking area in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area near Olathe, Colorado. Directions: From Hwy 50, just south of the traffic light, turn east on Falcon Road and follow it until it becomes dirt. Keep going, cross the bridge, and the parking area will be on your right. There’s a large “free riding” area and I made use of it freely—so freely I got lost. Thank goodness for the GPS! I was able to retrace my steps and get back to the parking lot. (GPS track is below.) The lesson here? The place is such a spider’s web of tracks that you can find yourself, as I did, with no way out except to climb steep hills. I got much better yesterday at climbing steep hills. See the photo below for some of the steep hills, keeping in mind that the tracks (mostly single tracks) follow the ridge lines.
I’ve upgraded some equipment. I acquired Jayson’s old 3-rail motorcycle trailer and made a couple modifications to make loading and unloading the bike easier. This allowed me to run several errands prior to riding, and then go to a Montrose Amateur Radio Club meeting afterwards. It worked out well.
Okay, we come to the GPS track. Here are some notes:
- The parking area is improved, with both an area for trailers and another area where you can back up your truck and drive your bike right off without needing a ramp.
- The free riding area encompasses several thousand acres both south of and north of the parking area.
- There are far more trails than have ever been mapped. Presumably some of them are named trails, but the naming signs are few and far between and key forks remain unmarked.
- I got lost! I ended up at the fence shown just to the left of the big blue circle. The problem I had was there was no obvious way to get out without climbing some steep hills
- My Yamaha XT-250 climbs steeper hills than I’d previously thought
- I did some exploration and found a road (jeep or pickup truck) barred at either end by ranch gates.* I then went back and followed a trail to the east that goes right along the ridge and offers stunning views. It ends at a fence.
- From there I followed the Moonlight Mesa Trail which, for the length shown, is approachable. But I found myself way, way high atop a ridge. I’d picked out what I thought was a potential, very steep way down to the parking area, but it was awfully long and awfully steep…
- So I went back. BTW, the little excursion that I thought wasn’t taking me to the parking area probably would’ve put me out on Chukkar Road, which would have led back to the parking area easily.
- So I made use of the GPS and got literally “back on track.”
Moral of the story? Keep track of where you are. Don’t go down any hills that you wouldn’t want to go back up. Oh…and take a GPS that collects a track so you can follow it back to base camp!