Friday, August 16, 2013

Colorado Backroads & 4WD Trails: Winter Park

This post is the third one I've written to introduce the new map we've digitized from the book: Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol. 2by Charles A. Wells.

It's a sequel to his first trail book about Colorado, called by the same name; except this one is volume 2 and covers the more northerly portion of the state. Wells has divided the trails in his book into five areas and this post is about area three – the area which includes Winter Park.

As we've mentioned, the book has absolutely NO reference to the geologic coordinates required of today's trail guides.

Also like his other books, this one contains a lot of what I call "color" to support riding off road in this area. So, using the book and loading up this free Google Earth map is the best of both worlds.

If You're Going To Get The Book?

If you are planning on purchasing this book, I'd like to entreat you to do it via this link to Amazon: Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol. 2. That way you'll still pay the same price but a portion of it will go toward keeping Offroading Home "on the air." Thanks!

The combination of these FREE Google Earth maps along with the original descriptions from the book is the best of both worlds.

Facts about Colorado

Colorado is a Rocky Mountain state so there are similarities with others in the area; however,

Colorado is a BIG place – especially by eastern standards.
Residents of New York can live their entire lives without owning a car (or even a parking place) BUT not out here! No way! There's too much empty space and almost no subways.

When planning with your map, be sure and check the scale because most things are farther away than you think. And definitely plan for extra time due to the change in terrain, size of the roads and the fact that roads out here need to wind around, climb over and even go through lots of hills, rocks and water.

Time changes everything
The off road season in Colorado largely depends on the elevation. At low elevations trails may open in late April. More open in late May and June and higher elevations don't open until the second week in July – or even later.

The best time of year for offroading is August and September – just in time for fall Aspen color – but October starts them closing down again for vehicles. And remember, there are people with guns in the mountains in October; That's when hunting season begins – and there's lots to hunt in the mountains of Colorado.

Trips should start as early in the day as possible, weather is usually clear in the mornings but "clogs up" with drizzle or thunderstorms in the afternoon. Smart riders (or those that have been bitten once) learn to plan sizable margins of daylight for the return trip. It is NOT a good thing to be driving in the mountain at night!

Wait-a-minute Weather
Rides in all the Rocky Mountains are more often, more pleasant than easterners or desert rats expect them to be. Summer temperatures are lower and humidity is lower. Except in obvious storms, sun shines most of the time in the winter keeping it warm; well, "warm" is relative. Flies and mosquitos are few, except around water – which seems like it's everywhere.

A downside is that there isn't a weatherman in the country which can predict accurately weather in this state. It is unpredictable and can be extreme – it can snow anytime, even in summer. Temperatures drop at night, especially with the frequent breezes so pack warm clothing EVERY trip no matter how hot it is when you leave the trailhead. The air is thinner so extra fluids are required to maintain hydration AND you even sunburn quicker so be sure to bring sunscreen.

Road Conditions Change
"Landslides, snow, unexpected ice, avalanches, fallen trees, deep water, washouts and leaping deers" – enough said. Oh, and that smooth, hard clay you're driving on; it turns instantly into a gooey mess with a few drops of water.

It's almost like clockwork in the mountains, trees get watered in the afternoon. And, with the right conditions (no matter the season) thunder, hail and lightening happen. You are safer from lightening below the tree-line than above it, inside your vehicle than outside it and NOT touching metal than hanging on to the door.

"Acts of God"
Floods can become "flash" and fires can become "forest" easily in the mountains. In dry seasons the Forest Service will prohibit any fires – just plan on it. And obey it! If mature common sense doesn't convince you to do it; believe me, those of us who live here will turn you over to the police in a heartbeat.

If you are in a narrow canyon and it begins to rain (even miles up the stream) all your senses should go on alert. If you have any reason to believe a flash flood is imminent, leave the SUV and climb! The car won't out-run the flood and most flash flood deaths occur in vehicles.

Mountain Sickness
Climbers on Everest get it, people in the Rockies get it too. Altitude sickness occurs more frequently than anyone realizes – at least the symptoms of it – because our vehicles can easily change our altitude more rapidly than our bodies can adapt. Nausea, dizziness, headaches and weakness are all symptoms.

The "antidote" is to take your time in the first place, smell the roses, watch the turtles and the deer leaping over the road. It also helps not to get dehydrated so increase your fluid intake, decrease salt intake, avoid alcohol and caffeine, increase carbs (not chocolate) and keep exercise to a minimum. For significant symptoms turn around and go back down, especially if you've got heart or lung problems in the first place.

The Cold and Hypothermia
Hypothermia can happen easily in the mountains, even in the summer, if you get wet in a sudden afternoon shower. Locals always pack a poncho, or something that will protect them from the wet, folded up in their gear bag or pocket – you should too.

Body temperature can drop significantly under wet clothing in the wind and ruin your trip even if it doesn't do damage to your body.

Abandoned Stuff
Mines, shafts and buildings act like some kind of magnet to children (of all ages). "Things that go bump in the night" use them for shelter and dens all the time. They will not only fall down on your head, bite you on the leg (and other appendages) but they also harbinger rot, mold, bacteria and other viral fiendish thingy's that can send you to the ICU for merely touching or breathing.

Smart parents keep their kids (again of all ages) away from such things.

And lastly…

Don't Drink the Water.
Mountain water is NOT safe, no matter what your neighbor, or mother-in-law tells you. Perhaps it used to be in the past, but even the crystal clear looking ones have animal feces and Giardia in them – just up around the corner where you can't see. Even eating crisp, wild watercress growing in the cool flowing water can get you… for months… believe me I know.

Area Two: Winter Park

Area two has eleven trails and four basecamp towns and covers some of the most beautiful areas in Colorado. Notice that this list includes a trail difficulty designation following its name.

Basecamp Towns: Winter Park, Central City and Rollinsville.

Trails: Byers Peak (E), Rollins Peak East (E), Rollins Peak West (E), Jenny Creek Road (D), Apex Road (E), Jones Pass (M), Kingston Peak (M), Yankee Hill Road (M) and Bill Moore Lake (D).

Free Google Earth File

The free Google Earth file for the Guide to Colorado Backroads and 4WD Trails - Volume 2 is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home on the specialty map resource page. Click to arrive at the page and select the "Wells Colorado, V-2" map. It is a .kml file which is utilized by Google Earth. You can either save the map on your computer or click "open" to have it open directly inside Google Earth.

Learn A Little More

So far we've learned how to tie our shoes and wipe our hands correctly. Now lets learn how to fly a kite. The pioneer of aerial kite photography shows us how it's done.

Kite Aerial Photography


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