Part 38: Iron City, CO to Blue Mesa Reservoir, CO


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The Trip

We spent the night at Cascade Camp near Iron City, CO.  The camp was great: minimal bugs, no wind and nearly deserted.  Next morning, we broke camp and headed up the canyon toward Tincup Pass and points west.

The photos below are what we saw.

Tincup Pass was only 6 miles away but almost 4,000 feet higher than this sign.  Six miles took us over an hour; the trail was very rocky and rutted.

The approach to Tincup Pass gave us great views of the surrounding ridges, all of which were above timberline.

The high ridges were rocky, rough and steep.

We passed many, many quads and UTVs loaded with folks.  Tincup Pass is a favorite with this crowd.  It was drizzling one our entire ascent of the pass (and on the descent for that matter); note the ad hoc rain wear of the gal on the last quad.

The approach to the pass offered a great view of the high meadows above timberline.

The ridges were steep and rugged.  It is almost unimaginable to think about going through this pass before the road.  But, it was done by the prospectors looking for gold and silver in the mountains beyond.

Near the pass the trail got narrow enough to require careful driving.  Not visible is the cliff to the left of the photo.  Thor fit easily but paranoia was still rampant.

The crest of the pass was flat and allowed us to get out and look around.

To the southwest the view was unobstructed by trees.

Down the valley to the west the distant peaks were visible.

Tincup Pass is on the continental divide and the a portion of the trail that follows the divide can be seen on the far hillside.

The sign tells the whole story.  It also appears that somebody attempted to take a quad to the south along the face of the slope.

The west side of the pass was much, much rougher than the eastern approach.  On the eastern approach, we were going about 5 mph.  On the western descent 2 mph max was the norm, usually much less.

Kathleen walked ahead to "scout the route" to insure that we were not going to get Thor into something that would be irreversible.

Scouting was a good idea because there were a number of points in the trail where careful wheel placement was required to prevent a ruptured sidewall.  We barely fit through this section without some "trail engineering".

Thor's width insured that at least 2 wheels were in the cobbles and boulders making for a very rough, slow ride.

The good news in the western descent was that we did not meet oncoming traffic and the trail was wide.  The bad news was that the cobbles and boulders continued all the way down to Mirror Lake near Tincup.

Mirror Lake was interesting, but it was drizzling and cold.  We continued down the canyon to the village of Tincup.

There was not much in Tincup up but a few old cabins.  Note the concrete/plaster chinking on the log cabin above.

Tincup did have a town hall/church.  The sign says "Built 1903. Elevation 10160. Sorry, dances have ended for the season".

Main Street, Tincup, CO.

We stopped at Tincup's one cafe which is across the bridge.  The food was actually quite acceptable, albeit pricey.

The Tincup store had the "usual stuff" and occupied an honest-to-goodness hand-made log cabin.

UTVs are the preferred mode if travel in Tincup.  Rover thought he would drive but his owner took the keys.

We passed the dam at Taylor Park Reservoir and got a nice view of the spillway in operation.

The dam and spillway were put in a narrow canyon in the cliffs.  Note the folding in the rock strata.

We traveled south to Gunnison, CO for a supply stop.  From Gunnison, we headed west to Blue Mesa Reservoir.  On the opposite side of the reservoir we could see large, fluted cliffs.

As the sun was going down, we got a nice view of Blue Mesa Reservoir and the cliffs on the north side from our campsite on the cliffs..

This was a great portion of the trip.  Tincup Pass was rugged and slow, but not that hard.  Nearly any vehicle with adequate clearance should be able to make the trip through the pass.  We would definitely go over the pass again should we be in the area, but hopefully next time the weather will be clearer allowing better photos.

Tomorrow, we continue west toward the rugged and remote Uncompahgre Range near the Utah border of western Colorado.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
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