“If you’re in Gunnison it really doesn’t matter which direction you go, every road is a great motorcycle road.”
That’s a quote from . . . oh yeah, me. I don’t make a practice of reading things I’ve written long ago but my friend Kevin Smith likes to remind me I said this on my Gunnison-area page on my Passes & Canyons, Motorcycle Touring in Colorado website. You see, Kevin rents dual-sport motorcycles out of Gunnison, dba Colorado Mountain Moto, and for the last two years I’ve gone up and spent a few days with Kevin and his wife Janet and we’ve gone out on some of these great roads on Kevin’s Suzuki V-Stroms.
So, guess where I just got back from this afternoon.
Once again, the riding was fabulous. We didn’t do anything as challenging as Cinnamon Pass, which we did last year, but we still had a great ride. And for an interesting twist on things, Janet came with us this time, on her 2007 Ninja 500R. That’s right. We went over some rough gravel roads on these V-Stroms and Janet was right there with us on her Ninja. She figures it’s the only bike she’s got so wherever she wants to ride, that’s the bike she’s going to ride. It’s all about attitude.
We headed out of Gunnison on U.S. 50 just 8 miles till we got to CO 114, which goes southeast toward Saguache, over North Cochetopa Pass. The pass itself is not so much the attraction along this road as the tight, rock-walled canyons the road takes on its way up. Kevin considers this canyon one of the best unknown spots in the area.
Heading down the pass we turned off onto the gravel at Saguache County Road 41G. This bit of road goes up over 10,166-foot Carnero Pass, which I had never even heard of. Of course, the aspen are all turning colors now so what would have been a great ride through the woods was made even more so, by a long way. Coming down then we followed what was probably a typical western ranching canyon, and this is one of the things that make getting off the pavement so terrific out here. As far as I can tell, the “typical” ranching canyon features rock cliffs and stark rock formations that epitomize western landscape. They’re beautiful, they’re rugged, and they’re just about everywhere. You never get tired of this landscape. Be sure to view the slideshow, at left, to see what I’m talking about.
As we neared the little settlement of La Garita, we turned off 41G, onto County Road 38A, which runs south to hit CO 112 just outside of Del Norte. This stretch of road, though broad and smooth, was actually the most uncomfortable riding for Janet on the Ninja because there was more loose gravel than on the lesser roads. Even the V-Stroms were a bit squirrelly on this stuff.
After lunch in Del Norte we headed west on U.S. 160 to South Fork and then took CO 149 up through Creede and over Spring Creek and Slumgullion Passes, down into Lake City. The day had turned blustery and at the 11,530-foot summit of Slumgullion it was darn chilly. Things warmed rapidly coming down into Lake City, though, and the clouds blew away, so we had a clear, warm ride then down CO 149 along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, down to the Blue Mesa Reservoir and back to Gunnison.
Altogether, it was about a 235-mile ride and if there was one thing I noticed more than anything else it was all those other roads we went past but didn’t take. Which gets me back to my quote at the beginning of this article.