Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wolf Creek Pass Colorado on a Motorcycle

us-160 highway colorado
Wolf Creek Pass lies along US-160 in Southern Colorado, crossing over the Continental Divide at 10,800 feet. All we had to do was ride over it and we'd be clear from any threat of snow.

But it didn't work out that way.

Sash and I were at Pagosa Springs, eating lunch at Pagosa Brewing, when the bartender there said we had better get moving now if we wanted to get over Wolf Creek Pass before it got too heavy with snow.

"We're leaving now", Sash said, as I was still nursing my glass of We' Heavy Ale. "We're like leaving right now."

About 20 minutes later, we finally got moving.

All seemed fine for about 15 miles down the highway. Even the rain coming down didn't bother us. But as we began the climb up the Rocky Mountain range, the temperature gauge on my Honda ST1300 dropped down to 39 degrees F (3.9 Celsius). The rain turned to snow, but the roads remained wet. For some reason, Sash passed me by. I guess she thought I was going too slow.

37 degrees, to 35 degrees, to 33 degrees, the temperature gauge dropped.

The road seemed slushy, but we still seemed to have good traction. I couldn't see Sash up ahead. The snow flurries became so intense, and she had ridden so far up ahead of me. I looked at my temperature gauge, but so much snow had collected on it that it was difficult to read. I could make out 32 degrees F (0 degrees celsius).

Finally, I saw her pull over to the side, and I pulled up next to her.

"I can't see!" she cried out. Her glasses became iced, as well as her helmet visor and windshield Mine were iced too.

"We can't stay here!" I said. "We'll get trapped in the snow! We have to keep moving!"

We got moving, and Sash darted out ahead of me. For awhile, she did well, piloting her Yamaha V-Star 650 quite well in the light layer of powder, turning left and right in the twisted mountain highway. But eventually, I saw her lose control.

The bike weaved for a moment, and then did a full 360 spin before she laid it down. She went down low side, seemingly falling down gently, and got back up shaken and upset, but otherwise fine. She and I tried lift her bike up, but it was very difficult in the icy footing. Finally, we got it up, and it was pointed in the opposite direction of the lane we were in.


A truck came by with a man and woman, named Jared and Taryn respectively. They stopped and asked if we needed help. They said we still had another 8 miles to go before we crested Wolf Creek Pass.

"We need to go back to Pagosa Springs", I said.

"How about I ride her bike back down", Jared answered. "She can ride in the truck with Taryn".

"OK", Sash said.

Jared hopped on Sash's bike and rode it downhill in what was now about 2 inches of snow. He got up a pretty good click, probably doing about 30 MPH, riding it over snow, ice and slush rather handily. Meanwhile, I was nervous taking the Honda ST down.  The asphalt felt about as slick as bunny slippers on a bowling alley. Jared was probably a half mile away ahead of me when he pulled over and waited for me to catch up.

Slowly, I picked up speed, and managed to do better at keeping up. Eventually, we dropped down elevation enough to where the road was no longer icy, just wet, and we rode back full speed into Pagosa Springs.

Keep in mind, Jared did this without wearing gloves.

Sash's gloves were too small to fit his hands. I just couldn't imagine the pain he was in.

We got back into Pagosa Springs and thanked Jared and Taryn up and down and all over. If we were dogs, we'd lick their faces for a good 5 minutes, Sash maybe longer.

Interestingly, the night before all this happened, Sash's father came to her in a dream.  She said he was proud of her, among many other things he expressed in the dream.  After Sash had dumped the bike in the snow, she couldn't help thinking that her Daddy was there to lessen the impact.  I thought it was odd to see her sitting on the motorcycle while it did a 360 degree turn and then some, and gently laying her down on the roadway.

In Pagosa Springs, we booked a room for two nights, giving us time until the storm passes by.  I'm looking out the window of our hotel room as I write this, seeing snow falling like it was January.

I guess Wolf Creek Pass won this time.

us-160 colorado
Chimney Rock, US-160 eastbound, Colorado
pagosa springs brewing
Having a beer for lunch at Pagosa Springs Brewing.
US-160 colorado
US-160 gets wet just east of Pagosa Springs
wolf creek pass hairpin turn
At the first hairpin turn, going up Wolf Creek Pass, snow is coming down hard
wolf creek pass rain
Sash pulls ahead going up Wolf Creek Pass
wolf creek pass snow
Sash continues to lead the way up Wolf Creek Pass with snow flurries
wolf creek pass
Visibility gets worse further up Wolf Creek Pass. My windshield is frozen solid, and Sash is way up ahead.
wolf creek pass snow motorcycles
Where Sash spun out of control. Jared is putting on her gear which is too small for him
wolf creek pass snow
I'm riding back down Wolf Creek Pass, probably 10mph at this point. Sash took this photo inside Taryn's truck. Jared is way up ahead of me.
motorcycle rider wolf creek pass snow
Jared waiting for me. Taryn had passed me by, creating tire tracks for me to ride in, and Sash snapped this photo.

11 comments:

  1. Glad u both r safe. Hope Sash's bike wasn't damaged too badly. That guy Jared is quite the decent fellow.

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  2. Wow, so glad you are both safe and unharmed. And thank the stars those two came along when they did and helped get you off the mountain.

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  3. This will be the story for the ages! Scary, lucky, wild experience, and will be able to smile/laugh about it in a couple of days.

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  4. Steve, I'm glad you guys are okay. It's pretty amazing that someone came along at just the right time and were able to help. Just goes to show that you both had angels watching over you. Enjoy your break in Pagosa Springs. Stay warm.

    Cheers,
    Curt

    Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy.

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  5. It's good to hear that the story had a good ending. So easy for things to go wrong with that kind of weather.

    But Pagosa Springs is a nice place to spend a few days...

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  6. Isn't it great that there are still good samaritans in the world. Luckily Sash was ok, nothing really harmed but a little ego.
    Mate thats pretty hardcore riding in the snow at those temperatures. At least you got to spend some quality time at the brewery. God works in mysterious ways sometimes.

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  7. Wow that's a lot of excitement for a ride. Glad you guys made it out safely.

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  8. When motorcycling we always try to plan for the elements but your ride took an extreme course.

    Glad you guys made it out safely.

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  9. Great story, cool for the happy ending.

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  10. I love this line: "If we were dogs, we'd lick their faces for a good 5 minutes" Good write up and an exciting ride!

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  11. Thanks for taking the time to write this story.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)