Gypsum to Norrie
-Exploring the Red Table Mtns-
9/7/18 - 9/10/18
Private property, gates and dead ends, oh my...
It had been 3 years since X4 and the trip we had planned as X5, for Norther Northern Colorado, fell apart for various reasons. In an effort to get the crew together Jeremy put together a "short" 200 mile route for us to do over a long weekend. Everyone's excitement rose and the date was set!
200 miles probably seems like a lot to most people, but Jeremy, Denis and I have been running 500+ mile X trips since 2008, so we affectionately dubbed this X5, the Mini-X!
Traveling through the mountains to the Southwest of Gypsum, along the Glenwood Canyon corridor, there isn't much Nat'l Forest or BLM land, so we were pushing our luck with hopes of open gates, or signs politely asking to leave the gate closed behind us. We quickly learned that the owner(s) of that land are more firm in their commitment to keeping even good natured folks such as ourselves off of their land. As usual, we respected all of the gates we came across. And there were quite a few this time around. On day 1 alone we ran into 3 gates, 1 dead end and 1 private property sign. Not to worry though; once we made our way back to where we could pick up the route without too much pavement in between, we found ourselves in the White River Nat'l Forest on the Red Table Mtn Trail, which was no doubt the segment of the trail we most looked forward to, and naturally our moods improved as we found camp for the night and the spirits began to flow.
Day 2 was a slow starter due to the copious amount of spirits consumed the night before, but as we all got around to it, we were nothing but excited for the next leg of the trip since it involved getting into the true backroads! As we made our way West along the Red Table Mtn ridgeline, the views were stunning to say the least. Then as we were about to round a bend an drop into the most remote area of this adventure we were shocked to see a gate that clearly indicated that the trail ahead, despite being a 2-track as far as the eye could see, was now only open to hikers and horses. This was a big letdown for us because we had received GPX logs from those who had allegedly traveled this route before us. If so, it must have been years prior, because nobody had driven this route for quite some time from what I could tell. After regrouping with Jeremy to assess our options, we quickly realized that despite our desire to explore some side roads we saw in hopes of an alternate through route, the fact that we were only working with a short weekend and lost several hours due to recovery from the previous nights events, our best option was to backtrack to Gypsum, refuel and again pickup the route a bit further to the North.
After refueling in Gypsum we headed East along the frontage rd and the dove back into the foothills just before reaching Eagle. This area immediately began what turned out to be more of an adventure than I would have ever expected to find in the hills south of Gypsum. Starting with deep & steep dessert arroyos and dry creek bed crossings, turning into narrow sagebrush paths and quickly moving to mtn switchbacks and a 4,400ft climb in elevation overall. We camped at about 10,400ft this night and after the campfire events of the first night, we were all happy to hit the hay early and get a good night sleep and make the most of our last day on the trail.
Day 3 started early and we were all fed and on the trail by 9:30am ready to tackle the trail. As we descended Hardscrabble Mtn towards Sylvan Lake, we were greeted with incredible views of the Red Table Mtns. A last minute decision steered us away from an early exit to the easier & faster Brush Creek Rd and onto the much more interesting looking Powerline Rd, which I had been eyeing on our descent. This turned out to be a great decision as the Powerline Rd was in rather deep woods, was rugged enough to be fun and gave us great glimpses of the mtns across the valley that we would have never seen if we were down in the valley.
After exiting Powerline Rd, we came upon some well maintained higher speed switchbacks winding our way up the mtns towards Fulford. Along the way there were some great views of the turning Aspens and a great view of the Eastern face of Adam Mtn with its exposed rocky face combined with a sprinkling of Aspens and evergreens just below. I wasn't sure what to expect from Fulford, but even if I had expectations, it met them. A beautiful little hamlet of mtn cabins, some modest, some stunning. As we made our way through Fulford, with me in the lead, it got a bit tricky to make sure I was still on the right path since all of the trails looked just like the driveways leading to the various cabins in the area. In the end we discovered the Old Fulford 4wd Trail, which I'm sure locals have been enjoying all their lives. This trail had it all. Great scenery, rugged terrain and, our favorite, tight brush strewn segments that give you the feeling that you're the first person to have driven the area for quite some time. It was truly a great trail to end this trip with!
In the end all of the backtracking and rerouting worked to ensure that we stayed on our toes about route finding and ultimately ensured that we had time to get to some desirable areas closer to the end of the planned route, that we might have otherwise run out of time for.
I've dismissed exploring this area more in the past, brushing it off as a known quantity, instead exploring the area North of Gypsum. As it turns out, this area and this trip had so much more in store than the area to the North. In the end, it's yet another reminder that the map is not the territory.
There were 3 standout segments of this trip. Pinstripe Pass, Powerline Rd and the Old Fulford 4wd trail.
If you view the map below, you'll see them listed on there.