Thurs / Fri / Sat, Oct 2, 2020
Holy Cross & Shrine Pass

Day 1 - Fort Collins to Red Cliff, Camp Hale, Sunset pictures
Day 2 - Holy Cross trail
Day 3 - Replace the broken U-Bolt, Shrine Pass

There's a small group heading to one of the more difficult trails (for my class of jeep), Holy Cross, and I decided to join in. The gent organizing the trip wished to visit on a Friday (vs. Sat or Sun) so the trail would hopefully have fewer vehicles - less congestion. My last visit to this trail found the jeep breaking a rear leaf spring pack near the start of the trail (which ended the day way too early). This visit I hope to not encounter the same. I didn't wish to wake up early for the drive so I decided to get a hotel the night before. The evening before I made a stop to the Camp Hale site.

The Holy Cross trail had scant few visitors - we saw one other jeep, two motorcycles, and three hikers. We traveled straight to the most difficult, and completely optional, obstacle called Cleveland Rock. For us, it would be the end of the trail as none of us would tackle it. From that spot we back-tracked to Holy Cross City for lunch. Two structures are mostly standing with a third a barely visible pile of logs that used to be walls. Down from the city was a mine site that contains a fair bit of machinery.

Somewhere on the return out from the trail the jeep seemed to be acting a bit differently. Stopping to inspect, I found the front axle on the driver's side to be pushed back an inch or so on the leaf spring. One of the two U-Bolts, that hold the axle to the spring, had failed. I likely hit a rock which caused one nut from the outer U-bolt to shear. With the outer U-bolt not doing what I want, the centering pin sheared at the top and bottom sides of the leaf spring pack. Both issues allowed the front axle to move fore-aft at the driver's side.

In a short stop, I used some 1" rachet straps to strap pull the axle forward to "mostly" put itself to where it should be. Not but a few dozen yards later the gent following me commented that "something is hanging down below the jeep". Stop to inspect - the front driveshaft has pulled out of the slip collar - the axle had slid too far forward. We stopped and I removed the front axle and stowed it in the back of the jeep. We're heading downhill and I won't need four-wheel drive any more today.

Out to some level ground an additional strap was added to pull the axle rearward - I now have straps holding the axle from moving fore and aft - it should be good to get back to town.

While it was an undesirable issue, it wasn't overly troublesome - mainly due to the assistance from the others - which is the primary reason to travel with a group - to have at least one other vehicle around should help be needed - no matter who might need the hand.

A "second day" of trails was scheduled but my mechanical issue found it being put on hold. One gent was staying overnight and we decided to try to find a replacement U-bolt and centering pin in the morning. We were able to find parts but it required a 45 mile one-way trip to Gypsum for the parts. I parked the ailing jeep near my hotel and jumped in with him for the trek. Parts in hand we headed back to install'm. There was no difficulty in getting the old parts out and the new parts in - just the task of doing it. Having someone around to help is greatly appreciated. I'm happy to reciprocate for others.

Parts installed, the jeep was essentially as good as it was - with one minor astrisk - I did not reconnect the front driveshaft. It wasn't on my mind and it wasn't needed so we didn't bother spending the time. We found some lunch and then talked about how to finish the trip - take in a trail or just freeway back?  We decided to take an easy trail - one that my jeep in two-wheel-drive mode won't have any issue with - Shrine Pass.

We headed out for Shrine Pass but then came across a dead end spur that caught our eye. The start of the trail was too difficult for my two-wheel-drive jeep so I parked it and jumped in with him - photos from the passenger side. At the end of the spur we walked out to a vista point for a photo and then back.

Day 1 elevation profile
Fort Collins to Red Cliff with Camp Hale

Day 2 elevation profile
Holy Cross trail

Day 3 elevation profile
U-Bolt repair to Shrine Pass and the freeway trek to Fort Collins

I-70 with forest fire haze

I have to laugh at this picture...

I-70 with a steep uphill grade at the US-6 exit before getting to the Eisenhower Tunnel... a semi is passing me.

Red Cliff Colorado

For our "Day 2" set of trails we wished to use a specific trail to connect two different trails - but we only found it listed as closed. With it very close to Red Cliff I visited it to see why it's closed.

This picture is from my walking up the trail.

Downed trees (not the full reason why the forest service locked the gate - trees can be readily removed)

Some great aspen gold!

Walking back to the main trail (Shrine Pass)

Locked gate and a humorous weight limit sign (for the bridge). I'd get a kick if either of the 14 Ton trucks would ever attempt to travel the trail (though it is somewhat a powerline right of way).

Near Red Cliff - this gas meter caught my eye - a seemingly precarious installation. Things can be "different" in the mountains.

Info signs at Camp Hale

At a central intersection - looking left and right. The main crossroad seemed wide, flat, and long enough it could have been used as a runway.

Grabbing a few nice pictures as the sun sets.

Day 2 - Downtown Red Cliff, to visit the Holy Cross trail

This is the "red track" on the map.

Downtown Red Cliff Colorado

The old-old rail line.

`start of the trail.

What I call the gatekeeper rock - where I broke a leaf spring on my prior visit.

Tires - the three of us each have different tires. The tires on the tan jeep are 40" diameter. The light blue jeep has, I think, 33" tires. Mine has 35" tires.


The three of us are up from that first obstacle. There are about five notable obstacle that we'll need to process through / over.

Perhaps the second obstacle...

The jeep sitting back, wheels turned towards a rock to keep the jeep from rolling, while I'm out taking video of the light blue jeep working up the second obstacle.


The three of us are through it to keep moving up.

Crossing French Creek

The mine and equipment right near Holy Cross City. Flat top tailings pile at the right.

Cleveland Rock - the most significant obstacle on the trail. All of use decided to not bother trying (though for some curious reason, I was considering winching up this "easier" route).

To the right of the above photo is the "difficult" route up - the one most folks wish to tackle. A vehicle like mine would need to winch up.

Heading away from Cleveland Rock to enjoy lunch at Holy Cross City.


Two or three birds were more than beggars - they were stealers. If you weren't keeping an eye on them as you held a sandwich in your hand - they'd swoop in to steal a bite.

Three structures were at this location - one down and two (mostly) standing.

A note of the corner joints

and the types of nails used - flat (square) head nails and the newer technology round head nails.

With the roofs of these two buildings not being maintained - it won't be long before these structures are but a pile of logs.

A major wall on this structure has fallen out.

The second cabin - looks like a bunk house.

At this "city" supported the mine (and this trail exists to get the miners in and out from the mine), there is private land carved out in the National Forest. It seems someone as built a new structure on the private mine land. Getting to it can be difficult though the views and solitude should be wonderful.

I'm being followed.

Exploring a couple spur trails in the area. One ends at a gate where non-mechanized travel only is allowed beyond. I believe there is a "wilderness" designation nearby.

A wonderfully uniform carpet of green (scant little brown / dead)

Back to the mine area - we're heading out.

Working down a reasonable elevation change.

Somewhere in the next bit of trail I discovered the broken parts. Attention to the issue overtook the thought of taking pictures of it.


We're out to the low-clearance-car roadway and done with the trail.

Day 3 - Repair the U-Bolt and take Shrine Pass to I-70 near Vail Pass

A curious old vehilce at Red Cliff

Many of the houses in town where well stocked and stacked with fuel for the winter.

Parts in hand, we're set to replace broken parts. Two blue straps pulling the axle forward with one blue strap pulling the axle rearward to keep it where it should be.

Using the one-sided rachet strap to hold the farm jack to the bumper - a safety measure.

Broken U-Bolt removed - one blue strap in use to pull the axle more forward to expose the centering pin.

Centering pin hole exposed. We'll drop in a bolt with a nut on the bottom. The bolt's head will fit into the cavity of the axle perch with the nut into the hole in the plate below the springs. The head and nut help keep the axle from sliding fore-aft on the spring (should the U-bolts get loose).

Parts installed - done! (though no front driveshaft)

Broken U-bolt

Lunch at Minturn

Heading to Red Cliff to start the Shine Pass to get us east to I-70 / homeward.

This "train trestle" looking structure kept me looking at it. It's not a rail line but rather a water pipe. It was used to move water from the river into a man-made lake.

One of the area mines - company housing.

These aspens are looking nice!

A tailings dump on the hillside.

Slightly uphill from the other mine pictures - this is the back side.

Eagle River with the old-old rails. I'm saying old-old as while the whole line is out of service or at least very rarely used, this section of railway was moved to the other side of the river where landslides don't happen as often. No railway is visible on the other side of the river, here, as it's in a tunnel.

If you check satellite photos you'll see the "asphalt road" on the left is simply over-cover to the original rail line (with assorted landslide areas). The "newer" line on the other side of the river enters a tunnel.

I'm riding with Gerald up what the map shows as a dead end spur. Satellite viewing has me believing these are logging roads. With the jeep missing its front driveshaft I didn't bother trying to get up/over a few steps and jumped in as passenger.

The trail ended and we walked out to a clearing for pictures.

Heading back to the Shrine Pass trail

The Shrine Pass trail right near Shrine Pass.

A view of Copper Mountain ski runs. The left run is curiously filled with a fair bit of snow - I wonder if it remains from the prior snowfall or if they started making snow.

Last picture - time to head home. I-70 visible. This is just east of Vail Pass - at the rest stop exit.