June 2, 2007
Peak-to-Peak Hwy, Moffat Tunnel East Portal, Mount Evans, Juniper Pass

The destination is family in the Denver area. I'll make it a multi-day trip and take the slow (but very scenic) Peak-to-Peak Highway from Fort Collins to southern Denver. I've heard that it's nice and since I'll be in the area I'll see about some other mental "want to see" items - the East Portal of the Moffat (train) Tunnel and Mount Evans (the highest auto road in North America).

After seeing family I'll see about finding an easy, rural two-lane route from southeast Denver to Fort Collins - to avoid the I-25 road.

Just southwest of Fort Collins

Heading southwest from Glen Haven CO, popping over the ridge looking down on the town of Estes Park CO

Trees, trees, and more trees!

Click for a larger size

The aspen trees give a light green contrast to the darker pine trees.

Nederland CO
Steam shovel

At Robbinsville CO I turned west on a "dead ender" to see the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel. The West Portal is easy to get to as it's right at the Winter Park ski resort. The fifth picture down on this page shows the western portal and the water pipe that runs through the eight foot diameter "water tunnel" just south of the train tunnel.

The Moffat Tunnel, created in the mid to late 1920's, shortens an original over land rail route. There's a reasonable Wikipedia article here. Further down is a map showing the tunnel and the old overland route.

An empty, westbound unit coal train sitting, waiting for its turn.

Riding along with the South Boulder Creek.

Grand views to be had.

There ya go...

Turning around from the east portal, looking down the valley.

The tunnel isn't "just a hole through the ground" but rather a monitored, controlled "hole through the ground". At this portal there are (I assume) gates that can close sealing the tunnel entrance. An appropriate blower then activates to pump clean air into the tunnel. This motor / blower blows to the west.

While I was there this blower activated after an AmTrak train went through.

AmTrak train, blower noise
WMV, 38 seconds, 1.3 MB

This unit blows to the east.

Bottom right is the blower pushing air westward while the rectangular cone shaped device (mid left) is the exit from the blower blowing to the east. The tall "buildings" above the tunnel are probably the gates that can seal the tunnel entrance.

Leaving the East Portal I came across the westbound unit coal train. Since I was only 1/2 mile away, and would be waiting for the train to pass the crossing ayway - I headed back to the portal for more photos.

You can barely make out the "Y" of rails in this photo. In the foreground and again where the three or four gondola cars are sitting (just to the right of the locomotives). Before the tunnel was created, trains would make a tight U-turn and head to the back left of this photo as they snaked over the mountains pass.

Info sign
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You can see that the 6.2 mile tunnel did shorten (and flatten) the route considerably.

Back at Robbinsville. I'll continue south on towards Mt. Evans and the Denver suburbs.

Typical scenery on the Peak to Peak highway.

The GPS did a mis-calculation and I ended up taking some I-70 roadway.

Heading south from Idaho Springs CO - climbing towards Mt. Evans and the Highest Auto Road in North America.

A visible tree line (there's an altitude where trees don't grow) and the road cut going along the hillside.

This was the second day that the road was open all the way to the top for automobiles. It was also packed with bicyclists. What a lung popping, muscle straining trek.

Part way up. We're looking north/northwest. The lake is Echo Lake. I came up the road from the left, rode along the lake, and turned right where you can see the cut into the trees. Since the road to the top is another "dead ender" I'll head back down to that cut in the trees and take a right, continuing on towards Denver.

Click for a larger size

Looking back / over my shoulder from the above panorama.

In spots, still a fair bit of snow.

Well above tree line and there's still more to go!

So I wonder how well that snow is "sticking" to the hillside. What're the odds that it'll let loose. That pickup wouldn't stand a chance.

Ski lift. Toss a bunch in a pickup, skis at the ready. They get out near the top, walk to a ridge, ski down. The truck drives down and they do it again.

At the top / parking lot. Remains of the old restaurant and the observatory. National Park Service staff were up shoveling out the sidewalk to the restroom building.

Info sign
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Info sign
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Looking back at the snake of a road

To the south

There go a bunch of skiiers

From the parking lot it's about a 100 foot climb to the peak. In full riding gear I started the climb.

Don't slip...

The trail was still snowed in. Not bad here - but well covered in some places.

With the snow blotting out the trail it became a scramble to reach the top. Having slick soles on the riding boots I was somewhat glad I was still wearing the helmet.

NOT a spot to take an extra step or two - long way down.

Up top.

Three skiiers working their way down.

The skiiers work their way down the snow face from the near left to the bottom right. A few of the smaller dots in this pic are people.

14.3 K feet up.

There's a bunch waiting for the remainder of the group to make it down the first run.

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Find two skiiers...

Answer key

There is a storm heading towards the mountain so I decided to get moving. The cloud bases to the west of the mountain were higher than where I was - but to the east the cloud bases are lower.

Some rain/snow falling over there (that's not the storm that concerned me).

Down to where trees can grow...

Getting hungry for a snack I stopped at this nice picnic spot - Juniper Pass

Looking over towards Mt. Evans (you can just pick out the horizontal auto road / line on the mountain).

While I was sitting eating a snack I noticed two people walking down a trail across that I'd call a small canyon. I yelled over "smile" and grabbed this photo for them.

Vernda & Sam, they seemed to be enjoying the day and each other's company.

Hi folks! 'twas nice to meet you. Best wishes.

The rain that prompted me to exit Mount Evans found me while I was at Junpier Pass. Fortunately it was a very light rain and I kept dry. The roads were damp for only a few miles.

Downtown Evergreen CO

Now we're at Tiny Town. It's a small steam train / villiage for kids. Just some very blurry photos as I scooted by.

CR 124 / South Deer Creek Canyon (Littleton CO). A mile or two of great asphalt, curves, and scenery.