.....or, my first ride over Wolf Creek Pass. I donít know if any of you remember the song (from the 1970s) by C.W. McCall, but if you do, youíll know that Wolf Creek is legendary for its steep and winding roads. Not to mention its beautiful scenery.
We were riding from Durango over the pass to a small rally in the tiny town of Del Norte. The town is so small, thereís not even a decent motel, so we planned to spend the night in South Fork, about 15 miles this side of Del Norte. We left the house about 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, me on Spud, hubby on his Police Special, and our friend Chuck on his brand new Dyna Wide Glide. Normally itís pretty chilly at 8:00 in the morning, even in July, but weíve been having a major heat wave, so we didnít even bring out the heavy gear - I was wearing my textile jacket without the liner and chaps over a t-shirt and jeans. I took my Joe Rocket liner along because it provides a lot of warmth without taking up much space in the saddlebags (which were already crammed with rain gear, extra gloves, tools, tire gauge, etc.).
The first 15 miles were a little rough because we were riding right into the sun. After it got a little higher in the sky, it was easier riding. Last summer we rode to within 20 miles of the summit of Wolf Creek but got turned back because of thunderstorms. I was a little worried about riding without my windshield and what effect the unrelenting 60-mph highway speed would have on me, but, other than nothing to stop the bugs from hitting my face shield, I found that it was less tiring than the head buffeting caused by my windshield. Once we get through Pagosa Springs (50 miles east of home), the terrain becomes more mountainous and we begin a steady rise. Just before we really start climbing, we pass through a beautiful wide valley with very high, imposing granite cliffs on either side. Then we go by Treasure Falls, where there is a turnout for cars and a short trail up to the falls. This is a great place to stop, BTW, but we don't.
After the falls, the road begins to climb in earnest, and we are scaling the side of a rock cliff with several wide switchbacks. We are swinging through one of these when I notice that Chuckís pegs are less than one-half inch from scraping! I keep expecting to feel mine scrape, but they donít. In the apex of the last switchback is another turnout which overlooks the valley we just rode through - another fantastic scenic stop that we whiz right by! At this point itís about eight miles to the summit. Suddenly we see signs that say ďUse Extreme Caution - Loose Gravel and Fresh Oil on Road.Ē HOLY CRAP!!!! What have we gotten ourselves into? As it turns out, itís not so bad. Most of the gravel is well packed, and there are no uncovered patches of oil. We keep our speed about 35 (the road is four lanes and 45 mph through this section); luckily no cars pass us during this portion and we only encounter a few coming the other direction. We keep our distance from each other and manage to avoid any gravel spray. The road surface feels firm, but we keep it slow anyway. At the top of the pass, we pull over and stop for a 15-minute break. We talk to another group of three motorcyclists for a few minutes, one Harley, one older BMW sport-tourer, and one sportbike (yellow - I wasnít close enough to see what kind). They are just passing through southern Colorado and are not on their way to the rally. They take off a few minutes before us, and we ended up following them most of the way down the other side. They pulled over at a gas station in South Fork and we all waved.
Luckily, the graveled section ends right at the summit, so the ride down the other side is clear and beautiful. Very little traffic on the road at this time of morning, beautiful scenery, and the temperature is perfect. Thereís a short tunnel on the east side, in a narrow section of canyon carved by the Rio Grande - unfortunately, the Rio Grande also kept carving away the highway in this stretch, so they built this tunnel a couple years ago to avoid major road maintenance and frequent road closures every winter. Going through the tunnel (empty of other vehicles at the time), we all seized the opportunity to rev our motors and listen to the echoes of our pipes - beautiful music!
We follow the narrow, winding road along the Rio Grande the last 15 miles or so into South Fork. Not really twisties, just curves and sweepers, but it is beautiful and we are having a blast. We come out of the canyon into a more open area, and then we are in South Fork. We cruise along slowly until we spot our hotel, then we pull in. It turns out the hotel is owned by a biker couple. They give us a hearty welcome and provide towels specifically for our bikes! Nice place - weíll definitely go back there. At this point weíve traveled just over 100 miles from home.
I remember when I first moved to Colorado in 1974 and my first trip over Wolf Creek....in a car with someone else driving. At that time I thought there was no way Iíd ever drive a car myself over the pass. Little did I know that 31 years later not only would driving a car over it be routine, but that Iíd be riding a motorcycle over it!
The rally itself was not much, but we did see a lot of people we knew. We got rained on on our way back to the motel from the rally grounds, and then it rained on the poor bikes for another hour or so after we got back (the towels they gave us definitely came in handy!). A group of 10 other people (four of whom we knew) were also staying at the same motel. We all went out to dinner that night in South Fork, about a three-mile ride from the motel. Had great steaks, great conversation, and a lot of fun. Service was very slow, so we didnít get out of the restaurant until a few minutes after 9:00. That meant we had to ride back to the motel in the dark - another first for me. In a group of three bikes, it wasnít so bad. We let Chuck lead since heís got the brightest headlight, I was in the middle, and hubby was in the rear. It was nerve-wracking because we were smack in the middle of the mountains and we knew that deer were not only likely, but probable. Luckily we didnít encounter any! I have to say that there is a certain magic to riding at night. I wish I didnít have to worry so much about the damn deer and could do it more often.
Our return on Sunday was virtually a repeat of Saturday, only a little colder. Overall, it was a fantastic trip. Riding Wolf Creek was so much fun, Iím tempted to do it every weekend - just ride over, ride back every time I get the chance!
Oh yeah, my Mustang seat ROCKS! I literally did not hear from butt the whole trip. It is a notorious whiner, so it is pretty amazing that it had absolutely no complaints!