An Unplanned 600-Mile Colorado Road Trip
February 4, 2020

When the wife went home to Wisconsin for the fourth of July last year, I decided that I really wanted to get out exploring… i.e. camping, mountain biking, and capturing some epic pictures.

And for some genius idea, I thought Crested Butte was a good idea…

What. A. Shitshow. (Mistake #1)

Rolling into town on Friday evening (mistake #2), I proceeded to drive up and down forest roads looking for an available campsite… absolutely nothing. Finally, after nearly three hours or searching, I settled for a small dirt patch about two feet off the road at the top of Ohio Pass. I was able to get a few hours of sleep in between spurts of headlights rolling through before driving back into town to shoot sunrise.

Peanut Lake
Peanut Lake
Nicholson Lake

After shooting a pretty solid sunrise over Peanut Lake, I decided to just immediately hit the trials and get some miles on my bike in. Seven o’clock in the morning and between the hikers walking their dogs and bikers getting their turns, the trails were already stop-and-go traffic.

If that’s what 7 a.m. was going to be like on the trails, I didn’t want to see noon. It is such a beautiful area, but not even 12 hours after arriving in Crested Butte, I decided it was time to bail and find somewhere else to explore.

Crested Butte

I headed south to Gunnison, in hopes of some more seclusion, thinking Hartman Rocks could be a pretty awesome spot to be. But when I got there, the 96 degree temperature reading (Mistake #3) immediately let me know that wasn’t going to work with my pup in the car.

Looking at the map, I realized that I had never driven Route 92 North between Curecanti National Recreation Area up to Hotchkiss. The road follows the Gunnison River up the the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park so I figured I would head that way and just try to find something awesome and spend the night.

Gunnison River
Gunnison River

I found lots of awesome, but the area was just so freakin’ hot – nearly 95° the whole way (Mistake #4) and I even saw it hit 100° at one point… I was miserable so again, I just didn’t feel like I could do that to my pup.

It was time for the backup plan to the backup plan to the backup plan… I had to get back into the mountains.

The year before, I had done some photography work for an awesome campground, Kebler Corner, in Paonia. The weather and cloud forecast in the West Elks looked pretty promising for both sunset and sunrise so I decided to head all the way back up 133 and hit up Kebler Pass for sunset and then just pop the tent in friendly territory at Kebler Corner.

So I basically ended up where I started…

West Elk Mountians

All-in-all, it was a very unplanned weekend where I had no intention of driving nearly 600-miles, but in the end, it turned out to be pretty awesome and I think I got some great pictures out of the trip. #Success?


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