Rollin's Pass East & Jenny Creek Road, Colorado USA
I awoke at 7.00 am Sunday morning 2nd June 2002 stretched and thought, do I want to go Four Wheel Driving again today? After all I had been out driving for 14 hours the day before with the Solihull Society exploring Chinaman's Gulch. Ahhhhh, what else is a man to do but go out and meet new friends in the Rover Riders 4WD club, its a hard life but someone has to do it.
To get to the area in question we travel North West from Denver. The exit for Rollins Pass East is just near the Winter Park Ski Area. This road is an easy 2WDrive road used as the access to Jenny Creek Road. It is sometimes referred to as Moffat Road and it follows the former path of an historically significant railroad route. Apparently it is a very popular back road despite being a one-way trip due to the closure of the road half way along. Its popularity is due in part to the many opportunities for Hiking, Mountain Bike Riding and the like.
As we were driving along in our nice air conditioned [yes it was very hot today] well-equipped four-wheel drives we could imagine the history of the area. Apparently 200 years ago native Indians on horseback started the track. Mormons later followed them, presumably on their way to what is now known as Utah, in wagons cutting a path through this low point in the Rocky Mountain ranges. In 1873 John Quincy Adams Rollins [Even I know the name John Quincy Adams although I am not sure if they are the same person] constructed a toll road through the area. With improved access the area became a thriving community with the town of Rollinsville being established along with the influx of commercial traffic. Shortly thereafter another route was found across the divide at a more accessible place called Berthoud pass, which saw the demise of Rollinsville.
In 1903 a wealthy industrialist called David Moffat started construction on a railroad in an attempt to restore commercial viability to the area. His misguided plan called for a tunnel through the mountain 2.6 miles in length at an altitude of 10,000 ft. Due to financial constraints this tunnel was never finished however the railway went over the pass at 11,660 ft. This is dam high in anyone's book especially compared with Australia's highest Peak, Mount Kosciusko, at 7,310 feet. This is over 2.2 miles above sea level.
Jenny Creek Road is only 3.3 miles long and loops off Rollin's Pass East. It is rated in Charles A Wells 2nd Book as being difficult, the 7th hardest in the second book. It is rated this way, as the trail is very narrow in places with it having a number of challenging rocky sections and stream crossings. It is easier going downhill and is not recommended for full sized 4Wdrives.
Those participating on the trip were:
Chris & Sharon Brosious 1994 Defender 90 Trip Leader
Carl Padgett and daughter Danielle 1995 Defender 90 Tail End Charlie
Chris Rice & Ami Freeth 1995 Defender 90
Bob & Pat Lohman 1995 Defender 90
Eric & Catherine Stewart 1995 Defender 90
Jim Moltor 1995 Defender 90
John Alden 1973 County 109 [Right Hand Drive]
Mike & Silvia Arnold 1994 Discovery
Tim, Colleen and Bronwyn Clair 1995 Discovery
Doug & Cameron Davis 1996 Discovery
Rusty & Murphy Rackley 1997 Discovery
Keith Monnig 1999 Discovery
Ali Valy 1993 Range Rover
Norman, Trish, Alex & Connor Hall 1988 Range Rover
This was the first trip I have been on in the USA that I have not had to oldest vehicle in the group, thanks John.
We all met at 9 am just outside of Denver on Interstate 70. Much to my youngest sons delight the car park was named the Brontosaurus car park. Anyone with kids under 10 would understand why. It was an impressive sight as we all left in convoy, 13 Land Rovers of varying descriptions, all on a mission of adventure. A rare sight in the USA which is dominated by Dodges, Chevys, Buicks, Ford F Series and other large vehicles. We headed north through Golden and then joined State Highway 72 for what was to turn out to be a very pleasant and picturesque drive. The road took us up the Front Range through Pine forests with views of snow-capped peaks in the distance.
From Rollinsville we all headed up a very scenic valley with the snow capped hills in front and 750-foot hills to our left and right. We followed the river most of the way along as well as the replacement for the old Rollinsville railway line. At the start of Rollin's Pass East track we stopped for those of us wishing to drop tyre pressures. We then started a winding uphill treck hopefully towards the turnoff for Jenny Creek Road.
Our able trip leader and tail end Charlie had been up to reconnoiter the area on the Friday so we all blissfully drove behind giving no second thoughts to where we were going. Then it happened, our trip leader announced over the CB that he had missed the turnoff and had actually taken us up to the lake, which signifies the end of the Jenny Creek Road track. We all then had to turn around and head back 3 4 miles to the start of the track. At the place where the track veered off I recalled that we had passed several mountain bike riders, one had been a relatively attractive buxom blonde, possibly this was what distracted our able leader and caused him to forget about the turn off. Oh well I suppose everyone is entitled to become geographically embarrassed occasionally.
Once we had found the correct track it was a very narrow path through pine trees with little to no room to maneuver. Branches on both sides regularly caressed the side on our Range Rover, just to let us know how narrow things were. It felt like we were driving through a tree-covered tunnel. The first bridge we came to was barely wide enough to take the Range Rover, let alone anything much wider.
Our first real obstacle was due to a destroyed wooded bridge, which forced us to drive through the riverbed, around several large rocks, and up an embankment, again littered with large rocks. Most vehicles negotiated this obstacle with ease and a little expert spotting supplied by our trip leader. John in the Old leaf spring 109 had the hardest time mainly due to not having any power steering and needing to fight his way through the turns.
50 yards past the river we had to rejoin the river and actually drive up the riverbed for some 100 yards. This was an enjoyable experience and luckily the water was only 6 12 inches deep. After leaving the riverbed we drove along a side slope for some distance before re-entering the riverbed this time for a 200-yard dash up the river.
We stopped for lunch around 12.45 right next to the river and an old log cabin, which had been built by one of the early explorers and settlers of the area. The cabin was dilapidated and falling apart, however its surrounds right next to the river provided a very pleasant lunch spot. There was still some snow lying around and Carl actually buried himself knee deep in snow whilst trying to race to a good spot by the river.
After lunch we left the river and traveled uphill along a narrow rocky track, which had water running down its center. Unfortunately we only progressed a further half-mile or so before running into a snow drift some 4 5 foot high and virtually impassable. Our trip leader decided that 75 % of the track was good enough so we all turned around and returned the way we had come.
The return trip was relatively uneventful with both our boys falling asleep in the back seat, despite being tossed and turned by the unevenness of the track we were traversing. One advantage of returning the way we came was the chance to see corduroy road. In the early days travelers would place logs across the track side by side giving the appearance of corduroy. This was to provide traction and help minimize mud on the trail. We saw an example of this as we drove back. Most of our driving during the day had been between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. Once we returned to Rollinsville the group separated and went their own ways. Our family's thanks go to our able trip leader Chris and Tail End Charlie Carl for a well run and planned trip.