Engineer Pass Picture of the Week

When my friend Fred planned our off-road excursions through the San Juan Mountains, his initial itinerary was to complete the Alpine Loop, which includes two passes, circling Red Cloud Peak, Sunshine Peak (which are two of Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains, but aren’t even in the top 10), and a stop in Lake City. Now that I’ve had time to recover and look at my maps, I think that would be a fabulous trip, especially if we did it later this month when the aspens turn color. But, when we stopped at the Silverton information center, he was told that it’s a seven-hour trip, and it was already afternoon, so we decided to sample some of the passes around Animas Forks instead.

Last week’s image was from Cinnamon Pass, and this week’s picture is from Engineer Pass—our second stop. Both of these places are along the Alpine Loop. If you do Cinnamon first, the route will be counter-clockwise and the opposite direction if you first go over Engineering Pass. The two passes are only miles apart, and most of the Alpine Loop is east of them. Although they’re relatively close, as the crow flies, driving the road requires descending 3,000 feet to the ghost town then 3,000 feet back up the other way. If I thought going up the mountain was exciting, going down was harrowing. I almost got out and walked.

Mountain Man Fred
Mountain Man Fred – It’s not an illusion that Fred’s hanging on to that wire. The sign is well over the slope, and the footing is unsure because of the loose shale.

As we rounded a corner, we saw a knoll where several vehicles were parked, and a crowd snapping selfies and taking in the view. We assumed this was it. It wasn’t. It was Odom Point, and we joined the others for the view and document our visit. As we returned to the road, a sign that said that our pass was further down the road, so we drove another couple hundred yards.

Engineer Pass
Engineer Pass – Looking north from the saddle, you can see two mule trails blazed by prospectors. One leads down into the valley while the other zig-zags up the unnamed peak.

This week’s image that I call Engineer Pass was taken from the 12,800-foot high mountain saddle looking north, and it shows an unnamed peak that’s another hundred feet higher. Also visible are two mule trails, one that descends into the valley and the other that cuts across the talus slope past the red streaks before a switchback as it zig-zags to the summit. I declined to try either of the trails.

While we were taking in the view, I turned around and was stunned to spot over a dozen cyclists peddling up the grade from Palmetto Gulch. No way! We were driving a jeep, and I was out of breath, while these guys were racing mountain bikes on the same road. It’s no wonder that Stephan Pastis ridicules bicyclists in his syndicated cartoon Pearls Before Swine. They’re insane.

You can see a larger version Engineer Pass on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we’ll continue exploring Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in Fred’s Toyota.

Until next time — jw

3 thoughts on “Engineer Pass Picture of the Week

  1. Does this mean you’re coming back for a fall colors tour of the San Juan mountains? I’m up for it. Let me know when.

    I just put LED off road lights on the FJ in case we get caught after dark.

    1. Well, first I haven’t been invited, and secondly, I wouldn’t want to deprive your lovely bride of the joy of spending a day trudging up and down mountain passes just to look at yellow trees. Life’s too short to miss sharing a moment like that. On the other hand, a plate of hash browns smothered in pork chili sure would be great on a crisp autumn morning.

      1. Sorry I should have said you are invited back for a fall colors tour. Deb said she is happy to lit us go out off roading without her.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from On the road with Jim

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading