In my last post, I explained how hubby and I took a big leap and purchased a Jeep that would fit our lifestyle/passion for exploring back country roads and scouting out the perfect campsite. Hubby was so excited about our new wheels, but I was still on the fence. While I like adventure and finding outdoor places that few can get to, I was questioning if I craved adventure that much to be dragged onto 4WD-exclusive roads that would likely have me white-knuckling the passenger side door handles.
One of the only reasons I was in support of getting the Jeep was because I really wanted to revisit a place in Colorado that hubby and I had been to early in our relationship in 2011 that required a 4WD vehicle with high clearance – Engineer Pass.
Engineer Pass was part of the very first Colorado trip that hubby took me on while we were living in New Mexico. At the time, hubby owned a humongous truck that was capable of doing this technical backcountry road. I was soooo in love with the Colorado peaks and infinite landscapes dotted with huge, cow pattern-like patches of late-July snow that set the backdrop for our entire drive; the milky, mineral waterfalls that cascaded down the mountain streams at every bend in the trail; the roadside, plowed snow that was nearly as tall as my 6-foot-2 tall swoony driver; and the whimsical, surprise snow storms that would come and go at a moment’s notice on the mountain tops.
It’s no surprise that the first trip we took in the Jeep was to Engineer Pass, which unbeknownst to me, was part of an ever-popular backcountry route called the Alpine Loop. We didn’t expect to take our Jeep back to Engineer Pass so quickly, but in our excitement for our new adventure wheels, we couldn’t wait and went the very next weekend on June 12th.
The Alpine Loop is sometimes not accessible until early July, depending on the amount of snowfall received during the season and the rate of snow melt, but we didn’t care; we were going to attempt the route anyway! Bonus points if we ran into snow walls that were as jaw-droppingly tall as the ones we witnessed back in July 2011!
There are several options for how the Alpine Loop can be run, depending on which direction you are coming from and which additional side roads you may want to try. Our plan was to start in Lake City on Friday, doing Engineer Pass from east to west; taking Animas Forks to Silverton to camp two nights; chasing waterfalls and driving a couple of 4WD trails near Silverton on Saturday; then returning from Silverton to Lake City via Cinnamon Pass from west to east on Sunday.
The Alpine Loop was every bit as incredible as I had vaguely remembered it being, while also being just as scary as I more vividly remembered. While the beginning and end sections of the road are pretty tame and flat (but no less bumpy), the sections closest to the summit are not for the faint of heart. I am so perplexed with how these roads were ever built over jagged mountains and through tough terrain to begin with, so I suppose it would be asking too much if I wished the roads were smoother, had guardrails, and were wide enough for two vehicles. Thankfully, we were in good hands with hubby driving the entire weekend because the prospect of having to back up for an approaching vehicle on a narrow, one lane road didn’t seem to faze him; neither did the rocky obstacles or shelf roads where one small slip of the steering wheel and we would be tumbling down a hillside.
We finished the weekend with many photos and memories to replace the faded ones from nine years prior. And the indescribable beauty of the San Juan Mountains made it impossible to not only appreciate the scenery, but also the accessibility to view miles and miles of this kind of landscape from the [relative] comfort of a vehicle.