Alkali Creek - Road Gulch summit(u)

This unofficial divide connects the New Castle/Silt area with Colbran, climbing across a gap between Grand Mesa and Battlement Mesa. Except for a short steep stretch near the top of the eastern approach this is a shallow, steady climb that still manages to climb over 2500 and 3500 feet respectively on each side.

My favroite time to ride this divide is during fall, when Grand Mesa is at its most colorful and the far views are unobscured by haze. That makes fall better than the spring. A time other than hunting season is another advantage. During hunting season a cycling outfit with a high orange content provides a extra measure of confidence for not being mistaken for a piece of wildlife or a stray cow. The top of this divide is close to the route over Buzzard Divide. My edition of Helmuth's book "passes of Colorado" describes the eastern approach to this divide as part of a route across the Buzzard Divide. But a look at the map will verify that the Buzzard Divide road clearly joins on the west side of Alkali Creek - Road Gulch summit(u).
 
 
1.(4790ft,mile00) START-END WEST: junction I70,  Co65
2.(5200ft,mile11) profile turns left onto Co330
3.(6000ft,mile22) Colbran
4.(7180ft,mile29) road to Colbran Reservoir is on right. Profile continues left
5.(7460ft,mile37) road from Buzzard Divide joins from right. Continue left fork.
6.(8050ft,mile41) TOP: Alkali Creek, Road Gulch divide(u). junction with Mud Hill road on right
7.(6260ft,mile51) profile continues right at this T
8.(6150ft,mile53) profile contineus left at this T
9.(5480ft,mile59) START-END EAST: beginning of Divide Creek Road, south side of Colorado River between Silt and New Castle

Approaches

From West. The profile begins at exit 49 of I70. The paved road follows the incised meanders of Plateau Creek, also the first leg of a paved climb to Grand Mesa summit(u). Instead of continuing to the town of Mesa, a left turn onto Co330 leads onto a paved country road that rolls up and down between farms and the distant escarpments of Grand Mesa and Battlement Mesa. In past years this narrow road often had virtually no traffic. But since the natural gas boom in the area this has changed somewhat.

The quiet, out of the way town of Colbran has two recognizable businesses: a medium sized grocery store and a taxidermist. The route turns from paved to an all weather type dirt road approximately where the route to Colbran reservoir diverges. From here it rolls along pleasantly over various Mesa hills to the top.

From East. There are many ways to approach point 7 on the profile. The route chosen is the most direct from New Castle. It is also the route in the overnight trip route description below. Leaving New Castle, East Divide Road is paved and accessible after crossing to the south side of the Colorado River, and following the valley westwards. Pavement lasts to point 8, followed by a very short section of gravel, until the surface improves again to "reasonably hard medalled" (Oct/05). The barely ridable deep gravel road of past years seems to have become history since the natural gas boom.

When the road leaves behind the rectangular pattern of valley farmland, and enters scrub oak ravine country, the surface also changes again. After an extended dry time, the hard clay mud stays just as solid as the medalled surface, but it becomes very bumpy. After a rainy period, even slight slopes are too slippery to ride. During clear fall weather, there are a few good valley views onto the low, but ragged comb of the Grand Hogback on the far side of the valley.

The top of this divide is well defined, not what you would expect from a plateau crossing. But this is really a crossing between two plateaus. The top is marked by a cow grate, and a change of national forests from White River to Grand Mesa. The much rougher Mud Hill Road and Battlement Trail leaves towards the west, from slightly south of the summit.


 

A day on a two-day weekend tour:

A two day loop between the Plateau Creek exit of I70 and New Castle was as follows. Day 1: Plateau Creek exit > Collbran > this summit > a ten mile sidetrip on Mud Hill Road > New Castle: 77miles, 5500ft total climbing measured with onboard Cateye 100AT (m3:05.11.10). The return ride uses mostly very pleasant paved sideroads in the Colorado Valley and a few miles of I70.



History

Escalante Expedition:(<Buzzard-Muddy Creek Divide|Douglas Pass>). This divide that today receives attention only from hunters and oil companies plotting new ways to fracture underground rock layers in order to extract gas, was probably on the route of the Escalante expedition in 1776. It certainly would have been the easiest and most logical route between the Buzzard-Muddy Divide and the Colorado River. Marshall Spraque in his book "the Great Gates" speculates that this was so.