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
. 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
START-END WEST: junction I70, Co65
2.(5200ft,mile11) profile turns left onto Co330
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
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
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
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.