Year to year, under normal conditions, most riders don't contemplate getting very much riding in on the trails in Colorado and Utah after September. But for my Canadian friend Jeff Sherren and me that couldn't be helped, and it was already October by the time we started rolling toward the hazardous trails in the Rockies on a BMW R1200 GS and a KTM 950 Adventure.
Five out of the ten states constituting the great odyssey called the Trans-America Trail - Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico - and half the trail's distance lay behind. Suffering a serious back injury, Uwe Krauss, my companion for that part of the trip (and so many more off-road adventures), has had to withdraw and recover. So, with the end of the year nearing and the trail-riding window closing fast, I phoned my Canadian friend Jeff to ask him if he could think of anything better than taking part in a two-wheel escapade on the roughly 2,700 miles of trail left to cover. He couldn't, he hurried down to join me for the remainder of the journey.
The Colorado countryside clearly bears the mark of another waning year. The leaves of the aspen trees have turned bright yellow, carpeting the trail and fluttering around us as we pass. A glance at the map reveals that the upcoming route would take us into some very thin air on the high trails of the San Juan Mountains, including Cinnamon Pass, Ophir Pass, with its rocky summit at 11,789 feet, Los Piños Pass at 10,200 feet, then finally the Hancock and Tomichi Passes, at 11,985 feet. Inquiring about the weather conditions at the higher altitudes, we learn that the Cinnamon and Ophir Passes are closed due to a thick layer of fresh snow at the summit. Nevertheless, we decide to try our luck attempting Ophir, the lower of the two.