My Word: Tread Lightly

October 22, 2014 Comments (1)

The Great Divide Expedition

Recently I wrote in these environs about Range Rover’s Great Divide Expedition reenactment. The original was 25 years ago and involved a Bill Baker inspired event for motoring journalists taking part in a criss-crossing trip down the spine of the Continental Divide in Colorado.

There were several waves of us taking part in different sections of the route laid out by off-road expert Tom Collins, a.k.a. T.C. He’s still working for Land Rover and furthering that company’s programs of using their capable vehicles to open up back-country adventures for owners and prospective buyers.

Welcome to Tin Cup

On the original Great Divide trip in 1989 I was in the wave that crossed what is called variously St. Elmo or Tin Cup Pass depending on the direction you are headed. The story is just a click away here if you missed what I wrote about my family’s personal connection to the ghost town of Tin Cup (or Tincup) in Colorado. I had not known at the time I sent Peter the story whether or not the reenactment leg I was on in 2014 would include that Taylor Park town.

As it turned out it did not. Our group began in Denver, crawled over the rockiness of Red Cone Pass and the 13,188-foot Mosquito Pass and thence to Aspen with an intervening overnight in Breckenridge. (My story about the trip will be in AutoWeek soon. A link will be provided here.)

Red Cone Pass

Off Road Quad

Why no Tin Cup? The Land Rover instructors, one to each of the posh 2014 Range Rovers in which we drove the splendor of Colorado’s above-timber-line trails, told us that some of the old route for the Great Divide was now unusable. On one section a tunnel had collapsed, on others overuse by the new mosquitos of the off-road—the 4x4 ATVs variously called quads or side-by-sides—have altered some roads through overuse making them more trouble than they are worth.

These ATVs are small, capable and relatively inexpensive. They have made the back-country more accessible to more people, which cannot be bad unto itself. However a goodly number of the newcomers either never heard of “Tread Lightly” or have no respect for the program that Land Rover has championed with the Forest Service for a quarter century.

Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly is a general agreement that vehicles will stay on the existing roads and trails, not enlarging them or—heaven forfend—not ignoring them and striking off across virgin country. And that visitors will leave nothing behind and take only pictures with them. It’s a kindness attitude toward the environment that enough of the new folk either can’t do or won’t try. And, truth be told, the large-huge-wheeled, knobby tired, short-wheel-based, powerful machines just naturally have a different effect on the surface of the earth than an SUV.

In my AutoWeek story I likened the antagonistic mix of users of old roads and trails to that which arose some seasons ago on the ski slopes. Mogul fields were made unusable to the users of long skis when a new lot on short skis took to skiing them. It’s not the intent that changes the terrain, just the way the beast is built. Short-ski skiers recut the moguls and long-ski skiers were out of luck.

Anyway, Land Rover saw fit to eliminate the Tin Cup part of the route which came after the section I was scheduled for anyway. I was told that Tin Cup is as heavily trafficked as Times Square on summer weekends these days. ATVs are everywhere and there is even a traffic light.

Nonetheless my interest in seeing the spot again has been stirred. I want to go back and see for myself. That will not be possible this fall because snow—already fallen in some serious amounts—can make the interesting routes impassible. But there’s another reason: I go in this week for some more reworking of my aging suspension system. Winter looms too large and so I’m thinking early summer of 2015 when the old roads start browning and creeks a-gurgling and the sun climbs higher in the sky.

Log House Tin Cup

The thought struck me, maybe some of you guys with under-exercised SUVS or who haven’t seen Colorado at its height might like to join me/us. Say start here in Santa Fe or maybe Denver or the Springs and join up en route. I’ll get suggestions for likely passes from T.C. at Land Rover. He has at least a nodding acquaintance with every important rock in the Rockies. We’ll find some good passages and we’ll advance on Tin Cup. We’ll find Uncle Will’s log house and my Great Grandmother’s grave and see what ghost towns look like when engines have awakened them.

If you have any interest in such a plan, send me an email. Subject: Tin Cup Trek. We’ll keep you informed. Maybe something will come of it. Anyway we’ve got more ideas on trips—some more for sportive cars—you might like to try. We’ll keep you up on those as well. (One particularly will blow your mind.)

Cars are meant to be driven; hills are meant to be climbed; local cafes are meant to be tried. And I suspect there’s something special beyond that next bend.

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Comments (1)

  1. Rex Woodgate:
    Oct 24, 2014 at 09:55 AM

    Denise
    Your idea sounds wonderful,I would love to do it with you....I hope it works out for you....I'm afraid , now I am back in Merry Old it' rather a long way for me to contemplate...So enjoy. Rex


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