Glenwood Canyon closed until at least Saturday | VailDaily.com

Glenwood Canyon closed until at least Saturday

A semi truck is hauled out of the dirt road West Brush Creek in Eagle Wednesday. Many travelers looking for ways around the rockfall detours on I-70 have been finding their way into less traveled areas of Eagle County this week.

GLENWOOD CANYON — It could be Saturday before Interstate 70 is open through Glenwood Canyon, said the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"Sadly, we have one word for you — weather," said Colorado Department of Transportation's Amy Ford.

When it does open, it will probably be one lane and you'll follow a pilot car for about six miles. The wait could be more than an hour.

Pick your poison, when it comes to delays and detours.

“Just because a road shows up on a Google map does not mean it’s open. We have been out there turning people around.”Tracy TruloveColorado Department of Transportation

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"The detour routes are much longer than the delay," Ford said.

Ken Hoeve owns and operates AlpenGo Mountain Transportation. He's happy he lives in this valley, instead of the next.

"Be grateful you live in Eagle County," Hoeve said. "People can say all they want about how we live near an interstate, but we can still get around. We should be grateful that we live in the best place of the world."

Detours and car chases

Speaking of detours, Colorado Department of Transportation is begging people to stop trying to blaze their own trails.

GPS systems and cell phones are sending them up roads that are not open, such as Cottonwood Pass, Crooked Creek Pass and Independence Pass.

"Just because a road shows up on a Google map does not mean it's open," said Colorado Department of Transportation's Tracy Trulove. "We have been out there turning people around."

Derrick Dreyer was snowmobiling in the Sylvan Lake Road area south of Eagle, and encountered people whose GPS systems are telling them that Sylvan Lake Road and Cottonwood Pass Roads are alternate routes.

They're not.

Dreyer was snowmobiling and directed six motorists to turn back from Sylvan Lake, and spent an hour getting a rental car out of the ditch.

On his way out, he came across an 18-wheeler stuck on Sylvan Lake Road. Once you get past the state park of the same name, it's also closed for the winter, which would explain why the area is so popular with snowmobilers.

A Japanese visitor was trying to drive to Aspen from Vail and his cell phone told him to go to Gypsum and over Cottonwood Pass. As he did, people were coming toward him and waving. He said he thought they were friendly Americans coming from Aspen.

The dedicated athletes from Eagle Valley High School's girls basketball team had to leave Gypsum before 7:30 a.m. for a 3 p.m. playoff game in Palisade, generally an easy 70-minute ride down the interstate.

Then there are also the two guys who allegedly had pot in their car, and led police from two states — Colorado and Utah — on a high speed chase.

It ended as a low speed chase when they were caught, possibly because they were doing what their cell phones told them because Glenwood Canyon is closed. The two men turned off Interstate 70, sped down U.S. Highway 82 through the Roaring Fork Valley and got stuck about a mile up the Pitkin County side of the Eagle-Thomasville Road in Pitkin County, which isn't open in the winter, either.

Hauling hand tools on their backs

On Thursday, fog and rain turned into snow and the wind kicked up, making it unsafe for a helicopter to fly Colorado Department of Transportation workers and equipment to the Glenwood Canyon walls.

"Because of the weather today, we could not fly a helicopter to bring airbags and tools to the rock face," said T.J. Blake, Colorado Department of Transportation deputy maintenance superintendent. "Crews had to haul everything up by hand and that set us back several hours."

That was a 1,200-foot climb from the canyon floor.

Larger rocks are being moved with airbags set behind them and blown loose, Ford said.

Most of the damage is around mile marker 124, that spot along the highway where the American flag waves above the north side of the highway.

A separate rockfall hit around mile marker 117, and knocked out power in parts of No Name.

The repair price tag could run between $2 million and $5 million, and could take up to a month. The Colorado Department of Transportation is trying to determine whether it's a disaster that qualifies for federal disaster relief money, Ford said.

Engineers are still assessing the damage, Ford said.

"We're in an extreme cycle of our freeze and thaw. We typically roll into the spring with an active rockfall season. This spring may be very active," Ford said.

In the meantime, Colorado Department of Transportation crews are working on the roadway, installing 160 feet of new fencing, and are bringing down some of the largest rocks in the area.

"It's gorgeous, it's beautiful but it's precarious," Ford said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.