Beyond Road’s End in Comanche Gulch – September 08, 2017

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Talus slope pouring off of Point 12374, aspens turning into autumnal colors, cerulean sky and puffy white clouds

Beyond road’s end isn’t exactly accurate as the two-track that ascends Comanche Gulch can barely be described as a road.  Do not attempt to drive the “Family Truckster” up here for the first obstacle would inextricably stick said low-riding vehicle in place.  Part of the Fossil Ridge Recreation Management Area, Gunnison National Forest Road 771.1C makes for a nice short hike.  As it ends a couple miles up the gulch not many folks make use of it.  No easy loop ride, hike or what-have-you here!  Thus not very appealing to those adverse to making an out-and-back trek, peddle or “vroom”.  However, that makes it a perfect place to get away from the masses and thus a highly desirable place for a loner like me seeking a bit of solitude.  I parked the car at the old Comanche Campground, now long closed due to Forest Service budget cuts and/or indifference, and walked a few hundred feet along Gold Creek Road (also known as Gunnison Country Road 771 or Gunnison National Forest Road 771) to the two-track.

I have hiked, or skied, up into this gulch a few times and have yet to encounter another human being during any one of my sojourns.  Along the way a few old mines sites dot the canyon bottom, although they are fairly obscured by the vegetation. Much more noticeable is the old lumber mill, or some such site, further up the gulch.  Well, I suspect that this is what it is as a huge old pile of rotting lumber slowly deteriorates back into the meadow there.  Most of this hike occurs through the dense aspen and conifer forest that lines the waterway.  This late in the year it is but a mere trickle and even during Spring runoff it never accumulates too much of the precious liquid.

The road continues beyond what is shown on most maps, and the Forest Service doesn’t seem to mind.  Perhaps they are not concerned because the road’s extension is only a half a mile longer than what is generally projected onto the map.  The road ends in a cove of sorts, surrounded by talus and forest.  Beyond this there is a user created trail of sorts but it quickly fades away once a short, steep slope is climbed.  My goal had been to attempt to reach the ridgeline of Fossil Ridge, but I gave up once the downfall became too challenging for my four-legged friends (and myself, let’s be honest).  I ended up in a vale about a half a mile southwest of Point 12374.

Not having the gumption to continue the further half a mile and change to reach the Fossil Ridge Trail No. 478 I found instead a nice log to sit upon and devour my snacks.  Draco and Leah, my two German shepherd-style dogs, know this drill by now and as soon as I unburdened myself of my pack they sat down expectantly awaiting their kibble.  Even the scurrying sounds and loud chirping of the resident squirrel population couldn’t distract them from a well-earned canine snack.  Afterwards, I laid back on my pack, which, stuffed full of backup clothing, makes a fine cushion.  My repose lasted briefly as the rodent distraction proved to be too much for the dogs and I felt compelled to move on, letting said small beasts continue onward with their Winter preparations.

So enveloped by steep slopes as it is, this narrow gulch doesn’t allow for distant views, and even the sky is mostly hidden.  Thus I barely noticed the hazy smoke-filled sky interrupted by a number of puffy white clouds.  Although the Summer weather had begun to notably turn toward the cooler side the day remained salubrious for hiking and napping in the forest.  Essentially, we hiked back down the way we went up, slowing only occasionally to investigate some trivial nook.  A fine, short hike in a seldom visited cranny of the Fossil Ridge area we all had.  While not technically a designated wilderness, this area still retains much of its wild character and is delightfully mellow.

Morning Hike to Union Park – September 06, 2017

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Near the confluence of Lottis and South Lottis Creeks, looking in the direction of Taylor River

Early morning in late Summer, and high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado all remains verdant.  That night, I will have worked at the service industry job that is concomitant with the somewhat desirable mountain town lifestyle.  The best attribute of said employment is the flexibility.  Since my shift doesn’t start until four of the clock in the afternoon I am able to make an early departure from home so as to trek into and out of some cranny in these beloved heaps of uplifted rock.  I must admit that having to work after the hike is something of a buzzkill, but the morning is mine and nothing relating to work shall hinder me.  Thus, with my two German shepherd hiking companions, Draco and Leah, I leave home from Gunnison and drive north on Colorado 135 to the hamlet of Almont.  There I choose the less traveled route via County Road 742 and drove up along the Taylor River until I turned off at the Lottis Creek Campground, just beyond which is situated the South Lottis Creek Trailhead.

I hadn’t hiked through Union Canyon nor visited Union Park, site of a proposed dam the implementation of which would be a tragic error, in a number of years.  To do so met my criteria of a short hike to a specific destination, the beginning of which isn’t too far of a drive from home.  Once I opened the car doors the pups sprang out and begin their quaint investigation of assorted canine message boards.  Meanwhile, I donned my gear and began the hike up the old wagon road.  A short distance on and the trail splits, the right hand following South Lottis Creek via the South Lottis Trail No 428 and the left hand heading towards my destination via the Union Canyon Trail No. 631.  I led the dogs over to the ford where the former trail crosses Lottis Creek.  There, the shepherds drank while I admired the gurgling waters.

The Gunnison National Forest manages the land in this area for multiple use which includes recreation, mining, timber and grazing.  Regardless, the land itself retains some wild characteristic, and wild beasts and a plethora of vegetation inhabit the realm.  Lodgepole pine forest dominates the slopes above the canyon, but some spruce grows along Lottis Creek.  The first half a mile of hiking beyond the trail junction travels through a narrow canyon and consequently the trail is fairly rocky due to water running down its length.  Afterwards the canyon widens, meadows become apparent and a crossing of the creek is effected.  In the low early morning light, shafts of golden rays burst through the boughs of the conifer and the grassy meadows shone with verdant splendor.

Union Park spans a dimension, roughly, of about a mile by two.  The smoke that had obscured some of my views the previous day continued to create haze on this day.  I could see some of this haze on the journey up, but its thickness became evident once I had a long view.  Normally the horizon is fairly crisp wherever I am at in the Gunnison Country, but today all horizons were shrouded by this pall of burnt trees.  An odor of ash came with the haze but fortunately for me I could still smell, overwhelmingly, the pleasing perfume of sagebrush and (live) conifer.

At the exit of the canyon I left the trail and hiked along Gunnison National Forest Road 752 for about a half a mile to the east.  Having not much time to explore I instead found a place just west of Cross Creek to sit for a spell and admire the mountainous splendor that I found myself ensconced within.  Most of the low hills within my view-shed to the north are beautifully nondescript, excepting Park Cone, a large dark-green mass rising to the northwest of my spot.  Somehow, I realize now, I managed not to take a noteworthy snapshot of this prominent landmark.  The southeastern flank of said cone creates a gate of sorts that easily divides the park from the canyon.

Light snacking ensued followed by a nap.  As I reclined upon my backpack the shepherds gobbled up their kibble.  This pleasingly static situation continued until the local resident rodent population created a kinetic canine situation that I know is difficult to regulate.  I find it easier to move away, and that is what i did, realizing that I needed to begin my return hike anyhow.  We hiked out of the park via the canyon that we had hiked up.  Back near the confluence with South Lottis Creek I found an old bridge that crosses Lottis Creek itself.  Why it is here, I am not sure, as no trail or road continues on the far side.  Perhaps it allows access for the rancher to check his beefs.   Regardless, I crossed and found a large meadow.  A fine view of the Taylor Canyon is afforded and I gazed away unperturbed by my impending shift.  Finally, regrettably, I had to leave this expanse of verdure, and made my way to the waiting car.  Well, I thought to myself, if I have to work, what better way to begin the day by a brisk hike into a scenic nook of the Rocky Mountains?

Loop Hike on Middle and South Quartz Creeks – September 05, 2017

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Leah and Draco on the Canyon Creek Trail No. 481, approaching Granite Mountain

My two German shepherds, Draco and Leah, accompanied me the previous year on a camping expedition to the Middle Quartz Campground on the Gunnison National Forest.  We had attempted this hike then but upon reaching the head of South Quartz Creek I found the snow to have been piled up high enough in mid-June to prevent my completion of the loop hike I had desired to make.  Thus, the next year, that is, Twenty Seventeen, I drove up to the junction of Gunnison National Forest Road 767 and 769 and there I parked my car.  Incidentally, I thoroughly enjoy the drive up from Gunnison, Colorado, to the small town of Pitkin.  A couple of miles past the town of Pitkin Quartz Creek splits into three forks and I parked at the divergence of the middle and south branches.

The road junction is a scant half a mile upstream from the true confluence between the two tines.  Our first steps walked us over to Middle Quartz Creek, which we crossed, and then over a low divide that brought us to South Quartz Creek and Gunnison National Forest Road 769.2C.  The area near the confluence is fairly flat, and contains beaver jungle and open meadow.  The southern creek emerges from a narrow cleft in the mountains and we headed up into the gap, filled as it is with a dense lodgepole pine forest.  As we walked upstream the cleft widened slightly, and beaver ponds and open meadows became more commonplace.  Old cabins, a remnant of the hard-rock mining era, now contain a wealth of rodents and the shepherds noticed.  Two miles on, we crossed the stream and the road ended.  Thus began South Quartz Trail No. 483.

This trail is motorized, although closed to so-called all-terrain vehicles, but so far I hadn’t seen another person regardless of mode of travel.  As we continued up the creek the montane life-zone changed ever so subtly to the sub-alpine.  The lodgepole pine gave way to spruce, and once we rounded a corner that brought our bearing from eastward to that facing south I could see the alpine tundra rearing above us.  A beautiful blue-sky day had greeted us from the beginning.  A few puffy white clouds dotted the sky but none indicated an up-welling of moisture that would coalesce into a thunderstorm.  Winds, however, had brought into the region a fairly noticeable haze derived from the smoke of distant wildfires.

We reached the point where the previous year I had been turned back.  Snow had then remained heaped in frozen masses, making travel difficult, but now in late Summer the snow was but a memory and I walked freely up the trail.  Continuing up the trail we emerged past the last of the trees and found ourselves out on the alpine tundra.  The South Quartz Trail No. 483 ended at a junction with the Canyon Creek Trail No. 481.  This junction is situated on the divide with Canyon Creek, and I enjoyed a fine view of this drainage and points south.  Upon the latter trail we continued eastwards a short distance and passed the junction with the Horseshoe Creek Trail No 482 and then continued on up past Granite Mountain.  From this relatively low peak, elevation just below twelve-thousand six-hundred feet above sea level, I could see more named peaks than I can enumerate.  The most prominent, aptly named Monumental Peak straddling the Continental Divide, soared up two miles to the east above and across Tomichi Creek.

From Granite Mountain we continued on the trail, following the divide between South Quartz and Tomichi Creeks, until its end at the Tomichi Pass Road.  This brought us into the headwaters of Tomichi Creek.  Also known as Gunnison National Forest Road No. 888, I led the shepherds up the small ascent to the summit of the pass.  Here, for the first time since we left the car behind, we stepped into Middle Quartz Creek.  Lofty summits continued to surround us as we hiked down under the shadow of Paywell, Central, Brittle Silver and Van Wirt Mountains.  This narrow road dropped down to the upper end of Brittle Silver Basin and then swung around to meet the Alpine Tunnel Road No. 839 in the vicinity of the old Sherwood Loop on the former Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad.  Once we had joined with this two-track there was no avoiding commingling with motorized traffic, but I deftly avoided much of the noise, dust and speed by following a little-used former wagon road that diverges from the main road.

Two miles of hiking led to the Middle Quartz Campground.  About halfway the old road crosses the creek but those waters have now been impounded by numerous beaver dams leaving the area inundated in a willow jungle.  I chose, as I have in the past, to bushwhack until reaching the campground.  This old wagon road is more or less disowned now by the Forest Service but I found one map that shows this trail being numbered as 544.  About three more miles of hiking along Gunnison National Forest Road 767 awaited, and we all walked down the ever-widening valley until we reached the car.  As usual, I was disturbed to see the extent of the beetle-killed forest in this area, but I also felt somewhat relieved to note that some mature trees had so-far escaped the epidemic.  After such a fine wildflower season I noted with a certain sadness that the only flowers remaining in mass bloom where the gentians and arnica.  The former especially denote the onset of Autumn, or at least the cessation of Summer.  Not a bad hike, in fact.  I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of habitat, life-zones and views, but, alas, not the place to go for solitude.

Excursion Train in Leadville, Colorado – August 31, 2017

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On the Leadville, Colorado and Southern, looking down at the East Fork Arkansas River and Colorado 91

My parents were in town and we decided to visit Leadville, Colorado, an old mining city chock-full-o’-large brick buildings from a bygone era.  The city, billing itself at over ten thousand feet in elevation as the highest such incorporation, now serves as a place for folks to reside so as to pursue the recreational lifestyle, and as a bedroom community for the workers who serve the exclusive communities built around the ski areas.  Often, those people are one and the same.  Having visited, on a previous excursion, the Mining Hall of Fame and a few other historic sites via a walking tour we had chosen to make a ride on the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad.  This alignment had originally been part of the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad, which had been later absorbed into the Colorado and Southern.  The old brick depot now serves the modern tourist railroad.

We drove out of my home in Gunnison via U.S. 50 eastbound, following Tomichi Creek upstream until we made the dramatic rise to the summit of Monarch Pass.  The highway then follows the South Fork Arkansas River to Poncha Springs.  At that point we turned onto U.S. 285, headed north and upstream along the main stem of the Arkansas River.  Just south of Buena Vista U.S. 285 diverges towards South Park and Denver but we continued to follow the river via U.S. 24.  I enjoy this drive up to the headwaters of the Arkansas River, where, to the west, the state’s highest peaks rise up near the Great Divide.  Once in town we headed to the depot and bought our tickets for the train.  I espied an old brick building to the north, and wondered at its initial purpose, finding out later that it had been built as a hospital.

Originally constructed as a narrow gauge line, the tracks had been converted to standard gauge in Nineteen Forty-Three.  This, it turns out, was the last such piece of narrow gauge on the Colorado and Southern.  Later, in the early Sixties, the last steam engine operated by the company had been used on this line.  Sometime in the last decade or so the connecting track with the old Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad had been torn up, and thus this piece of track is now isolated.  The route follows the East Fork Arkansas River about a thousand feet above the valley.  The valley, at the time, had been claimed already by the aforementioned competitor, thereby causing the building of this line on a more difficult grade.

I generally enjoy riding the old rails, and today was no exception.  There is always something different to be seen from the perspective afforded by a new vantage point.  Much of what I saw was simply the detritus of an old system of exploitation.  The ride itself I found somewhat ho-hum.  Nondescript would be about as charitable of a description as I would allow myself.  I spent much of my time studying the dense lodgepole forest.  One corner did allow for a moment of breath-taking acrobatics as the train rounded the bend perched on a ledge that made a sheer drop of several hundred feet.  As far as these things go, other tourist railroads within the state offer better scenery.  But, that being said, since when is wandering through a lodgepole forest such a bad thing?

There is an old water tank to look at, but the train ends at an odd location, French Gulch, where some amenities are afforded, including that new stalwart of Colorado tourism, the zipline.  I’ve never been on one and I have no inclination to do so.  If I want to sail through the forest I’ll dream it, or come back in another life as a goshawk.  It would help the railroad, I would suppose, to continue farther up-valley where the views open up a bit more, but I believe that they are prohibited from doing so by the operators of the large molybdenum mine located at Fremont Pass.  Anyone who is suspicious of a large open-pit mine being commenced in their neighborhood just needs to drive Colorado 91 to have those suspicions confirmed, by the way.  A whole mountain removed, and the remnants spread out over what must have once been a gorgeous mountain meadow.

Once the train rolled back into the station we disembarked and began the drive back to Gunnison.  We followed the same route, seeing essentially the same gorgeous scenery from a different perspective.  The water has sluiced away much of the risen mountains yet much remains.  The Sawatch Range, which roughly parallels the river’s course, has a dozen or so peaks that rise up to fourteen thousand feet.  Still, these mountains rise towards the heavens, sloughing off rock as they go.  In my semi-official capacity as tour guide I explained some of this history and how it tied into the development of the extraction of minerals from the region.  A good day was had by us all, and it satiated my curiosity about this bit of Colorado railroad history.

Copper Lake – August 29, 2017

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Looking over Copper Lake towards Point 13253 and White Rock Mountain

After my then recent adventure in pursuit of the Great American Eclipse and its concomitant totality I had to face the reality of a working week as a pizza cook in a busy mountain resort town.  Once I had earned another day off I decided not to rush out first thing in the morning but rather take my time, eating a late lazy breakfast and imbibing a quart of hot black coffee.  I had decided to visit Copper Lake, nestled in a nook of the Elk Mountains above the old mining town of Gothic, Colorado, where now the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory is situated.  The lake is at the head of the eponymous creek, and sits in Copper Basin as well.  The Copper Creek Trail No. 983 starts at the Copper Creek Trailhead on the Gunnison National Forest.

The trailhead is located about a half a mile up Gunnison National Forest Road 317.3A, but I generally eschew driving its bumpy path and park at the junction with Road 317, alongside the East River.  This area contains great beauty but is also extremely popular with the general public.  Thus I kept Draco and Leah, my two German shepherds, on a leash within the busy roadside area.  We walked down to the river and they lapped up some water while I stared up at the great mass of Gothic Mountain.  Our hike then began with the climb up to the trailhead proper and continued another half a mile until we reached Judd Falls.  The falls are somewhat hidden by a cleft in the rock, but like all such cascades they hold a certain difficult-to-define fascination that binds the consciousness to their mist inducing pour.  We paused briefly, as the canine mind is not overwhelmed by tons of water pouring over a cliff, rather it is just another part of the world that is better defined, to them, as smells.

A short distance up the trail we entered into the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness.  The valley of Copper Creek opened up and I could see the headwall of the drainage some three miles away.  The first mile of this hike is on a gentle grade over an old mining road.  The trail then makes a crossing of Copper Creek that, in my mind, is somewhat nefarious.  I have attempted to wade this creek in bare feet, but the rock is jagged enough to cause waves of pain to emanate from my soles.  No bridge may be easily constructed, so I generally accept wet shoes, although this late in the season I might be able to hop across a strand of rocks.  The old road continues on a bit steeper to another crossing of the creek.  Along the way I could gaze up into Queen Basin and others unnamed.  After the last crossing the trail begins to ascend a much steeper grade, and we all huffed up to the junction with Conundrum Creek Trail No. 981.

I briefly followed this latter trail until another junction with an unnamed cutoff trail was made.  The shepherds and I then walked over to the Copper Lake, set in its basin of rock.  I looked up to East Maroon Pass, thinking about the hike up there, a trek I have made a few time in the past.  This area receives heavy use for backpacking and thus the Forest Service has set up some designated campsites.  Most of these lie south of the lake but one site has been set above the lake, to the west.  Finding all the sites to the south empty I guessed correctly that the one to the west would be likewise, and the dogs and I wandered up to a nice overlook where we could settle down for a spell.  The splendid late Summer day, under a cerulean sky dotted with puffy white clouds, influenced me into lying down in the shade and falling asleep sans worry.

Soon enough the verdant grasses would begin to turn yellow, along with the aspen, cottonwood and other deciduous species.  Most of the flowers had already gone to seed, and I knew that my indulgence of salubrious climate at high elevations would soon cease for this year.  The dogs ate their kibble that I had hefted up to the lake and soon entered their own canine slumber.  Twitching paws suggested the subconscious ponderance of squirrels.  Soon, however, their repose was disturbed by the reality of skittering rodents, and thus I, too, ended my sedentary ways.  I had thought of exploring a route to an upper lake but for whatever reason decided to put it off.  We explored a bit around the lake shore and wandered around some of the southern campsites before setting off down the trail and back to the trailhead.

It would appear that I made a gaff and forgot to bring along extra batteries for the camera because I ceased taking snapshots on the way down the trail.  The hike down was uneventful, and we quickly, for about five miles of hiking, reached the waiting car.  Upon reflection, I realize that one interesting aspect of this hike is that the creek follows a fault.  This fault separates a laccolith to the east from pushed aside sedimentary strata to the west.  While this rock appears static to us it manifests, on a geologic time scale, dynamic energy.  The Rocky Mountains continue to uplift and eventually the sedimentary rock will be sloughed off and run out to the oceans.  That is a long time from now, and, in the meantime, I’ll just sit back and watch the show.

An Adventure: The Great American Eclipse of 2017, Part 6 – August 23, 2017

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Cliff Ridge to the left, looking east from Musket Shot Springs

Waking up to a brilliant sunrise, I was inspired to make a quick hot breakfast and pack up my outfit so as to readily depart the Lucerne Valley Campground in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.  The only real goal I had for this day was to drive home to Gunnison, Colorado.  Starting the day technically in Utah, I had to drive north into Wyoming and out to Highway 530, where I turned to the south and soon crossed back over the state line.  This road became Utah 44 and I drove though the small town of Manila, Utah.  A few miles south I turned off the main road to explore something called the Sheep Creek Geologic Area.  Thus began my last morning of the adventure I took in Twenty-Seventeen to see the Great American Eclipse.

Along this road I discovered a small campground that I noted for future reference.  Alas, as fascinating as the geology was there aren’t any trails, not even a short nature trail.  So, I utilized some pullouts to observe the tortured and bent sedimentary layers pushed aside with the rising of the Uinta Mountains, and moved on along Ashley National Forest Road 218.  Happenstance led me to Ashley National Forest Trail No. 166, and I let the dogs out to hike about a half a mile up the trail until I realized that Utah had already started its hunting season.  At least, some folks dressed in orange where out in the woods with weaponry and I decided, having no orange for myself nor the dogs, that I might not want to be mistaken for a deer nor disrupt their hunt, anyway.  We returned to the car and drove out to the highway and continued southbound, Utah 44 merging into U.S. 191.

I love this drive across the Uinta Mountains, the only major chain in the Lower Forty-Eight to run along the east and west axis.  How I desired one more day to explore the nearby High Uintas Wilderness, but I regrettably concluded that I had not the time to do so.  I pulled over at a small viewpoint to gaze longingly at the high peaks but soon moved on, making the long, steep descent into Vernal, where I turned eastward on U.S. 40.  Oil field equipment lay about in yard after yard, as this area is a major service point for that extractive industry.  We crossed the Green River, impounded upstream in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, before stopping at the Musket Shot Springs Scenic Overlook.

Naturally, these springs, described as being about a musket shot apart, had dried up since the time of settlement and nothing but the meager flow of Cliff Creek suggested a hint of water.  The real view is of the folded sedimentary layers of nearby Blue Mountain, or Cliff Ridge.  There seems to be a bit of topographic uncertainty about the name.  After a short wandering out to the barren creek we continued to drive on U.S. 40, passing into Colorado before turning south on Colorado 64.  We passed the oil fields about Rangely and kept on driving, but now on Colorado 139.  At the top of Douglas Pass we stopped once more, so I could take in the view to the south and the dogs could stretch their legs.  The miles slid by after we left that bit of sub-alpine splendor, and we descended from the pass and down to the Colorado, nee Grand, River where the highway terminates at Interstate 70.

Access to water is more scarce than the commodity itself, and I knew that the pups were longing for a swig of that cool liquid.  The sojourn on the interstate was gracefully brief, and we left that road for U.S. 50 at Grand Junction.  Hot desert continued, and I was grateful to enter the city of Delta, where we stopped for some Mexican food and a swim in the Gunnison River.  The pups quenched and me fed, I plied the tires to the road, and we rolled by Montrose and up and over Cerro Summit before descending to Cimarron.  This adventure of mine had worked out well, better than I could have hoped for, perhaps excepting the traffic jam in Glenwood Springs, and I didn’t want it to come to an end.

Turning off at Cimarron, I drove down to the parking lot just below the Morrow Point Dam.  The road down through the narrow canyon cut by the Cimarron River lies on the old bed of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, and might make some folks a bit nervous.  A tremendous roar greeted our exit from the car as water shot out from a gate high atop the dam, a white sheet arcing gracefully before plummeting to the river below.  We hiked down to the foot bridge erected to cross the Gunnison River and continued on the Mesa Creek Trail, maintained by the Curecanti National Recreation Area under the auspices of the National Park Service.  This short trail ends about a half a mile downriver but does provide a fantastic view of the upper portion of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  Gamble oak dominates the shrubbery, and ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and cottonwood grow readily on the slopes or along the banks of the river.  A peaceable locale, I let my thoughts dwell on the last few days as the swift river sang its song filling the canyon with its voice.

What amazing sights I had seen.  I may never again see a total eclipse of the Sun, especially from the dizzying heights of a summit of the Rocky Mountains.  The people I had met, especially afterwards, were unified in a certain joyousness that could only be discerned by an uncommon twinkle of the eye.  The summit that I had chosen to sit upon for the duration also parts waters to the three major river system of the central Rockies.  I derived a topographic thrill from peering down into drainages that pour their waters into the world’s oceans such great distances away.  Most of my hiking had taken place in the Green River, home to much lore of the early fur trade.  The contemporary names reflect that first wave of commerce in places such as Ashley National Forest, Fontenelle Reservoir, Ham’s Fork, Fitzpatrick Wilderness, Bridger National Forest, to name a few.

Leaving the river behind we drove back up to U.S. 50 and continued eastward up to Blue Mesa Summit and then onto Blue Mesa Reservoir, where the Blue Mesa Dam keeps the waters of the Gunnison River in check.  At Old Steven’s, a picnic area and boat ramp managed by the Curecanti National Recreation Area, we stopped for the final time, about twelve miles from home, and the let Draco and Leah play ball and swim in the water.  Looking around, I imagined what this broad valley would have looked like prior to inundation.  I took in the mesas nearby, formed from volcanic upheavals of a magnitude that our current civilization knows nothing contemporaneous.  The natural beauty of this region shines out, and I reflected on how fortunate I am to live in this area.  I was finally compelled to finish my adventure by a festering sense of procrastination.  The shepherds loaded up one last time, the tires hummed and we drove up through the Gunnison River Canyon and to home in the Gunnison Country, where a certain exalted headiness accompanied my unpacking.