Back in Colorado…7.2009

day 1 . July 4, 2009

I drove straight through yesterday, just getting the 750+ mile drive behind me and spent the night up on Wolf Creek Pass.  I'd been in thunder storms on and off yesterday; and right before I drove up the pass, it hailed on me.  But I slept great, in the Hotel Mazda, and started day 1 at 7:30, hiking a short 1 mile trail up Treasure Falls.  It may have been short, but it was steep enough to wake up my lazy legs and flatlander lungs.



After my hike, I drove to Pagosa Springs...a little tourist town and it was full of people!  They were getting ready for a parade this morning and were also having a craft/art show in a couple of the parks along the river.

Cute bear carving in front of a cantina with a mug of beer.


The bird in this tree was swooping down attacking everyone who walked underneath him...including me.  I guess she had a nest in the tree.  The vendors that were set up next to the tree were getting a kick out of everyone's reaction.  Lots of crafters setting up in the park.

None of the crafts/art work caught my eye except this booth....and it was pretty cool.  Eric Abraham creates high-fired porcelain art...the one he's holding is a robot.  They were really cool and we got to visiting about his technique and then I looked at his sign that stated he was from Lucas Kansas!   He spoke so fondly of the place, it made me sort of want to go by there sometime.....I hope he has a great show in Pagosa Springs.

The streets were lined early with people in anticipation of the parade....I guess I've never paid too much attention to what people wear on the 4th....but all day it's been a source of entertainment to see what people have on.  I was too polite to ask all the bizarre red-white-and-blue wearers to pose for me so I could share the pics with you....see?  sometimes I can be nice!


Pagosa Springs is like a lot of little Colorado towns...surrounded by magnificent beauty and the town is filled with little shops, restaurants and hotels.  Much to my benefit and other fellow hikers, most people don't ever leave the town until they drive back to where they came from, leaving the trails open and virtually empty. :)  The hot springs are a big draw, and visitors looked like they were enjoying all of it.

I decided not to wait and watch the parade, I grabbed a cup of coffee and continued my drive west to Durango.  The day was really pretty, and the rain and storms, that they've had so much of, seem to be gone, so I was anxious to get in some more hiking.  So, I went on another short hike 2-3 miles, just outside of town, called Animas City Mountain Trail.  The Animas River runs through Durango and is one of those beautiful, crystal clear waterways that they have so many of here in this wonderful state.


Here are some sites I saw along the trail; on the left is the view of the river and the mountains to the west; the center pic is one of two critters I saw on the trail (the other was a lizard as fast as lightening!); I haven't seen hardly any wildflowers yet, this was about the only one so far.


Durango has a great little downtown...I was through here two years ago (the first time I came to Colorado to hike by myself), and thought then I would need to explore the San Juan Mountains up close and personal someday.  That year, I mostly explored Durango's brewpubs...all in one day.  I didn't try that adventure again today.  Instead, after my hike, I just grabbed a great piece of pizza and a glass of Ska beer (one of the local breweries) at a cool little pizza joint I remembered from before.

Then I unloaded my bike and introduced her to Colorado...we rode along the bike trail they have that parallels the river the whole length of the town.  I saw all of these rafters, kayakers, tubers and just people playing in river...check out the dog....Coloradans love their dogs!


Durango was also having a parade this evening.  So after my hike, meal and bike ride, I visited the town for a while, listening to the live band that played and watching the parade...ever seen a pooper scooper team at the end of one?

This was something I haven't seen before...a solar powered smashing trash can...pretty cool.

One of the big attractions here is the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.   Danny and I were out here a few years ago and took the train ride.  It's very beautiful and goes high above the Animas River and down into the tiny town of Silverton...which is ringed by BIG mountains.  I was checking out these backpackers today, and envious, they were either going or coming back from hiking in the Weminuche wilderness area...the train is one of the few ways to get to the trails.


As I type this, I'm sitting in a grocery store parking lot, where my car has been parked most all day, waiting for the fireworks to begin.  My holiday tribute, a red and blue tinsel straw, was given to me by a super wonderful friend, who also included in the goodie bag: a cute little screwdriver, snacks, and travel benadryl and neosporin....and gave it all to me with a big hug before I left town!

Tonight, I'll be staying right outside of town at a trailhead I was at earlier today, in anticipation of leaving early in the morning for about a 10 mile drive to day 2's trailhead.

Well, the fireworks are starting, so I'm going to shut down and enjoy them.  I won't be posting everyday, but hopefully every 3 or so....internet access won't be readily available where I'm going.


day 2 . July 5


The fireworks were really great...I don't think I've ever been so close to a display before...and they went on a long, long time.  When they were finished, I drove back to my trailhead and tucked in for the night.  This morning, I drove back into downtown Durango, grabbed a cup of coffee, brushed my teeth and checked my maps....the trail I'm going on today, wasn't on any of my maps!  So, I re-read the description in the two guide books I have that both refer to this trail..."Hermosa Creek of the most heavily used trails in all of southwest Colorado...multi-use for horses, bikers, hikers, and small motorized vehicles"....  Oh boy, I wondered, it being a weekend and a holiday weekend if I was going to have to wait in line just to get on the trail.  It was about 11 miles outside of Durango in an area called the Hermosa Cliffs. 

Horses were out on the road, just wandering around.

The trailhead started at a campground, where I parked my car.

The trail was nice, wide and fairly flat as it meandered through the big pine trees.  It was 4 miles out to another trail junction and that's when I'd know to turn around (I really don't like to hike without a map!)

So far, it was just me on the trail....there'd been only one other car parked at the trailhead.  As I got to about 1.5 miles, I heard a loud, painful sounding guttural-animal noise....but I recognized it immediately.

Those of you who know me well, know my "love of bovines"....NOT.  (side note:  some people, when they find out I'm hiking alone, usually they are from Kansas and Texas, ask me if I'm taking a gun with me?  I can't stand guns and would never hike with one and have high hopes that fellow hikers I pass aren't packing either....I would hate to be shot at by a nervous hiker while emerging from the bushes after a pee break!  well, anyway, seeing this noisy cow in the middle of the trail, I had a fleeting thought of wishing I had a gun with me....then I had the thought of giving up being a vegetarian and eating a nice juicy steak or big thick hamburger.....eeewww! oh how the mind wanders sometimes!)  well, back to my nice walk in the woods....the cow and I passed, with mutual contempt, but each went our separate ways to enjoy the day.


I haven't seen too many wildflowers yet, but these were really nice.  The one in the pic on the right, I don't think I've ever seen before.  They also were in pink, but the pink blooms were all already wilted.



The views were of the San Juan National Forest, however you can see some of the big San Juan mountains in the distance (I think it's to the west of where I'm hiking).

So far, no crowds of people.  At about mile 2.5, I passed a couple hiking and their dog.

About mile 3, I hiked into this aspen grove...the first aspens I've seen on this trip....I just love them!  I'd read where this trail had little elevation change...a good one for me to begin on.  After this grove, the trail slowly began to descend, until the last 1/4 mile, where it dropped rapidly, down to the stream.  A bridge below made it an easy stream crossing, however, at this point, the stream was pretty narrow.  I came to junction...the 4 mile mark just after the stream.  I felt pretty good and strong, the weather seemed to be good, so I continued on another trail, "Clear Creek" for a few hundred yards, then came to this big stream crossing.  

The crossing, at this point, was about calf deep, not horrible, but I decided it was a good place to enjoy a drink and a snack, then head back up the 4 miles to the trailhead.



View of San Juan National forest.

On the trail going back, I passed about 20 mountain bikers, 2 more hikers, 2 people on small dirt bikes, 3 trail runners and 6 cows...but it was still a really nice trail...they were all going the opposite way.

As I type this, I'm in my car at the trailhead.  No internet service, but wanted to get my "thoughts" written before I went on with my day.  I wasn't sure if I was finished hiking today, thought I would go back into Durango, buy a shower, eat some food and then see what the day brought.  But as I'm finishing writing, loud thunder is booming overhead, and I'm glad I'm off the trail.

 For $4.75 you can buy a day pass at Durango Recreation Center...includes the showers and a bunch of pools (also fitness equipment, but why would a person want that?)  So, I bought the pass, put on my swim suit, and sat outside at this little kids play pool, reading a book (I've heard that's what some people do on vacation).  But, after about 15 minutes, light sprinkles began, so I picked up all my stuff and tried out the indoor hot tub (really nice) and the lap pool (too cold!), then I hit the showers.

After I was all sweet and clean (meaning my body, not my personality), I went to a mexican restaurant for a late lunch and planned my hike for tomorrow, to call Danny and let him know what trail I'll be hiking and grabbed a cup of coffee.  I have to stop and get gas and see if I need ice, then I'm headed west on hwy. 550.  I'm hoping to have cell service at Purgatory Ski area, so I don't have to keep driving back down to we'll see.


July 6 . day 3


Last night I slept at the trailhead, (again in the Hotel Mazda...makes for a quick leave in the mornings) this little lake and this big display of flowers.  The pic on the right is of the Durango Mountain Resort (formerly called Purgatory Ski Area) ski runs, just across the road from the trailhead.

As the sky grew dark, the full moon shone so bright, it was beautiful!


Today's trail was called "Purgatory Flats" or "Purgatory Creek Trail" and formerly called "Cascade Creek Trail".  Danny and I started down this trail a few years ago in September, when we were out here hiking.  We only got about 1/2 mile down the trail when we spotted hunters perched upon a ledge with guns and walkie-talkies, ready to shoot anything that moved.  We were disappointed, but turned around and didn't hike it....but now I'm back, and it's NOT hunting season. 

The first mile of the trail drops straight down to the bottom of the valley, to Cascade Creek.  The trail forked down in the valley, and I took the trail to the left...the one that looked wider and most used.

I got to the creek, noticing how wide and deep it was, and thought I'd remembered the guide book and the map saying you didn't have to cross the creek...mmmm...this is where the trail went.  It didn't really look like it went across to the other side, so I walked back and forth a few times, and then decided to go back to the fork in the trail.  I took the other trail....and soon realized this was the right one...the trail that would take me to where Cascade Creek and the Animas River join.




There were more wildflowers out today, as the trail went through an open valley near the creek.



After another mile, the trail started up to a ridge that went several hundred feet above the creek.


Lots of water flowing through this canyon!


At a high point on the trail, you can see down the canyon, where the river awaits.


At the bottom of the trail, a really large, high, and very tough-looking bridge made the water crossing possible...this is one big, bad river!  I'd recently read that at spring run-off, the Animas river has the highest class rapids of any of the Colorado's rivers.

This is where Cascade creek (on left) and the Animas River (on the right) join.


As I was crossing the bridge, I noticed another bridge down river, so I went exploring and discovered it was the bridge used by the Durango-Silverton train.

Timer-portrait near the Animas River.

On the other side of the bridge, was a large camping area...and a picnic table!....wondering how it got all the way down here, then dawned on me that they'd built an entire huge bridge down here...helicoptering a couple of picnic tables would have been a big deal.

I'd spent enough time at the bottom, it was time to head back up...another look down the canyon.



More beautiful flowers on the way back.


The trail on the way back...easy and comfortable.

(Okay, now some truth about this trail...this morning I started down it very early; about 7:15 and the trail kind of spooked me...not in a "I need to listen to my intuition" way, but more of a "oh, no, I'm kind of scared girly way" (say that in a high-pitched voice)...the first couple of miles on this trail, it was all shadowed and kind of dark, there was heavy vegetation on lining both sides of the trail,  sometimes shoulder height, so that you couldn't see more than a foot or two ahead of you...the perfect set up for running into "something that was looking for it's breakfast".  It's at times like these, your own mind can do you in...but I kept going.  It took me longer, being so cautious, plus it really ticks me off when I get this feeling.  But I'm so glad I forged ahead, the trail opened up after the second mile and it was well worth the "uncomfortable-ness" I felt at the beginning of the trail.  True-Confession is now over!) 

This ended up being a great trail...the climb out sure put your lungs to work.  I cleaned up in the little lake at the trailhead, getting the sweat and trail grime off.


Above pics are of the mountains that line both sides of Hwy 550...they are big, huge, and magnificent!

Another afternoon storm rolls in.


I was trying to find a "free campsite" tonight, and found this little gem called "Little Molas Lake". 


I chose this site overlooking the lake...and broke out the camp stove and cooked dinner (for the first time on this trip).

After I finished eating a late lunch/early dinner, I headed for the trail that went next to the lake...which happened to be a segment of the Colorado Trail...a 550 mile trail that goes from the western side of Colorado all the way to Denver.  This is the one long distance trail that I would love to hike...but not alone.

As I was walking along the trail, a cute young girl with a little white dog asked me if I'd seen two backpackers and two black labs...I hadn't.  She told me one was her boyfriend and she was here to make a food drop; they were hiking the Colorado trail from the end towards Durango.

We hiked part of the trail together, visiting as we were looking for her guys.  She finally found them, and brought them back to the campsite right next to mine.  She'd brought them BBQ from "Serious Texas BBQ" in Durango and lots of good beer, plus food they'll need for the next segment of their trip.  What a great girlfriend to do this!


They were so nice and invited me to have some of the BBQ and beer...I passed on the meat, but accepted the beer....yummy!  As great as the beer was, the conversation and friendliness the three of them shared with me was wonderful. I really enjoyed hearing about their trip.

The pic on the top is Sean, Heidi and Neal, and Jack the dog, all currently living in Durango; (not pictured because he was napping was Bonzo, another black lab).  The pic underneath is of Heidi, pampering Andy, who got a little chilled but loved the comfort of a great sleeping bag!  Thanks you guys, you were so fun to visit with!

So, I'm tucked in for the night...I have a new trail picked out for tomorrow.  So, check back if you'd like...the adventure continues.

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