2017 Colorado Adventure: Day 4

– Monday, 6/26/2017 –

We woke up early, refreshed by sleep and knowing that the next week packed full of new experiences.  Josh cooked breakfast while the rest of us plotted our first Colorado adventure.  We settled on an easy hike to Treasure Falls – a spectacular 100′ waterfall that can be seen from the parking lot – which was only about a 30 minute drive from the cabin.  The Treasure Falls trailhead elevation was 8,112 feet and the elevation gain throughout the 1/4 mile trail was 325 feet.  We chose to take the “main” trail over the “primitive” trail, as it was only our first day in the Colorado heat, high altitude and lack of humidity.

So the story goes, the name Treasure Falls came from Treasure Mountain, which legend says, holds buried gold.  In the late 1700’s, about 300 Frenchmen secretly entered the San Juan Mountains, which was Spanish turf.  They struck it rich near the mountain, but were faced with brutal winters, Indian attacks and disease.  Only two Frenchmen returned east to tell the tale.

While short, the hike was steep and we were thankful that we had chosen an “easy” hike for our first adventure due to the inexperience with nature that one of our group members was struggling with.  On our way to the top, Josh and I stopped at a labeled scenic overlook that didn’t disappoint.

We kept going and ended up at the top of the trail with a great view of Treasure Falls!  The trail was bustling with families and dogs so it was a bit tight at the top, with everyone churning around to get photos.

There was an observation deck – Misty Deck – where we could feel the spray from the 100′ waterfall.  On our first hot Colorado day, the mist was a welcome break!  We found a cool little rock alcove past Misty Deck that offered a pretty amazing view, too!

Once we were all back to the truck, we agreed that we would head for Wolf Creek Pass, since it was only a short, 8 mile ride from Treasure Falls.

Wolf Creek Pass, at an elevation of 10,857 feet is a high mountain pass on the Continental Divide, in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.  It is the route through which U.S. Highway 160 passes from the San Luis Valley into southwest Colorado on its way to New Mexico and Arizona.  The pass is significantly steep on either side (6.8% maximum grade) and there are runaway truck ramps on the westbound side for truckers that lose control of their brakes (which I was unsuccessful at talking neither Josh nor his dad into using).

Josh and I were pretty excited about actually being at Wolf Creek Pass, as the pass was the inspiration of C. W. McCall’s song “Wolf Creek Pass.” Country music history claims that Wolf Creek Pass was made famous in 1975 by C. W. McCall’s humorous spoken word song of the same name, in which the pass is fondly described as “37 miles o’ hell — which is up on the Great Divide.” In the song, two truckers drive an out-of-control 1948 Peterbilt down U.S. Highway 160 to Pagosa Springs – a 5,000-foot drop in elevation.  The song describes the truck careening down through a “tunnel” (during which process several crates of chickens stacked on the back of the truck are inadvertently lost) and eventually into a feed store in Pagosa Springs. The tunnel referenced in the song is actually a snow shed, and the song predates the only true tunnel on the pass by 30 years. But, the snow shed is on the east side of the pass while Pagosa Springs is on the west side, making this sequence of events impossible, though quite entertaining!

Once at the summit of the pass, we parked and began exploring.  I was amazed by the amount of traffic traversing the pass – tractor trailers, RV’s and even motorcycles climbed the steep rise while we watched.  We took a short “self-guided” hike to play in some snow at the top of the pass (and throw a snowball at Josh in June!) and enjoy the landscape (including a cute little chipmunk).

On our way back down Wolf Creek Pass, we stopped at another scenic overlook.  Of course, the view couldn’t have been better!  We could even see Treasure Falls from the overlook, which was pretty cool (and put things into perspective!)

We made a quick stop in the town of Pagosa Springs to visit the Ranger Station and Visitor’s Center to grab some more information to help us plan the week’s adventures.  When we got back to the cabin, Josh and I Skyped my mom (huge technological advancement here!) and then we spent the evening hanging out at the cabin, eating s’mores and playing Cards Against Humanity.  What a FANTASTIC first full day in Colorado!

We agreed that we wanted to do some type of rafting trip while we’re in Pagosa Springs, so we called and booked a rafting trip on the San Juan River for tomorrow afternoon.  Josh really wanted to do some pretty intense whitewater rafting, but, unfortunately, there’s not enough water in the river at this time of year to accommodate whitewater rafting.  In fact, we’re lucky that we will be able to do any rafting on the river, as it’s almost time to change from rafts to tubes due to the low water levels.  Apparently the river water is mostly made up of snow melts and since most of the snow is melted and gone, so is the river water.

MONEY SPENT TODAY: $101.82 ($51.83 at Tractor Supply for a sling for the vehicles (just in case); $20 for a Rocky Mountain bird identification book at the Ranger Station and $29.99 for a subscription to the All Trails app for my phone to help plan and evaluate hikes for the week.)

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