For Labor Day this year the dogs and I travelled to the southwest part of Colorado and stayed in a small cabin in South Fork. On the way down I let the girls play in the Arkansas River near Salida. It was not too hot at that point and the Arkansas was not flowing too fast, although Fabi did have to swim vigorously a few times to avoid being swept downstream.
On the way to South Fork we passed a sign for Bonanza, Colorado. I thought this was a ghost town and turned down the road. About 20 miles in I realized it was an actual town and there did not appear to be much hiking available so I turned back toward the highway. I did stop along the way back on a road to a pass but it was not designed for my truck, possibly small ATVs only. The dogs ran around here for a while.
The next stop was Del Norte and the Rio Grande. Recently some donors have built a small but very nice river walk and deck on the river. There’s a nice paved sidewalk back through the trees with lots of access points to the water. After about an hour in the river I loaded up the girls and headed over to South Fork about 17 miles west.
After driving through an impressive rain storm we found the lodge where our cabin was located but it was only about 2 PM. To kill some time before check-in I drove up US 160 to Wolf Creek Pass and we hiked around at the summit of the pass. There was a nice open field that led to a stand of trees. There was a creek, too, in which the girls played before running through the woods. Lucy managed to find some sort of black stickers to embed in her fur.
We hiked around for another hour or so then headed back to the cabin.
We hung out in the cabin for another hour or so before heading to dinner over in Del Norte. I headed to Three Barrel Brewing for dinner and a couple beers. Their beers are very tasty! They also have a wood-fired pizza oven in which they produce some damn fine grub. Since it was a holiday weekend and a Saturday night the joint was busy with locals and tourists enjoying dinner and some brews. I was lucky I arrived when I did and found a spot at the bar. A few minutes later and I would have needed to stand! The girls had to stay in the back of the truck while I ate and drank as the patio at Three Barrel is accessed by walking through the taproom and brewery. I suspect they did not mind too much, though, as the temperature was in the low 70s and it was dark.
Later that night I was sitting on the sofa in the cabin and heard what sounded like fireworks outside. Apparently the town of South Fork had postponed their July 4th fireworks until Labor Day weekend due to the big wildfire that caused the evacuation of the town for a couple weeks. I walked outside and watched the show about a half-mile behind the cabin. The dogs ran around in the adjacent field in the dark. Soon after we all crashed hard.
The next morning we were up fairly early and headed towards Creede. There was a hot-air balloon festival there and we arrived about the time the balloons were lifting off… unfortunately I did not have a chance to get a good photo of liftoff. I drove around Creede a bit but Main Street was blocked off for a soap box derby race later in the day and parking in town was already hard to find. Since it was only 8 AM I decided to drive on up the road towards Lake City to look for a spot to hike.
A few miles north of Creede I found a good spot to stop: North Clear Creek Falls. I had never heard of these falls but there was a clearly-marked sign on the highway and a wonderful parking area provided by the National Forest Service. There were no other visitors and I let the dogs run wild. I took a few photos of the falls from the observation area… the falls drop about 100 feet and were gorgeous. At first I thought there was no access to the upper creek from the observation area but the dogs found a route around the fences and were very near the water and the sheer drop-off before I noticed. I called them back and they obliged.
We hiked up the hill towards the other end of the canyon carved by North Clear Creek and took in the views.
After the falls I drove up the highway a little further and turned on a forest service road to Continental and Rito Hondo Reservoirs. The drive to Continental was not too bad but when we arrived I discovered it was inside of a fence with dozens of cattle and there was not easy access to the water — it was a very steep hill down to the shore about 300 feet below. I really did not want Lucy to drive the cattle down the hill or into the fence so we did not stop here.
I turned back and stopped at Rito Hondo reservoir which is a State Wildlife area. Technically, the dogs were not supposed to be running and swimming here but they managed not to damage any wildlife other than scaring up a few ducks.
I finally convinced the dogs to load up again after playing in the water and we drove back south through Creede again and noticed there was even less parking available than earlier. I decided to head back to South Fork and through Wolf Creek Pass again on to Pagosa Springs. On the west side of Pagosa we turned north about 20 miles and then east for almost ten miles to the Piedra River. Yes, this trip became a “tour of rivers.” We parked at the end of a road where we picked up a trail to Piedra Falls. It’s a nice hike along the river and finally a small area at the base of the falls. Being a holiday weekend there were a lot of people there, mostly ignorant Texans, so the base area was pretty crowded. We did not stay too long to avoid the dogs getting trampled by people who were not used to the altitude and hiking.
And Lucy found some crap to roll in! I convinced her to lay in the river before we took off but she still smelled.
I drove back through Pagosa Springs and had planned to stop at Pagosa Brewing Company but the temps were still in the high 80s and I did not want to leave the girls in the back of the truck so I headed on down to South Fork and the cabin. I changed into a clean shirt and the dogs passed out on the floor.
I drove back to Del Norte again for dinner and had a few more beers at Three Barrel. They were not as crowded this night and I had a lovely evening drinking a few Colorado Belgian style ales.
On Monday morning we checked out of the cabin and headed back towards Denver. The girls were both tuckered out and had to be coerced back into the truck… so there was little chance of hiking at this point. I did drive back up to Wolf Creek Pass and stopped at an observation area on the top of the pass where the girls ran a bit but were not much into it.
After a few photos we hit the road. We ran into inbound traffic just south of Fairplay and slogged along at less than 10 MPH for the next three hours before making it home.
In summary it was a great weekend. I would love tho go back in September or October to see what the area is like without the hordes of Texans everywhere.