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Posts Tagged ‘wolf creek pass’

“I see my path but don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

A view of Wolf Creek Pass from Highway 160 — Wikimedia photo

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

The drive on Highway 160 between Cortez and Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is one of my favorites. The most scenic section is Wolf Creek Pass, a high mountain drive that takes travelers across the Continental Divide through the San Juan Mountains. I first drove this route in the 1970s when it was a simple two-lane highway, which, of course, it no longer is.

Wolf Creek Pass tunnel that was completed in 2006.

Thankfully, I never had to drive it in the winter, a trip that  C.W. McCall sings about in his song “Wolf Creek Pass.” He calls the drive “37 miles of hell.” I call it a road trip not to be missed.

Near Pagosa Springs, I took a four-mile detour off Highway 160 to visit Echo Canyon Lake State Wildlife Area. The small, but about 50-foot deep reservoir that sits above 7,000 feet in elevation, is surrounded by scenic mountains,, It is mostly used by fishermen, but is also listed as a “hot birding spot” and is one of the sites on Colorado’s birding trail maps. The latter is what brought it to my attention.

Coots at Echo Canyon Lake. — photo by Pat Bean

While I didn’t have long to explore the area, I felt well-rewarded for taking the time to visit. There was not another soul around. I had the place to myself and could drink in its peaceful scenery, and the birds, in wonderful solitude. That doesn’t happen too often these days.

Birds at the reservoir included coots with babies, yellow-headed blackbird, red-winged blackbird, redhead duck, cinnamon teal and brown-headed cowbird.

On the way back to the highway, I spotted a Lewis woodpecker, a Brewer’s blackbird and a rough-winged swallow all on the same power pole. I thought that was kind of neat. In addition to these, the other birds seen this day included house sparrow, turkey vulture, western wood peewee (my lifer at Mesa Verde), a wild turkey with two chicks, Clark’s nutcracker, kestrel, violet-green swallow, raven and magpie.  … to be continued.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: A simple way to travel https://simpletravelourway.woodpress.com/2019/03/13/car-camping-our-way/   This was my way of traveling for many years.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

*You can listen to McCall sing “Wolf Creek Pass “on YouTube 

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“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

An aerial view of Wolf Creek Pass and its ski area taken in August, 2008, after the snow melt. -- Photo by Doc Searls

Travels With Maggie*

“Way up high on the Great Divide” sang C. W. McCall in his 1975 recording of “Wolf Creek Pass.”

I experienced McCall’s lyrics,  although without the chickens, first hand this day, topping out my drive through the San Juan Mountains at 10,857 feet. Fresh snow had fallen during the night, and the trees on the sides of the steep mountains I traveled between were still draped in white.

In case you’re interested, McCall’ song can be heard at: http://tinyurl.com/3dvdo24

While the road, Highway 160, had been cleared of the storm’s droppings, it was still wet and slick – and quite icy in the two tunnels cutting through mountain rock.

Unlike the driver in McCall’s tune, however, my foot was frequently on my brakes. But since almost no other vehicles were on the road, and since I kept my speed slow enough to feel safe, my heart pounded only with the pleasant thrill of being privileged to drive through such a fantastic landscape.

I love dandelions, but then perhaps that's because I now don't have a lawn to maintain. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I passed quite a few large, scenic RV parks along my drive up and over Wolf Creek Pass, which traverses the mountains from South Fork to Pagosa Springs. But all were closed.

They reminded me why I usually took the more southerly route through New Mexico when heading northwest this time of year.

But I had no regrets. I may be an old broad, but I’m still up for an adventure.

I was quite happy, however, when I came upon the Riverside RV Park just outside Durango. It was open. While it had been a short day in miles, only 131, I was ready to take a break from sitting behind Gypsy Lee’s wheel.

And that I was assigned a site right next to a small pond, where mallards were floating, the ground was littered with dandelions, and where I could watch a robin pulling up a worm for dinner from the damp ground, was the cherry on the top of a hot fudge sundae.

Life was good once again. .

Day 8 of the journey, April 26, 2011.

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