Home > camping, hiking, hitchhiking, travel > Epic Road Trip #13: Across Colorado

Epic Road Trip #13: Across Colorado

Boy a lot has happened in the last 6 days. As I mentioned in the last post I stopped at The Ancestral Pueblo Cultural Center which apparently is rebranding but the maps haven’t kept up. There were a couple of ruined pueblos on site and the museum had tons of current artifacts. When they built the nearby reservoir they harvested all the artifacts they could find before submerging them.

The ranger recommended Sand Canyon and to start early but it was already too late for that and I hit the trail at noon. I took it slow and with a gallon of water I hiked to all the sites on the first 3.7 miles before I decided to turnaround. It was really cool being in the wilderness and finding all of these cool cave dwellings you could get fairly close too.

I was surprised I was up to 14 miles with the hiking I had done earlier and the spur trails to get to the sites. I had also missed Castle Rock Pueblo by entering on an alternate trailhead but I stopped in a winery and picked up a half bottle of a white blend to taste the local terroir. I considered a tasting but even 4 oz of wine didn’t seem wise when I was going to be doing more desert hiking.

Took me a walk to find the site which turned out to be the big rock that looked like a castle. It was sad to see it pockmarked with gunshots and you couldn’t see the ruins from outside the prohibited area.

I drove on to Hovenweep and saw in the brochure my dispersed camping was really a campsite. It was $15 which I would have paid if it had included a shower. I decided to hike the 2 mile main trail even though I was 15 miles into the day and dark was approaching. It was an amazing hike and Hovenweep is the unknown gem of the trip for sure.

After the cliff dwelling period the ancient pueblans built free standing towers right before abandoning the area and moving south into the Rio Grande basin. There is another ruin on a 4 mile trail but I left that one for next time. I took the hour plus drive back to the BLM land by Mesa Verde I’d been staying at. It was a bit of a harrowing journey with 3 episodes of mule deer in the road one where I slammed on the breaks and stopped within inches of it as it looked at me sort of dumbfounded. Even more nerve-wracking there were these birds flying in front of the van scooping insects out of the headlight glow I assume. I made it back late and slept the sleep of the just. 17 miles hiked through the desert, I’m definitely getting stronger.

I drove the Canyon of the Ancients loop the counterclockwise this time and went to Sand Canyon Pueblo. It’s excavated ruins reburied to protect it. It had a subtle beauty and good interpretive signs but the young family who hiked it after me were unimpressed.

Then I challenged some dirt roads and visited a couple more ruins. You never know what you’re going to get but Painted Hand Pueblo was especially cool with a nice freestanding tower.

I then did some driving and got a burger and green chili beer at a brewpub in Durango. Drove seven miles up a mountain and was in some beautiful Aspen/Ponderosa Pine forest and a nice cool night. I noticed I had a rapidly developing flat tire but decided to wait until morning to deal with it.

I swapped on my donut and drove back to Durango. Got a great breakfast at a diner, picked up a pair of pants at a resale shop and they fixed my tire for free. I’d hiked a piece of the Colorado Trail on my way down the mountain which was amazing and hiked the interpretive trail by the overlook on my way backup the mountain. Had a nice campfire that night which was a nice surprise being in a worse drought then what drove the Ancestral Pueblans out of the area in the 13th century.

I hiked the Log Chute Trail coming down the mountain and should have known better by the name. It was a 5 mile loop with the last bit being super steep downhill and was obviously designed with mountain biking in mind. It was a lot of loose sand and I had one bad moment but I got my feet back under me before I had a fall.

I started up 550 North and pulled into an overlook at Coal Bank Peak, steam erupted from under the hood. I popped the hood and saw a hole in my radiator hose, about the only mechanical problem I was capable of fixing. I saw an auto parts store and looked at the map and thought it was in Silverton so I hit hitchhiked there. Got a ride right of way and quicky learned Google was messing with me sending me to Silverton to turnaround and drive back to Durango.

Rather then doing that I went to an auto repair place and the old boy running the place sold me a random one for $22.00. I had a choice of 2 so I picked the longer of them. I walked about an hour before I got a ride back to my van with a dude who knew his way around cars and gave me some sage advice.

It was difficult getting at the clips and then getting the hose on. Twice I felt my composure slip a little bit and I took a few breaths and centered myself and treated it like a meditative exercise. I got it done and it heat sealed and I drove my hot and filthy self to Silverton. I searched hotels and they were all pricey so I settled for some ok pulled pork and fries and got some cool dispersed camping by the river right outside of town.

I took this as a sign that mountains were not for the Cookie Monster and considered heading for home. My ride had said only a couple of passes and 550 flattened out. My last picture wouldn’t upload so I’ll wrap up and publish. I stayed at Steamboat Springs last night and am going to camp and hike in the Medicine Bow-Rout National Forest for a couple of days and figure out my next moves. The heatwave broke here and it’s pretty nice being at some elevation. Looks hotter then he’ll everywhere else so I’ll try and stay put. Stay cool.

  1. June 18, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    It is 102 degrees as I type this, just got home from a water run. Canceled my trip home as Flo blew the engine in her car and I am helping her deal with that.

    Sounds like you’ve had some challenges but rose to the occasion, congrats. I really like that whole area North of Durango, the San Juan range. Rugged and desolate, I spent a week there back in 2008’ish. Durango struck me as AZ encroaching into CO.

    Safe travels.

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