‘ZUKFARI – Colorado
Is Using The Phrase “Rocky Mountain High” So Wrong?
Editor: Eric Bewley Story/Photo: J. Hall
GUNNISON, CO – Our initial Saturday morning trek out from eastern Oklahoma to Colorado started with the crack of lightning and a monsoon like downpour. Unfortunately, this was a forebear of the weather we would experience during most of the trip. After driving through several hail and tornado producing storms in the Oklahoma panhandle and the Colorado plains, we decided to stop for the night in Walsenburg, CO. However, the next morning the sunny and clear weather made for a scenic drive during the final leg to Gunnison.
Monday morning was bright and sunny and the first trails on the list were Tincup, Hancock and the Alpine Pass. We started from the Taylor RV park, and proceeded onto Mirror Lake where we encountered several fishermen and a pack of llamas.
I immediately noticed that Tincup was much rockier than the previous year, and it provided a substantial challenge to the less modified vehicles. I can only guess that the erosion was due to the record rainfall in the area, which had washed all the loose dirt away from the trails.
At St. Elmo several people split off to perform repairs or to recover from the rough Tincup trail. A majority of the group still drove through to Hancock and the Alpine Pass, but at the end of the day, everyone was tired of being bounced around for 8-plus hours. Therefore, we decided to take Tuesday off from the trails.
The next day was spent exploring the area west of Gunnison area, and we hiked down into the Black Canyon. However, by early afternoon another severe weather system hit the area, which dampened further exploration.
On Wednesday the severe weather continued, but we were determined to get out of our motel room and explore more of the area. We decided upon an easy, but muddy drive up to Marshall Pass.
The rain continued through the afternoon with the temps only making it into the upper 50, but once the rain broke, we were off again went to explore more of the Gunnison area.
Later that evening the vehicles camped at the Taylor RV park decided to move to the KOA Gunnison Campground, which greatly improved the communication between the group members and we began planning for Schofield Pass.
Initially, the weather on Thursday was great and the group convoyed north to Crested Butte. The trail was a nice scenic drive and there were many more flowers and foliage than there had been in 2012.
Then we entered the Devil’s Punchbowl area. Just as the Tincup-Hancock-Alpine trails had been was washed out, the Schofield Pass trail was much rockier and challenging than it had been during the previous year; it was largely unrecognizable to me. Therefore, soon after we traversed the Devil’s Punchbowl, the group split in two with the more modified vehicles going back up through the punchbowl area, and the other vehicles proceeding on into Marble, just before another 4-hour monsoon thunderstorm hit.
On the final day, a small group decided to explore the Lake City area and run the Alpine Loop. For me this was the most fun trail we ran all week. High elevations, shelf roads, ghost towns, and cute wild animals were all abundant on this trail loop. It was also warm and sunny all day long!