Friday, May 26, 2006

Alaska Day 8-10

Tues May 23 – Engine behaved even with climbing. Sam fished – caught rainbow trout and brook trout.
Wed May 24, 2006 – Jake’s morning walk went past the duck pond at the campground, where he saw two geese. He thinks he will “make a dog,” to quote our friend David Harwell.

Can Alaska be more beautiful than Creede? We had an early morning stop at the Forest Service to see if Rat Creek 4x4 Road was open. It is a 4WD only trail, but probably impassable because of melting snow. With that warning, we began the 17 mile Bachelor Historic Tour which took us to 11,000 feet and past abandoned silver miles and amethyst mines. The one-lane two-way traffic road showed us awesome rock cliffs and rushing streams, which flow into the Rio Grande. The marmot (sp) is native to the area and resembles a beaver, but with a bushy tail. Near the end of the tour we drove thru a cemetery where Bob Ford’s grave is. Famous for shooting Jesse James in the back, it is told that his body was dug up by his wife and was moved elsewhere.

Late lunch was back at the RV park with Sam deep frying his catch of yesterday, and Inez making her tasty broccoli/craisin salad. Dinner tonight is on our own, as Sam is fishing again.

I spent this afternoon tying the muffler to the exhaust pipe. I used a ratchet strap to pull it together and then secured it with a two bands of stainless steel hose clamps. I had bought a dozen 5.5 to 7 inch ones at a hardware store in Alamosa this morning. Maybe it will hold until we can get it in for service.

Thurs May 25 - The adventure for the day was a sightseeing trip with Sam and Inez, making a big circle from Creede thru Silverton, Durango, Pagosa Springs, South Fork and return. We drove Hwy 149 to a turnoff just before Lake City to Hwy 30. Our first stop was a waterfall with the tourist viewing point fenced because of a steep drop off. A monument stone read Ferguson with birth and death dates of a man on one side, and only the birth date on the other. We wonder if it was placed there because he plunged to his death there. It was also the site of a toll road built from Lake City to the north at a cost of $5000, and Post-Pleistocene period artifacts have been found. We crossed Spring Creek Pass at the Continental Divide at 10,900 ft., and lost count of the waterfalls. At Slumgullion Pass (el 10,530) we saw snow banks.

On entering Hwy 30, the road narrowed and became gravel. We saw the once thriving mining town of Sherman, mostly abandoned now, from a scenic cliff. A confusing sign told us about only 4WD vehicles and 21 miles. We assumed it meant 21 miles of rough road. So far so good, we came upon a beaver pond that Jake needed to wade in belly deep, and we had a time getting him to go in the clear water to wash off the slime. Had to throw a stick into the clear water for him to retrieve. The road took us up and down sides of mountains, riding on a one-lane road, but with two-way traffic. Now and then we came to a wide place where two vehicles could pass. No guard rails!!! The road became treacherous with large rocks and boulders, although we could see the tracks of grading tractors that had improved it. A few places were so scary and narrow, that if you had a rock on the mountain side of the road, you could not move to the left, as the next step down was hundreds of feet below. We did meet a few vehicles, but always at wide places, so no-one had to back up.

One couple we met asked about our trip thus far, where we entered the road and what time we started. We now had been traveling two hours on gravel. The laughed and told us we had adventure ahead, as we would climb to 13,000 feet and would need all the clearance our Jeep could give, and would take three more hours. At this point we were in denial of this info, as it was near noon and lunch was to have been in Silverton. They wished us well. They were almost right, as it only took another hour and a half, but we bit many fingernails from this point on. Some hairpin turns were over boulders -- unbelievable! We only slid or spun wheels a couple of times and thanked the Lord for 4WD. Lots of very tall snow sticks. At Cinnamon Pass (el 12,559) there was lots of snow left on the mountains, but it was icy rather than powder. We stopped to view and noticed some interesting curves coming down the mountain. Then we saw the reason: a skier on top had made the tracks and was preparing to descend again. He had to walk up there because was no lift. After a long time (working up his courage?) he started down. A beautiful, uneventful run.

We continued on, finally giving in to one of Inez's granola bars she had thoughtfully brought along. We survived the remainder of the road, even tho our speed was only 1 or 2 mph most of the time. Aspen and Doug Fir trees contributed to the beauty of the area. The adventure turned out to be a Jeep Road with signs prohibiting any vehicle not a 4x4.

When we arrived at Silverton, Wilma kissed the ground. Anticlimactically, we drove through Wolf Creek Pass and saw more snow. A quick tour of the hot bathing pools at Pagosa Springs, and then on to Creede for a light dinner at the picnic table.

Pictures are here.

Walldog, Willie and Jake

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