Frank and I decided to take another ride around the area to see what we might see. Funny … In Pagosa Springs, we rarely left camp. I was content to sit next to the river, doing as little as possible. That’s not the case here. The landscape is just so unique … or maybe it’s just unique to me. Regardless, at about 10:30 am, the two of us headed out to find the spot that Dan mentioned as a good place to see all of La Veta.
It was actually pretty close to town … down a side street, up a hill and there we were. It was a nice view, but I couldn’t make out much of the town since most of what you saw was trees. So I decided a higher vantage point was necessary. I’ll say right up front that the photo of La Veta was pretty much forgotten once he headed out of town.
We went south … but instead of staying on Route 12 (which meant veering right as you reached the end of main street), we turned left and found ourselves on a gravel road heading due south and straight into ranch land.
Once we were out aways from town, I happened to look up at the peaks. The Cahatoya were enshrouded in clouds. Had to stop and take a couple more shots.
There are people who feel exhilarated just by being able to wake up and see the mountains outside their front door … or the diehards, who aren’t happy unless their waking up smelling pine mixed with other mountain scents. You know what I mean? “Mountain people”! Well, I’m not one of them. That’s just not me. As I’ve said before, I’m an “ocean” guy. The scent I long for is salt air .. the sound is that of the surf. So I am really surprised at how much I’ve been enjoying this area! Never thought I’d enjoy seeing rock formations jutting out of the side of the mountain the way I have. Or get a thrill seeing a mountain lake. Or mountains enshrouded in clouds.
I don’t know how far we went. You can’t drive fast on a dirt road, especially when you’re looking at everything but the road for most of the time (fortunately, we encountered a car about once every 10 minutes or so. We probably drove for about 30 minutes. We stopped for probably another 15-20 minutes along the way, taking different shots here and there.
We encountered another dike along the way. Again, I don’t know what it is about these massive stone structures that I find so interesting. I read up a little about them – they’re formed when magma is forced up through fissures in the ground, or in the side of a mountain. Another article I read compared them to squeezing mud in your hand and watching it ooze out from between your fingers. I dunno … they’re really quite strking. For me, I think it generates a similar feeling to looking at the stars when you’re away from the city. The sky is just filled with them – you can’t help but lose any feeling of self-importance when you look at them. This particular one had a huge breach in it towards the end of the formation. I wish there was a house or some other structure nearby that would have given some perspective on how tall these things are.
On the other side of the road, I saw a red house up on a hill, with pasture land below it. My photo doesn’t do it justice. The folks living there wake up to some beautiful scenery most every morning. There’s one downside to all of this (and quite frankly, it’s got me a little bummed out): I checked on the weather averages for the La Veta area: over the last ten years, they’ve averaged 109.9 inches of snow per year. Repeat: 109.9 inches of snow a year!!!!! That’s a skosh about 9 feet! As much as I love this area, there’s no way I can consider living here. Dan, my RV neighbor said, “Well it doesn’t stay on the ground very long.” I dunno, Dan. Hard to imagine dealing with it, no matter how long it’s on the ground!
On the way back, a couple of the neighbors came out to the end of the pasture to say “hello”. Frank was mesmerized … I dont know if he’s ever gotten this close to a horse before (he doesn’t like to talk too much about his life before our meeting at the Humane Society). I had to hold his leash to keep him from jumping out of the car window!
Whitey was a little shy … she kept behind her friend the whole time we were talking to them. I finally managed to get a photo of the two of them as she peeked over the other one. After that, we said our goodbyes and headed off.
Not being satisified by one short trip down a dead-end country road, we decided to take the next road east … County Road 362 … as we headed back towards town … I wanted to get higher in elevation, with the idea of taking a photo of the town from high above. The Garmin said that it also dead-ended just a little ways ahead … so we took another turn south on County Road 360. This one looked real promising. We started heading up a hill almost immediately.
Once again, we were traveling through pasture land. But the pastures were getting smaller and smaller as we got further into “hill country”. And as we approached the Cahatoya, I was struck by the groves of Aspen trees that were cropping up all over the side of the west mountain. It was just beautiful!
We could have kept going on this road … we actually encountered a number of roads that look appealing, and we might go back to check them out later in our stay … but I wanted to get up higher! The next left looked promising – it looked like it was going to take us up to the houses I could see on the ridge above us … and it didn’t disappoint!
We were really heading upwards now. More rocky outcroppings appeared as we headed further down the road. I happened to glance up at the ridge above us and saw this one lone pine grasping onto the rocks above. It reminded me of the famou Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive south of Monterey, California. The only thing missing was an ocean in the background!
All of a sudden, the gravel road gave way to dirt. I remember thinking, “This looks promising!” Frank did remind me about the last time this happened when we wound up traversing Cordova Pass, but since he wasn’t willing to take the wheel,, I overruled him!
The road from that point on leveled out (much to Frank’s approval). It was rutted out in places, but still passable … and that didn’t last too long. We found ourselves at about 8,300 feet altitude and going through high pasture land. We took a turn and found ourselves right at the base of East Cahatoya!
We hadn’t seen a car pass by for about a half hour. Hell, we hadn’t seen a house or any other sign of civilization once we went a couple of miles in after that last left turn. So I was a bit surprised to see three guys working in the field once we made it up over a small hill. I don’t think I was surprised as they were to see me, though – this old guy with a dog in a Hyundai out in the middle of nowhere. They waved, I slowed down and lowered my window. “Just out doing some sightseeing!” I said. “Pretty country, that’s a fact,” said the one fellow who started to come over to the fence alongside the road.
“So if I keep going down this road, where will I end up?” I asked. One of the other guys yelled out, “Depends on which way you turn! This road dead-ends into Country Road 340. Turn left, you’ll hit Walsenberg … turn right, you’ll eventually wind up in the San Isabel Forest!” At this point, Frank was shaking his head and muttering “turn left, turn left” under his breath.
“So anything up ahead that might cause problems for my Hyundai? We did Cordova Pass a few days ago and I want to make sure I’m not heading into anything like that again!” As long as these guys were going to be helpful …
“You drove across Cordova Pass in that car????” I have a feeling the locals are gonna be talking for years about the old hippie-looking guy without any sense, driving around his Hyundai around in places he probably shouldn’t have gone. The first guy said, “You shouldn’t have any trouble going into Walsenberg … just watch out for some of the rocks in the road ahead – they’ll take out your oil pan if your not paying attention to the road.”
We thanked them and headed on. I assured Frank we’d be in Walsenberg later that day.
We didn’t go too much further before stopping to take another photo, just to show we were there … sort of like the Cordova Pass sign, and to give anyone reading this blog a shot of the road we were on. It seemed like a great place for Frank and I to take a pit stop as well – we had been in the car for about 3 hours at this point and Frank wasn’t the only one that had to hit a rock! :o)
Once we got going again, I was really grateful that the last fellow had said something about watching for rocks. Not that I was planning on turning the trip into a road rally … I had already planned on being careful … but the forewarning was enough extra incentive to watch our step. Sure enough, there were three or four rocks that would have done us in had we not been looking for them, but they were easy enough to navigate around.
Once we hit County Road 340, we found ourselves back on gravel again. Frank gave me a dirty look when I turned the steering wheel to the right at the intersection, but once I turned left, he knew I was just messing with him and started wagging his tail. Frank’s funny … there are times when we’re driving that he’ll all of a sudden stand with his front legs on the console between our two seats and try to get in my face. Not good while we’re traveling on interstate. He also doesn’t like me to sneeze … he’ll get this really worried look on his face and do the console thing whenever I sneeze in the car. And he’ll get a bit incensed when I tell him, “Thank you for your concern, but please sit down!” Maybe his former companion died of the flu, or something.
Anyhow, we headed back towards Walsenberg. I took a few more shots along the way. Dan and I had talked a couple days before about the geology around here and he referred to the area as “high desert”. Traveling down this dirt road, I could really see it. The gulches made me think “desert,” as did some of the plants along the way. We came across a rocky outcropping that was covered with cacti and other desert plants, too.
The whole time we were driving, I was looking left and right, back into the fields we’d pass, hoping to find some wildlife. I’m still looking for that bear or elk to appear at some point (hopefully we’re not seeing the former anywhere near our tent!). The only thing we saw was a few deer and the occasional herd of horses grazing along the side of the road.
We did see one little fanciful item that caught us by surprise. Out in the middle of nowhere, right past a curve in the road, we came across a fir tree decked out in Christmas attire! There wasn’t a ranch or farm house to be seen anywhere nearby! It really brought a smile to my face … somebody sure had some fun!
We arrived safe and sound in Walsenberg about a half-hour later. Stopped at the 7-Eleven … picked up a soft drink for me, some water for Frank, and then headed back to La Veta and our temporary home.
Here are a few more shots we took along the way – a couple of deer, one of the horses that were grazing right next to the road, and of course, that September Christmas tree, out in the middle of nowhere!
We’re about to head out again. Today’s trip will be west, into the foothills of the San Juan mountains. Depending on how late we are, I’d like to stop at Great Dunes National Park. Imagine – the tallest sand dunes in North America and we’re 1,000 miles from the nearest seaside! I saw the turnoff for it on the way to La Veta, just over the pass. (If we don’t make it there today, we’ll visit before we leave the area.