Summer is the season for high country backroads and trails. Inaccessible roads and trails during winter melted out late this year but are now providing amazing things to see and do. From now through sometime in October or in to early November, find a road or a trail and make a spontaneous trip. If you have 4 wheel drive, great! Accessibility to some crazy roads are available. Not my style as I am usually on foot, but as it is, I have taken my car onto some pretty gnarly roads. My front wheel drive Honda becomes a bit of a four wheel drive. To drive these roads, requires talent, patience with slow speeds and learning how to pick your lines until you see the spot where you can no longer proceed. Park.
“Keep taking those backroads, that’s all I ever heard her say...”. From the song Black Rose by Sad Cafe. When the trails and backroads are calling me, I often get the song stuck in my head, which is okay because it is a good song. (Can be found on YouTube.). The most EXTREME 4 wheel drive is up toward Lake Como and Blanca Peak in the San Luis Valley. Use caution, or do as I did, park low and continue on foot to the lake. The three miles to Zapata Falls is a slow rocky road, steep in places but there are always plenty of regular passenger cars in the lot. Worth the trip. Easier routes are dirt roads like Embargo Creek Road for hiking, fishing, and finding Fremont’s winter campsite from 1849 that I found earlier this summer.
Remote backroads include the road that follows the Alamosa River up toward Platoro Reservoir and Summitville, an old mining area and though a waste cleanup site, is an interesting place to see and be. Creede’s old mining district also has amazing and steep roads but are easily done in passenger cars though some spurs oﬀ those roads require serious 4 wheel drive jeeps. Consult maps and local oﬃces of the Forest Service and BLM for additional information. Much fun to be had!
Recent backroads for me have been in the western part of the San Luis Valley and up near the Continental Divide oﬀ of Wolf Creek Pass. Opting to park at the top of Wolf Creek Pass is an opportunity to hike the Continental Divide Trail either north or south. My trek last week was the north side. Met a few small groups and an older mountain biker from Michigan who was a solid rider, from his looks and his nice bike, but he did mention the diﬃcult breathing issues. I told him, well, you are at almost 12,000 feet! We had a good chat about the Midwest and as we had met at a trail junction, I pointed him in the right direction to get back to the top of Wolf Creek Pass. What tremendous 360 views you will have after hiking under two miles. HINT - it is wild fruit season! Look for wild strawberries and raspberries along the trail. What they lack in size to store bought farm varieties they make up for by having 20 times the flavor! (Not a scientific study per se).
Days later, I thought I would drive a few backroads to find a newer, though roundabout way to get from Point A to Point B. What fun as I drove during one monster monsoon afternoon and came down a wet, muddy, almost slimy road to find a roaring flash flood. The roaring mud and water mix had the unique color of a fufu coﬀee drink but it also would have been deadly for anyone caught unprepared by this crazy torrent. Five miles or so later, where the storm did not hit, roads were back to almost dry.
All of one day later, I was on another backroad in the west part of the valley. Saw plenty of grazing deer, two separate herds of Texas Longhorns (which makes sense as nearly every third vehicle in summer has Texas license plates!). Got out of the car to take a picture but then when the bull stared me down, I was reminded of the tourists who get to close to Buﬀalo and are lucky if they survive. This bull was no less intimidating as I looked at the barbed wire fence between him and me. Not going to stop him! Back to the car. Next up a few miles further, a car in front of me put on their brakes near a heavily forested area. A dozen or so wild turkeys were parading across the road. Soon, on a small ranch I see the cutest 3 foot tall pony. We got out to pet her but within two minutes, cold monstrous raindrops chased her to the barn and Elizabeth and I back to the car. We were rewarded with a double rainbow against the backdrop of blue black storm clouds.
All of my ramblings are really about encouraging you to get out and try a new backroad, hopefully somewhere in the boonies with no expectations except a new adventure. Happy Trails and backroads!