I woke from a dream of small streams and high country meadows, but found myself warm and comfortable in the cabin still basking in the glow of five days of big river fishing and shared family time. I listened for the sound of the river but caught the sound of rain pattering on the roof as well as the comforting rush of the river. It took a little while for the thought of rain to soak into my brain. I thought of my backpack sitting stuffed and ready by the back door and then thought of the five mile hike …….. in the rain… … . I rolled over and fell back asleep only to wake several hours later with the rain still falling. As I studied the clouds draped like shawls around the shoulders of the mountains, rain fell in sheets at the head of the valley and no sign of sunlight was to be found. I shivered at the chill in the air and checked the temperature at a cool 42 degrees. Mom was already turning off the water and shutting down the cabin for her trip home… … but camping in the cold pouring rain wasn’t going to happen either … … so yet again on this trip, it was time for a change in plans. The good news is that I didn’t have anybody to meet or any plans that couldn’t be changed … … which is in my opinion one of life’s greatest luxuries… free to do anything I wanted … in Colorado of all places… … indeed even in the rain … life is good.
With time on my hands I decided to drive the “Bachelor Loop” above Creede. I hadn’t done it in years and thought it would be a great way to spend a rainy autumn afternoon, little did I know that it would be one of the prettiest decisions of the trip. Creede’s beginning was as a mining town from the silver rush in the early 1890’s and the “Bachelor Loop” was a four wheel drive loop road that showed off the mines and history of those by-gone boom town days. The ingenuity and tenacity of those old miners is amazing. Seeing the places they built the mines and what it must have taken to survive and carve a living out of the hard rocks of these mountains has always stirred my imagination and really brought history to life for me. I having been watching these mines for over forty years, watching them slowly decay and fall apart, returning to the very mountains they sprang from. So I am always worried about how much will be left when I round the curve and stand at the bottom of the mountain looking up at them … … but the image of them always proves to take my breath away and make me smile in amazement.
I drove on up the mountain road past the mines and found that the true treasure of these mountains was scatted all around me … the aspen trees shimmered like flowing, glowing gold in the wind. It was one of those sites that stop you dead in your tracks in total awe of the picturesque scene around you. I literally stopped in the middle of the road to take these shots.
The scenery from the top of the mountain above the mines was just as spectacular as the drive up. The gray chill of the clouds and rain couldn’t stop the blazing fire of the aspen leaves and it left sights that burned deep into my memories.
Standing at the top of the mountain looking down the shafts of the old mines was just to much for me as I went hiking and exploring in the rain. It truly amazes me what these men were able to accomplish in the 1890’s in a harsh and unforgiving climate. Greed drives amazing feats sometimes.
As I headed down the mountain I pulled into the old Creede cemetery to pay my respects to several family friends that lie there. Memories of the old wrangler that first taught me to ride a horse mingled with ghosts of the various miners and ranchers that had settled this country … … their ghosts were floating in the mists that shrouded the cemetery and they swirled peacefully around me.
The last person I wanted to pay my respects too in this cemetery was a bamboo rod maker … Jim Schaaf was recently laid to rest in his beloved Creede and it seemed right and natural to pay my respects to the man who had built the very rod that has brought me so much joy over the years and which I would be fishing with for the next few days. I looked in vain for a headstone for him but never did find it but I figured that I was close enough and was pretty sure he could hear my thanks and acknowledgement of his skill and expertise.
By the time I had finished my “tourist tour” it was late afternoon but still raining and cold and I decided camping didn’t sound like much fun. So I headed up the valley toward the high country and stopped at an old guest ranch that had been entertaining guests to this valley since before the miners arrived in 1892. And the cabins looked like they had been there from the very beginning but they were priced right and were warm and dry, which on a day like it was that day can be a major attraction. I managed to fish Clear Creek for a few hours in the rain. It was swollen and off color but I managed to get two fish, a rainbow and brown to rise so I was content with my day. Top that off with grilled steaks and my usual after dinner cigar and bourbon and I was feeling as happy and content as I could remember for quite some time. The old cabin was pure old school country so Billy Joe Shaver was the musical accompaniment of the night and I faded to sleep that night with songs like “Live Forever” “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” and “Moonshine and Indian blood” echoing in my head and raindrops beating their own tune on the old tin roof.
I woke up early next morning which had dawned cold and chill with the clouds still clinging in drifting ropes of mist on the sides of the mountains but there was tell tale blue skies shining though and I could tell the rain was lifting … and so were my spirits.
I knew the stream that I had originally planned to hike into was one of the slowest clearing streams in the area and I knew that the higher I could get the faster the streams would clear. So yet again plans changed and I headed to the high country above the reservoir. The scenery was once again the star of the show as I slowly drove up the mountains dodging the water filled puddles and stopping frequently to take pictures which when launched on my laptop screensaver would hopefully sustain me through the next 12 months of flat land living. I had trouble limiting them to just a few to share with you but here are three.
I rounded the corner and saw fresh snow from last nights storms in the high country it was so pretty that it almost made your eyes hurt and certainly made your heart skip a beat. I spent 30 minutes or so just soaking in the different soaring views. Everywhere I turned my eyes was an amazing view.