6: The Great Colorado Expedition of 2012, pt6...on to Schofield Pass

Ranger Joe

Feed the Rangers, not the wildlife!
Jan 27, 2012
Quick links to all trip reports in this series:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

When we last left Eli and Sarah, their buggy had broken down along the side of the road and a kindly stranger, wearing nothing but a kilt and a "Miss Nebraska Bovine Queen 2012" sash draped over his ...

Oh, wait, wrong thread...

Greetings again, fellow Liberteers, for yet another adventure in the mountains of Colorado. The Jeep Jamboree is over and we're headed north for Carbondale, between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

Our plan was to head north out of Ouray towards Montrose on US 550, but north of Ridgway we ran across the Owl Creek Pass road. Here we see a few of the locals out for a Sunday stroll.

"What're YOU lookin' at?"

Ridgway and the surrounding area were featured in the original True Grit with John Wayne and Glen Campbell. This is Deb's Meadow, the site of the climactic confrontation between John Wayne and Robert Duvall. The day before our first Black Bear run we were invited out to dinner with Chris Timmes and some of the other trail leaders to a restaurant in Ridgway, which featured a painted brick wall that had been used in the film. At the time of filming, the wall was an exterior, and the restaurant was built next to it later, incorporating the wall as part of the decor. The restaurant's name? "The True Grit Cafe". Linda had a giant poster of Rooster Cogburn staring over her shoulder the entire evening. The steaks were excellent.


The large rock behind the sign was also used in the movie...I didn't know that when I went behind it to relieve myself.

The road was a very easy dirt road, well graded and winding through a national forest and rangeland.

When we hit the main road leading back to Montrose, I noticed this huge valley filled with thousands of sheep...this image only shows about a fifth of the entire view, with this density of sheep all the way across the valley. Linda's eyes lit up when she saw all that potential fiber on the hoof.

They've been having a drought in Colorado, and nothing demonstrates that more than this reservoir, reduced to little more than a mud flat with a meager stream running through it. This reservoir is, or was, the Paonia Reservoir along SR 133 between Paonia and Redstone.

In Redstone, we saw these coke ovens being restored alongside the road. The coal for these ovens came from mines near Paonia.

Driving north out of Redstone, we saw two individuals walking down along the Crystal River, carrying what appeared to be antique furniture. As it turned out, the guy had a chair and the woman had this spinning wheel. Linda immediately identified it as an Ashford Country Spinner spinning wheel with hydronium isotope restabilized spindles, oxflax renovian fender pedals and torquometric reuptake modulators...or something like that.

The guy also had a Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 18-200 VR lens...or something like that. As best as we could figure, they were either doing a product shoot for a local yarn shop, or it was a hot date between the photographer and spinner. As we know, those kind of relationships never work.

We reached Carbondale without incident, then started out the next morning back south towards Marble in showers and clouds, with a dusting of snow in the higher elevations, but better weather was to move in later. We were headed for the quasi-ghost town of Crystal , then on to Crested Butte by way of Schofield Pass.

I had driven this road in the early '90s with my parents, in Dad's brand new Ford Explorer...it would be my first official offroad driving adventure.

Most people drive up here to see this building...the Crystal Mill, also known as the Lost Horse Mill. It really wasnt a mill, but a big air compressor driven by a waterwheel. The air was used to power mining machinery.

This was one of my dad's favorite places.

We posed for some publicity stills.

One more for the road. Jeep Jamboree USA will be running a brand new Jamboree next summer called Roof of the Rockies, based out of Snowmass, which will include a trip up here.

Linda broke out one of her drop spindles and whipped up some yarn while I was out shooting. She also carries a portable spinning wheel in the back of the Libby.

More aspen.

Your signs don't frighten us! We're Liberteers! We headed off towards the Devil's Punchbowl and Schofield Pass.

Heading downhill along the Crystal River.

We stopped at the bottom and had punch in the Lunchbowl.

A trio of ATVs came down from the pass and continued down towards Crystal.

The trail switches sides of the canyon at this very narrow bridge.

We met more ATVs on the way up out of the canyon. They were kinda freaked out by how narrow and steep the road was. We waited for them. They got past us with no problem.

Another waterfall near the top of the canyon. There's a stream crossing near here that can cause problems if you run the road from Schofield Pass towards Crystal...it tends to get your brakes wet.

Fun with two polarizing filters...when combined, they work like a variable neutral density filter, allowing me to drop my shutter speed to over one second, even in bright sun.

More warning signs. Meh. The road isn't all that bad, but like Black Bear, it has a bad reputation since a lot of people have been killed here (7 in one vehicle). It's steep, it's narrow, it's rocky. It's also a heck of a lot of fun.

Footage of the fun part. Also, nine minutes fifty two seconds of your life you'll never get back.

Rain moved back in, and we had yet another windshield wiper failure.

We returned to Carbondale by way of Crested Butte and the Kebler Pass road, a well graded dirt road through the national forest. We saw more sheep, to Linda's delight.

Next up, Eli and Sarah are recruited by their ultra-conservative grandfather to cut the beards off non-believers. Oh, and we visit the Maroon Bells and hit the slopes of Aspen. Stay tuned.

Quick links to all trip reports in this series:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9
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