Uncle Bud’s Hut Trip
Part 3, A Walk in the Park, to the Top o’ the Rockies
Rogue Carver on the Loose in America
A Tale of Two Day Hikes, Day 2
In deciding exactly which terrain to cover on our second day the strenuous exertions of the previous day’s ascent of 12,800 ft Mt. Galena played heavily in my decision, not to say my legs, heels, feet, and anything else that assumed a significant role in the day’s activities. Consequently when the idea struck me to tackle what amounted to a stroll in the park (in comparison) by rambling along a wide open and relatively smooth, even-surfaced wagon track… the notion, shall we say, held an immediate and strong appeal.
Having made an impressively early start from the hut Joseph and I took to the car and within 30 minutes had positioned ourselves at a point where the road finally dissolved into raw riverbed, at which point we parked up, posed for a few selfies (as there was not a soul around for us to ask to take our picture) and prepared ourselves for the hike. I did however manage to capture one picture of my son that I thought stood out from the rest…
Strangely enough however, after less than a quarter of a mile of the rough riverbed stuff the road suddenly came to its senses and smoothed out… still rough in places but nothing the Infinity couldn’t have taken in its stride.
The old wagon road however proved a real pleasure to hike. How different a road looks when hiked as opposed to driven, and how glad we were that we were walking rather than driving or being driven.
Constructed as a fail-safe against the potential of financial ruin should a collapse of the the Midland Railroad’s tunnel under the Continental Divide close the line for an extended period of time the road was constructed to the railroad’s own exacting engineering standards. Such was the company’s concerns fearing a collapse or blockage of the long vulnerable tunnel that they went to the extraordinary length of creating this marvelous alternative route… so that if push came to shove they could ferry people and freight over and around the incapacitated tunnel.
I’m not sure whether they ever needed to use the road in earnest but as a hiking path it proved to be a joy to hike, with breathtaking views in every direction, all the while maintaining a steady but quite undemanding pace.
In contrast to the previous day’s exertions strolling the broad, graded wagon track more resembled a walk in the park than a hike to the top of the world. With its secure footing and wide proportions the upper reaches of Hagerman Pass Road enabled Joseph and I to hike side-by-side in a most agreeable manner, chatting, exchanging viewpoints and observations, recalling old familiar family tales, and relishing in the startling peace and quiet of our surroundings.
Unbeknown to either of us, awaiting us at the summit? A spanking brand new sign (not a single bullet hole to be seen) demarking the actual spot on which water will ultimately be sent packing into either Pacific or Atlantic oceans. Of course we are all well aware that the mighty Colorado no longer makes regular contact with its prescribed ocean, but at least this sign will serve to remind us that it would be a good idea if one day in the not too distant future it once again will.
When we first hunkered down against the pressing wind and commenced to devour our lunch our primary objective, or turn-around point, was still the rise you can see in the background – simply designated as ‘Divide 12,259’ on the National Geographic 126 Holy Cross Ruedi Revervoir Trails Illustrated Map. However as the breeze gradually began to pick up speed we both took note of the thundercaps broiling high into the crystal clear air.
I always find it odd how we all generally tend to avoid one another when negotiating our day-to-day world, and yet when we happen to stumble across one another in some windswept wilderness we immediately click like old school buddies. And such was the case as a handful of strangers stopped for a friendly chat with a dad and son sprawled by a sign by the side of the road at the top of the world, busily cramming food, and staring intently at the clouds.
By our last bite any thought of climbing higher than our current position at the summit of historic Hagerman Pass was out of the question. So with the weather steadily closing in we began to retrace our steps, back down the lovely wide graded wagon road and on to our parked car.
A nice surprise courtesy of the return leg was the bird’s eye view of Mt. Galena and the landscape we had hiked the day before.
This was the very terrain through which we picked our way… along the rocks on the horizon on the way up, and by traversing the hinterland on our way down.
Mt. Galena, a beautiful mountain indeed; gracious and unassuming, and yet it has it all… in a pathless Lost Horizon self-contained miniature world kind of way.
Although perhaps a pale shadow of the extravaganza the Rocky Mountains throws each August the lively flickering carpet of rusty orange grass leaves fluttered and glinted off the sun in a shimmering display of flamboyant Autumn hues.
The clouds however continued to gather, and gather, until they sensed a power vacuum and made a rush for the valley floor like you wouldn’t believe… rushing over Mt. Massive (at the top of the above picture) and spilling across the wide valley like a horde of rampaging Mongol warriors: the consequences of which we are about to witness.
Back along the old Midland Railroad track bed we sped – a beautiful road I might add and a joy to drive – but the above photo was taken earlier in the day, much earlier, and as the car made its swift progress along the arrow-straight graded avenue it was to the accompaniment of a boisterous tail wind driven by ominous, nay, increasingly threatening skies.
Next: see for yourself just what happens around these parts when seemingly innocuous-looking clouds can remain benign one day, only to billow themselves a set of thunder caps and go berserk the next. It’s all really quite shocking, that’s all I can say; shocking.
Chow for now.