Last week I mentioned that a friend and I were headed to southern and western Colorado to retrace some of the Old Spanish Trail (OST). We did it Thursday and Friday. We had planned for Saturday as well, but it is winter in Colorado, and our plans changed.
Why the Old Spanish Trail? I am a “Rut Nut”, a person interested in the historic pioneer trails that knitted our country together. I am a member of the Cherokee Trail chapter of the Oregon California Trails Association (OCTA). I like tracing our history and following the trails is a good excuse to get out and explore. It is a way of providing a bit of structure to wandering around.
While conducting field trips at Four Mile which is a stage stop on the Cherokee Trail and has the oldest standing structure in Denver (1859) I give the students some information on the early Hispanic settlers in Colorado. That got me interested in the OST. As a western Colorado native who grew up knowing nothing of the trail that ran right through my home town, I decided to do field research, meaning wander around the vicinity of the trail.
Dan and I headed down I-25 to Pueblo, then west on US50 to Texas Creek, where we went south through the Wet Mountain Valley. Neither of us had been there so why not? We then hit US 160 at La Veta Pass, the trail and trade route from eastern Colorado to the San Luis Valley. The OST came up the Rio Grande River from Santa Fe into the valley then went over Cochetopa Pass; at 10,000 feet, much lower than the other routes over the Continental Divide.
The trail went into the Gunnison River drainage at Gunnison, where we stayed and had a fine chicken mole enchilada dinner at a local restaurant. The trail went down to Montrose, skirting the Gunnison Gorge through Cimarron. We went another way, going up from Sapinero to Crawford and Hotchkiss, farming and ranching towns in Delta County. Pretty country and a winding road, made more pretty with snow cover and low-hanging clouds.
The museum in Delta was closed, as were the museums in Del Norte and Saguache. Delta is the junction of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison rivers. Fort Rubidoux, also called Fort Uncompahgre, was nearby, and the trail continued down the Gunnison River to Escalante Canyon.
- Escalante Canyon
The canyon and neighboring Dominguez Canyon are named for the Franciscan Friars who traveled through the area in 1776, following the route of the OST to near Grand Junction. I have been past the turnoff to Escalante Canyon hundreds of times, and never went there until last week. I had been missing a magical place. The creek, the red cliffs, and the ranch country are just amazing, especially coming from the rather bleak desert between Delta and Grand Junction.
Back on that bleak desert, we came to the Fool’s Hill overlook, with a view of the ruts of the Salt Lake Wagon Road and probably the route of the OST, which was a pack trail. The hill is steep and east-facing, up through the Mancos shale, when wet something like grease, not dirt. This was a great view for a rut nut.
We went into Grand Junction, where the museum was open, and the rain was falling. The museum is worth a stop, providing the background we needed for our tour. We had planned on staying in Grand Junction then going over Douglas Pass on Saturday on the way home, but the weather said no, and we ran just ahead of the storm to Denver.
What does this have to do with caregiving, aging, and retirement? We got respite from caregiving, found stimulating activity for aging brains, had fun, ate well, and learned. Any questions?