Deep Creek, Colorado
River National Forest, northwest of Gypsum, Colorado
Access: Take Exit 133 (Dotsero) exit off I-70 west of Gypsum and head north along the Colorado River for ~2 miles, then turn west on 17 Rd (Coffee Pot Rd) and continue for 1.9 miles to the first switchback in the road where a forest service info board, outhouse and parking lot signal the TH.
Maps: USGS 1:24K Broken Rib Creek, Dotsero
Traillhead: NAD83 zone 13 320187e 4394185n
Trail: From the parking lot, cross Deep Creek immediately and pick up a well-defined trail that hugs the north bank of Deep Creek for many miles, rugged in places with many low-hanging limbs. The hike begins on BLM land, and crosses into the White River National Forest after ~6 miles. You can also start out on the south side on a well-defined trail, but steep bluffs will force a crossing at some point. In May, our crossing was not simple, as the water was knee-deep with a very strong current. We didn’t follow the trail all the way to Deep Lake, but rather turned around after ~ 5miles.
Dog Regulations: None posted
Weather: National Weather Service Point Forecast
NOAA Snow Conditions
Friday, May 16
I was not at all familiar with the area, and had only a brief description from Pearson and Fielders’ Colorado’s Canyon Country. We picked up a trail behind a Forest Service sign near the large parking area and headed west along the south bank of Deep Creek through cottonwoods and Douglas fir until the trail shot straight up the hill and out of sight. We attempted to follow this for 50 yards, but it was ridiculously steep and the soil crumbled beneath our feet and slid away. The guide stated that the trail followed the south bank, so we just bushwhacked along the shore through thick water birch and conifers until it became obvious that there was no trail to follow. We could see that the opposite shore’s vegetation was much less dense, consisting mostly of widely-spaced junipers, so we endeavored to cross over. Andra crossed the 15-foot wide stream with ease via a large downed cottonwood. Makenzie simply swam across. I knew Frank, who is 10 and showing his age, could neither swim the swift current, nor safely cross via the log, so I looked for a ford in the nearby bend. I removed my boots and tested the crossing but the current was really swift and I knew after one step I had no hope of making it across upright. I went upstream and found a reasonable spot where the water was only knee-deep and crossed over. My feet froze, and I regretted not bringing sandals. I made it to the opposite shore, and coaxed Frank to follow. He could have managed, but he wasn’t about to try, instead he just stood there looking lost and pathetic on the opposite bank. I walked back through the rushing water, picked him up, and carted him over. In the process of helping me up the opposite shore, Andra slid into the water, dunking her boot and soaking her sock. Just not a pretty crossing.
We found a well-trod path on the north side of the creek, and followed it across mellow terrain decorated with pinyon pines, juniper, Douglas fir, bunchgrasses, mountain sagebrush and small forbs just budding out into green. Below us to the south, cottonwoods, willows and aspen lined the watercourse. To the north, steep limestone cliffs rose up a thousand feet, dotted with junipers. The juxtaposition of the lush riparian area with the rocky, dry desert above was stark. The day was getting late, so we made camp after only a couple of miles of hiking in a nice hidden meadow next to the stream. We made dinner of Ramen and canned chicken, and sat by the rushing stream in the waning light reading our books. I was reading Cujo, a story of a nice St Bernard gone bad, and probably the best shot in the arm the veterinarian industry ever got for sales of rabies vaccinations. We crawled in the tent around dark, and slipped off to sleep after some reading.
I had forgotten how little
fun it is sleeping in a small tent with two big dogs. They are such babies.
Saturday, May 17
We ate a lunch of tuna and crackers in the cool shade of a giant Douglas fir, throwing rocks into the tall willows for Makenzie to chase. Fetching rocks by scent is one of Makenzie’s special skills. We read our books by the creek in the sun, with large clouds racing overhead that occasionally shaded us and made the air chilly. I napped in the tall grass for a bit. Great day.
At 2:00 Andra suggested we take a quick walk back to the car, and drive on up the road to Deep Lake, the source of Deep Creek, and check it out. We could be back by dark. I agreed. So, we took only a small pack of gear and walked back to the car. We stuck to the trail on the north bank all the way back to the parking area, but the crossing was no easier there. No bridge, no rocks, nothing to do but shuck off our shoes and wade across. Frank once again displayed poor judgement by crossing the creek near a small waterfall rather the upstream in the flat where everyone else crossed. Andra had to walk out and grab him by the scruff of his neck to keep him from spilling over the falls. We put our shoes back on and walked up the car where we discovered our car, still alone, with a smashed back window glass. Upon further inspection and a few choice words, we discovered that nothing had been stolen or tampered with, and no other windows were damaged. Motivation was a puzzle since I hadn’t yet put on my OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT bumper sticker since, afterall, he isn’t officially the nominee yet. Maybe someone just doesn’t like folks from Wyoming, or maybe we were just parked in the unofficial Gypsum High School graduation party zone, since there did seem to be more beer bottles laying around than the day before. We probably could’ve stuck around with no further issues, but something makes me uneasy about leaving my car alone with a busted window glass. Andra stayed at the car with Frank and cleaned up glass while Makenzie and I huffed it upstream to camp, packed up, and carted all the gear back. It was half past 4:00 by then. A short ride up the road could take us to a decent campsite where we could stay near the car, but it would also bring pounds of fine graded-road silt in through the back glass. We decided to just head for home. An ignomious ending that doesn’t alter my appreciation for a wonderful place.
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Page created 5-26-08