01-Nov-2014 -- The 2014 autumn in Colorado has been one of the mildest in recent memory and it inspired my friend Kurt and I to plan a hunting trip – confluence hunting, that is! We certainly saw plenty of wildlife and orange-capped, camouflage-clad hunters during our two-day adventure, but I like to think that we were the more successful ones in bagging all five of our targets. This confluence was our first of two on Day 1.
We left Denver at 7:45am, driving west on I-70, north on Route 40, and then south on the dirt CR 50 just past Hot Sulphur Springs (which, while small, has a candy company unfortunately named after its pungent-sounding town). A sign was posted that CR 50 is only maintained June 15 – November 15. It was overcast and 45°F as we parked at 10:15am at almost exactly 40°N along this road, about 1.5 miles west of the confluence. As Joseph Kerski said in the last visit to this spot (September 2006), this is a very deceptive distance measure – it’s virtually either straight up or straight down as you approach this confluence up and over the Blue Ridge.
It took Kurt and me about 40 minutes to climb the 1,270 feet to the top of the ridge, where we were greeted with a spectacular view of both the Williams Fork Mountains to the southwest and Granby/Tabernash in the basin to the northeast. We kept pretty true to 40°N on our ascent. We estimated that the angle of the incline averaged 35 or 40 degrees – needless to say we were huffing and puffing and glad for an opportunity to rest and take in the view upon summiting.
We then began the descent to the confluence, which took about an hour. We again maintained an approach nearly directly along 40°N, modestly correcting our trajectory whenever encountering each of the three logging roads that nearly perpendicularly crossed our route. On our way up the ridge we had encountered almost no snow, but here on the northeast facing slope the ground was almost completely snow-covered to an average depth of about two inches, which made the downhill footings very slippery indeed, hindering our speed. There were three segments of this descent – an initial 30 degree drop, a flat or very gently sloped segment with a ton of young-growth pines that necessitated bushwacking in every sense of the word, and then a vertiginous 40 degree drop that mellowed out to a tolerable 25 degrees by the time we arrived at the site. We used short sturdy sticks held in our uphill hand(s) to steady our descent and prevent slipping, which generally worked pretty well. Adjustable poles might have been beneficial. At times there were fairly fresh deer or elk tracks which were usually helpful to follow, particularly through the dense young pines.
We were incredibly happy to give our feet and minds a rest as we sat snacking upon a fallen log almost directly atop the confluence. After ten minutes I stood up and did the confluence dance, achieving all zeros after five minutes of stumbling around. We took photos and then started our journey back. The segments took essentially the same amount of time on the return and we arrived back at our car on CR 50 a little after 2pm, almost four hours after we initially started, as the clouds moved off and the sun started shining down for the first time all day. Scrambling down toward CR 50 on the southwest side of the Blue Ridge we had decided to just take the chute with the least debris and then walk back to the car from wherever this spat us out along the road. We only ended up having to walk an easy (flat!) quarter mile north along CR 50 at the end.
To date this is the most difficult confluence either of us has tackled (Kurt’s all-time favorite) and we were in high spirits as we drove away in pursuit of our next confluence of the trip: 40°N 107°W