21-Jul-2006 -- Having said farewell to Shawn Fleming and his family at 38 North 105 West at 1:00 pm local time, I thought I might be able to at least attempt the next confluence to the east: 38 North 104 West. Not having been visited since the year 2000, I thought it needed an update. I drove down off of the Rocky Mountains and onto the Great Plains at Colorado City, turning south onto Interstate Highway 25. Rather dismayed that no grocery store existed at the junction of I-25 and Colorado State Highway 10 in Walsenburg, I considered my water situation. I had two full bottles, 64 fluid ounces total, which I hoped would be enough. I had just come out of a mountain rainstorm, which was now rapidly spilling onto the Plains, with the sky to the north positively black.
Listening to a tape of Eddie Cochran, I drove about 40 minutes east-northeast on Highway 10, and then north on Highway 167 until I was 1 kilometer south of the 38th Parallel. I slowed and looked for good starting points. I found one about 300 meters south of 38 North--a single track made by several vehicles fronted by a barbed-wire gate. The sign read "No Hunting," and not "No Trespassing", so just after 3pm, I quickly parked, gathered supplies, donned hat and sunblock, and slithered under the fence. The GPS read just over 3 miles (4.8 km) to the confluence, a bit north of due east from where I was, which should take me less than an hour. The rainstorm was approaching but still off to the west, which kept me wary, as there was very little to take shelter here on the high plains. The only trees were those along the gullies. Most of the terrain was sparse shortgrass prairie with prickly pear and scattered cholla bushes.
This was one of the few confluences where one can literally hike straight to the spot from many kilometers away. The terrain was flat with scattered knolls, dissected by fairly deep gullies. However, I decided to stick to the track instead of cutting straight across to the confluence. This made for faster walking and I could more easily spot any rattlesnakes. I had yet to see one in Colorado but knew they could be present. After 20 minutes, I passed by a large water cistern for cattle, which fortunately were not grazing nearby on this afternoon. I found another track to the northeast. After crossing a large gully, that of the intermittent Apishapa River, I came to a T-intersection with the trail branches heading north and south. The storms had cut to the south, much to my relief, and the weather brightened and became much hotter. Just north of the T-intersection, I decided to cut cross-country straight to the confluence. This route placed me on the north side of a wide knoll, under another fence, and through a narrower gully encountered by the previous visitor. At 3:50pm, I arrived at the spot.
It seemed like I had the whole country to myself. The confluence lies on ground that is nearly level, but sloping slightly to the north. The ground cover is 40% bare soil and 60% short grasses and prickly pear. The temperature stood at 92 F (33 C). From the confluence, I could see about 2 distant farmhouses. I saw no water, no people, but one enormous grayish-white jackrabbit. This was my 14th Colorado confluence, my 6th time on 38 North, and my 4th time to stand on 104 West.
Much as I enjoy returning from a confluence along a different route, I had already been on a 4-hour trek earlier in the day to 38 North 105 West, and my feet were sore. Thus, I returned nearly on the same track, walking directly into the lowering sun; I was becoming quite warm. I began thinking how much faster it would have been to take my bicycle on this confluence trek. However, the fences presented no small obstacle to that plan, and besides, I was trying to impact the land as little as possible.
I reached the vehicle at 4:55 pm local time. The total hike time had been 1 hour and 55 minutes but felt a bit longer than that. It was then that I really began to roast. My car has no air conditioning, and I couldn't decide whether it was hotter with the windows up or down. Apparently I wasn't as hardy as my spouse's ancestors had been, homesteading here in southeast Colorado during the early 20th Century. The road was lined with sunflowers, though, and was quite beautiful. After 15 minutes, I reached US Highway 50, turned west to Pueblo, and headed north along Interstate Highway 25. I reached home at 8pm local time with a round trip distance of 425 miles (684 km). A wondrous summer day with good memories, good people, good landscapes, and two confluences to show for it!