18-Nov-2014 -- My wife and I share a single car. When she flew to a conference in Alabama this week, I used the opportunity not to drink beer, watch sports, and leave the bed unmade, but rather to drive out to western Colorado to complete a batch of confluences that would be challenging not particularly for their difficulty but simply for their distance from my home base in Fort Collins and also the November dearth of daylight. This confluence was my first of seven.
I was on the road by 4:45am, cutting a route west from Fort Collins through Poudre Canyon on 14, through Steamboat Springs (which greeted the autumn morning at a temperature of -6°F!) and Craig on 40, eventually into Rangely on CR1. From town I took CR2 heading west, a well maintained partly paved, partly dirt road until reaching Cottonwood Creek. Here I turned the GPS on and traveled south for several miles until reaching 40N. I parked the Jeep at 10:42am with sunny skies and a temperature of 28°F.
With a distance reading of 0.35mi to the confluence, I cut a fairly direct route across a large dry creek bed and up a series of two dirt/rock inclines to the point, which lies on a very gentle incline partway up the western edge of the Cottonwood Creek Canyon. It was dead silent, and of course beautiful. I zeroed out, took pictures, and then headed back down, this time dropping straight down to the dry creek bed and following it until I hit the road, a little farther south of where I had parked. I would recommend using this route (see Photo 8) to reach the point – much easier, and the walls of the creek bed where flash flood waters had carved out layers of old sediment and shale were fascinating! I was back on the road at 11:20am, about forty minutes after I had begun.
Using my Delorme Atlas, I decided that I could continue following the road south until it hit CR213, then CR23, CR113, and CR116 through the West Douglas Wild Horse Herd Area until hitting the paved Route 139 south. The going was incredibly tough at first – the trail cuts over many a dry creek ravine and the angles are incredibly sharp. But after about twenty minutes and some stress-induced sweating, I made it out to better maintained county dirt roads, where the biggest challenge became navigating. The signage could have been better, but luckily the atlas was outstanding. I saw many horse droppings and even the dead carcass of a wild horse, believe it or not. At the intersection of CR113 and CR116 was a large natural gas facility where I saw a guy in a stopped pickup whom I asked for directions to ensure I was on the right track. This route out probably took longer than if I had gone back into Rangely and then south on Route 139, but it was way more fun and memorable. On to 39N 108W.