29-Jun-2013 -- This would be the start of a line of confluences along 40N.
I had reviewed the previous attempts from the west and the east and thought that an attempt from the north along County Road 555 would involve much less hiking. An approach from an elevation above the confluence was another benefit! We turned off of Route 40 at Hot Sulphur Springs onto County Road 55 eventually heading south until Cottonwood Pass where we turned southwest onto County Road 555 here.
This picture shows us coming back down from County Road 555. Just out of view is another fading sign stating that cottonwood Pass is at an elevation of 8904’ and “The earliest regular route into Hot Sulphur Springs from the east, established in 1861 by Edward Berthoud and Redwood Fisher on their surveys westward. With the opening of the Berthoud Pass wagon road in November 1874, stagecoach operations used this pass, as a toll road until 1905, when the railroad reached Hot Sulphur. Charlie Purcell drove the last stage, eastbound subsequent usage by private parties.”
We continued our climb along a fairly decent dirt road until we reached Big Meadows where we were stopped by a locked gate stating “This road closed to motor vehicles for wildlife. Snowmobiles only allowed the day following the 4th big game rifle hunting season with 6” or greater snow depth.” I had thought this would be an easy trek on my ATV (and had even purchased the required Colorado OHV tags) but would have to use my bicycle instead. It was too late in the day to visit and return before dark so we prepared to camp for the night and observed a magnificent sunset and later on were treated to awesome lightning storms in the distance throughout the night.
In the morning, it was time to set out on my mountain bike. I was already at about 9600 feet and it was easy going as I gradually climbed to just over 9800 feet (highest point on my trek) in a large clearing where several salt licks were out for the large game. I turned left here and the rest of the way was simply coasting downhill along the logging road. At about 30 minutes in, my rear tire blew out and it was time to leave my bike and continue on foot. A short time later, I saw a bear on the road about 50 meters ahead of me. I very loudly declared my presence and intent to continue down the road. He wandered off down the hill and for the rest of my hike I made sure I was making a lot of noise. The road was very easy to follow however, travel by ATV would have been stopped short by a few fallen trees across the road.
Just beyond a creek where the road turned east and in a clearing where the road makes a sharp switchback to the west here I left the road for the confluence just under 80 meters away to the north. I crossed dozens of fallen trees as I made my descent and found myself at the lowest elevation of my hike at the confluence. The confluence area is heavily treed on an east facing slope. It was very green and damp and there were yellow flowers everywhere.
I took my pictures and captured GPS data for post processing and spent about 15 minutes at the site. I sent a Spot custom message announcing my successful arrival and began my hike back up. I retrieved my bike and walked it back to where our Tahoe was parked - an hour before the worst case (hiking) estimate time I had given to my wife. If I didn’t have a flat tire, my trip would have been at least an hour shorter in duration.
Post processing of the GPS data reveals that my Trimble on the log in Picture 7 was only 1.5 meters southwest of the confluence with a horizontal precision of 2.2 meters.
As it was, it took just over 3 hours for 13.4 km round trip with very little bushwacking! From Hot Sulphur Springs to where we camped at Big Meadows, it was 25 minutes and 12 km along a well graded dirt road.
Onward to 40N 107W!