01-Apr-2001 -- My family decided to enjoy a beautiful Colorado spring day by hiking to the 109W 39N confluence in Western Colorado. I could not locate a GPS unit to borrow, so with a fist full of maps, a compass, an altimeter and a full tank of gas, we set out on Sunday, April 1, 2001. My wife, Betsy, our two girls, Kristin (11), Brenna (8), and I, Ken, explored a part of Western Colorado we had never visited before.
I thought this adventure would be a great way to teach some geography and map reading skills to our girls. To make it more fun we pretended that we had Black Bart’s treasure map where 100 years ago he buried his loot from a bank heist.
On the 1½ hour drive to the site we concocted a story about Black Bart and his flight to the mountains to escape the posse that was hot on his tail. One person would make up a portion of the story then after winding out a part we would pass to the next. That person would pick up from there and tell another part and pass to the next, and so on, until our creativity was gone and we were at our destination. Needless to say, the story was hilarious, we followed the map to the red X but we never found Bart’s gold. The story is not too far fetched, though, since this general area was a hideout to many bandits, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
We had to ask permission to drive across private property, King Ranch, to get to the confluence. We bounced along a 4-wheel drive road for about 8 miles to some rocks overlooking Kings Canyon and the confluence. We ate lunch and surveyed the area from an elevation of 6400 feet figuring that we would have to drop to 5840 feet and hike about 2 miles to the confluence.
We started out for the treasure - er - confluence, heading south down the canyon wall to intersect the dry streambed below. We had to pick our way carefully along the cliffs in several places to find ways where we could slide down on our bottoms, jumped and crawled, hand over hand. We intersected the dry creek bed at the bottom and headed west after about an hour of picking our way down. This area was very wild. We saw no human tracks, but plenty of elk, deer, bear and coyote tracks (prints and scat), along with various other animals.
After 2 ½ hours we came to the distinctive sharp angled "S" curve in the creek bed. At first we came to an open spot that I announced was "the place". We built a cairn took some pictures and sat down to relax. I checked the maps, photos and altimeter. I measured the angle of the creek bed with the compass and decided we were too far west. We backtracked and found THE PLACE two curves back up the streambed. The confluence, according to the aerial photo, is in a thick stand of Utah Juniper that you can see behind our group photo. I took the pictures from the dry creek bed about 18 feet south of the confluence, which is much more scenic than a bunch of gnarled old cedar trees.
Clouds were starting to roll in and we were due for a change in the weather. We high-tailed it out of there in 1 hour back up the way we came. Since we had found passable routes up the red sandstone cliffs, the trail was easier going back. We were all exhausted, we had a lot of fun and learned some valuable lessons. But we didn’t find Black Bart’s Gold.