27-Oct-2001 -- All the easy ones are done! So time to tackle a tough one.
When I headed north to work on the Rio Grande National Forest during the last week of October 2001, I knew that the confluence at 38° N., 107° W. was as yet undocumented on this website. One logical reason is that it is at 3750 m (12,300' ) and at least 5 km (3 miles) from the nearest road. Sounded like an interesting hike, so I programmed the confluence into my GPS receiver before I left home. All week the weather was beautiful, and visits to several sites high in the San Juan Mountains proved that though the peaks were snow-capped, there really was very little snow for late October. And hunting seasons closed on 26 October, taking away that safety concern.
The distance to this confluence required more than one visitor for safety reasons, and its location on National Forest lands (albeit the Gunnison NF, just over the Continental Divide from the Rio Grande NF) suggested that the presence of a US Forest Service employee or two would be appropriate. So after several unsuccessful invitations, Elaina and Ken Graham eagerly accepted (it was their introduction to the Confluence Project) my proposal to hike in to 38° N., 107° W from the Rio Grande side, as we could drive to about 3500 m (11,500') in West Willow Creek, north of Creede (the confluence was incorrectly recorded as 11 miles SSW instead of NNW of Creede on the website, but we didn't fall for that one!).
We met in Creede (2700 m/8,850') at 0800 MDT on Saturday morning, 27 October 2001. Leaving town we saw a dozen mule deer, and, at the 1890s townsite of Bachelor, a cow elk. Then in the last half mile of road in West Willow Creek, we found 3 (a young bull, a cow, and a large calf) moose, as well as two golden eagles! Three legs up on a Wild Ungulate Grand Slam, only bighorn sheep to go and we were headed to the alpine. We parked at 3500 m (11,500'). The hike up the trail to San Luis Pass (Waypoint 30, Map). on the Continental Divide and a junction with the CD Trail (Picture 3), where Elaina's jurisdiction officially ended!
Leaving the trails, we picked a route that would take us to the ridgetop. From the first saddle (Waypoint 18) we saw 3 bighorn sheep on the snow at Waypoint 19. The Wild Ungulate Grand Slam! At Waypoint 19 we found 17 sheep, including a large ram. We skirted the point to minimize disturbance, and worked our way north along the ridge, getting great views in all directions, particularly towards the west (Picture 4). After lunch, we topped out somewhat in excess of 3950 m (12,960'). From there the GPS indicated 650 m at 100 (+/-). We dropped well off the east side of the ridge, skirting several cliffs. As we approached the 3750 m (12,300') contour, the distance to the confluence on the GPS diminished. We looked over into a ravine, and to our surprise, found a cairn with a post. Someone had been there before us! We averaged 250 points, and found the cairn to be perhaps only .002 minutes off in either direction (though when the field GPS point was placed in Mapsource, it measured 21 m [69'] SSE from 38° N., 107° W). The picture of the cairn is to the west with the ridge in the background (sorry, didn't get one without a person and I ain't going back anytime soon!).
We tried to maintain the 3750 m contour as we headed back (now 1400 MDT), but quickly (Waypoint 24) hit some steep terrain. The only logical route was to drop down to the FS trail in Cascade Creek and follow it back up to San Luis Pass. We arrived back at the vehicles at 1700 MDT. We measured the distances between waypoints and got 4.3 miles to the confluence and 4.4 miles back to the vehicles for a total of 8.7 miles. We easily did 9-10 miles. We estimated a net climb of between 875 and 1000 m (2870' to 3280'), probably exceeding 13,000' (3962 m) at Waypoint 22. Obviously we went down the same amount, since we ended at equilibrium (the cars!).
At the time of this submission there was still no other pending report. We cannot think of any other reason other person(s) would have marked a confluence, so expect a report to come in (did they come from the north or south? Above or below?). The post was inscribed with ... no, maybe we should let them tell us what they scratched into the post!!!! We were a bit disappointed to be 2nd, but actually were glad it had not yet been submitted as we would likely not have attempted it, but we had a wonderful day! And as we were driving away, scattered snowflakes were falling....