01-Nov-2014 -- This is a beautiful confluence that fortunately lies just within the boundaries of the White River National Forest and even more fortunately has a clear trail approach to within a quarter mile of the exact spot – if you go at the right time of year. Kurt and I, in the middle of a confluence hunting weekend, drove west from 40°N 106°W by taking Route 40 through Kremmling to Route 134, continuing west until a right at 131 and then a fairly quick left (west) along CR 3. This turns into CR 3C as it continues west into National Forest land and the road becomes a lot worse (4WD almost necessary). At this juncture were a fence and a sign indicating that the road is closed from November 15 – June 15. Future confluence hunters take heed! This was probably still a good four miles from the site if you had to park here early in the season.
From CR 3C we turned south on the well-marked FR 915 (‘Ute Trail’); there is an earlier trail (FR 9101B) that initially heads south and looks correct but quickly veers too far east. It is along FR 915 that I encountered the most challenging “terrain” I have ever had the privilege to drive on (4WD absolutely necessary), the terrain being mind-bogglingly deep ruts from high-clearance vehicles that looked all the more sinister with the low sun angle (see photo #2). I was just able to maintain my Jeep Patriot atop the ridges along the route, and we were fortunate that there hadn’t been much recent rain and the ridges were hard. When it looked like we would be pushing our luck too far by attempting the worsening road conditions ahead of us, we pulled off and parked here
at 4:50pm. It was 44°F, windy, and mostly cloudy, but our biggest battle would be with daylight – sunset was at 5:58pm on the last day of Daylight Savings Time.
We set off at a mild jog continuing due south on FR 915, once having to slow down to cross a stream (along stepping stones) that crossed the road. We quickly arrived at the end of the route, where two separate camps of several pickup trucks and extremely large tents were stationed. These were definitely hunting camps, and I kicked myself for having forgotten to wear my orange hat to be recognized as an animal not to be shot.
We set off along the unmarked Ute Sunnyside Trail that cuts a clear trajectory southeast beyond this turn-off. This approach was beautiful, facing south from high terrain and with an incredible vista in both the foreground (meadow and sporadic tree cover) and in the background (snow-capped mountains). We crossed the stream at the bottom by hopping across two close banks, although there was also a dam that could be walked across farther east if need be. Continuing along the trail we got to within a quarter mile northeast of the confluence, cast our gaze across the open terrain to the forest cover where we would need to head, and immediately saw two orange hats – hunters watching our progress. We waved to make sure they recognized our humanness and we received a wave back. This didn’t stop us from being on edge with every cracking branch however as we made our way across the field, through some brush and a bit of mucky ground, and then into a stand of older, taller tree growth where the confluence lies.
This confluence would make an outstanding spot for a hunting blind, honestly, looking from an open wood into a wide clearing where there were plenty of elk tracks and droppings. Maybe I’ll return someday – what a distinction to be able to hunt from such a beautiful spot, and a confluence no less! We zeroed out relatively quickly, took pictures, and then jogged back around the hunters (waving again) up the trail and road to the Jeep where we arrived at 6pm, just after sunset and an hour and ten minutes after having started the trek. We braved the terrible road again in the dimming light, this time continuing north along FR 915 until running into the maintained (thank goodness) Route 900. We camped less than a mile west of here at Stillwater Campground, Site #1, for a hefty $5. The clouds cleared, the moon was bright, and the wind was howling as we maintained a campfire for two hours before turning in for what would end up being a largely sleepless night due to the noise of the trees bending to the gusts on the slopes all around us. Tearing down camp the next morning at 4:30am after the DST time change, we got a great head start on the way to our next confluence 41°N 108°W