Driving south from the Grand Junction area after visiting 38N 109W
I took routes 50, 550, 62, and finally 145 to arrive in the tiny, steep canyon roadside town of Sawpit. Confluence hunters, if you are ever driving through Delta, Colorado on 50, make sure to take note of the stoplighted intersection with Confluence Drive! This more likely than not refers to the confluence of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers, but I appreciated it nonetheless. In Sawpit I took a quick left (north) on CR58P, the only side road in town. This was an incredibly steep road; I doubted it would be passable for much longer than a month with the impending winter. I should have parked where previous visitors had here
, at the entrance of an old mining road, but I parked too early, much too far downhill, thus requiring some unnecessary climbing on my part.
Of the seven confluences completed on this trip this goes down as the one that I underestimated the difficulty of the most. This difficulty was due to both my poor approach and the eight inches of wet, melting snow from a storm three days before. Beginning my hike at 11:28am it was bright and sunny with a temperature of 29°F and the GPS showed a distance of 0.48 miles to the site. Tracks of rabbits in the snow helped me find paths of optimal grade/traction, but I was often left struggling up slippery, slushy inclines or grades of wet muck where the sun had already melted most of the snow. Every once in a while I heard a car pass on Route 145 below, and quite often I heard and saw melting snow falling off branches. I got overheated quickly and left my jacket, gloves, and hat on a tree I planned to pass on the way back. Not two minutes after I did this came the steepest, scrubbiest, slipperiest slope of them all. Gloves and sleeves would have been great – by the time I crested this snowy mess my hands were numb and my arms were all scraped up. What rookie mistakes!
After another almost as difficult grade I finally reached the site of the confluence and was presented with a new challenge: zeroing out on a snowy, tree-covered slope! This would go down as my longest confluence dance yet, taking nearly fifteen minutes to finally get a picture of all zeroes to prove to the world that yes, I could indeed complete an arbitrary task of dubious importance. Areal pictures taken, I began the slog back to my outerwear first and then to the Jeep. Jacket, hat, and gloves re-donned, I followed my treaded waypoints until, about halfway back, I looked up and saw a wide path that I had missed on the way in. This must have been the disused mining road that previous visitors had hiked in on. Hopping up to its level, I saw that it was a perfectly flat, sinuous path along the edge of these wily slopes. It was such easy-going that I was actually able to jog, in boots, through the snow to the main road.
Not having interacted with another human the entire day up to this point, imagine my surprise when, where this old mining road met up with the steep CR58P, I saw a guy and girl my age in snow gear just chilling on an embankment at the entrance of the driveway. I also enjoyed imagining their surprise at seeing a disheveled, booted jogger suddenly emerge from the otherwise empty woods. Turns out they had hiked up from Sawpit and were trying to figure out if the path I had come from was public land or not. I filled them in, bade goodbye and a good hike, and then made my way down CR58P for maybe a quarter mile before reaching where I had parked. It was 12:43pm, an hour and fifteen minutes after I had embarked on the journey. Summary: TAKE THE MINING ROAD! Now on to 38N 109W.