Monday found us on several well-known trails, and one I hadn't been on before. We set out originally to visit Carson, which is on the Cinnamon Pass road.
We began the day by traveling up the Corkscrew Gulch road. Corkscrew is a favorite of mine. The trail seems to always be in good repair, and rarely has any surprises from year to year. The road was in excellent shape this year. The weather held out on this portion of the trip as well. Corkscrew is accessed off of US 550 near the large capped tailings pile in Ironton Park.
At the end of Corkscrew you will top out at Hurricane Pass. This pass has always had a 90 mile per hour breeze but was unusually calm this year. It was a nice change. You can access the top of the Poughkeepsie Gulch trail from this point if you are so inclined. I would recommend that those without modified vehicles avoid this road, as it is very technical in nature. Most rental companies in the area will not allow you to travel this trail in their vehicles.
From the summit of Hurricane Pass you can follow the trail to California Pass, which is only a short distance. The summit of California Pass leads down into California Gulch. California Gulch was the scene of some recent excitement. It seems two poor fellows from Texas became very stuck on the hillside above the Gulch. We surveyed the area they were in. The spot they had been in looked very ugly and I'm glad it wasn't me!
At the bottom of California Gulch you will find the ghost town of Animas Forks. Animas Forks has a lot of interesting structures that remain. You will also find restroom facilities at this location. After we had made the necessary repairs to my truck we made our way over to the beginning of the Cinnamon Pass road.
The Cinnamon Pass trail had changed a lot since my last trip over it. The first few hundred yards are very rocky but nothing extreme. The remainder of the trip to the summit was uneventful for the most part. The weather had started to take a turn for the worst at this point. The Lake City side of Cinnamon Pass is much rougher than I remembered it. There are several tight switch back turns. There is also a lot of mud in areas. The lower end of the road after you reach the many campgrounds is well graded.
By the time we had reached the turn off to Carson it was late in the afternoon. The rain was also very heavy so we abandoned our plans to visit Carson. Our guidebook indicated the road was very muddy in areas. With all of the rain we decided that sounded like trouble waiting to happen. We opted for a quick trip to Lake City for an early dinner.
After a warm meal we took a look at our options. The shortest way back to Ouray was to return over Cinnamon Pass or use the alternate which is Engineer Pass. The Engineer Pass road is getting very ugly in it's old age. The portion of the trail nearer to Ouray is very rocky now. We made the decision to return to Ouray the long way. We via the pavement to Blue Mesa Reservoir. We used a short cut over Blue Mesa and saved some time. The remainder of the journey was via the Owl Creek Pass road.
Owl Creek Pass is nothing more than a drive in the country but oh what country. I had never been on this stretch and I have to say it is some of the most spectacular scenery in the area. The movie True Grit was filmed somewhere along this road. If you familiar with that John Wayne classic you have seen this area already. We tried to locate the spot in which the showdown with the bad guys was filmed and think we were pretty close.
The road from Owl Creek Pass drops you into the Ridgway area onto US 550.
The Narrow Gauge Circle is written, maintained,and hosted by:
Mark L. Evans
Send Comments to:Mark L. Evans
All original materials, text, and digital images Copyright © 1996-2017 Mark L. Evans. All rights reserved. Imitation is said to be the "sincerest" form of flattery.....Please don't flatter us without permission.