|Trout Lake and the Vermillion Peaks|
Our goal was to investigate springs that in recent history were described by Marylin Collier as having pools of water. One site was a thicket of Forestiera neomexicana, the New Mexican Privet. It had lots of tiny blue berries and bright yellow leaves in a nice autumn show, but the thorns make it somewhat stand-offish. The next site was high up on a cliff and took some serious hiking to reach, and had a grove of 20 Populus fremontii (fremont cottonwood) trees, but like nearly all the springs in the park, no surface water. The final site we visited had a pool of water, but was trampled extensively by feral horses and cows so that the riparian community was no longer intact and worth investigating for a long-term monitoring project.
|The closest to seeing a lynx I've even been|
This past season is the 2nd driest on record for Mesa Verde, and the area is in the 11th year of a persistent drought, so it is really having a toll on the hydrology. We had intended to explore another spring far up the canyon wall, but did not have enough time. Instead, we visited a large sandstone arch below Springhouse Ruin. A great finish to my last hours working.
For weekend fun, we drove down Last Dollar Road, a scruffy mountain pass that connects the Telluride basin to the Dallas Divide. The quaking aspens were just gorgeous, and the weather had a crisp, cool edge after the first snow fall. I hiked through a little snow up one of the nearby peaks called Whipple Mountain, and somewhere up there I lost my Fire Crew hat. We finished hiking around and then went for an extended soaking session in the hot springs of Ouray and ate a delicious meal at the Ore House Hotel.
|Snow on Sneffels|
We camped again at Angel and the morning was frigid. We drove up to Camp Bird Mine, which is being reopened to process tailings and perhaps mine a bit more ore from the mountains. The road was in great shape, but we decided not to push our old truck too much and turned around shortly past the mine. I explored a small creek coming off the mountain, which led to a series of waterfalls and another set of "Baby Bathtubs". After that, we went for a hike up the steep switchbacks of Weehawken Trail.
We're going to miss the scenery and adventure of the Four Corners. I wonder if we will return or if the future holds something different for us?
For now, it's on the road again!