Monday, January 8, 2018

Colorado Color; Part 4 - September 2017

Continued from Part 3

Friday, September 22 (continued)

Gunnison and Lake City

I picked up a sandwich at the City Market deli in Gunnison and gas at their pumps. I stopped at the Riverway recreation area just west of town to have my sandwich. I then turned south on CO-149 toward Lake City.

Hillside north of Lake City

There were a few sprinkles and low clouds along here. There was good color even with the poor weather. I turned up country road 3, Cinnamon Pass Road, to lake San Christobal.

A view toward the south from Lake City

Lake San Christobal and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River

Lake San Christobal

A tighter view of the scene above

A dramatic sight opened up before me. It was still mostly cloudy, but those were high, snow clouds. The peaks south of the lake were covered in snow with the slopes below them blanketed with colorful aspen. I took lots of photos, hoping some would turn out. I drove along the lake and several miles beyond.

Mountain peaks from just south of the lake.

Looking west along Cinnamon Pass Road.

Cinnamon Pass Road

Looking easterly from Cinnamon Pass Road across a scenic ranch.

Lake Fork of the Gunnison River

Once I got my fill of photos I drove back to the highway and headed southwest through patchy rain and broken clouds. I didn't know if I should try to find a dispersed campsite or stay on the highway and camp at the NFS Pinnacles Campground west of Creede where I could find a site on firm gravel.

A last look at the lake and peaks from an overlook on the highway west of Lake City.

Baldy Cinco mountains between Slumgullion and Spring Passes.

I turned off the highway onto FR-510, that goes by the waterfall I'd visited a few days before, as I knew the road continued down through an area of potential dispersed camping and also views of Bristol Head. If I was lucky with the weather I might get a nice shot of that mountain formation. There were areas where one could camp, but they looked wet and soggy, so I didn't stop.

Aspen covered hillside along FR-510

A view of Bristol Head

Back on the highway I headed toward Creede.

Seepage Lake

At the spur of the moment I turned north onto a little gravel road that I’d seen before, with a sign for Seepage Road. I had absolutely no idea what was up this way, but the road looked to be in good condition. There was a dramatic cliff face on the right side of the road. It looked like it could be a lower part of Bristol Head. In a mile I came across a small dam with Seepage Lake behind it. The lake was extremely low and not very appealing, but the weather was not conducive to spending time outside anyway.

My crushed rock campsite near Seepage Lake during a short break in the weather.

However there was a crushed rock parking area which extended slightly into the hillside. This would make a good campsite with a firm footing despite hours of rain and a nice view down the valley back towards the Rio Grande. I pulled in and set up camp. Clouds, with occasional blue sky patches, were moving quickly through the area. Rain was coming off and on, along with thunder, but I was secure in my spot.

The inclement weather continued and there were many periods of rain throughout the night. It was nice to know I had a solid road back to the highway.

Saturday, September 23

This sight greeted me first thing in the morning.

I peeked out my window when I got up in the morning. The view down the valley was enough for me to quickly pull on my jeans and head outside with my camera. This little valley I was in opened up into the larger valley of the Rio Grande. Across the river was a beautiful scene - there was a thick fog bank between Hogback Hill and the aspen covered slopes leading up to the snow covered mountains of the Continental Divide. The light wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad either.

A closer look at the hills and fog. You can also see the road leading in to the lake.

A different view of my campsite looking toward the Rio Grande.

A view back toward the lake on my way to the highway.


I broke camp and returned to the highway, headed for Creede. I took a few photos along the way, including the Clay Mine which was in nice light.

Aspen blanket on mountains west of Creede.

The Clay Mine

I also took a couple of the village of Creede as the highway entered town, and a nice one of downtown with wet streets - it's a dramatic view with the narrow, tall canyon rising beyond.

Entering Creede from the west. The mobile homes are not attractive, but the peaks are.

Downtown Creede looking toward the mining area. I'm pleased with this image.

When I first visited Creede I drove the Bachelor Loop. What I hadn't realized until later, was there is another road the splits off east just before the main mining area and heads up another smaller canyon, FR-502. This was East Willow Creek Road, but it doesn't show up on Google maps. There were lots of photo ops of aspen up that road, when the clouds would break and let the sun shine in.

Road just north of Creede, entering the mining district.
The low bridge ahead is for the road that leads up East Willow Creek.

East Willow Creek

Old mine up East Willow Creek Road.

East Willow Creek Road

East Willow Creek Road

East Willow Creek Road

Phoenix Mine reclamation area.

I drove up as far as the Phoenix Mine reclamation project and turned around. I then drove only a little ways up West Willow Creek Road, FR-503, the "main" loop road through the mining district. There were more nice scenes to photograph.

Commodore Mine

West Willow Creek Road

Amethyst Mine

Looking back toward Creede from the Commodore Mine.

That was enough for this trip. I returned to CO-149, drove to South Fork, then US-160 to Alamosa, and US-285 back to New Mexico and home.

Thanks for coming along on this autumn trip to Colorado. For regular readers, sorry it took me so long to gather the photos and write up the journey. This was my last camping trip of the season. See you again this spring.


  1. Thank you Bill for the great ride along.
    Once again parts of your trip have brought back travel memories from
    the early 70s when I drove the area around Creede.I think at that time I drove and camped somewhere on the E.Willow Creek rd.

    1. Thanks, Frank. Yeah, there were several nice places to camp up East Willow Creek.

  2. Nice work again, Bill; it was worth waiting for. The spruce budworm does seem to have taken a toll down there too, but rest assured it does come back. In our Cariboo district in BC where the pine bark beetle killed every single jack-pine 20 years ago and used to have extensive views, now it is back to fresh green growing forest some 25' high and so thick one can get lost again.


    1. Thanks, Len. I hope you are right about the forest recovery.

  3. Being fairly recent transplants from Idaho to SW Colorado I've found your travel reports of the area to be an invaluable resource. I just wish they were published in a spiral-bound edition I could keep in the truck.

    1. John, I'm gratified that you are finding my trip reports useful. I do try to write them to help like minded folks find the areas I've enjoyed and give them a base for their own explorations. I appreciate you taking the time to leave such a great comment.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it!