Team Pro BA, consisting of Andrew Matranga (Boss BA), Jon Kedrowski (Shooter), Adam Doody (A-Man), and Stephen Maxwell (Young Buck)
A beautiful 48-mile loop which includes an incredible hike of 27 miles of the Continental Divide Trail beginning and ending at the Three Forks Trailhead just above Platoro Reservoir in the isolated Southern San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
The backpacking trip began on Sunday, July 22, 2007 leaving the Three Forks TH (10,223') at 545pm. The beginning of the trail (TR 712) cruises along some open meadows adjacent to the Conejos River and flat valleys to a creek crossing at Three Forks and the actual trail Junction of the El Rito Azul Trail, heading up towards Blue Lake. One must remove their shoes at 3 miles at this trail junction in order to cross the cool and refreshing waters of El Rito Azul creek and continue up TR 718 for another 3.6 miles to BlueLake. We reached BlueLake at about 830pm, making the 6.05 miles to our camp in about 2 hours and 45 minutes. The highlight of the day (see the GPS waypoints marked) was while crossing the El Rito Azul Creek about a mile and a half below BlueLake we observed an Elk Herd of about 40 Head foraging near the trees in one of the large open meadows. We soon had camp set up at the 11,500' BlueLake (just east of the actual divide) on some rocky outcropping offering a great view of the already set sun. By 930pm, evening thunderstorms made their way from the west approaching us from the other side of the divide. We took shelter from the storm in our tents but the main fuel in these storms was lightning with some fierce strikes, brief wind gusts and intermittent rainfall.
The next morning Monday July 23, 2007, we awoke to abundant sunshine and a cool, crisp morning. Just to the east of Blue Lake, the El Rito Azul trail junctions with the actual Continental Divide Trail (CDT) near an old brick chimney column (log cabin is not there anymore). We began the day at this junction at about 730am and covered about 17.6 miles. For these first 4 miles or so the trail stays nearly on the exact divide and near tree line (From 11,700' to 12,200') or above with views both to the east and Three Forks and to the South into the gorgeous Navajo River canyon and drainage. We also passed near the area of GunsightPass before descending back to the east side of the divide. At this point the CDT is labeled with posts "813" and we simply followed the trail and these posts for most of the day. IN sections above timberline, sometimes the trail was absent across grassland and tundra, but it was easily followed by these '813' posts. By 11am we dropped back down to the upper headwaters of the Middle Conejos creek and crossed over a very prominent stone and rock turnpike that ran across the meadow and wildflowers for a good 250 feet. Next we traversed across to the Upper Conejos Creek and crossed the small stream, meeting up with another '813' post and a junction with TR 712 below LakeAnn. After a short snack break we continued on 813 as it ascended and traversed to the right up and around an unnamed 12,000+ peak where the trail leveled out and rounded the mountain for a good mile along high meadows and above timberline ('flat pond pass') at about 12,300'. (Computer Error not allowing further description at this time)
FR 247 Ends about 3.5 miles SW of Platoro Colorado. Getting to the delightful town of Platoro in the Southern San Juans can be tricky. It is located approximately 55 mile SW of Alamosa and 48 miles SW of Monte Vista Colorado off of the beaten path.
From Alamosa, take U.S. 285 South for 3 miles. Turn Left (West) on 12S County Road (Henry Rd) from the town of Henry and head into the mountains out of the San Luis Valley. Once entering the National Forest Boundary in the foothills, the road turns to Dirt and is labeled FR 250. Follow 250 for about 12 miles as it passes Terrace Reservior and goes along the often orange and Iron-clad Alamosa River. You will pass Jasper, and then come to a road junction with FR 380. Stay on FR 250 and begin heading up switchbacks to Stunner Pass with great views of Lookout Mountain and Prospect Mountain. Once crossing Stunner Pass you will descend towards Platoro and before you get to the town the road junctions with FR 247 with signs to Platoro Reservior and the Three Forks TH. Take a right (Southwest) and head towards Platoro Reservior. (You can visit Platoro if need be later or now if you'd like by taking a left). After 3.5 miles and passing Platoro Reservior, you should arrive at the Three Forks Trailhead above the reservior.
Distance: 42.25 mi
Total Time: none
Speed: 0.0 mph
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Conejos Headwaters Loop
Points of Interest
Location: 37.302677, -106.604858
Three Forks Trailhead. Start of trip going up the Conejos River Trail (TR 712) at 545pm August 22, 2007.
Location: 37.279530, -106.620979
Left up El Rito Azul Trail (TR 718), Crossing the Conejos River to head towards Blue Lake
Location: 37.269917, -106.619652
A crossing in the deep woods of El Rito Azul Creek on some boulders
Location: 37.258415, -106.624107
Overlook and viewpoint up a wide-open alpine meadow valley.
Location: 37.255409, -106.620232
Cross the El Rito Azul Creek Stream and observed 40-head of Elk
Location: 37.237770, -106.628059
Fork in trail. Near Jct of the CDT (TR 813) at the SW end of Blue Lake and the end of the El Rito Azul Trail Spur. Look for the signs on the trees and also the lone-standing chimney stack without a cabin 100 yards to the NE above Blue Lake.
Location: 37.237728, -106.628059
Great campsite at Blue Lake, Sunday evening, August 22, 2007 830pm.
Location: 37.242607, -106.631912
Cairn near NE corner of Blue Lake. Trail ends here for 100 yards up a slope to the NW. Here you will get an excellent viewpoint to the south into the gorgeous Navajo Canyon.
Location: 37.252544, -106.635048
Trail fork junction with the Navajo River Valley trail (TR ??).
Location: 37.262688, -106.674629
Nav conf; ck this point due to GPS outage. Trail 813 ends briefly in high alpine tundra at 12,000' until CHL011 in approximately 100 yards to the north. (Near Gunsight Pass)
Location: 37.263649, -106.674301
Trail resumes & heads down into the Middle Fork of the Conejos River Valley and towards a large stone turnpike (trail feature) in 1/3 mile.
Location: 37.277641, -106.679901
Campsite and break at 1130am just past the Conejo River Crossing and below Lake Ann and the small waterfalls. This stop is right near the trail jct of post 813 and TR 712.
Location: 37.287899, -106.669937
Trail junction; then campsite and stream. Bottom of switchbacks (15 or so total). 100 yards south of one of the North Fork Conejos River feeder streams where we ate lunch at some waterfalls at 130pm Monday Aug 23, 2007. The trail spur heads west into the valley below.
Location: 37.291241, -106.673294
Campsite and stream. An old rusted steel and iron fold-up chair was left behind in the campsite in the trees near the trail. A very long distance to carry such an item way up there!
Location: 37.308933, -106.665543
Trail reaches a pass at 12,200' and the Headwaters of the North Fork of the Conejos River where the CDT crosses over to the west side of the divide for about 1/2 mile. The views are excellent here!
Location: 37.314060, -106.665298
Gap and vista, the CDT crosses back over to the east side of the divide and above a sweeping valley at the headwaters of the 'Haskel Rincon'.
Location: 37.328545, -106.686691
Dense underbrush in the form of rather large willows (8-10ft tall) on the south side of Adam's Fork creek that slow progress for 100 yards or so. Once crossing the creek, head directly north through some tall grasses for 150 yards to a few large pine trees where the trail is marked with posts and meets a trail junction with the Adam's Fork TR 713.
Location: 37.330502, -106.689590
Trail junction with the Adam's Fork Trail (TR 713) which heads east down the Adam's Fork Valley. Continue northwest further up the Adam's Fork Basin on the CDT (TR 813).
Location: 37.333561, -106.696159
Campsite on flat landing near the creek and timberline in upper Adam's Fork Basin at 11,580' (5pm on Mon Aug 23, 2007).
Location: 37.336643, -106.704788
Trail junction with TR 571 and TR 572 (marked by posts). Both spur trails head over to the west side of the divide here at the saddle. All trails disappear in the highland tundra for 150 yards near the Continental Divide Crest at 12,200'. To continue of TR 813 (CDT), veer off to a sharp right (northeast) and relocate the trail on the ascending traverse across the alpine slope. (Tue Aug 24, 2007 830am).
Location: 37.349541, -106.689278
Directly east of Summit Peak at 12,600' awaits a natural 'rock table' and the junction of TR 710 which heads northwest into the Treasure creek basin. Continue north from here on CDT 813. The views to the north, east and south are incredible!
Location: 37.354465, -106.697708
A gorgeous alpine pond north of Summit Peak (10am)
Location: 37.370777, -106.686768
Just south of Montezuma Peak, the apparent high point of this section of the CDT at 12,700'. Also just to the west of here is the junction with TR 763 leading south into the Treasure basin.
Location: 37.385769, -106.676895
(1859) An excellent ridgecrest viewpoint looking east into the Alamosa River Valley from 12,400' on the CDT. (12 noon)
Location: 37.395973, -106.669907
Junction with an old jeep trail at Prospect Pass (12,000')
Location: 37.399017, -106.660309
Trail junction with TR 707 which heads west towards FR 380. Continue north on the CDT 813. (1pm)
Location: 37.405388, -106.644249
Elwood Pass and road crossing jct with FR 380. This is the northern end of the 27-mile section of the CDT evaluated for this project. We ate lunch here at 130pm, then began our loop back towards the east and southeast by leaving the CDT (TR 813)near some cabins across FR 380 into Schinzel Flats and following Iron Creek on a small and abandoned jeep trail we discovered.
Location: 37.403858, -106.638550
Elwood Guard Station and summer cabins
Location: 37.395596, -106.616005
Location of Private Cabin on small plot of private land also signals the end of primitive abandoned jeep trail. Continue SE on the USFS dirt 4WD road. (3pm)
Location: 37.390049, -106.607712
Cross Iron Creek on bridge and then continue for another mile down to FR 380. There are numerous streams that are orange and acidic with killed trees in the area, indicating how toxic the soils are naturally here.
Location: 37.380760, -106.601593
Junction with FR 380. Head west and then southwest on FR 380, walking along the road for 1/2-mile.
Location: 37.375881, -106.611328
Drop into the Asiatic Creek drainage, head SE while following the open meadows of the creek into a small canyon and onto a game trail on the stream's north side. (4pm)
Location: 37.371822, -106.603615
Cross Asiatic Creek to the south side and follow the game trail along the south side for 1/4-mile before leaving the creek and heading directly SSE and climbing up a steep hill on a relatively good game trail.
Location: 37.367027, -106.602005
This rocky outcropping gives you a good viewpoint of a small unnamed lake and the Alamosa River Valley below. Just south of the lake is where some decent campsites are in the woods. By 530pm on Tue Aug 24, 2007 we camped 100 yards south of the lake.
Location: 37.361702, -106.598206
Alamosa River Crossing, Wed Aug 25, 2007, 7am.....must remove shoes to get across ice cold river! :)
Location: 37.358452, -106.598228
The top of a steep climb up a boulder field on a very faint trail from the Alamosa River 500 feet below. (8am)
Location: 37.349648, -106.595123
A sheep herders camp near Hilman Park to the south of Hilman Lake. We observed 200 head of sheep north of the lake and some horses. At this point we gained access to FR 245 heading east for 1/4-mile on the San Juan "Stockman's Driveway".
Location: 37.349499, -106.599327
Took a left turn heading south and going up to an old abandoned jeep trail and bushwhacked for 1/2 mile before finding FR 245 again and headed SSW on FR 245.
Location: 37.327324, -106.600464
Got off of FR 245 when it switched-back to the east and continued down the slope in the forest going south.
Location: 37.324688, -106.599716
Re-emerged briefly at FR 245 but then went back into the woods and down the hill.
Location: 37.322464, -106.602905
Back onto FR 245, but again back into the woods instead of following the longer road back into the valley.
Location: 37.319603, -106.602325
Found a small creek and got onto Adam's Fork TR 713, following it east.
Location: 37.318111, -106.595711
Junction with FR 247 as TR 713 ends near where FR 247 crosses Adam's Fork Creek. Head right up the FR 247 (SW) for 1 mile and finish the loop at the Three Forks Trailhead. (Wed Aug 25, 2007, 11am).
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