Part 32: Canon City, CO to Alamosa, CO


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The Trip

We stayed the night at an RV camp on a working ranch.  We had a chance to talk to the owner and he was a perfect likeness of what you would expect to find in such a place.  The place was sufficiently nice and quiet, so we were happy.  We broke camp and headed to Canon City for supplies and then on to Royal Gorge to see the sights.

The photos below show the truck and the planned cabin.

Once we arrived at Royal Gorge (RG) we spotted this pendulum ride where daring souls would pay to have themselves be terrified by swinging over the canyon of the Arkansas river.  While the photo above looks reasonably tame, check out the photo below and you will see what the participants saw during their ride.

The look down into the Arkansas River canyon was daunting.  The line to the left of the river is a full-size train track (as opposed to narrow gauge).  That line was part of the Denver & Rio Grande route.  The river is a LONG way down from the lip of the canyon.

The bridge was constructed in the 30s and near as I can tell, solely as a tourist attraction.  Impressive nonetheless.

We walked over the bridge and during our hike a tourist train passed our position in the canyon below.  Some of the cars had open tops that allowed the riders to see the top of the canyon.  The train stopped at the foot of the inclined railroad that runs up the cliff wall.

Interestingly, portions of the railroad track were literally hung from the canyon walls.  Note the cantilevered supports for one of the bridges where the far end of the bridge goes to the opposite side of the canyon.

From our viewpoint on the bridge, we spotted rafters that were running the river.  Note the railroad tracks at the left of the photo and on the right are the remains of a since-abandoned wooden aqueduct that was built to supply Canon City.

From the bridge, we also spotted some Rocky Mountain sheep grazing on the grasses below.

We saw 3 sheep in total, one had a kid.

In addition to the bridge and the inclined railroad, a tramway crosses the gorge.

On the far side of the canyon, the park has a small zoo that had buffaloes and elk.  I thought that the white buffalo was rather novel.  I have never seen one of these before.

There were several buffalo calves in the herd and this one was fully engaged in having lunch.  We watched him "snout punch" his mother repeatedly to encourage her to produce more milk.

There were a number of elk in the enclosures.  This one has a very nice rack.

Rather than walk back across the bridge, we elected to ride the tram.  Above, the sole tram car crosses the canyon to pick us up.

I chose a position at the front of the tram and therefore got a good view of the bridge and the canyon below.

As we docked at the tram station, I got a final shot of the bridge.

From the tram, we decided to take the inclined railroad down to the canyon floor.  As we disembarked, I got this shot of the railroad as it comes down a small side canyon to the floor of the gorge.  The supports for the railroad span the width of the side canyon and in several places the big beams had been damaged due to falling rocks.  The angle of the railroad is 45% (100% grade) and steep angle requires that the passengers stand in cages (the blue metal at the left of the photo above).  I assume that the cages are there to prevent folks from falling out during the ride as well as to protect them from falling rocks.

At the bottom of the canyon, we got a better view of the supports for the train trestle.

From the bottom of the gorge, we took the railroad to the rim of the canyon and then moved on to our next camp site.  We headed south, then west from Canon City and we remote camped at the crest of a ridge.  A storm had overtaken us and it rained most of the night.

We headed south and then west again to the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Christo range.  I had heard on an earlier trip that there were several trails that passed over the range and into the Great Sand Dunes National Monument so we tried to find it.  The first path we found on our GPS device and it showed a trail that transected the range.  On the trail, we encountered some locals on quads that told us that the trail was blocked at the crest of the range.  Strike one.

We traveled south and found signage for another possible route over the mountains, so we took the trail.

The trail was narrow and there were many tree branches that covered the path.  The branches did a great job of polishing the top of the camper and tearing off the remaining limit lights.  Along the way, I spotted this aspen tree with some initials carved into it and dated 1953.

Strike two.  The trail was blocked as well,  but there was a nice camp site at the crest that provided  stunning views of the valley floor to the east.

Music Pass is to the left of the cloud-covered peak.  We took a few photos and took another stab at polishing our camper top.

The return path gave us some nice views of high pastures on the side of the mountain.

From the Music Pass trail, we traveled south to try the next trail over the Sangre de Christo range.  Along the way, we passed a sizable buffalo herd next to the road.

On our last, and final, attempt to cross the Sangre range, we passed these interesting abandoned structures.  I am sure that these buildings have a story to tell.

Our path took us past an interesting hog back  structure on the eastern flanks of the Sangre de Christo range.

The trail was blocked at the crest of the range.  But, this trail DID go to the Sand Dunes and the dunes were only 4 miles away from the blockage.  Strike three.  We retreated and did the southern highway route to cross the range into Alamosa, CO

We discovered that there may indeed be a path to cross the range, but we elected not to attempt that path since the signage suggested that the trail ended in a trail head (like the others).  We were going to attempt to cross the range from the west to east starting in the National Monument, but abandoned the idea the following morning.  We spent the night in a KOA campground and met a very nice German couple who were doing missionary work in Austin, TX.  When we finished at the KOA, we headed south toward Antonito, NM and back into another portion of the Sangre de Christo range.

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