Part 27: La Junta, CO to Lake Isabel, CO


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The Trip

We completed our maintenance and planning actions with Rob in La Junta and then rolled west toward the mountains of southern Colorado.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Our first camp was at Lake Trinidad outside of Trinidad, CO.  This is a Corps of Engineers lake but the campground is a state park.  It rained hard for several hours when we arrived but the storm passed and I walked to the overlook to get the shot above.

I do not know what the structure above is named,  but my bet is on "Castle Rock".

The dam is an earth-fill type and the spillway control is in the concrete tower.

Next morning we continued west into the mountains and came upon this church next to the highway.

Further up the highway there was a large coal mine.  The area around Trinidad is known for coal mining and this operation was sizable.  Since it was modern I am assuming they were running a "long wall" operation.  But, after reviewing the color of the output of the mine, I am not sure it is coal.

A processing facility and storage bins for the material.  There is a railroad line below the horizon beyond the facility that is used to get the material to market.

The conveyor belt system uses passive weights to maintain tension in the belt.

The material transfer conveyer belt comes down from the side of the mountain at the upper left of the photo above.

A shot of most of the operation.

Note the color of the material; this is why I question whether the material is coal.  Even western lignite is darker than this.

Past the mine we got a great view of the mountains to the west.  Most of the year these above-timberline peaks are snow covered.  In late July, however, the majority of the snow is melted.

Further up the road we came upon a long dike at a place called "Stone Wall".

We went up the grade to Monument Lake and had a pleasant lunch at their restaurant.  The lake was good sized by western standards.

Further up the road near the ridge-line there more lakes and there were fishermen trying their luck.

The dike continued along the road to the north.

We got to Chuchara Pass and decided to take the dirt path that goes over the 11,000+ foot Cordova Pass and then down to Aguilar.

The view from the pass was awesome.  Note another dike structure at the center left of the photo above.

This intrusive dike was large and tilted from vertical.

We passed only one vehicle on the road but were challenged by the bull in the center.  He stood his ground until Thor nearly touched him then he backed off.

From Cordova Pass we could see West Spanish Peak.

To the west of Spanish Peak were several other peaks that were above timberline.

As the road started down the east flank of the range we got several stunning views of the lowlands to the east.

The WPA/CCC built this road back in the early '30s (like many roads in the west) and the path chosen went through another intrusive dike requiring a short tunnel.

We got almost to the valley floor and spotted this huge dike constraining the valley below.

While photographing the dike, I turned and noticed that I had an unobstructed view of West Spanish Peak.  The thunderheads were building in the area of the peak and it would rain heavily later in the day.

We had a near catastrophe while attempting to be a good samaritan.  One of the few vehicles that passed us oncoming had his front license plate dangling.  I did an unintentional slide stop so I could warn him and the passenger wheel slid into the ditch smashing the rear tool box into a fence post.  A few more feet and we would have hit the phone pole with a whole different set of results.  The fence post was the loser, but there was some damage to the rear tool box.

We spotted Moon Base Alpha on our exit from the canyon.  I assume this was a residence, but who is to say?

We went down to the flats and headed north on I-25 then west again into the mountains at Colorado City.  We camped at Isabel Lake and the pads there were sloped enough that it took 6 inches of lift on both rear wheels to get even close to level.

The loop through Trinidad and the mountains to the west was very nice; we would surely do it again if the opportunity presented itself.  Cuchara and Cordova Passes are also worth the effort.  The trail was in great shape and our speed was limited by the grade and the turns in the road rather than the roadbed.

The Lake Isabel area is worth a visit as well.  As we rolled into the camp, we scared a bear that had been attempting to forage in the dumpster.  He was too fast for us to get a photo but we did notice he had ear tags in both ears.  He was bold enough to be out during daylight hours but cowered at the sound of Thor's powerful diesel motor.

Next: we will continue north to the Arkansas River and then over the Collegiate Range via Tincup Pass to the ghost towns at St. Elmo and Tincup.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.