Let’s get down to the fun stuff! After all this Eat-Eng, we need to burn off a few calories, and the Rio Grande offers lots of options if you like to hike, fish, golf or float the river.
Here are three hikes that start easy, and end up pretty tough:
Small: Big Meadows Reservoir, the trail head is just west of US 160 about 5 miles south of South Fork. It is a paved road for a little while, then dirt to go back to the reservoir. The trail is about 2.5 miles around the lake, and fairly flat. There are lots of anglers getting their fishing spots staked out along the banks, so it is busy especially at the boat launch area in the parking lot as you arrive. It is a nice walk for flat-landers such as myself, grandma and the kids getting acclimated to the elevation.
Medium: This is one of my favorites! Beautiful hike with just the right amount of elevation change. It’s Deep Creek Trail #806, and is in the Creede area. Traveling from South Fork toward Creede on SR 149, take a left on….wait for it…Deep Creek Road. After a couple of sharp turns, turn left onto….wait for it….Deep Creek trailhead. It follows Deep Creek up the canyon, and begins with a walk through pine forests, wildflower fields, and into the canyon. Great hike on a hot day, as the portion along the creek is shaded and crosses over the creek. This trail also looks like it could be ridden on a mountain bike, the only tough part may be the trail is narrow bordered by very lush undergrowth about 4 feet high hanging across the trail. Pedals getting tangled up? Good chance. Great mountain views on the way back down the trail.
Large: The second hike of the trip was a toughie, and I must confess I did not make it to the top with the rickety knees, but Jay-Jay took great pictures at the top of Del Norte Peak. 12,500 feet high, it has NO TRAIL, you just bush-wack your way up. And thanks to the guys with the GPS, we could find our car after coming down. Did I say there is no trail? All that aside, the views are expansive and impressive. A great day. A great workout. Take lots of water and something to eat. P.S. your cell phone will work!
How about going fishing? The Rio Grande river is an obvious choice, but the fly fishermen know that there are many streams in the San Juan mountains that provide solitude and a great experience. As you know, the hard-core fly fishers will not tell you the names of these secret places, but may refer to them by their code names, such as “skillet creek” where the fish are so plentiful and easy to catch, they jump into your skillet. Some of the most coveted fishing streams are on private land. In Colorado, you cannot fish on private land unless you are floating through on a raft or boat. If you stop, or put your foot down on the bank or in the stream, you are trespassing.
Fishing on public land or on streams in the National Forest are of course allowed for the great unwashed. Areas such as High Valley Ranch, Wason Ranch, and the 4UR Ranch are private, and to fish there you must be a member or guest of a member. Going to a local fly shop and booking a guide is another way to get access to great fishing and uncover the other great secrets of the fly fishers, what fly they use for best results that day… This is all top-secret stuff.
I hope you bring your golf clubs, the Rio Grande Club in South Fork has some of the best golfing in the area. This semi-private club has 18 challenging holes at 8500 foot elevation. The front nine is down in a meadow below Alder Creek Canyon, and the back nine winds its way up the canyon. The most devilish hole on the course is the par 4 eleventh hole. The tee shot is elevated to a fairway that tilts strongly left to right. Your second shot is straight uphill to a bunkered green tucked back left in the trees. Good luck with that second shot while standing on your head with the ball below your feet in the fairway. I hate this hole. Plus the chipmunks by the green steal snacks off your cart. Did I say I hate this hole? But it was fun.