Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ridgway &Owl Creek Pass (6/15/2016)

Before getting to the real subject of this posting, I want to share a few photos of a recent sunset that was extraordinary.  Looking directly toward the sunset, it wasn't much different than many others.
However, gigantic clouds to the southeast took on a red glow.
And there was more color to the southwest.
Finally, looking north over Grand Mesa, the color was also spectacular.
All in all, it was one of the more colorful sunsets I've seen recently, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Now, about my visit to Ridgway.  A month ago, I showed a photo of a house I had seen, but didn't know anything about it.  A little research told me it was the home of actor Dennis Weaver.  Many will remember him as the gimpy legged deputy on TV's "Gunsmoke" series.  Later, he was a Deputy Marshal in the Series "McCloud".  I learned that he played many roles in both TV and movies, and that he was a vegetarian and an environmentalist.  He collaborated with John Denver on projects and started a foundation to feed the poor in Los Angeles.  His nearly 10,000 square foot home was designed to be environmentally friendly by a man who has built many such homes in New Mexico.

The walls of the house are 30 inches thick, being constructed of old tires filled with sand and covered with adobe.  With solar panels, the house is completely off the grid.  Although Weaver died in 2006, his family continues to live there, but I've heard it's now for sale.  Would be quite a place for some of my wealthy followers.

I also happened upon Dennis Weaver Memorial Park, located in Ridgway.  Several miles of hiking and mountain biking trails are available, plus access to the Uncompahgre River.  There is a mound of boulders that serves as a base for an eagle sculpture, since Weaver had a thing for eagles and even wrote a poem about one.  The park has a supply of small stones for use by visitors to build "prayer stacks", and there are stacks all over the place.

Next, I drove up Owl Creek Pass Road, which begins nearby.  It was a beautiful day and I was happy to be heading into the mountains, although this pass is not as high as others in the area.  That's why this one is always open earlier than the others, which are still closed by snow and probably won't open until July.  It is also the easiest pass to negotiate, with no steep drop-offs and mostly a wide road.  From the road, one gets a good view of the Cimarron Range, including Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain.  These were featured prominently as background scenery in the 1969 movie "True Grit", starring John Wayne and Glen Campbell.

The pass is home to huge aspen groves, making it one of the more colorful and popular drives in the autumn.

Near the summit, locally famous Deb's Meadow is where the climactic scene of the movie was filmed.  Here Rooster Cogburn, played by The Duke, galloped his horse across the meadow with a rifle in one hand and a pistol in the other, reins in his teeth, firing at the bad guys, led by Robert Duvall as a murderer in one of his early roles.

At the summit, the large boulder is where they filmed a scene of Rooster and the young woman Matty Ross camping for the night.  In a small town like Ridgway, all these locations are still considered to be important landmarks.

Just past the summit, I took a spur road, signed "West Fork", that I've never taken before.  I know there are some hiking trails off that road, but I also read once there is a waterfall somewhere along the road.  Shortly after making the turn, I began to encounter snow.
Obviously, the road had been plowed recently, otherwise it would have been impassable.  In fact, after passing a few snow patches, I came face to face with the snow plow.  At his point, I turned around and got back on the main road to continue on down the north side of the mountain.  That will be the subject of my next travelogue.

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