Saturday, October 29, 2016

Uncompahgre Plateau & San Miguel Valley (10/5/2016)

For a second day, I did some exploring up on the Uncompahgre Plateau with the San Miguel Canyon in mind as a destination once again.  I was confident there was plenty more to see in that area.  For this trip, I took a different route across the plateau, getting much higher than the previous day so the scenery was a little different.
The plateau ranges in elevation from 6000 feet at the Colorado River to a high point well above 10,000 feet.  As I finally approached the San Miguel Canyon, I was high above it with a great view.
Driving down the steep, twisting road into the canyon, the views got a little closer.
Eventually I was down by the river and took numerous photos as I drove alongside it.  There were several fishermen along the banks as I traveled south.

I left the river and turned west onto Silver Pick Road, an unpaved road leading into the mountains.  This area was totally new to me, but I've since learned that the road is named for the Silver Pick Mine which was active from 1882 until 1898 mining gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc.  Several attempts to operate the mine since then have been unsuccessful.  The area became Forest Service land in 1968, and is now popular with mountain climbers for its access to Wilson Peak.  Elk Creek runs beside the road, but I didn't see any elk,  only a few turkeys and mule deer along the way.

Views of Wilson Peak, just over 14,000 feet high, and other nearby mountains were spectacular, as were the stands of golden aspens.

 Several cabins and a few very large ranches are located along the road.

It was fun to see that one ranch had some "Oreo cows" in its herd.  These cows, properly known as Belted Galloways, originated in Scotland and are adapted to living in harsh conditions.  They have two layers of hair: an outer layer to shed rain and snow, an inner layer that provides warmth.  They are primarily beef cattle, producing very little milk, and are naturally polled (born with no horns).

I read an interesting story about the "Rock of Ages Trail", which is the easiest route to the summit of Wilson Peak.  For some years, the trail was closed because it crossed the private property of an old man who didn't want people intruding.  If he caught someone crossing his land, he would charge them $100.  One man who refused to pay was forced to put an ad in the local newspaper saying "I'm no smarter than a third grader".  The alternative was to be arrested for trespassing.  In 2007, the Trust For Public Land bought 230 acres from the old man, paying $3 million to re-open the trail.

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