We left Salida on Labor Day, not the wisest thing to do since many people are heading home on the holiday. Luckily we were able to easily stop at Ace Hardware for propane and dumped tanks at the Poncha Springs Visitor Center on the way out of town, only having to wait for two RVs ahead of us.
100 miles or so later we pulled into Big Meadows Campground at 9,200’ in the Rio Grande National Forest, about 11 miles west of South Fork, CO. We’ve never stayed here before and were surprised at how nice it is, with huge well-spaced sites, and we got one with a lake view since there was hardly anyone here when we arrived. They have water and vault toilets only, but the big surprise came when we found we had good 4G Verizon and AT&T. And due to spruce beetle damage many trees have died and been removed so there isn’t much shade to impede the solar panels. $10 with the senior pass.
After a week in Salida parked within earshot of Highway 50, it was so nice to not hear any traffic noise. And there is a 3 mile trail around the lake that we accessed just behind our site, and the 6 mile Archuleta trail that goes to a lake and connects with the Continental Divide trail.
We had a brief thunderstorm after we got set up, but it cleared up for an early evening walk around the lake.
The following day we took a 9 mile drive to the top of 10,800’ Wolf Creek Pass for a hike along the Continental Divide Trail towards Alberta Peak. Unfortunately the haze from all of the fires in the northwest has finally caught up with us so our views were obscured. We did this same hike in September 2012 on a much clearer day and made it all the way to the top of Alberta Peak. This time we turned back after 2 miles as dark clouds were heading our way and it just wasn’t very appealing with dead trees and hazy views. We did get rained on a couple times on the way back down.
There is a lot of climbing involved from the start of the trail but it levels out as you near the peak.
One of our party was not enjoying the uphill, so we stopped at the ski lift for a snack and decided to keep going on for awhile.
When we hiked this the first time we saw marmots and pikas on these rocks, but I guess they were all hiding this time.
That evening was the full moon so it gave Jim a little chance to play around with the new camera.
The next day we hiked the Archuleta trail from our campsite. Although in the woods most of the time, and very overgrown, we ended up going over 3 miles through the very remote-feeling Weminuche Wilderness.
Runoff below the dam.
Busy beaver work.
It was hard to see the trail much of the time.
There were still some colorful summer flowers remaining.
And some touches of fall.
We saw lots of butterflies. The wings are closed in the first photo so it isn’t very visible.
The trail follows the South Fork of the Rio Grande River.
Where we could see the water it was beautiful, and when hidden by the vegetation we could always hear it.
The farther we went, the more overgrown the trail became, and after passing the lake we didn’t see another person on the trail.
Our goal was to get to the creek crossing we could see on the map. The water wasn’t deep so we could have easily gotten across, but it was a good place to turn back. We gained 750’ in 3 miles, a fairly gradual climb, and an easy hike back as it was all downhill.
Big Meadows was a good choice and a place we would return to. Now we’re back in the big city of Durango for a couple weeks.