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Day 7: Poncha Springs, CO To Poncha Pass

7 miles - The Final Hike Along Highway 285 To Southernmost Chaffee County Line (Poncha Pass) - April 7, 2010


Great Morning At Colorado Crossroads Bed & Breakfast
Crossroads Bed & Breakfast
Photo Above: The four of us (Myself, Omar, Sally and Michael) at the Colorado Crossroads Bed & Breakfast.

Special thanks to Omar Richardson, the host of Colorado Crossroads Bed & Breakfast, who shuttled me yesterday and today. Today he and I drove in seperate cars to Poncha Pass, and upon leaving my vehicle at the top, he drove me back to Poncha Springs to start my hike... but not before we did some eating and socializing at the bed & breakfast!

Inside, I met Sally and Michael at the kitchen table, two overnight guests who happen to be lifelong friends of Omar and his family. We talked about Durango (where they live), our career fields and how Michael and I both grew up in the Northeast. He was raised in Queens, New York; I spent the first 23 years of my life in northern New Jersey.

Then the food and drink ensued. First I filled my coffee container with the lodge's house coffee. As we talked, Omar delivered a beautiful hazelnut latte in a glass mug to Michael. The three of us marveled at this beautiful gourmet creation. Seeing how much I admired it, Omar offered to make me a latte. Minutes later, I had a large toffee nut latte in my hand. It was so good!

The table was full with various breakfast foods, and Omar suggested I try a homemade cinnamon roll. My complaint about cinnamon rolls is they are usually too sugary and heavy, but this one was light and soft. So there I was, chomping on the best cinnamon roll I've ever eaten, enjoying a toffee nut latte and nursing a full container of coffee on the side. The four of us talked and laughed. I told them more about this Chaffee County walk and my writing aspirations, and they were supportive.

Now I must admit that even after six days of walking, I still felt somewhat awkward about this journey. A small voice from the pit of hell taunts that "normal people" don't do this, and by golly, I should be like most other people! This struggle wasn't helped by the bizarreness of today's plan: a seven mile ascent on a winding highway to Poncha Pass. What is usually a 10-15 minute drive, will be over two hours by foot. All the while, cars will hum past me on the shoulder.

This is why it was especially good to socialize this morning. These folks cheered my heart. My emotional tank was renewed. A smile was on my face as I walked out of the bed & breakfast. I was ready to tackle the final day of the journey.

Toffee Nut Latte Crossroads Bed & Breakfast
Crossroads Bed & Breakfast

As we were leaving, I placed my coffee cup, latte and cinnamon roll on the top of the car. That's a nice picture of the front of the bed & breakfast.

By the way, I do recommend this place if you are seeking lodging in Chaffee County.

Poncha Springs, CO
The Hike Begins - Poncha Springs, Colorado

Look at the sky. Do you see what I see? Bright blue skies. Finally it is warm! The temperature is in the 50's and the winds are gone.

My journey begins at a bridge over the West Arkansas River in Poncha Springs. Today's hike will be an ascent of approximately 1,500 feet in elevation.

Poncha Springs, Colorado Seven miles to go.
I walk on sand and gravel beside the pavement. Vehicles whiz past at a rapid speed, but I feel safe.

Many trailer trucks downshift noisily as they descend toward Poncha Springs. I snap a photo of a random supermarket delivery truck and wave with a smile.

Tiny strands of sand and gravel are flowing down a steep hill. They look like miniature dirt avalanches. Such fascinating stuff on the side of a highway!
Rainbow Trail, CO The highway crosses the Rainbow Trail. This is a popular trail that travels east into Fremont County along the base of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.

To the right (adjacent photo), the trail is mostly covered in snow. I suppose this might lead to O'Haver Lake, Bonanza or Maysville, but I'm not sure.

Mt. Ouray, CO A grand shot of Mt. Ouray (elevation 13,971 feet).
Past a dirt road that leads to O'Haver Lake and Marshall Pass, I fixate on the end. Only three miles are between myself and the southern border of Chaffee County.

The road bends to the right. A slope of dirty snow encroaches the highway's shoulder.

The road turns left. I have been here many times to know Poncha Pass is only a few tenths of a mile away. The scenery is not impressive, but I realize I must snap photos no matter what it looks like ...
Colorado Scenery ... then it occurs to me to turn back. The Colorado mountain scenery is a little better this way.
Poncha Pass, CO

Saguache County, Colorado

Minutes later, I arrive at the parking area of Poncha Pass. This is the southern border of Chaffee County. Poncha Pass is a high point that divides two major river watersheds, the Arkansas River and the Rio Grande.

South of the border is Saguache County (pronounced "SA-watch"). Perhaps someone else - a wanderer, a person in mid-life crisis, or maybe even a long distance runner - will journey by foot through Saguache County. I say, go for it. You can knock your socks off and walk all the way to New Mexico! :)

TOP PHOTO: Facing Chaffee County. Mt. Shavano (center) and Mt. Princeton (right of center and distanct) display their snowy peaks.

SECOND PHOTO: The Saguache County sign. The Sangre De Cristo Mountains rise dramatically in contrast to the valley, known as the San Luis Valley.

Poncha Pass, CO

Poncha Pass - Elevation 9,050 Feet

Throughout today I know where my self-portrait will be taken.

I position the tripod one last time and ...

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